Hiking for Health in Paradise
By Robin Reichert
Renowned for its beautiful beaches, cool waves, and hot volcanoes, Hawaii is one of the top vacation spots on Earth. Whether you enjoy hiking, swimming, or jogging, Hawaii offers you the exercise experience of a lifetime. Hawaii’s beautiful beaches beckon you to go walking or running, ride the super waves for surfing, and hike miles of rugged trails. You will enjoy the beauty of nature while getting in shape or staying in shape. Hawaii offers some of the best hiking in the world for everyone.
EASY: Ka Iwi State Scenic Shoreline
Ka Iwi State Scenic Shoreline in Honolulu is a good place to start for beginners and those who have not been hiking for some time. In addition to an easy hike, you will enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. From a personal perspective, I have hiked this trail with my husband and two boys on numerous occasions and found it to be a relaxing, enjoyable, and educational experience for the whole family. My children, especially, like the fact that there is always something exciting to see along the way, including panoramic views of the eastern side of Oahu, watching large humpback whales breaching during migration season, and viewing numerous pillboxes and war structures that were abandoned after World War II. The hike is a gradual ascent along the eastern shore of Honolulu that ends at the iconic Makapu’u Lighthouse, and the view at the top of the trail offers absolutely breathtaking views as far as the eye can see, including Manana Island (a.k.a. Rabbit Island) and the beautiful Waimanalo coastline. The path along the trail is paved which makes it easy on the joints, but the entire trail is about two miles long and may take between one and three hours, depending on how much time you spend enjoying the view and taking photographs. Take your sunscreen, as it can get hot on this side of Honolulu.
MODERATE: Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui
Waihee Ridge Trail in Maui is a moderately difficult four and half mile hike through the West Maui Forest Reserve. Beginners should not hike this trail without a seasoned hiker as the terrain can be a little trying. You will probably need a guide to find this trail, as it is at the top of a curvy road off Kahekili Highway 7. This area of Maui is often windy, wet and muddy but the rich vegetation and numerous waterfalls make this hike worth the effort. Be sure to wear hiking shoes with a strong grip because some areas along the trail can be slippery. Your hike through the forest leads you to the deep crevasses of the ancient Puu Kukui volcano. The most breathtaking scenery greets you as you hike along the Waihee Ridge, which is flanked by deep valleys covered in lush tropical foliage. This climb is long and ends at Lanilili Mountain, which is more than 2,500 feet above sea level.
HARD: Pihea and Alaka’i Swamp Trail, Koke’e SP, Kauai
If you are in good shape and ready for a challenge, the Pihea and Alaka’i trail on the island of Kauai fits the bill. This hike is about nine miles, 2,000 feet up and will take a full day to complete. The Pihea trail is rugged and depending on the weather, it can be muddy. Pihea is about 4,000 feet above sea level so you are sure to enjoy spectacular view of the rugged cliffs and vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. The trail is dotted with lookouts where you can rest and enjoy the view. The Alakai swamp area is a little easier with a board trail that leads into the swamp part of the hike. The Alaka’i Swamp is a difficult hike. The swamp is near the top of the mountain and the boardwalk trails can be slippery and rickety. Exercise caution when hiking the boardwalk through the swamp. Your hike ends at Kilohana Overlook on the edge of a cliff.
No matter which trail you pick dress appropriately and be prepared for rain, sun and wind. You’ll want to bring plenty of water and snacks to ensure you are hydrated and full of energy. Enjoy!!
Photo credit: Robin Reichert