Whether you are a resident or visitor to Hawaii, if you want a good workout to improve or maintain your fitness, try the Kolowalu Trail. This is not a heavily hiked route. View-wise, there isn’t a whole lot of beauty to speak of, well at least in the initial section of the hike. And you won’t see pastures of sweet-smelling flowers or much like that.
However, Kolowalu, located in the upper reaches of Manoa Valley, is a decent trail nonetheless. I’ve heard that folks who are into trail running favor this route for its short but challenging nature.
How To Get There:
From downtown Honolulu, get on the H-1 freeway eastbound. Take the Punahou offramp. Turn left onto Punahou Street. Climb uphill until the road narrows and forks. At that point, take the right fork onto East Manoa Road which you will follow till it ends. Once there, turn left onto Alani Drive. Park along Alani Drive right where it meets Woodlawn Drive. Continue along Alani Drive as it narrows and transitions into a narrow lane then a gravel footpath with a chain across it.
If you want to get there by Oahu’s fine bus service ($2 one way), get onto Bus #6 and exit at Alani and Woodlawn. Yes, the bus stop is conveniently near the trailhead, making this hike a little gem.
Follow the trail as it climbs gradually on a rutted dirt byway. Very soon, you’ll reach a large clearing with a shelter on the right. Take the wide trail that heads up to the right.
The trail that continues straight ahead leads to Pu’u Pia, a shorter hike to the high point of a small hilltop in the valley.
Continue along the Kolowalu trail as it climbs steadily then steeply to gain elevation. The trees along the trail are guava, mountain apple, eucalyptus. Rocks and roots abound on the footpath so take care as you hike, most especially on the way down the trail.
As always, I recommend good hiking shoes. I also advocate the use of hiking poles for added stability and balance. I also believe that the poles help me keep my upper body more upright on ascents which helps me breathe more efficiently. Give ’em a try.
After ascending steeply, the trail switches back to the right to gain the crest of the spur ridge you will climb to the top. Once the crest of the spur is acquired, the trail veers left and then ascends much more steeply up the hogback.
The trail levels off briefly once the top nears. Then it swings up to the right for the final climb to the crest of Wa’ahila Ridge.
The end of the Kolowalu Trail is marked by a signed junction.
If you are feeling energetic and in the peak of fitness, head up and to the right to climb to the summit of the Ko’olau Range at Mount Olympus. Figure about two hours up and back to and from this junction.
Otherwise, head back down the way you came. I’d recommend hiking a short distance down the Wa’ahila Trail to check it out and take in some of the great views of Honolulu urban sprawl and the Ala Wai Boat Harbor.
The total hike distance of Kolowalu for the up and back is about two miles. And they will be two miles well worth the effort and time.