Kaena Point is known for its rugged and remote natural beauty, with coastal cliffs, tide pools, and native plant and bird species. Certainly, it’s a far cry from Waikiki with its vibrant palms, loud aloha wear, and bedazzled cocktails, but it’s one of my favorite spots on the island. Kaena Point remains a wild place. Salt spray immediately assaults you as you step from the car and inhale open ocean views and pounding surf. The sun seems hotter here. The vegetation is thirsty.
Most of the point is designated as a Natural Area Reserve affording plants and animals who live here special protection. Intense, decades-long efforts to protect, restore, and attract coastal plants and animals have resulted in a special place. As a result, you’re rewarded with An island within an island where you can glimpse into Hawaii’s past. I can’t think of anything more magical.
In late January and February, Kaena Point is an extra special place. Oversized eggs tucked under oversized birds begin to pip and slowly hatch into round bits of fuzz with oversized feet and bills. A Laysan albatross is born. In the past, albatross were called gooney birds due to the ease you could approach (and slaughter) the guileless creatures. Although that description seems callous and unfair they do indeed appear silly on the ground with their exaggerated waddle and clumsy manner. If you’re lucky, you can witness their courting dance complete with heading bobbing, wing tucking, bill claps and sky points. All of this is accompanied by whistles, whinnies and moos. Certainly, this delightful display will warm your heart. The elaborate dance attracts onlookers and before you know it, a large group is dancing in unison. Certainly, this delightful display will warm your heart.
In the air, the goofiness is lost. In its place is a majestic grace as albatross soar above Kaena Point with ease and speed. Sometimes they fly so close you can hear (and feel!) the accompanying whoosh of wind.
View the video from our trip to Kaena Point above
Located at the western tip of Oahu, Kaena Point stands as one of the last undeveloped coastal areas on the island. Although there was once a road connecting the north and west sides of the island, nature repeatedly reclaimed the road. Ultimately, nature was allowed to win and the area around Kaena Point was protected as a Natural Area Reserve.
To reach Kaena Point, you have two options. You can approach from the west side (ideal if you’re coming from Koolina) and take the Farrington Highway, which traces the western coast of Oahu. This road eventually leads to a dirt parking lot and trailhead beyond Yokohama Bay. In total, the hike is about 6 miles.
However, the more popular route is to access Kaena Point from the Farrington Highway on the north shore. Park in the dirt lot and follow the path along the coast. When you’re close to the point, you will pass through a predator-proof fence. In total, the hike is about 5 miles.
Either way, leave no valuables in your car.
Winter is the ideal time to hike to Kaena Point, as Hawaii welcomes visiting whales (December – May) and hosts nesting albatross (November – July). The absolute peak period for a visit is January or February when chicks are hatching, covered in soft fuzz. No worries if the timing doesn’t work out. These birds remain until mid-summer, allowing you ample time to witness their growth from plump chicks to awkward adults.
Another advantage of a wintertime excursion is the cooler temperature. Both routes to the point are exposed and typically sunny. Even during winter, I strongly recommend going early or late to escape the midday heat.
Our preferred approach is to set out a few hours before sunset, equipped with water, snacks, headlamps, binoculars, and a camera. We take precautions to deter potential thieves from targeting our vehicle, given the parking area’s unfortunate littering with broken glass. However, any worries about our car vanish when we spot our first albatross, fully immersing ourselves in the adventure.
Make sure you have everything you need to stay safe and comfortable as you head away from civilization –
Okay, that’s a trick question. Kaena Point is the most remote spot on Oahu so there isn’t much nearby. Therefore, you’ll have to drive 15-25 minutes depending on which side of the island you accessed the hike from. If you plan to hike late, bring food as these places close early.
The west side has some stunning beaches that are worth are visit if you access Kaena Point from that side. The north shore beaches are more windy and rocky around Mokuleia.
If you’re making the journey out to Kaena Point, you can extend your fun with these activities –
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