Except for one or two times where my parents took me as a baby (which I don't remember anyway), I've never been to Waiʻanae. After the many years I've lived on Oahu, I never had a reason or desire to head out to that side, until this past weekend when Nick and I decided to check out a trail marked as "extreme" on David Chatsuthiphan's site, Unreal Hawaii.
We saw the pictures from David's post, Pu’u Kawiwi, No Name, Tiki Ridge, and were eager to try the hike ourselves. You might notice the title of my post is in the reverse order from David's, and that's because we accidentally did the trail backwards from what was planned. We felt like this backwards route changed the difficulty of the trail significantly, and we found ourselves descending some steep and hair-raising sections that would have been easier the other way around. Either way, this hike should only be attempted by experienced hikers who aren't afraid of heights and climbing. There is a significant amount of climbing on this hike in addition to some steep parts on the way up to the ridge, so make sure you're in shape and bring lots of water.
In many of the posts and write ups of Kawiwi and Tiki ridge, the way of actually getting on the trails isn't too clear, and you're left partly guessing and trying to match up pictures from the posts with what you're looking at in real life. It's not their fault, though, because there isn't really any set path to get to the trails anyway. Being advanced trails, they aren't on the map, and they aren't too popular either. The hiking area is actually in a hunting area, and you may want to check out the topo map at the entrance to help remember where you need to watch out for hunters. We didn't run into any during our hike, and there were 6 other cars when we showed up. We couldn't find the entrance that David and his group took and couldn't find it after we got down too. Parking will be at the entrance to the hunting area. Lock your car because I've heard break-ins are more likely in Waiʻanae. Leave your unnecessary valuables at home or take them with you.
In the area where you park, there should be a locked gate. It seems to be a service road with 4 separate board of water supply reservoir/monitoring stations along the way to the end. The first will be on your left; the second on your right, slightly hidden by brush; the third has 2 parts, one on each side of you and has a chlorine warning sign facing you; the fourth will be on your right. At the fourth station, there is a dirt path that continues up the mountain that we didn't follow but think takes you to up to Mount Kaʻala. David and his group seemed to come back down the Tiki Ridge on this dirt path, and it reminded me of the beginning of the Wiliwilinui trail - a path that's more for hunters and maintenance crews evidenced by its side cutout areas that can fit a large pickup/SUV.
In order to help others trying to find their way around, I've got some tips that should help in getting to the correct trail you want:
On the opposite side of the second station, there should be a path consisting of dirt and rocks that slopes down. If you follow this path, you'll come upon a sign that mentions something along the lines of a "fuel break" and "not for public access." The sign is riddled with bullet holes; it seems like some hunters were bored. Continue on past the sign, and you'll see some barbed wire. Stay on the right side of the wire, and you'll find your way to the Puʻu Kawiwi trail. You'll eventually transition from the dirt path to overgrown California Grass, where there is a slightly tread-in trail. Kawiwi is a ridge trail, so you be doing some climbing to get to the summit.
If you'd rather start from the Tiki Ridge, make your way to the last station then take the path across from the station. You'll be venturing into the forest and will eventually find ribbons or bottle caps that mark the Tiki Ridge trail.
Our plan was to go up Kawiwi and venture towards Kaʻala across the ridge, descending via the Tiki Ridge trail. David and his group went during a greener season, and we came on one of the drier days. About 75% of the brush was brown and dried out, which didn't help when we were trying to match up David's pictures with the views in front of us. We traveled all the way up the service road to the fourth station and were confused when we saw the continuing dirt path and a path to the side but nothing that was similar to pictures from blogs we read. We decided to just take the side path at the fourth station and figured it would eventually connect with the Kawiwi path. We would later find out how wrong we were.
