Several major highways, including the Pali Highway, tunnel through the Ko’olau Range, and allow you to experience the mountains on a drive, with scenic pull-offs and lookouts along the way. Numerous hiking trails allow you to experience Ko’olau up close, and are suitable for a range of expertise and comfort level. Many Oahu sightseeing tours also include some portion of the Ko’olau Range, along with other highlights such as Makapu’u Beach, Waimea Bay, and Sunset Beach. For a different perspective, and to fully appreciate the scale of the Ko’olau Range, opt for a helicopter tour of the island.
Things to know before you go
- Access to different trails can vary; make sure you obtain all necessary permission.
- Not all trails are suitable to all abilities; some trails, such as Stairway to Heaven, may be closed for being too dangerous.
- Wear comfortable and sturdy shoes, long pants, and bring water and a rain jacket if you plan to hike in the Ko’olau Range.
How to get there
The three roads that tunnel through the Ko’olau Range are the Pali Highway (Route 61), the Likelike Highway (Route 63), and Interstate H-3. Most of the hiking trails around the southern part of the range start on the leeward (western) side of the mountains. Some trails start in the back of valleys or on top of ridge-top communities.
When to get there
Driving tours can be done year-round. Hiking tours can be done most of the year as well, though you may want to avoid hiking during the rain to stay away from mud. Start earlier in the day for better odds of a clearer view.
The Ko’olau Range is not actually a mountain range in the proper sense. It formed as one mountain, the Ko’olau shield volcano, and what we see now is the remnant of the volcano, after the rest of it slid into the Pacific Ocean. Prior eruptions of the volcano created many of Oahu’s most notable landmarks, such as Diamond Head, Koko Head, and Tantalus.
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