Hiking to Pu’u Pia | August 2018
Pu’u Pia is a short, easy hike in the Manoa Valley of Honolulu. While the summit stands beneath the much higher Ko’olau Mountains, it still offers views of the surrounding ridges, a peek into Honolulu and the ocean, and a walk through a lush tropical forest. As you walk up the clear but sometimes muddy path, you’ll pass by the unique flora Hawaii has to offer, and maybe even find some guava to snack on if it’s in season. The trail is only 2.5 miles round trip and almost 800 feet of elevation gain, yet it is less traversed than the other short and overcrowded hikes. It’s a great place to start if you’re staying in the city and want a nearby hike that isn’t as busy as Diamond Head or Manoa Falls. This is also an alternative starting point for hiking Mount Olympus, which is the trail to the right when you come to the fork. We can’t vouch for this trail as we started from another trailhead, but this one has more of an elevation gain because it starts in the valley rather than up on a ridge.
The day we hiked was cloudy and raining off and on, but the trees provided adequate cover to keep us dry. This area does attract a lot more rain so always be prepared for the trail to be muddy and possibly slick. My favorite view came before the end, with this little grassy area before the trail continued through the guava bushes. We were surrounded by the Ko’olau ridges and I stood and watched the clouds pass over the ridge, just barely hiding the summit from our view. We continued on to the next lookout with a bench, but I felt that the bushes around this one were higher and obscured the views a bit more. The trail appears to continue from here, but it isn’t really worth the effort: it becomes much more overgrown and just leads to the power lines. Once you’re finished with this hike, if you’re looking for more views or hikes nearby, Manoa Falls isn’t far away, and the Mount Tantalus area offers both drive-up views of the city and many more trails.
Pu’u Pia was actually Curtis’ first hike on the island last September. After his first 2 days on the island checking in to his new base, he found this short hike on AllTrails and did it as a Friday afternoon hike. I remember having just left beautiful, snowy Crater Lake and camping in my car at 30º when I received pictures and a video from his hike. I warned him that anything he did without me, he’d have to do again with me.
The next day when I was looking up hotels in Bend, I noticed our shared search history was filled with Google searches such as: “edible plants in Hawaii” “red berries in Hawaii” “red flowers in Hawaii.” It was clear to me then that I was about to join him on an island where many plants were unfamiliar — and while there are lots of trails here that show off those plants, this one really does showcase many different ones in a small area. It begins in a lush forest with greenery shielding trees and draping over the path, then becomes less dense as you head uphill with taller trees surrounding the path. When you’re nearing the end, the trail goes through guava bushes — which are in fact edible and can be enjoyed in the late summer and early fall.
Today, we brought a container with us and filled it with as much ripe guava as we could find (at the beginning of August much of it was still rather tart) and brought it home to experiment. With minimal research, Curtis tried his hand at making guava butter, and it actually turned out pretty good. So far we’ve had it on toast and pancakes. Move over, Cinnamon’s, we’re coming for your brand!