If you’re looking for an amazing hiking experience in Oahu, look no further than the Kaena Point Trail!
You’ll absolutely love the incredible contrasts on this hike. The green, jagged Waianae mountains flow down to a relatively flat, coastal area complete with a brownish-gray ancient path with large and small rocks alike.
The addition of lush patches of coastal vegetation also adds to the juxtaposition. Finally, you have the rocky coastline with sections of peaceful beaches along the way.
Ready to explore?! Keep reading for the full breakdown below.
Kaena Point Trail Information
- Southern Entrance (Waianae side; from the end of Yokohama Bay leeward): 5.6 miles to the point and back
- Northern Entrance (Mokuleia side; from parking near Farrington Hwy): 5 miles to the point and back
Elevation Gain: Mostly flat
Route Type: Out & back
Duration: 2.5 to 3 hours
Highlights of the Trail: Gorgeous sunset views, ocean views, Waianae Mountain Range, wildlife
Terrain: Dirt, sand, and rocks
Pro Tip: Make sure to wear sunscreen and bring plenty of water, because you’ll need it on this hike! Due to the lack of shade along this hike, a large-brimmed hat and sunglasses are also great ideas.
How to get to the Ka’ena Point Trail
You have two options to hike this trail.
You can either start from the end of Yokohama Bay on Oahu’s leeward side, or from the Mokuleia coastline on the North Shore.
We did this hike from the Mokuleia side since we were already spending the day on the North Shore of Oahu. We will definitely go back to hike from the Yokohama Bay side soon and update the post with our personal experience.
This article will mainly share our experience hiking from the Mokuleia coastline.
The hike from Yokohama Bay is similar, but with minor differences in views.
Based on our own experience and photos/videos we have seen, both sides are amazing and you can’t go wrong with choosing either option.
Ka’ena Point Trailhead Map
Kaena Point Trail Directions (Northern/Mokuleia Side)
If you are coming from the Honolulu/Waikiki area, the drive will take about 1 hour. Use the link for printable directions via Google Maps.
Kaena Point Trail Parking (Northern/Mokuleia Side)
There is parking available at the end of the road right before the start of the trail.
Compared to other trails in Oahu, this trail doesn’t get as crowded, so you shouldn’t have any issues finding parking.
We started the hike around 3:30 pm and plenty of parking spots were available.
Also, do not leave any valuables in your car, as break-ins have been reported in the area.
Hiking the Kaena Point Trail From the North (Mokuleia Side)
One of our favorite things about this trail—apart from the astonishing views—is that it’s basically flat all the way!
To us, this was a huge relief, as we had just got done hiking some waterfall hikes in Oahu and some of the hardest hikes on the island.
As you start the trail, you will immediately be greeted with gorgeous ocean views and amazing mountain views on the opposite side.
The hike is pretty much a straight shot to the end. You can either hike close to the coast or hike the dirt/rocky path.
We did both but started with the coastal hike because we were eager to spot monk seals. Unfortunately, we didn’t spot any on this day, but we are happy to report that we saw many in Hawaii!
We kept switching from hiking the coastal trail to the dirt road to take a break from the sand.
We always find hiking on the sand a little harder, and it takes longer than the typical hiking path.
Hiking on the normal path helped us move a little faster since this trail is long and can take some time to complete.
Getting Closer to the Point
As you get closer towards the end of the trail, you will eventually get to the bird-nesting area.
This tends to throw some people off as the gate looks closed, and it almost makes you feel like you are trespassing if you go inside.
However, you can go in, and you definitely should if you want the full experience. Make sure the gate closes behind you after you enter. This keeps mongeese—an invasive species—out of this protected area.
This area has bait stations that contain diphacinone rodenticide for controlling rodents. As always, use common sense and do not touch the bait stations.
Also, do not disturb the wildlife. This is a sanctuary for them!
Take your time and enjoy the peaceful environment here. The birds are so cute and a spectacular experience to watch. The albatrosses flew right over our heads and in close proximity!
Be advised that you might see people cleaning up this area to help keep it tidy and comfortable for the birds. Be respectful and do not disturb them.
Also, make sure to stay on the trail. There are parts with ropes blocking off sections where the seabirds nest.
As you continue the hike, you will get to this amazing pillbox (pictured below). This can be a great spot to stop at and enjoy the wonderful views from the pillbox.
You can also stop here to enjoy lunch, a snack, or take some fantastic photos.
After hiking for a few more minutes, you should finally make it to the westernmost part of Oahu—the gorgeous Kaena Point.
