This write up is long overdue. Aaron and I headed over to the Kualoa area to check out the True Manamana trail about a month ago, but I hadn't gotten around to writing about the adventure. Reaching the True Manamana trail involves first reaching the turnaround on the regular Manamana trail, which is a long and strenuous trek to begin with. Not wanting to go through the same experience as the last time we went on the trail, we made sure to pack extra water. As a warning, the True Manamana hike is said to be one of the hardest and most dangerous on the island. You'll need to be able to handle thin, crumbly sections with steep drops on both sides. Wind gusts may come and go abruptly, throwing you off balance, which can be dangerous on this trail. Despite those threats, the hike is very fun and provides some nice views on clear days.
If there's anything you need to worry about for this hike, it's packing enough water; I would say 3L/100oz minimum. You may want to bring a lunch along too since the entire True Manamana hike will probably be 6 hours minimum. We brought water in bottles to stash on the trail so that we could reduce some weight, but most of the water was in our camelbaks. The initial climb up the Manamana trail is steep and cardio intensive. We started from the highway and made our way up through the brush then along the ridge. You can bypass the Manamana trail and go up the graveyard trail, which ends up right where the turnaround is. The graveyard path is pretty steep, though, so it seems that you don't have as much distance to travel, but you'll probably be exerting the same amount of energy.
Moving on past the turnaround you encounter a path overgrown with plants, most of which are ferns. You might want to pack long pants for this section, but Aaron was fine in shorts. We brought some basic trail maintenance tools (tomahawk, machete, knives), but they only helped a little. After about half a mile or so of the overgrown path, you finally get out into the open, where you can see a large portion of the trail ahead of you. This is where the fun starts and what I think is the actual start of True Manamana.
You'll immediately see how different the True Manamana trail is from the regular trail: gone are the tall forests and greenery, replaced by thin sections, steep climbs, and fewer plants than the regular trail. The solid, tread-in path now becomes dry and crumbly terrain that adds to the danger of traveling along the narrow trail. In the distance, you'll be able to see the end of True Manamana; it will feel farther than it looks due to what you go through to get there.
True Manamana is one of the few hikes on the island that doesn't offer a loop, so keep in mind that the path to the end will be what you return on, just in reverse. There were some parts where the return trip was more difficult than the initial trip since going down those climbing parts can be tricky and dangerous especially if you don't have the experience for it. In one section, there are barely any solid holds. Going up was a little unnerving but nothing too bad. Coming back down was a little more difficult since we were worrying not only about foot and hand placement but also about avoiding slipping. The momentum we would build up would keep us tumbling down the mountain, and it's a long way down.
The last time Nick and I attempted True Manamana, we:
1. Ran out of water about 1/4 of the way along the trail.
2. Got stuck at a certain section about halfway that seemed a little too steep for us to handle.
These two problems previously forced us to turn around and head back down. When Aaron and I came upon the same section this time around, there was thin rope in place. The rope didn't seem too strong but gave us the help we needed to get down that section more safely. As we moved on, we eventually reached the rock with the hole in it, which is kind of like how the Pali Puka is, maybe a little smaller. We got some pictures, then moved on towards our goal. The rest of the trail is manageable, but you'll ascend one last dangerous section, the section I talked about earlier where there are barely any solid holds. The section is crumbly and steep, and to add to the challenge, there are weak plants and decaying trees around that can't be trusted as holds. It's the final obstacle before you reach the end. Maybe it would help to add rope, but we managed fine and reached what was pretty much the only flat area where we didn't feel like we would fall off if we took a wrong step.
At first, we weren't sure if we reached the end or not. There were no books to sign and no signs that anyone else had been there. Surely, we thought, people would want to leave something that showed their achievement. True Manamana isn't an easy trail, and Nate Yuen explains in his documentation of the hike that the first known people to summit the trail were Laredo and Pete Clines back in 2010. Between 2010 and now, a bunch of people have followed in their footsteps and summitted True Manamana, leading us to believe that some type of marker would be there. I gave Kevin a call to get some info on what the end looked like. I told him it didn't seem like we were at the end; it didn't feel as satisfying since we weren't seeing any other markings or objects. Then Kevin replied, "Does it look like only 5-10 people can fit up there before people start falling off?" Answering yes, I confirmed we had finally reached what we were going for. Aaron and I celebrated for a little with homemade food, then took in the views. We tied some ribbons at the end and signed our names on the ribbons. After that, it was back the way we came and down the turn around.
The hike took about 7 hours, and we just so happened to run into one of the residents of the Trout Farm road neighborhood who was nice enough to let us wash off in his yard. A very fun hike, True Manamana is a must do for experienced hikers thanks to its great views and challenging terrain.
Here's Aaron at the hole in the rock:
Me at the rock:
Aaron at the end, with a view towards the Waianae direction in the background: