You can take the gals out of Colorado, but you can’t take the Colorado out of the gals. Here at home in our hilly state, my girlfriend Kristina and I love to hike, and for our trip to Lānaʻi, Hawaii, earlier this month, we packed our trail shoes, planning to lace them up lots. Indeed, we spent three mornings during our week-long stay on Lānaʻi hiking the trails of this small island. While we didn’t gain elevation the way we do on some hikes here in the Colorado Rockies, the stunning views of vast blue ocean, craggy cliffs, deep valleys and neighboring Hawaiian islands were absolutely breathtaking. Our outdoor exercise on Lānaʻi’s trails was a highlight of our trip!
The smart folks at Four Seasons Resort Lānaʻi at Manele Bay leave a handy “Jogging & Hiking Routes” brochure in a folder in each guest room. The small fold-out map highlighted two coastal trails that leave right from the resort’s oceanfront lobby. First up for us: the short trek east to Puʻupehe Rock, otherwise known as Sweetheart Rock. According to native lore, a tribal chief lost his wife when she died in dangerous surf — and it was his fault. To honor her death (or perhaps out of guilt), he carried her to the top of the tall tower of lava rock, buried her, and then jumped to his death. Others say the small grouping of rocks on top of Puʻupehe — also called “a small islet” — is a shrine dedicated to the god of bird catchers. (Personally, I like the romantic first story, even though it’s a bit more disturbing.)
The Puʻupehe Trail took us across pretty Hulopoʻe Beach, past some really cool tide pools and up a short incline to the top of some cliffs, with a direct view of the top of Sweetheart Rock and the ultra-clear water below. We took our time along the trail, watching dolphins frolic in the bay, as well as a whale spouting water in the far distance — two excellent wildlife sightings! Round trip it took us about an hour, but you could certainly complete the out-and-back hike more quickly, if you’re just out for some cardio exercise.
This trail begins west of the Four Seasons Manele Bay lobby, past the four oceanfront massage hale (cabanas). It is certainly more of a rocky, up-and-down trail than the Puʻupehe Hike, and we felt like we got more of a workout on this trek. What’s really, really cool about this path is that it is the same trail that Lānaʻi residents walked for generations, and you can walk up inland, into the remains of the ancient village of Kapihaʻā, an archaeological treasure trove. Distinctly stacked lava rocks mark former ceremonial sites, temples, houses, agricultural terraces and more. Plaques at each site do a great job of explaining what life was like for Hawaiians who settled on this coast of Lānaʻi 800 years ago. Fascinating stuff!
We actually traipsed around the interpretive trail for a good 90 minutes — including walking up above the archaeological preservation area (always on a path!) and ending up at The Challenge at Manele golf course, thinking it might get us back to the lobby. However, we ended up on a paved golf-cart trail, unsure whether we should be walking on it, so we backtracked back down to the craggy coastline, and then re-traced our steps along the ocean back to the resort. We had run out of allotted time, so we didn’t make it all the way to Kaluakoʻi Point, but we snapped pictures of the impressive cliff! I’d leave a full two hours if you want to explore the ruins and make it to the end of the trail.
Koloiki Ridge Trail
I’d done this excellent hike on my first trip to Lānaʻi, and I was so excited to share it with my travel companion. In 2008, I had to drive a Jeep up to Cemetery Road, where the trail meets the 4WD Munro Trail, as the typical start behind the Four Seasons Resort Lānaʻi, Lodge at Koele had been washed out by rain. But this time, we began the convenient hike on foot just behind the resort, picking up the official trailhead at the The Experience at Koele Clubhouse.
Be sure to ask for a very thorough paper map at the Lodge at Koele front desk/concierge station; it serves as an excellent guide for the flora and fauna through which you’ll pass. If you’re a guest of either Four Seasons resort, I’m told they will want to “check you in” (apparently so they know who’s on the trail and who’s not — making sure you return). From what I understand, they also give guests bottled water and walking sticks on request. At the time, we were staying at the Hotel Lanaʻi, and the Four Seasons concierge didn’t care about recording our names — or giving us water bottles or walking sticks to use, for that matter!
I’d deem the Koloiki Ridge trail a moderate one; there’s more up and down of easy hills than many steep inclines. Roundtrip, this five-mile hike took us 2 hours and 15 minutes. Parts of the trail can be muddier than others, but the handy map/guide will instruct you to watch your step along notoriously slippery parts. We passed through mossy forest, impressive Ironwood trees and towering Cook Island Pines. We kept our eyes peeled for axis deer and mouflon sheep, but didn’t spot any!
The crowning glory is the view that awaits you at marker #20 — the end of the Koloiki Ridge Trail. The view of Maunalei Gulch is outstanding. Couple that with the massive Naio Gulch on your left, plus the islands Molokaʻi and Maui in the distance, and it’s a perfect visual reward after a great hike!
I am one of seven New Media Artists visiting Lānaʻi courtesy of the Lānaʻi Visitors Bureau from January to May; follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #visitlanai!