adventure, family, grief, hawaii, hiking, honolulu, nature, oahu, Travel, wildlife

Ka’ena Point; hike and wildlife

All roads lead to Rome…or in this case Ka’ena Point.

Last week was our second Ka’ena point hike since we moved to Hawaii.  When we hiked it the first time we were supposed to hike with our homeschool group but someone (note: this girl) didn’t know her way around the island that well yet and ended up at the wrong side of the point.  After a few comforting phone calls to friends we decided to commit and start hiking to meet them at the point from where we were.  It worked out great but after hiking the suggested path this time, I am a much bigger fan of this week’s approach!

Stick with me and shall we say, learn from my mistakes?  I will share pictures of both and the opinions of my girlies so you can make your own decision.


Before I get ahead of myself and start diving into the hike itself I’d like to go over some necessary items for you to have a successful experience at Ka’ena.  We saw a fair number of people head out in flipflops/slippahs and hobble back.  Don’t be those people.  I mean, if blisters are your jam…by all means…but a 5 mile hike in sandals is not my favorite.

There is close to zero shade on the hike, from either approach.  It is dry and it is hot.  You NEED water.  We hiked with two adults and two children and carried in close to 120 oz of water (and two 6oz juice pouches).  We drank it all.  I packed a light lunch of granola bars (These KIND bars are gluten free and keep the kiddos and grownups in our family full of energy.), peanuts, sliced veggies, applesauce, oranges, some left over pasta salad and dried fruit.  We never hike without a first aid kit that includes bandages, antibacterial ointment, wipes, a sling, instant cold packs, Benadryl (oral and topical), tissues, gauze and tape.  I also stashed some spf 50 in the first aid kit bc the sun on this hike is intense and our Scandinavian backgrounds make us super prone to burning.  Hats and sunglasses rounded out the items to keep us protected from the sun.


I organized everything into separate bags so I could grab one type of thing at a time.  The food was in an insulated bag with reusable ice packs.  Everything else went in small reusable zippered bags.  This was my first hike with my new backpack and I couldn’t have been more pleased.  It is lightweight, has breathable mesh in the straps and is really compact for a 35L bag.  One of my requirements for a hiking pack is easy access to my Hydroflask and this one has pockets for water bottles on each side.  If you want to check it out you can see it here.  (I have the black bc I’m prone to getting things dirty but the other colors are cute too!)  I cannot wait to use it on planes and for serious travel.  Bonus:  it was extremely affordable.

Once everything was prepped and the kids were up and fed, we were ready to go.

I’ve heard Ka’ena is a gorgeous hike first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon to catch the sunset but we like to fry and hike at high noon so there’s that.  We left Kailua at around 8:30am and arrived at the point by 10am.  The parking is sketchy and I wouldn’t leave anything in my car that I want to see again but we didn’t have any problems.  When we arrived the lot was full so we parked on the side of the road before the lot.  For planning purposes, the lot is typically full by 10am.

I’ve included a map from Honolulu.  (A popular origination point for many visitors to Oahu.)   Wherever you are coming from, if you can get on the H1 west and then hop onto Farrington West – you’ll be all set until the road literally ends.  Easy peasy!


Ready to start hiking, we headed out at a brisk pace and were immediately slack-jawed by the views.  A swell recently brought in some BIG waves and they were dancing along the coast the entire hike.  From the parking lot to the point we encountered views that included humpback whales breaching and splashing (typically seen between December and March in Hawaii), gorgeous coastline and intermittent breezes to help cool us off.  We spotted a number of surprising items like cars, rusting in the salt and sun and less surprising like rock arches and tide pools where the girls imagined mermaids and turtles basking in the sun.


Two-thirds of the way in we were caught off guard by a portion of the trail that appears to have succumbed to weather and waves thus leading hikers up and over on a more narrow, challenging path that gives legs and anxious brains (like mine) a little bit more of a workout.


Shortly after this portion we entered the nature preserve at the point through a heavy metal gate.  It was at this point we began to encounter educational signs and then excitingly, real live creatures to excite the girls and their easily entertained mother.  As we passed the nesting birds we tread softly and kept our voices down so not to bother them.  We were guests in their home and I wanted to treat it as such.


The Laysan albatross makes the Hawaiian islands it’s home.  They mate for life and have many unique social behaviors that are interesting to witness if you hike out to the point.


Just past the albatross nesting area is the point where the North Shore meets the West Side and tide pools abound with tiny fish and a Monk Seal or two if you are lucky.  In the distance whales breach (again, only during whale season, Dec-Mar) and spouts of water plume from beyond the huge winter waves.  This visit the waves topped 20 feet, periodically hiding the playing humpback whales further out.

Note the long black figure of a Monk Seal about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom of this photo.



After a peaceful lunch, amazing performance by a pod of humpback whales and a cool dip in the tide pools we headed back towards the car.  The hike back provided a different perspective and gorgeous views of the coast line that had previously been to our backs.


The whole return trip the girls dropped hints about what kind of sweet treat they’d like and their daddy and I expressed our gratitude for a pretty perfect day and the beauty around us.  I knew then that this side of the point was a better hike for us and the girls agree.  As gorgeous as we thought the other side was, it was filled with more red dirt, even less shade and seemed infinitely longer.  In reality it’s about a mile difference but a mile can be a big difference when your have short legs like these two.  And who are we kidding?  Me.

Here are a few pictures from a year ago when we did that hike to help you make your own decision.  Either way  you go it’s going to be a great day!



Key things to remember before hiking either side:

  • sunscreen
  • hat/sunglasses
  • snacks
  • comfortable walking shoes
  • give yourself time – minimum 2.5 hours but preferably 4+ to allow for time at the point
  • a great attitude!

You are going to have an awesome time.  Get out there and enjoy the beautiful island of Oahu!

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