Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Tail is one of the sanctioned hikes in Hawaii — and it gets more and more beautiful as you hike up and along the 2000 ft. tall Hawaii Kai ridge. It’s about a 2.5 mile trek one way, so in all a 5 mile hike. It’s relatively easy, but does require some endurance.
Jake and I didn’t know what to expect the first time we did this trail, so it felt like it kept going and going. But once you know what you’re up against, this hike isn’t so bad.
A group of our friends wanted to try it out, so we all met up Saturday morning and parked along Kuli’ou’ou Road. The trail head starts here at the Kuli’ou’ou Reservoir sign we’re sitting on. It’s at the end of a street in a neighborhood there. Once you start walking down this road here behind the sign, you’re going to want to make a slight right to start the ridge trail instead of heading into the valley trail or the hunting grounds.
The way I like to explain this trail is that there are three stages. The first is a series of switchbacks along the beginning dirt trail. I’d say this is the most boring part of the hike. And coming down it is definitely the longest. I always find myself asking Are we there yet? Eventually these switchbacks will lead you to more switchbacks, but these are lined with some Ironwood trees.
The Ironwood switchbacks mean you’re nearing stage two: the forest plains. Or at least until they become forest “hills,” some of the steepest sections of the hike with only tree roots for foot holds. This area is surrounded by a lot more plants than stage one — a good time to soak up the shade while you can until you emerge into stage three at the top of the ridge.
Once you pass a bench overlooking a scenic point, you’ll have reached stage three: the top of the ridge where now all that’s left to do is climb a series of stairs that will eventually lead you to the top. By this time you’ll most likely be worn out from the steep parts of the trail you’ve just conquered, and there’s no doubt this last set of stairs pictured above wil intimidate you.
But you have to keep climbing because the view at the top is worth it. From this point, Jake says there are only 265 more steps until the end.
We were thrilled to say the least as we climbed the last step that brings you to the landing at the top of the trail. From there you can see three different parts of the island — to your far left is Lanikai (and you can tell because of the two little islands next to each other), next to that is Waimanalo, and finally there’s Hawaii Kai, marked by Rabbit Island to your right, just before the ridge blocks your view of the ocean.
The first time I ever went up was earlier this summer and the view was pretty clear. This time, we were actually swallowed up by the clouds, which was great because we picked one of the more humid weekends to hike. With them the clouds brought a shady coolness — definitely nice after the hike up the ridge in the hot sun. To see the clouds so low seemed rare.
After we took our pictures at the top we finished off our adventure with a carbo-loading session at Kona Brewing Company. Beer and good company — nothing better than that!
Have you ever done this hike? What are your favorites? Let me know, I’d love to hear!