Epic Olomana Hike at Sunrise

The three peaks of Olomana reach towards the sky almost out of nowhere in the backdrop of Kailua and Waimanalo, carefully nestled around the Ko’olau Mountain range. I don’t think any mountainscape on Oahu is as iconic, save for Diamond Head. Its sheer size and intensity draws those who dare to climb it. 

This day, my friend Scanner and I climbed it for sunrise. Many excuses ran through our minds the night before about skipping out and sleeping in. But sometimes the call comes and draws you towards doing the difficult thing. Waking up before sunrise was worth the hour and a half venture to the top. I recommend this challenging, yet rewarding hike to those adventurous enough to take on the challenge. You’ll enjoy the views, which only show up an hour into the hike, and you’ll feel accomplished for the day, perhaps for your whole trip as well.

Location:

The Olomana Ridge Trailhead starts on Loop Road – about 15 minutes walk from the Pali Highway. It’s a nice paved street with low amounts of traffic. You’ll pass a security gate related to the golf course farther down the road. The trail will be on your left side with a sign that says no hikers, joggers beyond this point. From there, it is about an hours climb to the first peak. Some parts fairly extreme – like climbing a rock wall face with a rope, but it is manageable for anyone going slowly and taking their time. Make sure to bring a headlamp, if hiking in the early morning. If driving there, you’ll want to park on Auloa Road closest to the Pali Highway almost immediately after you turn. It will be across from a bus stop and as long as you are not blocking the sidewalk (park as close to the bushes as you can), you should be good.

Olomana is not the easiest hike in the world and not for the faint of heart either. Multiple rope sections require a basic amount of rock scrambling/climbing. As long as you take your time and relax on the way up, you’ll be okay. But if you have a fear of heights, you might want to consider another hike. The distance depends on how far you go, but you’ll at least have to go from the parking to the trailhead about .7 miles or 16 minutes walk, followed by a 1.5 mile hike to the first peak (a 1600 ft. elevation gain). The second peak is relatively easy – with only a 10 minute climb over. And the third peak is the most challenging with lots of elevation gain and loss – perhaps an extra 30 minutes after the second peak. Rope climbing is required much of the way on that last segment.

*As a disclaimer, you don’t need to reach the third peak. It can be dangerous, especially on a rainy, slippery day. The first two peaks afford amazing views on their own. And you’ll get the same views of the mountain and ocean from any of the peaks, so stop at the point where you are comfortable. 

To get to the first peak by sunrise, you’ll want to start hiking (meaning from the point you leave your car) about an hour and a half before sunrise starts (Honolulu Sunrise Time). We woke up at 4:10am and parked the car at 4:30am for a 6:04am sunrise. The gate to the park will be closed in the morning hours, so you’ll have to hop over the right side around the wall to get around. Then it’s another 10 minutes to the trailhead start. Look for the sign on the left, which sits a foot off the road in the grass.

We climbed in record time (my friend Scanner had a Monster Energy Drink before we started) and got to the top of the first peak with enough time to set up a tripod and take a few photos of the morning sky.

After a quick few photos and a much needed break, we made our way to the second peak, which was the goal of the day, and has some of the best angles for photos too. The view immediately after dropping from first peak – like in the photo below – is one of the best. 

Then came a fairly unremarkable sunrise in terms of it cresting over the ocean and lighting the sky. But slowly, things started to change. Then, the sun just started to burst and fill the sky with light rays. It turned out to be one of the best, most perfect sunrays I’ve seen in awhile (no enhancement to the sunrays).

The sunrise was epic nonetheless. With nobody else on the peak, it was like having an amazing show to yourself.

Climbing back down was a lot quicker. You’ll want to look at the weather forecast for the few days before. A rainy, muddy day before tends to make this hike a lot more difficult to climb. A dry, cool, windy day will make for the best hiking conditions and an epic day on Oahu. Have fun!

Trail Information:

Time: 4-5 hours

Elevation Gain: 1800 ft.+

Difficulty: Moderate-Extreme

Description: A steep and rocky ridge hike that leads to three different peaks.

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