Kuliouou Ridge is a very popular hike on the south shore of O’ahu, and rightfully so! There are views from the summit of Honolulu, Hawai’i Kai, and Waimanalo on the east side. With the Ko’olau mountain range traversing much of the island from the south shore to the north, this variance on the Kuliouou Trail is an awesome route for very experienced hikers to see more of the Ko’olau Summit Trail and get their adrenaline pumping.
This guide takes you up Kuliouou West Ridge to the Ko’olau Summit Trail atop Pu’u O Kona and crosses over to Kuliouou Ridge (the eastern trail) to loop back down to the trailhead. There are two rope sections that are not for the faint of heart; there are extreme drops off the razor-sharp ridgeline on either side. It should be noted that in conditions of high wind or rain, and for days after rain, this trail should not be attempted.
The Kuliouou West Ridge ascends over 900 feet through tropical foliage and trees in the first 20 minutes, then flattens out as you reach the ridgeline and enter a forest of Cook pines. There are occasional orange and pink tape markers on the trees, but you should be able to see a faintly trodden path climbing up the side of the mountain. The ridgeline heads up through a strawberry guava forest before opening up to give some truly incredible views of the south shore of O’ahu. The trail climbs up and up and gets more scenic the higher you climb. Two rope sections exist on this ascent, and be sure to use sound judgement in their integrity and your use of them. It’s not worth your life, nor is it worth risking the lives of others to come and rescue you! Passing this section, you will find yourself among the clouds, or if you are lucky, a sunny O’ahu day will yield to incredibel views of the south and eastern sections of the island. Follow the GPS and continue along the Ko’olau Summit Trail toward the right until you reach the top of the Kuliouou Ridge (east), where you will see an “End of Trail” sign that will mark the top of this more popular hike. You may take this ridge down to the bottom of Kuliouou Valley to loop back to the trailhead where you began.
Traveling this in a clockwise direction is recommended because the Kuliouou West Ridge is much more technically challenging and route finding is more difficult. Give yourself ample time so that you will not have to descend in the dark (4 to 5 hours is suggested). Always bring proper footwear, three liters of water, a headlamp, an emergency blanket, a communication device in case of emergencies, and let someone know where you are headed! Aloha and happy hiking!