Want to do the Pali Puka hike? Skim this, first!
If you’ve seen the blog about Makapu’u Puka, you know that “puka” is the local word for hole. There are many puka hikes scattered around the island, and they’re often very rewarding to find. They sit along the edge of a ridge, and you can look through it like a window to a beautiful view.
Pali puka is one of the shortest puka hikes you can do! But be careful – it’s known for high winds and steep vertical drops, as is often the case with windward side hikes along the Ko’olaus.
That being said, it’s not nearly as scary as other windy or steep neighboring hikes like Pali Notches or Mount Olomana.
About the Trail
Location: Off the Pali Highway between Honolulu and Kaneohe/Kailua
Length: Just over 1.5 miles total
Fear Factor: Moderate – some rock climbing and narrow trails along the cliff, but alternative routes exist behind the treeline to minimize the danger.
Starting the Hike
The hike starts to the far left of the Pali Lookout off the Pali Highway. You may have to pay for parking to avoid getting towed, as it is a historical state park.
Because the Pali Puka hike is highly discouraged, it has no formal trailhead. You’re in the right place if you go to the treeline to the left of the parking lot when facing the lookout. You have to climb the rocky half-wall and enter through the bamboo forest to access the hike. Then, it becomes pretty obvious.
It starts off uphill and stays that way for most of the hike!
Doing the Hike
The hike itself isn’t too physically taxing, although the first portion is completely uphill.
BUT there are portions that are pure fear. As you get to the ridge, the trail favors the west part of the ridge where the huge drop-off is directly to your right with a treeline to the left. The treeline has been growing out lately (as of June 2020), pushing you closer to the drop.
You can avoid the drop-off portions of the trail! Whenever there’s a trail on the edge, there’s an alternative trail behind the treeline to avoid it. You just have to look for it. That’s what makes the trail “not so bad” compared to other trails in the area.
The puka is NOT in an obvious place. You have to know where to climb down. When you hit a steep wall of the ridge which marks the end of the trail, that’s where you have to climb down the left wall to reach the puka. In essence, the end of the trail is on the rocky area above the puka, and you have to scramble a few feet to find it.
Then, you get this view!
I highly recommend the hike! Some of the pictures seem scary, but as you’re hiking, it actually pretty quick and fun. I’ve done it twice now (as of July 2020). There have been deaths on the hike, but as long as you pay attention, you’ll be just fine.