Hiking Kaiwi Shoreline Trail

By Rasa Fournier

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After 40 years on Oahu, and an avid hiker, I figure I’m familiar with 
most trails on the Island. It’s a rare treat when the name of an 
unfamiliar trail enters my sights. Such as it did with a recent story 
I was writing on the Sierra Club of Hawaii. In doing my research on 
the club, I discovered it’s been highly active in protecting the Kaiwi
 Shoreline Trail. Kaiwi Shoreline Trail?

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The very next morning, I was on the trail by sunrise. A supremely psychedelic time of day. As that blinding molten ball peeks over 
Makapuʻu Lighthouse hill, soft blues and pinks that have suffused the 
horizon are suddenly eclipsed by a light show that is nothing short of 
paralyzing. If no one is around to hear it, do the gasping sounds
 humans make at the sheer explosiveness of a brilliant Hawaiian sunrise
 still make a sound? You bet. Every shivering leaf, blade of grass and 
inert rock are suddenly awake with life, all transfixed in that
 dazzling show of glory that spills over the etherial darkness like a 
rushing of lava.

It’s not that I wasn’t familiar with this general area. After all,
 I’ve hiked the Lighthouse Trail untold times, and spent carefree
 childhood days in the foothills, at Kaho‘ohaihai Inlet, where my 
brothers and I would jump off a log tucked into the shoreline 
boulders, a makeshift diving board. I’d sometimes bring my snorkel to 
commune mermaid-style with the fairyland of attractive fish that
 abound in this crystal cove. It’s just that until my Sierra Club
 research, I hadn’t realized there was a shoreline trail that extended
 even beyond Kaho‘ohaihai Inlet. When something is so utterly 
spellbinding as this tiny, paradise-perfect bay is, why look any 
further?

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Today, I revisit my childhood memory, that inlet at the foot of Pele’s 
Chair, a rock outcropping that resembles a rudimentary spot for a 
giant to recline. And then I continue along the shore to the right, 
where a salt and pepper splash of trail is comprised of black lava
 rocks offset by equally eye-catching ashen white rocks.

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Farther along, as the brightening sky begins to reveal the jagged
 asymmetry of Koko Crater’s gaping rim in the far distance, Ka‘ili‘ili
 Bay, on my left, makes its presence known with fingering inlets that 
present marshy vegetation. Pools have gathered here and there in the
 flat, inland sands and given rise to surreal clusters of mangroves.
 Their myriad roots are spindly appendages rising in arching symmetry
 from the sandy floor of nature’s reflecting pools.

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As the path veers away from the beach, there’s a shift from oceanside
 lava rock to tall, dry, grassy fields, reminiscent of a golden African 
savannah. But here, the gold is doubly vivid, like a glowing vision
 from a treasure chest, as a flood of rays drenches the rich veneer of 
morning across the land.

Every picture is perfect here. Layers of the horizon, when looking 
toward the ocean, change from straw-ochre to plush green, provided by
 an outcropping of hearty naupaka clusters, that contrast drastically
 against an inky black silhouette of sharp-edged lava rock. Gnarly rock 
protuberances segue through a stretch of tide pools into an expanse of 
liquid blue that meets the sky’s fiery vibrancy of atomic yellow. 
There’s no silver lining here. It’s more of a celestial caldron 
boiling up such a flaming brew in the heavens that plump clusters of
 clouds stand out like a hovering convergence of alien spaceships.

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Next on my path is Kaloko Inlet, a waterway that requires passing over
 picturesque Wawamalu Bridge. The inlet reaches all the way to 
Kalaniana‘ole Highway, which at this point is parallel to my path. A
 network of side paths spread through the grasses and sands, but I’ve 
kept to the one along the shoreline.

 Pre-1800, this entire Kealakipapa Valley was once home to the farmers
and fishermen of Wawamalu Village. The village’s name suggests shade,
 in reference to forests that once stood here. A ranch was established 
in the area in the 1920s by Alan Davis, with some locals still 
referring to Kaho‘ohaihai Inlet as Alan Davis Beach. A tsunami wiped
 out the ranch’s several houses, horses and cows in 1946. Since then, 
groups like Sierra Club have lobbied to protect this magical stretch
 of shoreline from development, with its sunrises that are worth more 
than gold.

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The trek ends shortly thereafter at Wawamalu Beach Park, and I wend my 
way back toward my car, against the harshness of the risen sun. The
 day is already hot and I seek shade after my dreamy morning that’s
 already bidding me return to these mystical shores, and soon.

TRAIL: Kaiwi Shoreline Trail

LENGTH: 2.5 miles round trip

HOW TO GET THERE: From Waikiki, take Kalakaua Avenue to Diamond Head
Road. Follow the signs for H1 freeway going east. H1 quickly turns
into Kalanianaole Highway. Go past Hawaii Kai, Hanauma Bay, Sandy
Beach and Hawaii Kai Golf Course. About a mile past the golf course,
turn right onto Makapuu Lighthouse Road, entering an open gate marked
by a sign that reads “Ka Iwi Scenic Shoreline.”

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