It's hard to go to Hawaii and not commune with nature. However, there are some really great things you can do to immerse yourself even farther instead of sticking to the white, sandy beaches. My favorite way to do this is by taking a hike! The island of Oahu is riddled with trails if you know where to look, but there are two trails in particular that get all of the praise. So popular, in fact, that these outdoor adventures can see hundreds of tourists everyday! The two favored hikes in Honolulu are very different from one another in the realm of landscape and atmosphere. Now, two hikes in one day may sound like a bit too much, but I chose to do so because they were very close to one another. And since I was staying on the other end of the island, I figured I should hit them both up on the same day.
My first stop was the Manoa Falls trail located just outside of Honolulu in Manoa Valley. I am a sucker for waterfalls, so I had to get a glimpse of this 160-foot tall mammoth. Since this unbelievably lush rainforest was deserted at this hour of the morning (7:30am), I decided that I would forgo taking pictures until I reached the end only because I thought that it would stay that way.
I walked amidst the gigantic Banyan trees flanked by the everpresent stream. As I made my way up the narrow pathway, portions of the trail were framed by bamboo forests. I found this trail to have a very gentle grade, and at only 1 mile each way, it's one almost anyone could undertake. One thing to be careful of on this particular trail is the mud, because it can be slippery! It receives quite a bit of rain from what I have read, although maybe it hadn't rained much lately, because the cascade was meager. It wasn't too terribly disappointing though, since it took little effort to get there.
Remember how I told you that I saved taking pictures until after I reached the falls? Yeah, well, that was a HUGE mistake! On my way down I passed numerous guided tour groups that made it nearly impossible to get a shot without someone being in the way. That is the last time I wait to take photos again!! Seriously. Who needs a tour guide to take a hike? I don't. Nature is free :D
Parking, however, is not! I didn't find this out until I got back to the Jeep where a little yellow note asking me to see the attendant regarding payment was stuck to my window. Be forewarned that they charge $5 to park in the parking lot at the trail head. I got away with only paying $2 because I claimed stupidity. Sucka! Seriously, though. I didn't see any signs that said there was a charge, and I certainly didn't overlook an attendant!
The next stop, Diamond Head Crater, is considered the most popular trail. It likely sees twice the amount of hikers that Manoa Falls does. Unlike the gentle grade of the last trail, this one is much more vigorous. Even though you start off on a concrete path that seems forgiving, it quickly morphs into switchback city!
From the crater floor to the summit you will climb 560 feet in less than a mile (0.8 to be exact). By the time you weave your way through the switchbacks, you are begging for mercy as the sun is blazing and the sweat starts pouring. It would do you good to be very well hydrated before attempting this trail unless you are a fan of fainting.
You begin to think that the worst is over, but that's when you are met with a steep concrete stairway consisting of 74 steps! Afterward, you get a chance to cool off in the tunnels that take you below the surface. The closer you feel to the top, though, the further away from reality you are because after stepping out of that dark tunnel, you are standing at the foot of yet another staircase! Some just stood there, mouth agape, staring in disbelief at the towering approach. More steps!?!? Yes, 99 of those bad boys :D And just when you think you can't take another footstep, they make you climb a spiral staircase!!
At this point I felt somewhat tortured, but the end was getting near. I could feel it. Okay, well, not as close as I hoped....More stairs?!?! So, let me get this straight, we've scaled a windy path of switchbacks, a 74 step set of stairs, burrowed through a tunnel, climbed another staircase with 99 grueling steps, spiral staircase with 52 stairs and last but not least a 3rd set of stairs with 54 more steps! Holy mama!! Lemme catch my breath......
I suppose that this trail wouldn't be so popular if the views weren't worth every drop of sweat shed along the way. The vista was most definitely a stunning sight with the Pacific ocean and Wakiki coastline in full view. As a matter of fact, this is an ideal spot to see a panoramic view of the Leeward side of the island.
One good thing about hikes that make you work so hard going up, you know it's all downhill from the top! Despite how horrible I may make this hike sound, I saw so many different types of people trudging to the summit. I even passed a lady who was wearing high heels! No lie. And she did make it to the top...eventually :D
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