Ka'au Crater Hike

You’ll be gobsmacked by magnificent scenery the moment you step onto this hidden hiking trail. The jungle here is dense, and light breaks through the canopy of amazingly tall, vine-covered trees in magnificent beams. It’ll make you feel as if you’d stepped back to the time of the dinosaurs.

The enchanting jungle scenery comes at a cost -- mud and bugs. It won’t take long for your shoes to be incredibly dirty, and you’ll want to pack some insect repellent so you don’t return to the beach covered in mosquito bites. And take great care hiking on Hawaii’s famously slick red dirt. It can get as slippery as lake ice when wet and compacted.

This is a moderately dangerous and unmaintained trail. You should leave the kids at home, and you should avoid the trail after a rain. The entire slippery hike takes about seven hours to complete, so give yourself plenty of time before sundown to get off the trail. But, if you’re willing to accept the hardship, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views, three waterfalls and magical swimming pools full of cold, refreshing water. You’ll also be rewarded with solitude as not many tourists challenge this difficult hike. It’s not often that you get a swimming pool under three waterfalls in the rainforest all to yourself, so drink it in.

You’ll gain 1700 feet of elevation as the muddy trail narrows and steepens up a mountainside. On your way up the crater, you’ll find a few waterfalls hiding in the rainforest. The main attraction is a beautiful little swimming pool crowned by three small waterfalls. It’s the perfect place to wash off your muddy legs. Enjoy the cold water before you continue up the challenging slope of the crater.

Eventually, you’ll burst out of the canopy on the crater’s ridge. The dirt here is dry as it is exposed to the sun, but the hiking gets harder. There’s even a stretch where you’ll have to pull yourself up a steep embankment using a permanently installed rope. You’ll be rewarded with views of the misty mountainous inland landscape of Oahu, and you’ll be able to peer into the crater itself before you loop back to the parking lot to complete the five-mile circuit.

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Price range: Free
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Honolulu, Oahu