Trail in Waimānalo Forest Reserve
Length (one way): 10 mi / 16.09 km - Elevation Change: 500 ft / 152.4 m
Maunawili trail is a trek through the Ko'olau mountain range with views of the windward side of O'ahu sporting a variety of vegetation.
For additional information refer to the "Route description" below.
Rules & Regulation
Do not use any trail or access road that is not delineated by name and color and that may also be displayed on these maps. The marked features are managed for public recreational use. Other trails or roads that branch off from the public features may be on private property, and are not managed for any public recreational use. Access is subject to adjacent landowner approval, and if used without authorization, you will be trespassing and possibly putting yourself at risk. Downloadable resources are provided below
- Dogs on Leash
- Nature Study
- Dangerous Cliff
- Dangerous Footing
Always yield to hikers. Do not slide around corners or slide down the trail. Careless mountain biking damages the trail and causes erosion. If accidents are reported or damage to the trail is extreme, the trail may be closed to mountain bikers.
Maunawili is the showpiece of the O`ahu trail system. Richard H. Davis of the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club scouted and flagged the proposed route. Volunteer crews under the direction of the Sierra Club, Hawai`i Chapter constructed 7 miles of trail during the summer and fall of 1991 through 1993. The remaining two miles were completed in 1993 by Boy Scouts, U.S. Marines, and prisoners from O`ahu Correctional Facility.
Plants & Birds
Lining the gulches along the trail are kukui trees. Their large, pale green leaves resemble those of the maple with several distinct lobes. Early Polynesian voyagers introduced kukui into Hawai`i. They used the wood to make gunwales and seats for their outrigger canoes. The flowers and sap became medicines to treat a variety of ailments. Early Hawaiians strung the nuts together to make lei hua (seed or nut garlands). The oily kernels became house candles and torches for night spear fishing. Near the Maunawili Falls Trail junction listen for the Japanese bush warbler (uguisu), a bird often heard, but rarely seen. Its distinctive cry starts with a long whistle and then winds down in a series of notes. The bush warbler is olive brown on top with a white breast and a long tail. After crossing Maunawili Stream, the trail enters a series of shallow ravines choked with tangled hau trees. They have large, heart-shaped leaves and bright yellow flowers with a dark red center, resembling those of a hibiscus. Early Hawaiians used the wood for kites and canoe outriggers, the bark for sandals, and the sap as a laxative. In the same area is the native shrub, naupaka kuahiwi. It has light green, toothed leaves and white half-flowers. After crossing the side ridge with a power-line tower, look for mamaki, a small native tree. It has leathery, light green leaves with toothed margins and prominent veins. Along the stems are the white, fleshy fruits. Early Hawaiians used the bark and sap in making kapa (bark cloth). They also steeped the leaves to prepare a tea as a tonic. In the `Ainoni drainage are a few native lama trees. Their oblong, pointed leaves are dark green and leathery. The fruits are green, then yellow, and finally bright red when fully ripe. Lama was sacred to Laka, goddess of the hula. Early Hawaiians used the hard, light colored wood in temple construction and in hula performances. On the final descent along Anianinui Ridge are the sprawling native shrubs, `ulei and `ilima. `Ulei has small, oblong leaves arranged in pairs; clusters of white, roselike flowers; and white fruit. Early Hawaiians ate the berries and used the tough wood for making digging sticks, fish spears, and `ukeke (the musical bow). `Ilima has oblong, serrated leaves, about 1 inch long. The yellow orange flowers strung together make a regal lei (garland), in both ancient and modern Hawai`i.
Hunting may be in progress on or near this hiking trail. Hunting dogs may be off-leash while engaged in the hunt. Hikers must keep their dogs leashed at all times and remove dog waste while on this trail.
Terrain and Trail Environment
Varied. Wet gulches to open forest canopy.
Simple Trail Tips
- Stay on the trail.
- Check the weather
- Watch the time
- Avoid undue risk
- Read all posted signs
- Respect other trail users
- Pack out at least what you pack in.
If you are driving, there are four (4) ways to get to this trail:
1. Via the Pali Lookout: From Honolulu, head towards Kailua on the Pali Highway. Just before the tunnels, take the off ramp to the Pail Lookout. From the parking lot (there is a parking fee), continue to the right side of the lookout to an old section of road. Continue down the old road until it turns into dirt trail. Continue down the trail until you get to the junction with the Maunawili trail.
