We hiked from one hill to the next on Kokokahi Ridge — also known as Oneawa Hills — which overlooks the southern end of Kāneʻohe Bay.
Justin Ohara and I originally planned to hike the East Honolulu Ramble from Kuliʻouʻou West to Hahaʻione but when we arrived at Kuliʻouʻou, heavy rains made us change our plans. So we drove on to Makapuʻu and turned up the windward coast to the low ridge that separates Kailua from Kāneʻohe just south of the Marine Air Corps Station where the weather was better. We ascended a trail behind Kalaheo High School to the top of the ridge and hiked up and down a series of gentle hills.
Several squalls blew in and dumped their moisture on us but we were on the edge on the rain clouds and escaped the full brunt of the rain. After making our way over several hills, we reached a deep gouge in the ridge through which H-3 was built and we could go no further. Since we wanted to continue hiking on the other side of H-3, we returned to our car to drive beyond the gouge to pick-up further inland along the ridge.
Justin knew we could regain the ridge line at the Friendship Garden. So we drove on Kāneʻohe Bay Drive and made our way up Kokokahi Place to the garden. After parking our car, we climbed up stepping stones and made our way up a series of switchbacks.
The lower parts of the ridge are a botanical garden with many introduced trees. The climb was quick and it did not take long for us to reach the upper portions of the ridge which are over-run by invasive plants.
We saw a number of yellow strawberry guava covered with rain drops which I could not resist to pick and eat. They were juicy and delicious!
When we reach the top, we were pleasantly surprised to see Mokapu Peninsula in the sun! For some inexplicable reason, the rain clouds that threatened the rest of the windward coast completely bypassed Mokapu Peninsula.
We had great views of Coconut Island (Moku O Loʻe) and the the southern end of Kāneʻohe Bay which was partially in the clouds. Many of the invasive octopus trees (Schefflera actinophylla) were in bloom with flower and fruits on the top of the ridge.
After admiring the spectacular view, we made our way along the ridge line climbing up and down a series of hills — some of which have multiple communications and electrical towers.
One of the hills offered a great view of the fishponds, piers, and other structures along the southern shore of Kāneʻohe Bay.
Kokokahi Ridge is overrun by introduced plants, but we saw the occasional native plant like this ʻakia (Wikstroemia spp.).
We also saw several shrubs of ʻilima (Sida fallax) in bloom with bright yellow-orange flowers.
Much of the ridge is dominated by christmas berry with white lichen and lauʻae ferns in the understory. As we made our way up and down multiple hills on the ridge line, I crushed several lauʻae fronds in my hands to release the sweet maile-like fragrance. What a great scent!
The ridge overlooks Kapaʻa Quarry where basaltic rock is mined, crushed, and mixed with cement to create concrete. Yet another squall blew in as we hiked up and down the ridge, but most of the rain by-passed us to the south.
Several parts of the ridge were covered with indigenous hau trees (Hibiscus tiliaceus) which have heart-shaped leaves. When we reached some white pvc pipes we realized we were not supposed to contour off the ridge line and retraced our steps to regain the spine of the ridge.
When we finally reached the junction to exit out Lipalu Street, we veered-off the main ridge line to descend a side ridge covered with christmas berry and lauʻae ferns.
While descending the side ridge, we made our way through groves of strawberry guava. We encountered multiple junctions which made the way forward ambiguous but Justin had been on this trail before and knew which way to go.
When we reached the bottom, the way out was cryptic when several broad trails petered out. We retraced our steps and took a narrow — but very distinct — trail which brought us to the end of Lipalu Place.
While making our way out from Lipalu Place to Namoku Street, Mokulele Drive, Kaneohe Bay Drive and then back up where we started to Kokokahi Place, I reflected on the great time I had hiking the ridge for the first time and seeing magnificent views of Kāneʻohe. What a great hike!
Native Hawaiian Plants, University of Hawaii, Department of Botany
Kokokahi Ridge, Dayle Turner, Oahu Hiking Enthusiasts
Oneawa Hills, Richard McMahon, Around Hawaii
Plants of Hawaii, Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk