Hiking Mariner’s Ridge
RASA’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURES: The Best, Most Family-Friendly Trails on Oahu
By RASA FOURNIER
Two mountain ranges define Oahu’s landscape. The island’s western flank is home to the taller ? at 4,025 feet, the range’s Mt. Ka‘alais the highest peak on Oahu ? but less extensive Waianae Range, and on the larger eastern flank, the majestic Koolau spine stretches from the northernmost point of the island to its southernmost point. Numerous trails lead to Koolau’s many summits, most of them long and arduous.
When visiting family and guests ask the expected question, “What’s a good hike?,” I have my answer ready: Mariner’s Ridge. It’s the most accessible peak in the Koolau Range, with a well-traveled path, smooth ascent and a duration of about one leisurely hour to get to the top.
The drive to the trailhead zigs up the mountainside so that by the time you step onto the path, you’re already at an elevation that offers gorgeous views of the ocean and a giant crater that tourists might readily mistake as Diamond Head, but it’s Koko Crater, a few miles north of the famous Waikiki landmark.
The steady but not-too-steep 1.5-mile climb begins along eroded red dirt before passing through shady groves of ironwood trees and finally encountering fern-laden hills near the peak. The ridge that the trail runs along is buffeted by a rush of refreshing winds from the valleys on either side. Their force is so constant that the trees on the ridge line have been molded into a petrified windswept wave, making for an unusual tunnel passageway.
Gorgeous views of Hawaii Kai and the East Honolulu shoreline dot the journey, with a hiker’s final triumphant strides surfacing at a sweeping vista of Waimanalo’s patchwork of agricultural fields and expansive curving bay, the prominent peninsula of Kaneohe Marine Corps Base, or K-Bay as locals call it, and the myriad rugged peaks of Koolau jutting across the land as the mountain chain extends to Kahuku Point on the North Shore. A few steps to the other side of the clearing and you see a panoramic vision of Koko Crater and the hills and residential community fronting popular Hanauma Bay, including the water inlets and marina that make an aerial view of Hawaii Kai so picturesque.
There you have it: Oahu’s best views and some healthy exercise, without the mud and rigor that Koolau loves to dish out.
TRAIL: Mariner’s Ridge Hike
LENGTH: 3 miles round trip
HOW TO GET THERE: From Waikiki, take Kalanianaole Highway toward Hawaii Kai. In Hawaii Kai, turn left at Keahole Drive and take another left (just after the U.S. Post Office on the left) onto Kaluanui Road. Follow Kaluanui until it dead-ends at an obvious trailhead.
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