2. Via the Pali Highway: From Honolulu, head towards Kailua on the Pali Highway. Just after going through the tunnels, there is a hairpin turn. Begin to look for the parking area (marked scenic overlook), which is just after the hairpin turn. Park in this turnout. The trailhead is adjacent to the parking area.
3. Via Kalanianaole Highway: Go through Waimanalo town on Kalanianaole Hwy. Turn left on Kumuhau Street. At the end, turn right onto Waikupanaha St. Shortly after you pass Mahiku Place, on your right, there will be a fence and gate, also on your right. Park in the gravel area and proceed through the small break in the fence. Continue along the dirt road. You will soon reach the Maunawili Ditch Trail on the right. Continue along the dirt road until you reach a gap in the ridge - the land on the other side of the ridge is private property. Take the left fork which is the Mauanwili Trail.
4. Via Maunawili Falls and Maunawili Connector Trail. To reach Maunawili Falls Trail, see webpage. Approximately one (1) mile up Maunwaili Falls Trail, you will come to the Maunawili Connector Trail. Go up the Connector Trail to a junction with Maunawili Trail. This joins Maunawili Trail approximately two (2) miles in from the Pali Trailhead.
From the hairpin turn parking lot, walk back up the access road. Go through a gap in the guardrail on the left. Just past a mango tree turn left on a connector trail heading into the forest. Cross a small culvert and pass a water tank below and on the left. Switchback twice past several mango trees. By some plastic steps reach a signed junction with the Maunawili Trail. Bear left on it. (To the right another connector trail climbs to Old Pali Rd. and Nu`uanu Pali lookout.) Pass a small water tank on the right. Contour into and out of three gulches through guava trees. Cross over a prominent side ridge, informally known as Piliwale Ridge. Break out into the open briefly through native uluhe ferns and scattered `ohi`a trees. Mauka (inland) are spectacular views of the Ko`olau cliffs. Enter another ravine and then emerge into the open again. Work into and out of a series of shallow gulches and then two larger ones with rocky streambeds. Cross over a broad side ridge with a stand of ironwood trees above and on the right. Work into and out of another ravine and then cross over a narrow side ridge. In the cliffs ahead are four waterfall chutes. Descend into a deep ravine on two switchbacks and then contour through a series of shallow gullies. Enter a wide gulch with the four waterfall chutes in back. Cross a pair of rocky streambeds that join just below the trail. Cross intermittent `Oma`o Stream by some struggling bamboo. Reach a signed junction. Continue straight on the Maunawili Trail. (To the left the Maunawili Falls Trail leads down a side ridge to the falls.) Contour through a small ravine and then cross over an open side ridge with several ironwoods on the right. Descend into a large gulch on two switchbacks. Cross Maunawili Stream in a grove of mountain apple trees and climb to the next side ridge and another good viewpoint. Work into and out of two more gulches. Wind through a long stretch of shallow ravines, some choked with hau trees. Cross over a side ridge with a lone ironwood and several native koa trees. Climb gradually through two narrow gulches. Cross over a prominent side ridge with a power-line tower on top. Work into and out of a long series of deep gulches. Climb gradually to cross over another prominent side ridge with a small knob on the left. Wind through four more gulches, which form the watershed of `Ainoni Stream. Descend along the side of `Ainoni Ridge and then resume contouring in a paperbark grove. Pass two waterfall chutes side by side in a deep ravine with ki (ti) plants. Work into and out of a large double gulch with a line of ironwoods and a small pool and waterfall. The trickle of water is a branch of Makawao Stream. Descend gradually through three small gulches, two with weeping walls. Reach a junction under some power lines. Continue straight through the clearing. Contour below Anianinui Ridge and then along its crest. Descend gradually along the right side of the ridge. By a large mango tree reach the end of the Maunawili Trail at a junction with the old Maunawili Waimanalo Road. Turn right on the road. Descend gradually on two switchbacks. Reach a signed junction. Continue straight on the road. (To the left is the Maunawili Ditch Trail.) Go around a yellow gate and reach paved Waikupanaha St in Waimanalo.
Maunawili Trail contours the base of the Ko‘olau Mountain Range on the windward side. It begins off the Pali Highway and ends in Waimanalo. It offers spectacular views of the windward side of Oahu, Olomana, and the Ko‘olaupoko watershed. Vegetation along the trail includes mountain apple, rose apple, ti, naupaka, mamake, lobelia, koa and ohia. Maunawili Trail is a good family trail. There are three access points for this trail.
Descriptions for route, history, plants and birds were provided by Stuart Ball, author of The Hikers Guide to Oahu and other hiking books.