For a dramatic overview of the taro fields of Hanalei Valley, and the crescent bay beyond, climb the gruelling but rewarding Okolehao Trail. Ascending a sharp wooded ridge, it reaches successive forest clearings where views open up east to Kilauea Lighthouse and west to the Na Pali Coast. Carry lots of water and expect plenty of mud. Most hikers turn back after 1.25 miles, but informal and very precarious pathways lead higher up towards inaccessible peaks.
Coming from Hanalei, turn right along Ohiki Rd immediately before Hanalei Bridge, staying on the west side of the river. Follow the road alongside the taro fields for roughly half a mile, until you spot a parking area on the left. A little footbridge that leads into the woods on the other side of the road marks the start of the trail.
The first half-mile is a real quad burner, along a deeply rutted red-dirt path that zigzags up the ridge, picking its way between tangled tree-roots. Especially after rain, and even though plastic webbing has been embedded into the mud in tricky places, conditions are liable to be very slippery – and that’s just a foretaste of what’s to come.
After around twenty literally breathtaking minutes, you come to a small clearing that’s dominated by a mighty utility-company pole. The green fields of the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge lie at your feet, with the town of Hanalei on the far side and the rich curve of Hanalei Bay beyond. The views don't change much after this point, so if you’ve only time for a short hike you could turn back here.
From the clearing, the trail doubles back on itself and becomes if anything even narrower and steeper. Climbing through a mixed forest of wild guava, silk oak, eucalyptus and koa trees, it offers photo opportunities galore before ending another half-hour along. The final stretch is almost vertical, so there’s usually a knotted rope in place to help you haul yourself up. At the top you’ll find a lookout, equipped with a bench, 1200ft above the slow shuffle of Hanalei. Settle in and enjoy your picnic – you did remember to bring one, didn’t you? – while you watch the lines roll toward Pine Trees, Middles and Waikoko beaches.
A clearly visible footpath continues along the ridge from the official end of the trail, dwindling ever narrower as it grows more and more perilous. We strongly advise against attempting to reach the twin manta-wing peaks in the distance, which tower another 1000ft higher.