The Koko Crater trail is often writtten about but this loop variation in which you cross over a natural bridge is not so well known and more interesting than the standard route. This hike, although fairly short, involves serious climbing, so it’s not for beginners, and it can be a very hot one, so try to do it in the winter, and bring extra water.
To get there from Honolulu, take the Lunalilo Frwy. eastbound. It becomes the Kalanianaole Hwy. After passing Aina Haina and Hawaii Kai, you go up a hill and pass Hanauma Bay on the right. Continue on to the Blowhole lookout right before Sandy Beach and park there. Plan on a duration of about three hours for this hike, and as always, tell someone where you are hiking, and hike with friends.
View of Hawaii Kai & Diamond Head from the top – Photo by Chris Walker
Cross over to the other side of the highway and head back towards Hanauma Bay. When you come to a spot where you can easily climb on to the rocks to your right, start walking on the rocks. There is no distinct trail but it is easy to walk on the smooth rock. Look for the natural bridge ahead of you and make your way to it.
Crossing over the top of the bridge can look visually intimidating but it’s not hard. (March 25 2010: I have added pictures of the bridge below, along with another photo lower down, taken by Nathan Yuen. Check out his great website here.) Once you’ve crossed over it, continue straight uphill to the crater rim. There is no trail and the climb is very steep. But it should take you less than fifteen minutes to reach the rim, where the hike becomes much easier.
Once you are on the crater rim, turn left and continue along the rim. Some spots are pretty narrow, and there are some places where you walk to the right of knobs on the rim. Check back later for photos of this section. After a short while you climb again and reach the highest point. This last section has some crisscrossing trails that are a bit confusing, but if you continue upward you will eventually reach the metal platform at the summit. There are a couple of different ways you can climb on to the top of it, and with its great view of east Oahu, this is the perfect place to eat your lunch. Make sure you check out the view of the crater from the back side.
Trolley tracks – Photo by Chris Walker
To go down, you find the trail in front of the platform, which is the side facing Damond Head. It’s steep and slippery so be careful. Soon you reach the top of some trolley tracks resembling train tracks, which is the normal route both up and down. You can’t see the tracks themselves most of the time and it looks more like a very steep wooden staircase. You go down these tracks, taking extra care on one section where the tracks are elevated above the ground. You need to watch carefully where you put your feet on that part.
Shorlty after the elevated section the angle of descent becomes less steep. At the end of the tracks you walk among some abandoned buildings and turn left, eventually reaching a ballfield and parking lot. Continue up the steep paved road leading to Hanauma Bay, and when you reach Kalanianaole Hwy. turn left and go back to the lookout.
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