Hawaii: Crouching Lion Trail

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Feel on top of the world in Hawaii in just 20 minutes with a hike up the Crouching Lion trail.

The Crouching Lion trail near the township of Kaaawa on Oahu island is now one of my all time favourite hikes owing to its breathtaking views of the mountains and coastline.

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The Crouching Lion trail – so called because the mountain looks like a lion from the road – starts a few hundred metres from the currently closed Crouching Lion Inn on Oahu’s east coast. I parked in the carpark outside the inn. Facing the beach, walk to your left for about five minutes until you see a small trail leading steeply up the hill on the opposite side to the beach. You’ll probably see a few other people going in or out of the trail.

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The trail is short, but very steep and muddy. Luckily there’s a small rope leading up the trail to help you up the steep sides. You’ll weave over and under trees and scramble over tree roots as you steadily head up.

The burning calf muscles and working up a sweat will all be worth it once you reach the top and get breathtaking views over the turquoise waters of Kahana Bay, the Pacific Ocean and mountains formed by lava.

You’ll get up to the first viewing area in about 20 minutes depending on your fitness level, but add another 10 minutes or so to go up to higher viewpoints. The higher you go, the more challenging the hike as you clamber over rocks near cliff edges, but the better the view. But be warned this is not a hike for those scared of heights! The trail is very narrow in some parts and there’s many sheer drop-offs at a few points.

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Wear running shoes you’re not afraid to get a little muddy and you might want to bring some water with you. It gets pretty hot up there even during the US winter months.

This short hike forms the start of the much harder Pu’u Manamana trail if you’ve got the time.

It will take you about 15 minutes to get down – as you try and not slip down the mud.

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Another hike you can do on Oahu is the popular hike to the Diamond Head Crater. Diamond Head is perched not far from Waikiki Beach – and it’s about a 15-20 minute drive from Honolulu centre.

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Try and start the hike early as it’s extremely popular with tourists. It should take you no more than 30 minutes to reach the summit along a concrete path. Towards the end of the path there’s a steep set of stairs and a tunnel before you come out to views above Honolulu and the Diamond Head Crater.

Even though it’s very touristy, it’s still worth a look for 360 degree views of the Honolulu area and the crater formed by an eruption thousands of years ago. The trail up was built in the early 1900s as part of the island’s defence facilities and there’s several concrete bunkers at the summit.

You can do the hike any day from 6am with last entry at 4.30pm.

If you’re parking on site, cost is $US5 ($A7) per car. If you’re entering without a car, cost is $US1 ($A1.40) per person. The entry booth only accepts cash.

Another hike that comes highly recommended is the hike to the Koko Head Crater Trail, located off Kaumakani Street in Honolulu. It’s a little less touristy and a bit more challenging than Diamond Head. The trail consists of a disused cable car track once used to transport military supplies. You’ll be rewarded with views of Diamond Head and Hanauma Bay.

If you’re looking for a snorkelling spot in Honolulu, there’s the popular Hanauma Bay, which is located in a volcanic crater.

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There’s a number of tours available to the popular bay or you can catch a bus, but if you’re driving there’s paid parking on site. The carpark fills up quick so plan to get there very early in the morning to get a park. The nature reserve is open from 6am to 6pm every day except Tuesdays.

Entry is $US7.50 ($A10.50) per person, and snorkel gear can be rented or bring your own.

But for a free snorkelling spot off the tourist track, head to the western part of the island to Kahe Point Beach Park –  better known to locals as Electric Beach.

The beach is next to an electric power station which pumps out clean warm water into the sea attracting plenty of fish to the reef at the opening of the pipes.

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This snorkelling site is only recommended for strong swimmers. You have to swim past the break and out to where the warm water pumps out and it can be exhausting to get there.

From the west coast, you can head north to the appropriately named North Shore – a popular spot for surfers. You might want to take a quick stop to watch dozens of surfers catch some huge waves. Along the North Shore there’s plenty of beach parks for a picnic or a swim.

While heading up to the North Shore, take a quick stop at Green World Coffee Farm at Wahaiwa. This is a great place to grab a coffee or they have coffee samples to try (flavours range from Hawaiian Coffee Cake to Sexual Chocolate) as well as delicious chocolate treats (you probably won’t stop at one!) There’s also a range of local products to buy ranging from coffee beans to jams. And if you need it, there’s free wifi.

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