Ka’ena Point

Location: Nortwest Oahu, westernmost tip
Map: USGS 1:24K Kaena
Access: Take the Farrington Hwy northand west literally until it ends. Then get out and walk.
Trail: Follow the old road, which turns into nothing more than a footpath over loose sand. Flat, 3 miles to Ka'ena Point.
Fees: None
Dogs: No posted restrictions

Shark's Cove on the North Shore....you can just see Ka'ena Point in the distanceAfter spending a fantastic morning watching man-killing waves at Shark’s Cove, body-surfing at Waimea Bay, then downing a delicious hamburger in Hale’iwa, what could possibly be a more fitting cap on the day than a nice hike to Ka’ena Point, the westernmost tip of Oahu and legendary jumping-off point into the afterlife? We did not intend to do any actual jumping into the afterlife on this day, but thought it might be nice to have a preview. We drove the Farrington Hwy until it ended into deeply-rutted two-track. Then the three of us, Andra, Dave and I, exchanged our flip flops for hiking boots and set off down the road towards the west, our shirts still wet around the shortline from swimming. To our right lay the Pacific Ocean, unbroken all the way to the Aleutians, and to our left rose the sharp, steep foothills of the Wai’anae Range, carpeted in a verdant rug of greenery.  Clouds overhead threatened rain in the early part of the hike, but began to clear fairly quickly.  The coast was rocky and treacherous, by far too dangerous for any type of swimming, especially on a day such as this when the sea seemed to be especially irritated at something. Along the rocky shelves by the water, at odd intervals, pickup trucks were stationed with three to ten fishing poles braced in the ground on both sides parallel to the Ka'ena Pointcoast, all with taught lines leading into the choppy water. Occasionally, a few men could be seen hunched under a crude tarp shelter, but more often, the coast seemed deserted. The road was straight, going over several small hills, but pretty easy to walk on, overall. Several times we were forced to take short detours to get around huge puddles of red muck. This is no small feat when the vegetation on the roadside stands 4-feet tall and is mostly impenetrable. After a mile or two, the road truly ended at a closed gate with mammoth hinges that were long rusted shut. Or, who knows, perhaps in this wet part of the world they had been installed only last winter. Signs listed certain forbidden activities, but allowed hiking on foot, so we continued through a small gap in the gate. The large lane of the dirt road gave way immediately to a simple foot trail, elevated so as to afford a more enjoyable view of the water beyond, which beforehand was largely hidden by the tall grasses. In the steep cliff to the south Dave pointed out an old WWII lookout bunker of concrete, embedded in the mountainside and seemingly inaccessible. What a terrible job that would have been, spending a tour of duty in a quiet, safe, shaded concrete bunker overlooking waves of green vegetation and ocean skyline. If I ever have the misfortune of being called to war, I volunteer for that job. I’ll do my part. The sun came out in full shortly after this point, and the temperature seemed to soar by ten or twenty degrees. Instinctively, I looked around for shade, but suddenly, as we approached the thin sandy soils on the edge of the island, beyond the shelter of the mountain range to the south, all vegetation seemed limited to a height of 2 feet or less. A tower in the distance seemed to signal the very edge of dry land, and we made for it in haste under the brutal sun. Much too much work, I thought. Did I want to turn back? No, just to complain a little. It was still beautiful. Soon, the mountains that had cut off any view to the south receded into the ground, and ocean opened up on 3 sides.  The trail entered an Albatross breeding area, and the path was cordoned off with steel posts and wire. Upon reaching the tower we had been aiming for, we took shelter in the shade of what appeared to be a toppled concrete tower. Looking back east, we could see both the north and south shores of Oahu simultaneously, as well as some sort of weather or radio station on the peaks nearby. It seemed to still be raining off on the eastern shore, so tantalizingly-close, but the sun on our end of the island was in no way obscured, a fact I The tidepools at Ka'ena Pointconsidered as I drank down the last of my warm water. From that point, it was down to the rocky coast and the tidepools therein, to observe the myriad wonders of a tropical sea. Needlefish by the thousands filled one small channel with their long, tube-like bodies. Crabs and small dark fish darted away into hidden crevices each time I approached a new puddle. Spiny black and purple sea urchins were very common. We spotted a few anemones, but not nearly so many as I would have expected to see. The three of us rock-hopped all around the sharp, volcanic crust that formed the tidepools checking out all the interesting fish and critters. At one point we observed a group of fish taking turns jumping from one tidepool, over a rock barrier, and into another tidepool, seemingly without any a-priori knowledge that there even was a tidepool in the direction they were jumping. Amazing clairvoyance. Soon, we were back on the trail for what seemed like a forced death march through the stifling heat back to the car. With sunscreen long since removed by sheets of sweat, my skin reddened steadily under the great iron furnace in the sky. The hike back seemed, for obvious reasons, to take twice as long as the hike out. Luckily as we neared the car, the clouds rolled back in, providing some relief. 

Foothills of the Wai'anae RangeKa'ena Point

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More photos from Ka'ena Point are located in the Hawaii album at LandscapeImagery.com
Page Created Dec 2004