Spending a Day in Wahiawa | Wahiawa, Hawaii
On one cloudy weekend morning, we set out for a more obscure hike in an area we hadn’t yet driven through. Wahiawa is located in the center of Oahu, right off the H2 before arriving in Mililani. Curtis chose a short hike for us, and found a few attractions nearby that we could visit afterwards. When we entered Wahiawa, we turned on California Avenue and took it all the way to the end. We loved driving through the residential area and seeing all the different fruit trees people were growing — something we’re always looking for now that we’ve started planting more trees. We parked along the road near the “trailhead”, which began behind the yellow gate with a large water tank nearby. There are 2 different trails that begin in this area, one a long ridge hike leading up to the summit that requires a permit, and the other an easier 4 mile loop. We were only going for the 4 mile loop today, which is called the Wahiawa Hills loop.
Hiking the Wahiawa Hills Trail
We walked on the narrow trail passed the water tank, until it opened up into a grove of paper eucalyptus and swamp mahogany. These were large trees with red bark, and the feeling took me back to the Redwoods just briefly. We had some difficulty navigating here, wandering around trying to find the trail, but Curtis found it thanks to AllTrails. The trail descended steeply 200 feet to a ravine, but the roots from the trees made the downhill climb easier. The scenery changed from the red eucalyptus to a green lush setting following a stream. When we came to the first small crossing, we heard the sound of a waterfall further upstream, and decided to follow it. We found our way through incredibly tall elephant ear plants and the muddy trail, until we came to a gorge with tall rock walls on either side and a 10 foot tall waterfall. Satisfied, we returned to the trail, crossed the stream and began heading uphill and through the forest.
This trail definitely felt much different from others we’d done recently, and while I wouldn’t say it was impressive and had outstanding views, it was interesting with a variety of plants and surroundings and we really enjoyed it. We came to a fork, and turned right to continue on the loop. The trail went uphill, eventually hitting our highest elevation of the day at over 1400 feet. I wouldn’t say any of this was especially difficult, it was very muddy at some points but I never felt unsafe.
When we made it up to the ridge, we were still underneath the tall trees but had more of a breeze flowing through and had little windows with views of the surrounding mountains. We were truly alone out here. We eventually came to a clearing and the trail continued down steeply to cross Kaukonahua Stream. Here we stopped and reevaluate. The river that we were going to cross happens to be the biggest watershed on Oahu. Clearly we wanted to see it, but I had my doubts about crossing it. From where we were, hundreds of feet above the river, we could still hear it clearly rushing. Judging from the muddiness of the trail, we assumed that the water level would be fairly high and possibly unsafe to cross. We ultimately decided to return the way we came. We’re glad that we came as far as we did though, because the point in the trail right before it goes down to the river has the best views of the surrounding hills.
We eventually returned to the trail intersection and decided to go right down towards the stream. It wasn’t quite as high as we had imagined it to be, but I still wouldn’t have been comfortable crossing. Satisfied with our hiking, we returned the way we came, back to the main trail and to our car. We heard others hiking at one point but never came across them.
Wahiawa Botanical Gardens
Next, we drove to the Wahiawa Botanical Garden, also right off of California Avenue, for some letterboxing. Entrance to the park is free, just like all the other botanical gardens on Oahu. This garden had maps and more clear trails than Koko Crater and Ho’omahulia gardens and just as much variety in flora. There were plenty of flowers blooming, some we’ve seen around the island and others we hadn’t. Some of the unpaved trails in the ravine were closed and there were signs saying that they were flood areas, but it was all dry today. It seemed busier than Koko Crater, but we spent about an hour here and it was well worth the stop, even if the letterboxes proved to be missing.
Kukaniloko Birth Site State Monument
Our final stop for the day was at the Kukaniloko Birth Site State Monument. This is located off of the Kamehameha Highway, just across the bridge and outside of town. We parked along the highway and walked in. There wasn’t much information at the site so we weren’t sure what we were looking at, but through later research we learned that it was the birth site for some of Oahu and Hawaii’s chiefs. It is/was also thought to have great spiritual energy, being right at the center of the island. It was constructed in the 12th century AD and used until the 17th. We wandered around the sacred grounds, the stones blocked off to the public but still accessible to visit. Besides that, we had some of the best views of the Wai’anae mountain range and big open skies.