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Okolehao Trail: The Best Hike in Kauai for Jaw-dropping Views of Hanalei Bay

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If you’re looking for a hike with stunning views near Princeville on Kauai’s North Shore, the Okolehao Trail is an incredible option, leading you through a lush jungle and ending with views over Hanalei Bay and, on a clear day, all the way to the Napali Coast. Here’s everything you need to know about the Okolehao Trail.

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Couple sitting on a bench at the top of the Okolehao Trail in Kauai
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About the Okolehao Trail

Length: 2.4 miles

Elevation gain: 853 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Is it dog-friendly? Yes, but they must be on a leash.

Pass or permit? None—it’s free!

View of lush green mountain in Kauai

How to Get to the Okolehao Trail

The start of the Okolehao Trail—also called the Hanalei River Trail and Hihimanu Trail—is located here, directly south of the town of Princeville on the north shore of Kauai.  

Regardless of which direction you’re headed from, you’ll turn off the Kuhio Highway onto Ohiki Road. As you make the turn, please be SUPER careful—nene, a species of Hawaiian geese that’s endemic to Hawaii and extremely endangered, likes to hang out along this roadside and they’re not great about getting out of the way of cars (we saw one in the road on the way back from our hike). Please don’t run over an endangered feathered friend!

Nene in Hawaii

Ohiki Road is mostly unpaved and has a few uneven patches, but any passenger car should be able to make it just fine if you drive slowly and carefully. After 0.7 miles on this road, the parking lot will be on your left hand side and holds about a dozen cars. 

There’s no facilities of any kind at this trail, like a bathroom or trash cans, so plan ahead!

What to Expect Along the Okolehao Trail

From the trailhead, you’ll cross a small footbridge. To your right, there’s a boot brushing station so that you can remove any mud–and any invasive seeds or pathogens that might be in said mud—from your shoes. Make sure to use it!

Woman using foot brushing station along the Okolehao Trail in Kauai

For the first 0.3 miles, the trail slopes gently up through the jungle, thick with wild orchids and Hawaiian Ti. 

Many of the hikes that we did in Kauai were really muddy, including the Hanakapi’ai Falls Trail and the Ho’opi’i Falls Trail, but this one might just take the cake, especially in the first half. Our boots (and legs) got ABSOLUTELY caked in mud, so I’d highly recommend using some kind of waterproof boots. Both my husband, Justin, and I swear by Topos Trailventure WP—here’s the men’s version and here’s the women’s. Trekking poles can also be helpful—just remember that you can’t bring them in carryon luggage!

Man hiking up the Oolehao Trail along tree roots in a jungle

The trail then becomes steeper, heading up a series of muddy hills, with the occasional rock or root poking out of the ground and fishing net that’s been placed down on particularly steep hills to provide traction. We saw lots of spots where it was obvious that someone had slipped and fallen—so be super careful!

About 0.6 miles in, you’ll reach a flat clearing where you’ll get your first rewarding sneak peek of the view of the Kilauea Lighthouse and Hanalei Bay below. There’s a big ol’ powerline in the way, but not to worry–you’ll have totally unobstructed views at the top! 

Views of Hanalei Bay from the first viewpoint along the Okolehao Trail

Continue to climb through the jungle for another half mile. Once you’re right before the final viewpoint, it gets incredibly steep—so steep, in fact, that there’s a rope to help you scramble to the top. 

At the final Okolehao viewpoint, there’s a bench where you can take in the surrounding vistas—taro fields, Hanalei Bay and its historic pier, and beyond, the jagged mountain of Makana and the sparkling turquoise water of the Pacific. Take a breather here and drink in the views before retracing your steps back to the trailhead.

View of Hanalei Bay from the Okolehao Trail

If you’re feeling super adventurous, the trail does continue on another 1.7 miles to the summit of Hihimanu Ridge, getting even steeper and sketchier. Portions of this trail require literally climbing up ropes that aren’t in the best shape, so continuing on should really only be attempted by hikers with experience climbing, who aren’t afraid of heights, and who understand the risks of climbing along dangerous and slippery ridge trails.

Things to Know About the Okolehao Trail

Wear clothes that you don’t care about.

The trail, especially the first half, is SUPER slippery, with a pathway of red clay mud. It was very clear from the trail that lots of people had slipped and fallen during their hike—and in our experience, this kind of clay can permanently stain your clothes. So definitely don’t wear anything you’re too attached to!

Couples' hiking boots after a muddy hike

Give yourself plenty of time.

Justin and I are generally pretty fast hikers—between hiking and stopping to take photos and videos, we usually budget for half an hour per mile of a trail, which is usually way more than enough time. But because this trail can be so muddy, we were taking baby steps and walking super carefully pretty much the whole way down (and each still slipped and fell anyway!). So budget more time than you think you need so you’re not having to rush your way down a steep and slippery hillside.

Bring bug spray.

There are SO. MANY. MOSQUITOES. along this trail. And it makes sense—it’s a literal jungle. Bring bug spray and lots of it! In fact, Kauai may just be the most buggy of all of the islands, so I’d strongly recommend including this as a staple on your Hawaii packing list.

Man, smiling in a jungle with wild orchids along the Okolehao Trail

Start early.

Blessedly, the trail is mostly shaded, but there’s still quite a bit of elevation gain in a short period of time—about 850 feet in a little over a mile. If you don’t wanna walk away from the trail a super sweaty mess (just a really muddy mess!), I’d suggest starting early and bringing plenty of water (we both have these comically enormous Nalgene bottles and love them) to beat the afternoon heat. 

Enjoy the Okolehao Trail—the views are spectacular! Do you have any questions about this trail? Let me know in the comments below!

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