HIKE: Pu‘u Mā‘eli‘eli, ʻĀhuimanu, O‘ahu
WHEN: June 2015
LENGTH: About 1.5 miles roundtrip (50 minutes total)
FEATURES: Short hike with big payoff, views of Kāneʻohe Bay, well-worn trail, great for kids, dog-friendly
You won’t find much written up about this hike.
Even in Stuart M. Ball’s “The Hikers Guide to Oʻahu,” the Pu‘u Mā‘eli‘eli in Temple Valley is listed as a closed hike. The description is short and sweet — and accurate: “The climb to its top is short, but steep.”
Finding the trailhead is the hardest part of this hike.
The start of the trail is located just off Kahekili Highway across the street from the Valley of the Temples in ʻĀhuimanu. When you approach Ko‘olau Center (formerly Temple Valley Shopping Center), you’ll see McDonald’s; take that right on East Hui Iwa Street. Park anywhere in this residential neighborhood.
Once you’re parked, you need to walk back to Kahekili Highway and hang a left. Carefully — carefully — walk along the highway, staying close to the guard rails. In a few minutes, you’ll see a yellow marker and, usually, an orange cone. This is the start of the trail.
This trail traverses through private property, which is why it’s listed as “closed” in the guidebook. So respect it — like you should any trail, really. But it wouldn’t take much for the landowner to shut down access to this hike. We’ve seen that happen so many times because hikers don’t heed warnings, go off-trail, get hurt, destroy property, abuse the privilege — yes, privilege — to hike in these areas. So be respectful.
Clearly, this is a popular trail. You can tell by the well-worn path hikers and mountain bikers have made.
The first time I did this trail was a year ago. On a whim. It was 10:30 a.m. on a Sunday and I was desperate to get outdoors. My husband, an avid hiker, can be a bit of a snob when it comes to trails. He likes the unbeaten paths, the remote hikes, the ones the require backpacks filled with Band-Aids, LED headlamps and at least two liters of water.
But somehow I convinced him to go on this short hike on the windward side — and, even more surprising, he actually enjoyed it.
So I went again recently with my girlfriend on a sunny Saturday morning. She hadn’t been done this hike, either, and was pleasantly surprised, too.
The trail is mostly uphill, with very little in the way of treachery. So it’s not uncommon to see kids and even dogs making the trek to the World War II bunkers at the top.
There’s a wooden sign (below) toward the end of the trail near the first bunker that explains a little about this hike.
Here’s what it says:
According to Hawaiian mythology, Pu’u Ma’eli’eli translates to “Digging Hill.” The companion-Gods, Kane and Kanaloa, once raced to the top of the hill and had to dig into the slope with their hands to climb up. The bunkers found on the summt are the reminants of the Heeia combat training area (Camp Heeia) built during World War II to support nearly 4,500 military personnel.
Finally, after about 30 minutes of walking, you’ll come to the last bunker. And the view is one of the best I’ve seen on any O‘ahu hike, to be honest.
It’s a panoramic view of the windward side — from Kualoa (and Mokoli‘i Island) and Kahana Valley to the left and the Marine Corps Base of Hawai‘i to the left. And in front of you, all of Kāneʻohe Bay spreads out. It’s quite breathtaking.
You can see there’s another trail leading from the bunker down to He‘eia — and yes, you can actually hike from here to He‘eia State Park.
Ah, maybe next time.
VERDICT: This easy hike is great for kids, families and dog owners. (We did see two dogs on this trail that day.) It took us less than an hour to complete the whole hike — with enough time to grab lunch at nearby Windward Mall. It’s a great, short hike for busy folks who want to get in a quick workout — with a view — and get on with their weekends.
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