Hanauma Bay Hike & Rock Bridge
Please note: As of August 2015, hikers are being turned away from this location and citations are a real possibility. We encourage you to find another trail to explore!
Normally, these posts are easy to title. But this hike isn’t on a sanctioned trail, so there doesn’t seem to be any consensus on the name. Hanauma Bay Loop Hike & Koko Head Rim Trail were two I saw, so I just picked a name. It’s my blog. I do what I want.
The tuff cone itself is called Koko Head (not to be confused with Koko Crater), but I suspect most people know the name ‘Hanauma Bay’ best – the tourist snorkeling spot that’s located inside of Koko Head. We’ve actually never visited Hanauma Bay until now because we’ve heard the snorkeling isn’t as good as it used to be.
But we weren’t there to check out the fishies. We were there to hike. James has sort of taken on the task of researching our adventures, and I am loving that. So in addition to hiking this trail, we were also hoping to find the Hidden Rock Bridge. (Spoiler alert: we did it!)
We decided to pay $1 and park in the Hanauma Bay parking. We tried to get there early, but of course we failed. So we didn’t get started until about 10am. Not smart, people. Not smart. (But apparently we’ll never learn.)
We joined all of the other people clearly ignoring the “keep out” sign. The security personnel nearby didn’t seem to care. (However, I’m not endorsing trespassing of course.)
The first part of the hike is all paved because it’s actually a road that leads to some towers. Radio facility maybe?
Little Miss took lots of breaks. The hill was steep and she’s got little legs, ya know. And see that fantastic Koko Crater in the background? I still have nightmares about those steps.
Pretty Hanauma Bay!
I took my DSLR along on this hike (in addition to my P&S) because I have a wide angle lens and James bought me a circular polarizing filter for it. So of course I had to try it out! I took approximately 538 pictures that look very similar to this, but from different points along the hike. I had to get it just right. And I still don’t think I did. I must return.
Almost to the pseudo-top, the boys jetted out ahead and had to wait for us. (It looked like the top until we kept going and realized there was another top.)
I took advantage of Audra’s breaks and snapped shots of Diamond Head and Honolulu.
We kept walking along the asphalt until it ended. Then we started heading down the dirt path. This was a mistake, but we didn’t yet know it.
James led the way.
But it quickly started to get steep.
And we were dangerously close to the edge.
But we kept going. Very slowly because 3/5 of us are big scaredy-cats. But still, we kept going.
This was the view looking down.
It continued to get steeper. We continued to feel less sure about this path.
James decided to head way down and check it out. The rest of us sat down and had a snack.
We made the responsible decision to turn around and head back up. We were seeing other people taking another path north of us, so we headed that way. We knew we weren’t totally wrong, because we did see a few others taking the same path we were. They just didn’t have three children along.
The other path wasn’t hard to find.
His hands seem to portray a whimsical disposition. The truth is that the kid was pissed that this hike wasn’t over yet. (I think we’re creating some huge trust issues with these “short” hikes that end up being anything but.)
James was working hard to shield Audra from the sun because despite a healthy application of sunscreen, she was turning red quickly. (We used some old stuff I found in our beach bag, and I’m pretty sure it was no good.)
We weren’t exactly excited about having to walk downhill yet again, but this one was a lot easier.
And then it got flat for a minute.
And then it was back uphill.
But I turned around to see this: a clear distinction between the two trails we hiked. The one on the left was definitely more difficult. At some point as we were walking, we met back up with a trio that we had passed on that left trail. It confirmed that we made the right choice. It took us the same amount of time to walk back up, over and down as it did for them to continue on the outer path.
A look to the north. A view of Hanauma Bay and the Ko’olaus.
So we walked to the end of the rim, and I asked the kids to pose for a picture. Here’s proof that they don’t always cooperate.
Here’s the deal with the Hidden Rock Bridge. It’s hidden. Many people hike this trail knowing that it exists but aren’t able to find it. Thankfully, James is quite resourceful so he did recon while we waited for him up top.
Then we chatted with a fellow hiker who gave us some useful info and we headed down. It’s scary because from above, you can’t tell that there’s even anything to hike down to until you start going.
It was sketchy, so we took it extremely slow.
It took some time for Austin to realize that we were going to find the bridge whether he was happy about it or not. So he eventually turned that frown upside down.
Once you start going down, you’ll see little ribbons tied to rocks to help lead the way.
We got to this cliff portion and walked across.
And there she was. The elusive rock bridge.
Lots of people go out onto the rock bridge. But there’s a pretty decent sized crack underneath, and I don’t want to be the lucky winner who receives a dunk in the swirling death trap below. Aside from the crack, those waves are absolutely unpredictable. I’ve seen a picture of a huge one nearly assaulting someone on that very bridge. So this is as close as we got. And our kids stayed even farther away and ate their snack. They were mostly unimpressed by this rock bridge anyway.
The is the view from the cliffs.
And the look north from the bridge as we started back up.The same, but a wider shot.
See that little speck of red? That’s our boy Aidan. He still doesn’t love hiking, but he’s getting a billion times better at hiding it. (Most of the time.)
The climbing on the way up was totally Austin’s jam.
James grabbed the camera to prove that I really do hike. I’m not just getting pulled behind in a wagon while I take pictures.
How cool is this?
And eventually we made it to the top. And the previously-grumpy boy was good to go for a family picture. Is that a gorgeous view or what? I still pinch myself sometimes. We live here!
Another view to the north of the eastern coastline.
This shot was SO much cooler in my head. But I just couldn’t execute it correctly. There’s always next time.
The path seriously seemed never-ending. It was like a cross between the other two. It seemed fairly easy at first, but the last part was a doozy.
The girl was drinking some serious water. It was hot.
It was right about here that Audra fell behind me. She shrieked so very loudly and then started crying. I of course panicked, but thankfully it wasn’t a huge slip. She just skinned her hands and knees.
But dang, it was steep.
And then finally, we were back on asphalt and on our way out.
Poor James ended up with the walking poles again.
Another shot of Diamond Head. Because I couldn’t decide on my favorite.
And another shot of Hanauma Bay. See previous comment.
The hike took us four hours, but we all came away feeling really positive about the experience. It was just so absolutely beautiful. Both our step counts and GPS app indicated this was a 6 mile hike, but that may not be accurate. It’s always hard to know. And of course if you don’t go the “wrong” way first, it’ll definitely be a lot shorter!
I wouldn’t recommend this hike (including the rock bridge) for kids younger than ours simply because of the steep dirt paths. But if you just wanted to walk up the asphalt for the sights, that’s totally doable for anyone. Of course you know your kids better than I do, so just use your best judgment!
But regardless of how old ya are or how great of shape you’re in, take plenty of water and wear sunscreen. I’m rocking a pretty awesome sunglasses tanline on my nose today.