I joined the trail maintenance crew of the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club (HTMC) to clear the Makapuu-TomTom Trail that overlooks Makapu’u and Waimanalo on the Koolaupoko Coast of Oahu.
The Makapuu-TomTom Trail is a combination of 2 trails — the Koolau Ridge Trail, which follows the spine of the Koolau — and the TomTom Trail, an old Hawaiian trail that drops down a steep ridge from the Koolau into Waimanalo that gave Hawaiians traveling on foot a shortcut from Kamiloiki to Waimanalo. In the early 1920s, HTMC named the trail “TomTom” to honor Tom McGuire (a forester) and Tom Cadle (a HTMC president) who rediscovered the ancient Hawaiian route.
The Makapuu-TomTom Trail starts across the street from the Makapuu lookout along Kamehameha Highway that overlooks Makapuu Beach. The trail starts by climbing up the rocky ridge line along the fence. The Makapuu-TomTom trail is a roller-coaster of a hike that climbs up and down the crest of the Koolau and provides magnificent views from the cliffs overlooking the coastline.
Uhaloa (Waltheria indica), a Hawaiian medicinal plant whose roots were boiled to extract a remedy for the common cold, thrives along the arid cliffs overlooking Makapuu.
Early on along the hike, one gains a bird’s eye view of Sea Life Park and Oceanic Institute. The many vantage points along the ridge top are spectacular and give different profiles of Manana (Rabbit Island) and Kaohikaipu (Turtle Island) along the way.
One of the more interesting sights along the way are large boulders, the size of large trucks, which are perched precariously along the very edge of the ridge. In the photo above you can see the Makai Pier and a sandy curve in the coastline between two imposing monoliths, which appear as if they could topple off the edge of the cliffs at any time.
One of the large boulders along the edge has a hole in it that allows you to see the offshore island of Kaohikaipu. Known as “Kaulana-aka-iole” in Hawaiian, tradition says this hole was created by a warrior who threw a spear with such force when he skewered a rat that he created a hole in the rocks.
After climbing up steeply we came across a compound along the edge of the Koolau Mountains. Arnold Fujioka overlooks a series of buildings rumored to be owned by the Honolulu Police Department and the remains of an old Nike Missile Station off in the distance.
After climbing down and then up again, Doug Walker, Arnold Fujioka and I reach a section of the trail that overlooks the sandy curve of Waimanalo Beach and the triple peaks of Olomana. From this vantage point we could see the beachfront home that served as Robin Master’s estate on the television series “Magnum P.I.” along the shores of Waimanalo Beach.
The property is also home to Pahonu Pond or “turtle enclosure” in Hawaiian, a 500 feet by 50 feet rock wall built long ago by a Hawaiian chief who ordered every turtle caught in Waimanalo to be kept within its walls so he could dine on them whenever he desired. The cliffs overlooking Makapuu and Waimano are covered with bright orange lichen (Teloschistes flavicans) which adds an interesting color and texture to the landscape.
Also growing along the cliffs was ala ala wai nui pua ki (Plectrathus parviflorus), a charming indigenous plant with fuzzy leaves and a spike of tiny pale lavender flowers.
The ridge line of the Koolau is a roller-coaster that goes up and down. In the photo above, Doug Walker prepares to descend steeply down the face of a cliff only to have to climb back up again to reach our lunch spot. Six years ago, I witnessed someone fall to his death along this section of the trail, an account of which was written in the HTMC newsletter.
Iron wood trees provide a nice shady lunch spot along the the otherwise exposed ridge. As we ate our lunches and refreshed ourselves under the shady trees we enjoyed a view of Manana and Kaohikaipu from a different perspective.
One of the more charming sights as we continued our climb up an down the rocky ridge were the yellow-orange flowers of indigenous ilima (Sida fallax). The prostrate form of ilima, known as “ilima papa”, grows close to the ground and thrives along the trail.
Karen Liliker, Tom Yoza, and Mark Nierode descend into Kamiloiki Valley on an outcrop of rocks covered with orange lichen. As we made our way down the rocks, sharp-eyed Karen alerted us to an amazing life and death struggle between a spider and a wasp!
We stood transfixed watching the two in mortal combat until the wasp succeeded in stinging the spider. It then proceeded to drag the lifeless body of the spider away — presumably to an underground chamber where the spider will become food for the wasp’s offspring.
Nearing the end of our hike, we made one last descent before climbing to the top of TomTom Ridge upon which several large electrical poles have been erected. In the photo above, TomTom Ridge is on the left side and descends steeply into Waimanalo.
The descent from the spine of the Koolau into Waimanalo is steep but surprisingly very doable. In no time at all, we scampered down the TomTom trail and found ourselves in a residential neighborhood in Waimanalo. We were then ferried to the HTMC clubhouse where we shared snacks and lively conversation for the rest of the afternoon.
The Makapuu-TomTom Trail is one of my favorite hikes on Oahu. The exhilarating climbs up and down the spine of the Koolau Summit Ridge and magnificent views of the Koolaupoko Coast along the entire length of the trail make this hike a one-of-a-kind treasure.
Hiking Makapu’u to Kaluanui Ridge by Dayle Turner
HTMC newsletter – Account of Hiker’s Fall
Native Hawaiian Plants, University of Hawaii, Department of Botany
Origin of the name of the TomTom Trail was learned through personal communication with Stuart Ball.