Continuing along the path from the fourth station, we ran into some ribbons and then some red and white bottle caps. Some caps were labeled, "Tiki Ridge," and some had arrows to point us in the correct directions. For most caps, the red painted side was the side to follow. We should have realized that we were going up Tiki Ridge instead of Kawiwi but kept going without giving it much thought. We were sort of lost in that we weren't exactly in the place we wanted to be, but the Tiki Ridge path itself is marked fairly well, and experienced hikers will be able to use their judgement and find their way to the ridge. The climb up to the ridge is steep and continuous, with an incline similar to the climb up to the ridge of Kulepeamoa. The majority of the forest on the way up is guava trees, and the ground was littered with just-ripened guavas that had fallen off. I'm not sure what type they are, but the guavas were a yellow version of strawberry guavas. Recognizable guava leaves coated the slightly soggy ground. There were fruit fly clouds in some areas, and of course the signature tangy fruity smell that accompanies recently fallen guava. Fortunately, the fruits weren't rotting yet, so we had a decent aroma accompanying us on the trek up to the ridge. It was like being in the car air freshener section of Don Quijote - not bad but not good either.
When we got to the ridge and out into the open, we passed some Tiki dolls tied to trees and then a couple climbing sections. As we then started moving in the Diamond Head direction, it wasn't until about halfway to the unnamed peak that we began to realize we were doing the intended trail backwards. We confirmed this when we reached the unnamed peak and saw the rock that everyone took pictures of. Well, we weren't going to waste a day and a trip to Waiʻanae by going back the way we came; we continued in the Diamond Head direction to try to get to Kawiwi and follow the ridge trail to get down. We passed some massive rocks on the way to the unnamed peak and had fun getting across. There was also the unforgettable fence section which we thought seemed easier going up. There were drop offs in these parts and no shortage of climbing involved. We didn't spend that much time at the summit of the unnamed peak and continued on our quest to descend the Kawiwi.
Climbing up to the unnamed peak from Kawiwi seems easier and more fun than the other way around. Going down Kawiwi was one of the harder parts of the hike. To start, you climb down a steep rock wall similar to the True Manamana one, except instead of rope, there is a power cable looped around a rock. The cable rotates around the rock, which added to the challenge of descending the steep rocks. The climbing section is about 30-40 feet, and there are hardly any solid holds, which made navigating the descent tricky. There are two parts to this rock section, and after getting down to the first section, there are two ways to go: you can follow the rest of the rope down or go ropeless down another path where you go around some rocks. The roped way turned out to be harder than the ropeless way in this case because of how steep that part was. I happened to find the ropeless path and had an easier time reaching the bottom of the section.
It took us a little while to actually find the Kawiwi ridge path; we were heading in the Diamond Head direction until we ran into some overgrown areas that seemed a little too overgrown to be part of the trail. We turned back and somehow found a ribbon that would lead us in the direction of the parking area. When we were on the ground, we saw that our previous direction would have taken us to a pretty large drop. Going down the Kawiwi Ridge trail is similar to going down the front side of Olomana's third peak. However, Kawiwi alone puts the entire Olomana hike to shame; rocks will randomly break off from the mountain, and you'll be descending (or climbing, based on the path you take) 20-25 foot tall rock walls at some points. Nick talked about how, in a way this is the expert's Olomana: Three peaks (Kawiwi, No name, Tiki) and very challenging.
As we made our way down from Kawiwi, we eventually ended up in the dry California Grass below. This area almost mirrored the Makapuʻu Tom Tom hike, which I did but seem to have forgotten to write about. Looks like I'll have to work on that write up one day. The barbed wire fence mentioned earlier will be on your right when you're coming down, and following the fence takes you out to the second station. The path is almost entirely dirt and is a nice stroll in comparison to what we went through to get down Kawiwi.
We started around 9:30 and ended around 4:30, so in all about a 7 hour hike. Not bad for going the wrong way and getting slightly lost. Nick got some GoPro footage, but his batteries didn't last long enough for the Kawiwi descent. As with other extreme trails, only experienced hikers for this hike, and be confident in your abilities. Pack water and food, long pants, bring a flashlight just in case, and watch out for pigs and hunters. I brought 3 liters of water and ran out just as we got back to the car. This is a fun hike, and whether you hike Kawiwi -> Tiki or Tiki -> Kawiwi, you'll have a good adventure.