Makiki Valley Loop & Manoa Cliffs Circuit

sights / Parks & gardens

Makiki Valley Loop & Manoa Cliffs Circuit information

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Lonely Planet review

A favorite workout for city dwellers, the 2.5-mile Makiki Valley Loop links three Tantalus-area trails that are usually muddy, so wear shoes with traction and pick up a walking stick. The loop cuts through a diverse tropical forest, mainly composed of nonnative species introduced to reforest an area denuded by the 19th-century ʻiliahi (sandalwood) trade. Keep watch for the tumbledown remains of ancient Hawaiian stone walls and a historic coffee plantation.

Starting just past the Hawaiʻi Nature Center , the Maunalaha Trail crosses a small stream and climbs over a giant staircase of tree roots, passing Norfolk pines, banyans and taro patches. Behind are views of Honolulu’s skyscrapers and harbor. After 0.7 miles, you’ll reach a four-way junction: continue uphill on the 1.1-mile Makiki Valley Trail , which traverses small gulches and gentle streams bordered by patches of ginger and guava trees while offering glimpses of the city below. The 0.7-mile Kanealole Trail begins as you cross Kanealole Stream, then follows the stream back to the base yard. This trail leads down through a field of Job’s tears; the pearly, bead-like pseudocarps (false fruit) of this tall grass are sometimes used for making lei.

A more adventurous 6.2-mile hike beginning from the same trailhead leads to sweeping views of the valley and the ocean beyond. This Manoa Cliffs Circuit , aka the ‘Big Loop,’ starts on the same Maunalaha Trail. It then follows the 0.75-mile Moleka Trail and connects across Round Top Dr with the Manoa Cliff Trail, which intersects with the Kalawahine Trail. You can detour to the right on the Pauoa Flats Trail up to the Nuʻuanu Valley Lookout . From the lookout, backtrack to the Kalawahine Trail, which connects via the Nahuina Trail with the Kanealole Trail, leading back down to the forest base yard.

The starting point for both hiking loops is the Makiki Forest Recreation Area base yard , less than half a mile up Makiki Heights Dr from Makiki St. Where the road makes a sharp bend left, keep driving straight ahead through a green gate into the base yard. Park along the shoulder just inside the gate or in a small unpaved parking lot, then follow the signs and walk along the rolling hillside path to reach the main trailheads further inside the base yard.

From downtown Honolulu, take bus 15 Pacific Heights and get off near the intersection of Mott-Smith and Makiki Heights Drs by Spalding House, then walk half a mile southeast down Makiki Heights Dr to the base yard. From Waikiki, take bus 4 Nuʻuanu to the corner of Wilder Ave and Makiki St, then walk 0.3 miles northeast up Makiki St, veering left onto Makiki Heights Dr and continuing another 0.4 miles uphill to the base yard.