Hiking in the Oneawa Hills | July 2020
As we’re getting closer to leaving Oahu, we’ve been making an effort to return to all our favorite places. However, there are still some hikes on our list that we haven’t completed, and every now and then we revisit the idea of crossing them off. We decided this weekend that it was finally time to hike in Oneawa Hills, one we had considered many times but had let the parking situation keep us from going. There are reasonably only 2 legitimate spots, so we agreed to get an early start even though it was a relatively short hike.
When we got to the trailhead, it was before 7 and there was only one other car there, but it left just after we arrived. Like I mentioned, there are only 2 off-street parking spots here and this trail is located in a neighborhood with a very narrow and steep road. We can’t imagine that the neighbors enjoy having all the hiker traffic come through and park in the street.
The beginning part of this trail is commonly referred to here as the Friendship Gardens loop, and is fairly easy as long as it hasn’t rained recently. There are different flowers and signs identifying them, as well as a bamboo section and a large banyan tree. We went about the loop counter-clockwise, and then made our way up a spur trail towards the crest of the hills. The spur ends at a T – to the left is a lookout over Kaneohe Bay, and the right continues through the Oneawa Hills.
We turned left, and walked to the viewpoint where we sat on the bench and ate some snacks. The bay was quiet and there was a gentle breeze; we were alone and we were happy to be doing something new. When we were ready, we returned to the T and headed confidently deeper into the hills.
I had actually hiked part of this over a year ago with a friend. I vaguely remember the highlights of the loop, but not the direction we went or how long the trail was. I remember we stopped at the lookout, then ventured on the other trail a little ways. It is steeper and more narrow than the loop trail, and eventually becomes steep enough to require using ropes. Since we were wearing sandals then and were not prepared for a challenging hike, she and I had turned around after the first set of ropes.
Once we passed this point today, we found the trail was actually easier after the first set of ropes, at least for a while. The trail was under tree cover for the most part, but we also enjoyed periodic views of the Kawainui Marsh to the South and Kaneohe to the North. My favorite part about this whole trail was the views of the Ko’olaus — the clouds were hovering just above the mountains so we were able to see most of the peaks and ridges. Even Konahuanui was visible!
After passing some cell towers, the trail began going down, and eventually had to regain that elevation. There were 2 more rope sections before reaching the highest point in this portion of the Oneawa Hills. The point was tree covered and didn’t have a view, but we continued following the trail a little longer until we found another spur trail that took us to our final viewpoint.
The ‘highlight’ of this trail from what I’ve gathered from other trip reports is the view over Kapa’a Quarry. This is a part of the island we hadn’t really seen before today — despite driving past it so often on the H-3.
Up until this point, this whole hike had been a reminder of how much we enjoy exploring the island together. We had been all alone, experiencing new views, enjoying the beautiful day. However, our return trip reminded us of why we’re so ready to leave.
We ran into one group almost immediately, blasting their music as they walked. Shortly after we came across a single hiker, then another group with more loud music, and the groups of people became constant throughout the rest of our hike. The trail was quite narrow which made social distancing difficult, and we did our best to move off the trail and face the opposite direction when all the other groups passed by.
We know we can’t have every trail to ourselves, we were more just baffled at how people were in fact parking all along the narrow neighborhood road. We were tired of being around hikers who came unprepared or with loud music. And we were ready and excited to live in a place that (we assume) doesn’t attract a whole lot of tourism, at least not like we’re used to here!
Anyway, we returned back to our car about 2 hours after we left. Altogether our hike was 2 1/2 miles and had around 700 feet of elevation gain. You can see our AllTrails recording here.