Want some guaranteed wildlife encounters on O’ahu? Ka’ena Point is your place.
Ka’ena Point State Park
Hiking Ka’ena Point Trail takes you to a wildlife sanctuary in the Northwest aspect of Oahu. You cannot drive through it to get around the island, which makes traversing north side to west side impossible. BUT, it’s for a good reason… it gives the animals in the sanctuary a safe place to breed. This means no dogs on the trail!
Animals you can see include:
- Monk Seals
- Sharks, Sea Turtles, and Stingrays
- Over 2,000 seabirds, including many Albatross nesting along the trail.
It’s also a really cool place to watch sunset, especially during the summer when the sun sets a bit more north on the west side. Those coastal sunsets never disappoint. It’s just always an adventure having to trek back to the car in the dark!
The West Route is just one of two options you can hike to get to Ka’ena Point. The other route is on the north side, which is very similar but a tad more inland. Either route is a good choice, and they’re both about the same length.
About the Trail
Location: Ka‘ena Point Natural Area Reserve, just after Keawaula Beach
Length: 2.5 miles total
Fear Factor: None
Starting the Hike
Parking isn’t as plentiful as the north route, but still shouldn’t be a problem. Most people end up parking along the road. You just have to park inside the lines within the shoulders, otherwise you will get a ticket for faulty parking and “obstructing traffic” (although the only “traffic” out there is the cars heading to the hike/beach).
The trail is a dirt road that extends from the trailhead to the gates of the sanctuary. It’s an easier walk than the north route, but can still be uneven and tricky in the dark on the return (if you’re doing it for sunset). Just make sure you pack a flashlight or you have enough charge on your phone to shine the way back.
Doing the Hike
As stated, it’s just a walk on a dirt road much like the north route. You’ll be walking along the shore most of the time, so make sure you look in the water for some sealife. The waters are generally deeper on this side compared to north route which makes it harder to spot sealife, but I have seen a sea turtle hanging out!
Also, check out the basalt rock formations toward the water. The west route is unique to the north route in that it has more of a “lava-formed” aesthetic, showcasing some pretty cool dark rock formations and naturally eroded sea caves/arches. The waves on this side tend to be stronger as well, so blowholes can be heard through the rocks toward the bottom when the tide rolls in.
Very similar to north route, you have to enter the state park through these gates to keep the wildlife protected.
Just be diligent to close the gate behind you. The fence is there to protect the animals from the predators on the island. Although there are only few predators on O’ahu which are relatively harmless to us (cats, mongoose, pigs), they are very harmful to these rare animals.
Ka’ena Point Wildlife Sanctuary
Finally, you’ve arrived at the sanctuary! There’s a roped trail throughout, which you should stay on 100% of the time. Straying off the trail can endanger any of the animals that are being protected. You can see all the wildlife without stepping off the trail.
Whether you enter from west side or north side, you have the opportunity to hike these trails during the sunset. But, if you don’t, you get to appreciate all the lava formations a little more. The lava rocks make the west route my favorite of the two routes!
When you’re ready to part ways with this awesome corner of the island, you leave Ka’ena Point the same way you entered. Once you close the gate behind you once more, you’re on your way back to the car… if after sunset, you’re doing it in the dark!
Be prepared with a light source and ENJOY this hike as much as I have! Don’t forget to check out the north side’s Ka’ena Point entrance, too.
Learn more about the sanctuary here.
Have you visited Ka’ena Point? Have any extra tips? Comment below!