Kealia Trail to Kuaokala to makua valley


"Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but the moments that take our breath away."

Updated: April 6, 2016

Location: Starting in Waialua on the Dillingham Airfield, this hike can be a short stroll on the Kealia Trail, or you may continue on to the Kuaokala Trail to Makua Valley.

Type: Forest hike

Hike Difficulty: Beginner/Intermediate

Total Time: 1 hour (Kealia) 4 to 5 hours (Kuaokala)

Distance: 3 miles round trip (Kealia) add 5 miles round trip (Kuaokala)


Things to Consider

  • Kid friendly: yes
  • Pet Friendly: yes
  • This hike is great for a sunset. Actually the sun sets behind the mountain, but it was still a beautiful sight!
  • This hike is easy to follow and has a lot of trail markers to lead you.
  • The nicest view is somewhere in the middle of the switchbacks. You lose sight on the ocean as you get closer to the picnic table so take pictures while you can!
  • The picnic table is a nice spot for a quick lunch break in case you are planning to continue on to Makua Valley.
  • Makua Valley is beautiful and always green, but never go down into the valley! Live explosives, ordinances, and bombs are still left inside the valley from previous live-fire military training long ago.
  • Plan your hike accordingly as the gate will close at a certain time. The gate closes around 630pm or 7pm. Check the signs. If not you will be locked in and have to call the security guard to open it. He won't be too happy and write you a ticket.

Your hiking backpack

  • 2 Liters of water
  • Snacks/lunch
  • Flashlight or headlamp if staying after sunset
  • GoPro camera


Take the H-2 or Highway leading to North Shore side. Continue onto Farrington Hwy heading towards Waialua. The Kealia Trail starts on Dillingham Airfield past Wailua and in Mokuleia. Enter from the second gate.

Our Journey

We decided to the the Kealia Trail many years ago. A lot has changed since then, but this is my journey the last time I did this hike. I see pictures of the beautiful Makua Valley and how it was so green and lush. And it was in Waianae! The dead man's land of dry twigs and grass. It amazed me that this valley stays green even though most of Waianae was brown from lack of water and rain. We decided to start from the Kealia Trail in Dillingham Airfield. It isn't too hard to find the trail as there is a sign marking the starting point. The security guard will also be happy to help you find the trail if you still can't figure it out. There are 19 or so switchbacks on this hike, very similar to the Kuliouou Ridge hike. Great views of Mokuleia going up and then it starts going around the side of the mountain further up. Then you will reach a picnic table. This is where most people end their hike and have some snacks or lunch. But we decided to continue onto the Kuaokala Trail to Makua Valley. It would be another 4 long grueling hours for us! But it was well worth the views! We passed the "X" for the helicopter landing pad, and a giant water tank. Then you continue on the wide open dirt road, which seems like cars drive through here. Eventually you come to the sign for the Kuaokala Trail. Take a left and follow the road to reach the Makua Valley overlook. A lot of trees block your view of the valley, but there are some breathtaking spots where you can take a picture. We decided to venture further to see what else there was. We followed the trail and it opened up to a huge canyon looking spot. We took pictures at the "Pride Rock" which looks like a giant poop! We wanted to reach the two white satellite balls that we could see in the distance, but the trail broke off into so many different directions. We couldn't find the right path and it was getting late, so we decided to head back. Luckily we made it back to our cars before the security closed the gate! I have been here late to watch the sunset and got locked in so take my word for it! The security is not happy if he has to reopen the gate for you! You will be waiting by the gate for like half an hour because he drives so slow, like 5 miles an hour! Lol Good thing he didn't write us a ticket and just let us off with a warning. If I ever come back to do the whole trail, I want to find the correct trail to lead you to Kaena by Yokohama Beach. However, the Kuaokala Trail requires a permit to access and pass the gate. Next time I will try to start from this side and end at the Kealia Trail. Still an awesome adventure!






















The Dillingham Airfield where you park and the access to the trail head.






















The trail is pretty easy to find. You will see the sign and

just follow the arrows to the start.






















The forest opens up and you get an awesome view of Mokuleia!






















A small lake next to the airfield. Swimmable? Or maybe just for fishing.






















The trail can get a bit narrow, but nothing too dangerous.






















As you get higher, the view looks more amazing.






















I thought this boulder was pretty cool. Hope it doesn't break and fall off any time soon!






















Some nice plants and flowers along the way too. No strawberry guava though.






















At the top you will see the picnic table where you can stop for a lunch or snack break. No views from here though. Tried to make our mark here the first time we did this hike.






















But to no avail. After this day, I invested in a black permanent marker.





























Continuing on to the Kuaokala Trail. "X" marks the spot!






















There was also this huge water tank, which I think now has graffiti all over it.






















The long but easy dirt road of Kuaokala leading to the Makua Valley over look.





























Once you reach the sign, take a left as the arrow indicates. Follow the path and eventually you will reach the lookout point.




























The road is pretty long, but not strenuous at all. Expect to add another 2 to 3 hours to your hike if you continue past the Kealia Trail and come back the same way.





























At first glance at the valley, you will know why you took the extra trail to come here. It is simply amazing unlike anything else on the island!






















You might have a hard time getting a clear shot of the valley

 because of all the trees in the way.






















The valley is beautiful, but don't ever step foot down there. There are bombs and shells left from military training many decades ago that have not been removed yet.






















We decided to continue on to find "Pride Rock"!







































Didn't get much pictures along the way because we got lost. Lol but here's "Pride Rock". We ended up heading back because it was getting late.






















The long road back to the Kealia Trail.





























Lucikly we got to catch the sunset!





























What an epic way to end the day, but then we got locked in the gate. Make sure you make it down before the security closes the gate. We could see him driving slowly to the gate and locked it and then drove away, while we were heading down the switchbacks.





























Polarized filter! Lol next time we're planning to hike from Kaena Point to Kuaokala, which is the start of the WST.

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