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Need to know


Near Waikiki


Ka’au Crater Trail is an insanely beautiful jungle hike that’s loved by locals and serious hikers, but mostly unknown by everyone else. It takes you through lush rainforest, past 3 waterfalls, and along the ridge of a huge crater with one of the most insane views on the island. But because not many people try it, it still feels undiscovered. 


Heads up, this is not an easy hike. As far as Oahu crater hikes go, Diamond Head is the easiest, then Koko Crater (which is short but very steep), followed by Ka’au which is longer (about 5-6 hours) and you’ll navigate several advanced parts (like a steep rope climb up the side of a waterfall) with slippery rocks and muddy inclines. But the upside to that is that it deters tourists and there are zero crowds here. Plus, the views are unmatched.


You start the hike following a stream through a dense jungle with tall trees and hanging vines, until you reach the first waterfall. Next is the ascent to the ridgeline which at one point has you climbing up the side of a waterfall with ropes. When you reach the ridgeline you can peer into the crater and the marsh below. The panoramic view is incredible — misty mountains, Diamond Head, Kaneohe Sandbar, the Honolulu skyline, and the Windward Coast.


This hike is unreal — partly because it’s one of the most beautiful hikes in Oahu and partly because you feel like you have it all to yourself while you’re there. 


3000 10th Ave.

Honolulu, HI 96816


  • Sunrise  —  Sunset




Intermediate / Advanced


It’s about 5 miles roundtrip and takes about 5-6 hours. 


You need to be in good shape. There’s 1942 ft elevation gain. It’s a wet, muddy trail with steep ascents and descents — some of which you’ll use ropes to climb. There are also some narrow ridges. 


You could make this a beginner hike by heading back after reaching the 1st waterfall, but hiking along the ridgeline and to the summit is advanced and should only be attempted by experienced hikers. 

Time Estimate

5 - 6 hours roundtrip (6-7 if it’s really muddy)


Plan for at least 6 hours if it’s your first time on the hike.


  • Kaimuki Superette — 7 min drive

  • The Curb Kaimuki — 8 min drive

  • Waikiki — 18 min drive

  • Halona Beach Cove (Here to Eternity Beach) — 25 min drive

  • Hanauma Bay — 25 min drive

  • Makapu’u Lighthouse — 30 min drive

  • Makapu’u Tidepools — 30 min drive

Jaw dropping views. Hike through a jungle, up the side of a waterfall, and along a crater’s ridge. 3 waterfalls. A locals hike that’s not at all crowded. Takes about 5-6 hrs.

Ka'au Crater Trail


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Good to know





  • Good hiking shoes with great tread. Ones that you don’t mind getting real muddy. (Opt for hiking shoes over sneakers.)

  • A change of clothes for after the hike and a garbage bag to throw your wet / muddy stuff in. 

  • Lots of water. At least 2-3 litres. Bring more than you think you’ll need. A Camelbak is helpful if you have one. 

  • Lunch and snacks. Energy snacks like power bars, nuts, etc. are good. 

  • Wear long pants so your legs don’t get scratched up by low lying shrubs. 

  • Download the map from AllTrails so you have access to it when you’re offline. The trail isn’t clearly marked so the offline map will help keep you on track. (Head’s up, you’ll need the paid version of AllTrails for this.)

  • The Honolulu Fire Department recommends  bringing a cell phone with a full battery and an external charger just in case. 

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​Safety Tips

  • The Honolulu Fire Department recommends hiking with a cell phone that’s fully charged and an external charger as well. 

  • If it’s raining, skip the summit. It’s too dangerous and the fog will block your views. 

  • Don’t attempt this hike alone. When it comes to the rope climbs and especially the advanced final sections along the crater’s ridge and summit, you’ll want help if you run into trouble. 

  • The trail isn’t always marked or straightforward. Download the offline map from AllTrails so you can keep track of your location from your phone. (Head’s up, you have to pay for the upgraded membership to download offline maps). 

  • Your shoes will get muddy (and therefore slippery) fast. Watch your step and avoid stepping on the pipe that runs near the stream or there’s a good chance you’ll slip and fall. 

  • Always test out the ropes before putting your full wait on them. You’ll find them in some of the steeper spots.

  • The higher you go, the better the views, but keep in mind that the last section, looping the ridgeline and climbing the summit, are the most dangerous. 

  • Start the hike early in the morning to give yourself plenty of time for the long trail, especially if you run into trouble.

General Tips

  • Get there early to get a parking spot. Otherwise you’ll have to park further down Waiomao Road and there’s not much parking in this residential area. 

  • Don’t leave valuables in your car and don’t leave anything visible in there that might tempt someone to break in. If you bring a change of clothes, etc, put them in the trunk before you get there. 

  • You could make this a beginner hike by heading back after reaching the 1st waterfall.

  • This hike is exhausting, so plan a lot of chill time afterwards. 

  • You may see strawberry guava along the way. You can eat them like a grape, swallowing the seeds. You can find them most of the year. Lilikoi (passion fruit) might pop up from June - Jan. 

  • Summer is dryer than spring. 

  • Try to keep your socks dry or you’ll be miserable later. 



  • The trail is unmaintained.

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  • Trailhead: The hike starts at the end of Waiomao Road behind a row of mailboxes. 

  • Parking: There is a tiny gravel lot at the trailhead, but if it’s full, head up the road a little ways. You can park along the side of the road too, but the street is narrow and it’s hard to find a spot. It’s a residential area, so be considerate of the people living here. 

  • Part 1 Through The Jungle: The trail ascends gradually at first. First you’ll hike through the forest, alongside a stream until you reach the 1st waterfall. You’ll cross the stream a couple times to stay on the trail.  You may find some pink ribbons marking the trail and you can follow the pipeline (that appears about 15-20 minutes into the hike). 

    It’s about 2 miles to the first waterfall. Leading up to the waterfall, the path gets narrower, steeper, and the mud gets thicker. This is a good spot to stop for a snack.

    It gets much more difficult from here on out. This is a good spot to turn around if you’re looking for an easier hike. 

    With the 1st waterfall, you can either rope climb to the top or cross at the bottom and then climb up. 

  • Part 2 Waterfalls and the Ascent to the Ridgeline: It’s about 20 minutes to the 2nd (bigger) waterfall, where you’ll cross over when you reach the top.

    It doesn’t take long to get to the 3rd waterfall, where you’ll climb up the rocks right next to it. There are ropes to help you up some of the steep parts, including a climb up alongside the 3rd waterfall. (Always test out the ropes before putting your full wait on them.) The trail is to the left of the waterfall. Expect about 20-30 minutes to pull yourself up the 3rd waterfall to the top of the ridgeline. It’s steep and slippery. 

  • Part 3 The Ridgeline: From the top of the 3rd waterfall, follow the path to the right of the waterfall until you reach the ridgeline. This is where you'll get your first view of the crater.

    From here, you can either loop back the way you came or you can continue on to a very steep, narrow summit that overlooks the crater.

    If you see rain clouds, head back. It’s too risky to attempt the summit hike in the rain.

    You can also head left along the ridge to a trail that’s an easier descent than the waterfall trail you just took. 

  • Part 4 Hiking Around the Ridgeline and to the Summit for insane views inside the crater and of Waikiki and Diamond Head (if you didn’t turn back after the 3rd waterfall). This portion is the most beautiful, but also the most difficult and dangerous. It should only be attempted by advanced / experienced hikers.

    It has the steepest inclines and descents. There are some ropes, but not always, and you’ll need a good amount of upper body strength to pull yourself up them. There are some really narrow sections with steep drop offs too. Wind and mud can make it more dangerous. Expect lots of mud, even if it hasn’t rained recently.

    This is an out and back trail with a steep climb up very narrow ridges that overlook the crater. There are steep drop offs too. The crater is to your left as you hike up the summit.

    The last section involves an almost vertical rope-climb, with the payoff being views of the entire east coast, Honolulu, and the mountains. The trail is very narrow near the summit.

  • Part 5 Descend Back Down to the Stream: Heads up that the descent is steep and slippery, so continue with caution.

    As you descend from the summit down the ridgeline, you’ll pass 2 sets of power line structures. After the 2nd one, the trail leads to the left, back down to the other side of the crater’s rim.

    At the lowest portion, there are 2 more power line structures. After the 2nd one, look for the trail junction. Heading left will take you back to the falls (which is the more difficult way to go back) . Heading right avoids the waterfalls and leads you back to the valley and the river.

    Keep heading downstream until you reach the road. 

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  • This trail is too advanced for kids. 



  • The inside of the Ka’au Crater collects water in a marsh that then becomes the source of water for the 3 waterfalls and streams. 

  • There are 3 craters in Oahu: Ka’au, Diamond Head, and Koko. Of course, technically, they’re not craters, they’re volcanic tuff cones. They were formed when lava flowed into the ocean, setting off a steam explosion that sent ash and fine particles flying into the air and settling onto the ground, where they hardened into “craters.”

  • Ka’au Crater is the least well known of the 3 Oahu craters. 

  • In July 2021, 4 hikers were rescued one evening after getting lost. They got disoriented when the weather conditions changed. Firefighters got a 911 call from them at 8pm. 

  • In May 2021, 2 hikers were airlifted out after they weren’t sure they could continue the hike. 

Last Updated 11 / 30 / 21

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