Along with food and beach, one of the things I love doing most when I’m in Hawaii is hiking. Taking a hike is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of Hawaii.
The very western tip of the island of Oahu is known as Kaena Point (officially spelled Ka’ena Point).
Although it was once accessible by vehicle and there’s still a road, it’s no longer open to traffic, but you can walk to the point by foot to enjoy the stunning scenery.
The magnificent views will not let you down.
When we started the day, my wife and I had no plans to hike to Kaena Point.
But after eating a big box of poke, and polishing off the last bite of my po-boy, paired with the nice afternoon weather (no rain), we decided an afternoon hike would be a great idea.
So in Haleiwa town we jumped in the car right after eating a late lunch and took the drive, which took about 20 – 30 minutes or so, to reach the parking lot for the point.
For driving directions, just drive west on Farrington highway until you reach the end.
We arrived to the parking lot at about 3:30 pm.
The sun was still pretty harsh, but at least it had died down a little bit from the harsh afternoon rays. There’s virtually no shade at Kaena Point, so a hat, sunscreen, and plenty of water are important.
From the parking lot, you already get a beautiful view of the ocean.
Two sides to walk from
Since Kaena is a point, there are two sides you can get there from, like two different hikes you can take to reach the same destination.
Being in Haleiwa, on the north shore, we came from the north side, which is known as the the Mokuleia side (and that’s what this blog post will be covering).
But alternatively, you could also take this hike from the south Waianae side at Kaʻena State Park. Here’s more information about doing that.
Ok, let’s get back to the hike. We came from the Mokuleia northern side.
The hike, is not really much of a hike at all, but it’s more of a leisure walk on the old dirt road – so you don’t really need any trail directions or a map, but just follow the road.
While you can walk a little more towards the ocean coast, where you have to go up and down beach sand dunes (which can be pretty fun), the easiest way to reach the point is just by walking along the road.
The road is relatively flat, just with a few ups and down, but nothing strenuous. The hardest things about the hike is the zero shade and beating sun.
Kaena Point is one of the driest areas on the island of Oahu.
It’s not quite the lush jungle you’ll find on a hike to a place like Manoa Falls, or other Hawaii hikes in the central or eastern side of the island.
From the brown grass, the scenery almost looked like a dessert savannah, but backed by beautiful rugged mountains, and the highlight for me, the gorgeous color of the ocean.
Since the landscape is quite flat and barren, you can really choose to walk on whatever path you find.
The road is the main trail, but there are also plenty of small trails closer to the ocean, which provide better views of the crashing waves.
If you’re interested in taking a break along the way, there are a number of places where you can stop on a beach to relax, enjoy the scenery, or even take a swim.
Some people just walk a few minutes to find a beach and then spend the day relaxing right there without even going to the point.
After about 1 hour of walking at a pretty brisk pace, we arrived at the end of the road.
You have to enter a small boulder blocked fence, and then you enter into the Kaena State Park. This is where the views start to get even better and the landscape opens up.
There’s a gated section, where dogs are not permitted, as to not disturb the wildlife.
In this peaceful preserved area many birds come to nest and lay their eggs in the sand.
After entering the fenced gate, we continued walking for about 10 minutes along a sand path to reach the lighthouse and the very point of Kaena Point.
If you look back, you’ll notice the mountains in the background, and soon you’ll be able to look and see both sides of the island.
The Kaena Point lighthouse is no longer in use, but it still remains a landmark, and you’ll see the old concrete base of the former lighthouse.
Once you see the lighthouse, you know you’ve reached the point.
Kaena Point Wildlife
One of the top reasons to visit Kaena Point, along with the natural beauty, is to see the wildlife.
The point is a natural refuge for many types of seabirds as well as Hawaiian monk seals.
Hawaii was once home to many types of nesting seabirds, but as more and more people started to inhabit the island, bringing foreign creatures like mongoose, rats, and dogs, the native seabird population began to decline.
One of the main projects you’ll see at the point is a native Hawaii seabird conservation effort. If you look closely, you’ll find plenty of birds sitting on top of their nests in the sand.
Along with seabirds, Kaena Point is a natural habitat for Hawaiian monk seals, an endangered species, that are only found uniquely on the islands of Hawaii.
At first I didn’t even know there were a couple Hawaiian monk seals just hanging out on the sand – they blend in so well with the rocks.
But there on the beach were two monk seals, just relaxing and enjoying the late afternoon sun.
If you do the Kaena Point hike you have a very good chance of seeing Hawaiian monk seals too.
Along with seeing the monk seals, what I really liked about the Kaena Point was the views from the western most tip of the island, looking at both sides of the island.
This is the view of the Waianae side, which as you can see, looks much more rugged and rough.
I haven’t done the hike from this side, but I’m sure the views are spectacular.
The hike is still along an old dirt road, so it’s not strenuous, but what I’ve seen and read, is that the road is closer to the ocean so it provides stunning views of the ocean.
We spent about 45 minutes hanging out at the point, and taking photos and videos of the area, and then we started to head back.
You could easily spend an hour or two, or even more depending on how much time you have, exploring the point.
We walked back on the same road towards the parking lot, but this time, in the later afternoon, the strong sun had died down a bit, so it wasn’t so hot and the light was beautiful.
It took us about an hour, maybe a bit less, to get back to the main parking lot, and again, for the entire walk, we enjoyed the amazing views of the ocean.
When we arrived back to the car, it was about 6:30 pm, so the sun was just about to go down, and so we hung out for a little while longer, enjoying the peacefulness.
Kaena Point (Ka’ena Point) is the rugged westernmost sharp tip of the island of Oahu in Hawaii.
While it was previously accessible by vehicle on an old dirt road, in an effort to preserve the wildlife and natural beauty, the road has been closed now for many years, and is only open to getting there by foot.
The hike provides stunning views of the ocean, and a chance to see seabirds and Hawaiian monk seals once you reach the point.
If you can escape Honolulu to the other side of the island, and take a leisure hike to Kaena Point, the beautiful views won’t let you down.
Kaena Point Hike (Mokuleia side)
How long does it take: It’s about 5 miles roundtrip. For my wife and I, it took us about 1 hour in each direction, and we spent 45 minutes at the point. So roundtrip it took just under 3 hours to complete.
Kaena point hike directions (coming from the northern Mokuleia side): For driving directions, just drive west on Farrington highway until the road comes to an end at the parking lot. For the directions of the hike, just follow the road all the way to the point – you can’t get lost.
Tips: It’s a hot and dry area of the island and there’s no shade. So make sure you have a hat and sunscreen, and bring a couple bottles of water.
Enjoy the scenery!