I’ve always wanted to see those beautiful terraced landscapes that stripe across those iconic photos of Chinese mountains. But lets be real, I can’t afford to go to China… When I heard Oahu possessed a similar vista, I knew I had to find it.
This hike began in a densely wooded jungle known as friendship garden, in Kaneohe. The garden is a great place for family walks with young kids. However, if you are feeling a bit more adventurous you may want to go beyond the garden up to the Oneawa Hills.
It probably took 15min before reaching the ridge. From up top, we were granted an amazing view of Kaneohe Bay. From there we could see all the way to Chinaman’s hat (barely visible in the background). I’ve been intrigued by the mysterious Coconut Island (Gilligan’s Island) for years. It is also known as the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. I could not think of a better location to study the ocean. I’ve heard that the world’s foremost marine researchers work out there, however, that could all just be an elegant cover up for some billionaire super villain’s private island… Who knows?
Looking in the opposite direction gave us a great vista of the Kawainui Wetland, as well as Rabbit Island and Makapu’u, way off in the distance.
As we continued up the Kokokahi ridge, there were a couple steep areas where preset ropes did come in handy, but nothing too bonkers.
The weather was perfect for this hike. It was breezy and cloudy. Once on the ridge line, there are very few shade trees. This hike could be brutal on a hot sunny day.
Many Ochna serrulata, or Mickey Mouse plants, were in bloom along the trail. This plant is originally indigenous to South Africa but has unfortunately become invasive across many Pacific Island, including Australia and New Zealand. Despite not belonging here, it did provide a neat splash of color along the trail.
You will pass a couple digital communication towers along the way. This one is the the biggest.
I had considered climbing to the top of it to see how much further we had to go, but it would seem that they really do not want people touching their tower. It was only about a quarter of mile further before reaching the next scenic lookout.
When we finally arrived to a clearing in the brush, I was shocked by the magnitude of the what I was looking at. From the main road (H-3), the trees really prevent you from seeing the 416-acre facility you are driving through.
Below us sat the enormous pit, that is Kapaa Quarry. Supposedly, this quarry has been providing various grades of gravel, concrete mix and sand to Oahu for over 50 years. On an average year, it can supply up 1.5 million tons of basalt. I can understand the need for this resource, but there was something disconcerting about seeing the Island’s hills carved up and dug out. For some reason I always assumed that this resource was imported, not mined from the limited land we have to live on…
Although we felt like we had seen what we came for, we decided to continue following the trail to see where it led.
Each lookout got progressively closer to the Quarry. Not only were they digging through the hill we were currently hiking on, but they had also cut through the hills opposite from our location. I wonder if they ever found anything crazy during their excavations. It was such a peculiar landscape.
The terraces looked pretty cool, but oddly narrow. Perhaps they used to wider, but as the miners made their way down the mountain, they dug away at the previous terrace (until it was too narrow to use anymore). I would estimate that nearly 1000 feet of earth have been dug out during the existence of this Quarry (the Oneawa Hills approach 1000 feet in altitude, at their highest peeks).
At the bottom of the pit was a big, teal colored, pond. I do not know if its contents was comprised of rainwater or if they had dug so deep that they hit the water table. Either way, the 165 foot drop toward the water was quite impressive. Does anyone know how deep the pond is?
The quarry is very much in use and seemed quite active as we looked over it. We observed a 50-ton truck, full on unknown sediment, driving down towards the pond.
I was intrigued by the multicolored earth on the banks of the pond. How many types of sediment could they mine out of a single quarry? Eventually the truck drove all the way around to the farthest end of the pond and dumped its cargo. We left the bustling sandbox behind and continued our hike. We decided to continue along the trail rather than turning around, turning this hike into a oneway trip.
We started the hike from friendship garden, off of Kokokahi place. On the trail we took our first left, then another left and continued to the ridge lookout. From there we continued on the Oneawa Hills Trail. We came down on a different part of the ridge, which connected to Lipalu street. We had a long walk back to our car, so I would recommend parking a car at each end of this hike, if you can. The hike took us about 2 hours and was around 3 miles long. However, the walk back to our car was an additional 2 miles, which took us around 40 minutes. Oneawa Hills is a great and scenic, short hike.
Have fun but be safe!