SAMPLE HIKE - The Hikers Guide to O`ahu

7 Lanipo


Ungraded ridge


7-mile round trip

Elev. Gain:

2,000 feet



Suitable for:



Honolulu Watershed Reserve above Maunalani Heights

Topo Map:

Honolulu, Koko Head





This early Hawaiian route follows the crest of Mau`umae Ridge to the Ko`olau summit. Along the up-and-down trail are a rich variety of native plants and a hidden volcanic crater. From the summit lookout is a splendid view of much of the windward coast.


Trailhead Directions:

At Ward Ave. get on Lunalilo Fwy. (H-1) Koko Head bound (east).
Take the Koko Head Ave. exit (26A) in Kaimuki.
At the top of the off-ramp, turn left on Koko Head Ave.
Cross Wai`alae Ave.
At the first stop sign turn left, still on Koko Head Ave.
At the next stop sign turn right on Sierra Dr.
Switchback up the ridge to Maunalani Heights.
Pass Maunalani Community Park on the right and Maunalani Nursing Center on the left. The park has restrooms and drinking water.
At the end of Sierra Dr. by a stop sign and the last bus stop, bear right and up on Maunalani Circle.
The road swings left in a broad arc.
On the right look for a chain-link fence enclosing a Board of Water Supply tank.
Park on the street next to the fence (elevation 1,040 feet) (map point A).

Bus: Route 14 to the end of Sierra Dr. Walk 0.2 mile up Maunalani Circle to the trailhead.


Route Description:

Walk back down the road to a signed junction at the corner of the fence. Turn left on the Mau`umae Trail, which follows a narrow right-of-way between two chain-link fences. The passageway is directly across from the garage of 4970 Maunalani Circle.
At the end of the fences, keep left through a small grove of ironwood trees.
Reach the crest of Mau`umae Ridge and bear right along it.
Descend moderately along the mostly open ridge, which has a short rocky section. Along the trail are Formosa koa trees and the native dryland shrubs `ulei, `a`ali`i, and `ilima.
Pass a utility pole on the left (map point B). Ignore a side trail leading down into Palolo Valley on the left.
Begin a long climb interspersed with two dips. On the left is a memorial bench. To the right is Wai`alae Nui Gulch.
After the second dip ascend steeply through native koa trees. The ridge is massive and well forested.
The trail levels out briefly through ironwood and native alahe`e trees.
Climb steeply again on a badly eroded trail. Avoid the worst part by taking a bypass trail on the right.
Stroll through a lovely stretch of native koa and `iliahi (sandalwood) trees.
Ascend a flat grassy knob with a 360-degree view (map point C). Look behind you for an unusual view of the backside of Diamond Head (Le`ahi). Along the coast to the left is Maunalua Bay and Koko Head.
The vegetation gradually changes from dryland to rain forest. Native `ohi`a trees form a loose canopy, and uluhe ferns cover the ground.
Look for two native birds: the red `apapane and the yellowish green `amakihi.
Climb a second, shady knob topped by two Cook pines (map point D).
Traverse a long, relatively gentle section underneath magnificent koa, `iliahi and `ohi`a trres. Look for native kopiko trees and maile and
naupaka kuahiwi shrubs in the understory. The trail drops below the ridgeline several times.
As the trail resumes serious climbing, reach a small, grassy lookout by a koa skeleton.  Across Palolo Valley is Ka`au Crater, nestled
below the Ko`olau summit ridge. A waterfall cascades from the lip of the crater.
The ridge narrows, and the vegetation thins.
After a stiff climb reach a flat, open knob with a panoramic view (map point E).
Descend off the knob, passing a spindly Cook pine on the right.
Ascend steeply on a rutted trail past kopiko and other native shrubs to a broad hump.
Descend the backside of the hump and then begin the final climb to the summit along the open, windswept ridge.
As the top nears, the trail steepens and becomes severely eroded.
Reach the Ko`olau summit at a peak called Kainawa`auika (elevation 2,520 feet) (map point F) (UTM 04 0628289E, 2359394N). To
the right is a lone `ohi`a ahihi tree with its fluttering leaves.



Lanipo is the classic O`ahu ridge hike. It offers a challenging climb, breathtaking windward views, and a surprising variety of native plants. As a bonus, you get to see a little-known volcanic crater and a lovely waterfall.

The hike follows Mau`umae (wilted grass) Ridge, an early Hawaiian route once used by bird catchers, maile collectors, and sandalwood cuttrs. In 1910, the Kaimuki Land company began to develop Palolo Hill (now Maunalani Heights), a tract on the lower part of the ridge. The following year the company partnered with the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club to reopen the ridge route above the subdivision to the Ko`olau summit. Club stalwarts rode the Kaimuki streetcar line to its end along the Wai`alae Road and climbed up Wilhelmina Rise to reach the current trailhead.

Start early to avoid the hot sun in the open lower section of the trail. Watch your footing constantly because the ungraded route is often rough, sometimes muddy, and occasionally narrow. The middle section of the trail may be overgrown with grass and scratchy uluhe ferns. The cool and wet upper section is slippery and deeply rutted in spots. Test any ropes you find before using them.

Some hikers are put off by the initial rocky descent, which, of course, must be climbed on the way back in the hot afternoon. Don't be discouraged! The native plants and the spectacular views farther in are well worth the extra effort.

On the lower oart of the trail look for the native dryland shrubs `a`ali`i and `ilima. `A`ali`i has shiny, narrow leaves and red seed capsules. Early Hawaiians used the leaves and capsules in making lei. When crushed or boiled, the capsules produced a red dye for decorating kapa (bark cloth). `Ilima has oblong, serrated leaves about 1 inch long. The yellow-orange flowers strung together have been used to make a regal lei in both ancient and modern Hawai`i.

In the dry section of the trail, koa is the most common native tree. It has sickle-shaped foliage and pale yellow flower clusters. Early Hawaiians made surfboards and outrigger canoe hulls out of the beautiful red-brown wood. Today it is made into fine furniture.

Less common along the trail is `iliahi, the native sandalwood tree. Its small leaves are dull green and appear wilted. `Iliahi is partially parasitic, with outgrowths on its roots that steal nutrients from nearby plants. Early Hawaiians ground the fragrant heartwood into a powder to perfume their kapa. Beginning in the late 1700s, sandalwood was indiscriminately cut down and exported to China to make incense and furniture. The trade ended around 1840 when the forests were depleted of `iliahi.

In the wetter middle section of the trail, native `ohi`a gradually replaces koa as the dominant tree. `Ohi`a has oval leaves and clusters of delicate red flowers. Early Hawaiians used the flowers in lei and the wood in outrigger canoes. The hard, durable wood was also carved into god images for heiau (religious sites).

Underneath the `ohi`a, look for kopiko, a native member of the coffee family. It has leathery, oblong leaves with a light green midrib. Turn the leaf over to see a row of tiny holes (piko or navel) on either side of the midrib. The kopiko produces clusters of little white flowers and fleshy, orange fruits.

In the forest canopy, watch for the `amakihi, the most common native forest bird on O`ahu. It is yellowish green with a slightly curved gray bill and feeds on nectar, fruits, and insects. If the `ohi`a are in bloom, you may glimpse the scarce `apapane. It has a red breast and head, black wings and tail, and a slightly curved black bill. In flight, the `apapane makes a whirring sound as it darts from tree to tree searching for insects and nectar.

From the grassy lookout you can see Ka`au (forty), a circular crater at the base of the Ko`olau summit ridge. The crater was probably formed by steam explosions, as rising molten rock encountered groundwater. Both Ka`au and Diamond Head Craters are remnants of the last volcanic activity on O`ahu known as the Honolulu Series.

According to Hawaiian legend, the demigod and trickster Maui wanted to join all the islands together. From Ka`ena (the heat) Point he threw a great hook toward Kaua`i, hoping to snare the island. Initially the hook held fast, and Maui gave a mighty tug on the line. A huge boulder, known as Pohaku o Kaua`i, dropped at his feet. The hook sailed over his head and fell in Pãlolo Valley, forming Ka`au Crater. The crater may have been named after Ka`auhelemoa, a supernatural chicken that lived in the valley.

From the summit lookout on Kainawa`auika (also known as Kainawa`anui) are some impressive windward views. In front is Olomana (forked hill) with its three peaks. On the right is a portion of Waimanalo (potable water) Bay. Farther along the coast are Kailua (two seas) and Kane`ohe (bamboo husband) Bays, separated by Mokapu (taboo district) Peninsula. To the left along the sheer Ko`olau (windward) summit ridge are Mount Olympus (Awawaloa) and twin-peaked Konahuanui (large fat testicles).

To reach the actual peak of Lanipo (dense), turn right along the Ko`olau summit ridge to the second knob. For a more challenging outing, continue past Lanipo and go down the Wiliwilinui Trail. The summit section is for experienced hikers only as it is steep, narrow, overgrown, and sometimes socked in.



Copyright: University of Hawai`i Press


Last Update: 11/09/13