Flowers dance in the breeze and the emerald green mountains and Pacific waters stretch into the horizon. The higher you climb, the more surreal the aqua blue of the ocean becomes. If you’ve headed out in the early morning, an array of soft colors will permeate the scenery of the Crouching Lion Hike, which is relatively short on distance but long on gorgeous views.
Named for a rock formation that looks like a lion laying down, the Crouching Lion Hike is a 0.4 mile out and back trail that follows the Pu’u Manamana ridgeline. “Closed” and “Do Not Pass” signs are posted at the start of this hike – you are moving ahead at your own risk. The trail will not be clear at the start – you’ll need to hike for about five minutes uphill through shrubs until the trail becomes visible. Soon after finding the trail, it will fork. Both options will take you to the summit but heading left is more direct and will provide the most stunning views.
Once the steep ascent begins, there will be roots, trees, and ropes to help you stay steady as you climb upward. Small trails leading toward the cliff edge are well worth the detours – they offer amazing views that you will otherwise miss along the way. When you finally reach the top after about 30 minutes of climbing, you will be rewarded with stunning views of Kahana Bay, the town of Ka’a’Awa, and the ominous cliffs of Pu’u Manamana. With plenty of amazing photo opportunities at the summit, you’ll want to spend some time exploring and admiring the views as the cliffs drop dramatically below you. To finish the hike, retrace your steps to the starting point.
This trail can be quite muddy at the start and slippery when the steep inclines begin, so proper footwear is recommended. Another option rather than turning back is to continue on the extremely challenging four mile Kahekili-Manamana loop. With an elevation gain of 2,000 feet, this one is for the experienced hiker.
Take the Pali Highway from downtown Honolulu. After you’ve gone through the Pali Tunnels, turn left on Kamehameha Hwy. Then turn left onto Likelike Highway. Turn right onto Kahekili Highway, which turns into Kamehameha Highway, tracing along the coastline. When you reach the town of Ka’a’Awa, park at Swanzy Beach Park. Walk north up Huamalani Rd to the trailhead. The trail is between two properties – look for the “Closed” signs.
Crouching Lion Trail
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