Pat yourself on the back as you have been hiking for a while to get here. Enjoy the scenery and appreciate the nature all around you.
Wildlife at Kaena Point Trail
If you are lucky enough, you might be able to see some fantastic wildlife. Keep in mind that seeing wildlife is not always guaranteed though.
It also depends on the time of the year that you are going.
Below are some of the wildlife you can expect to see:
Whales: If you are lucky enough to visit in the winter months (November-April), you might be able to see some whales. We visited in February, and we were lucky enough to spot some. This is one of the most magical and exciting experiences.
Monk seals: One of the coolest animals you can see at Kaena Point is the monk seal. These creatures are endangered, and spotting one is a treat. These endangered seals can be found relaxing on the beach or swimming in the ocean. Make sure to observe these animals from a distance and do not disturb them in any way.
Seabirds: As mentioned before, Kaena Point is a resting sanctuary for seabirds. These creatures are so beautiful to watch, and you will see a variety of them here. Our favorite were the albatrosses!
Dolphins: These amazing creatures can also be seen from Kaena Point.
Legend of Ka’ena Point
Kaena Point is also known as Leina a Ka’uhane, which means “leaping place of the souls.”
The legend says this is where the recently deceased spirits departed to rejoin their ancestors.
Tips for Hiking the Kaena Point Trail
Below are some tips to help you make the most out of your hike at Kaena Point.
Bring water and snacks: This trail is long and can take a while, so it’s essential to bring plenty of food and water. If you are hiking this trail during the afternoon when it’s the hottest, make sure to bring more than enough water.
We started the hike around 3:00 pm and it was super hot going there. This trail is open and there is zero shade.
The ocean breeze helps a ton, but I would still bring enough water.
The sun in Hawaii is very strong, and it’s very easy to get sunburn.
Wear proper hiking shoes: The trail is long so make sure your feet are supported well.
Start early or later in the afternoon: If you do not like hiking when the sun is at its peak, start early in the morning or hike later in the day.
The temperature is coolest in the morning, slowly heating up as the sun reaches its highest point in the sky. Mid-afternoon can be pretty rough on a hike like this since there’s basically zero shade.
Starting at around 3 pm is another good strategy, since the sun won’t be as strong and will get even weaker as your hike continues. This also means you’ll have the option to watch the sunset from Kaena Point!
Bring a camera: This trail is definitely photo-worthy, so make sure to bring your camera along. You will want to capture all of the memories from this hike.
Be aware of your surroundings: as with any hike, it is essential to be aware of your surroundings and stay on the designated trails.
There are cliffs and drop-offs at Kaena Point, so be careful.
Things to Do in the Area
From Mokuleia Access Road
Visit Haleiwa Town: After or before your hike, make sure to visit Haleiwa Town. This cute little town is filled with a variety of restaurants, food trucks, shops.
Snorkel at Shark’s Cove: A great place to snorkel on the North Shore is Shark’s Cove. This spot is known for its excellent snorkeling and abundance of marine life.
Visit the Dole Plantation: If you are looking for some family fun, make sure to visit the Dole Plantation.
From the Southeast Side
There is not much to do on Oahu’s leeward side, but below are some must-dos.
Visit Yokohama Bay: Also known as Keawaula Bay, Yokohama Bay has a secluded beach with great views of the Waianae Mountain Range.
This beach is known for its crystal clear waters and is less crowded than the beaches on the windward side of Oahu.
Visit Makaha Beach: Makaha Beach is another beautiful and secluded beach located on Oahu’s leeward side.
See Also: 15 Best Beaches in Oahu You Should Visit
Kaena Point: Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need a permit for Kaena Point?
You only need a permit if you plan to drive beyond the part of the Kaena State Park Reserve, Mokulēʻia, beyond the paved road and parking lot.
Walking to Kaena Point can be done without a permit.
Visit the Division of State Parks website for more information.
Is offroading allowed at Kaena Point?
Unfortunately, offroading at Kaena Point State Park is no longer allowed unless you have approved access.
Can you walk around Kaena Point?
Yes, hiking there is legal.
Is Kaena Point hike Open?
Yes, Kaena point is now open.
The Wrap Up
If you are looking for a fantastic hike with breathtaking views, the Kaena Point Trail is the hike for you.
You might even get lucky and spot spectacular wildlife such as dolphins, whales, monk seals, and/or seabirds.
Make sure to bring plenty of water, wear sunscreen, and keep a camera handy to capture all of the memories.
Be aware of your surroundings and stay on the designated trails.
This hike is worth it and you will not be disappointed!
Mahalo for reading our post, and happy hiking in Oahu!