Friday, December 30, 2016

Snows in Hawaii: Kaena Point

Railroad ties

In March, I had the opportunity to hike to Kaena Point with a couple of sisters from Relief Society (the women's organization at our church). It was such an incredible hike; the views were breathtaking, the morning light was heavenly, and the wildlife was out and about. Kaena Point is the tip of the island where the west and north shores meet, and you can reach it from either side. Since we live on the westside, we hiked up that way. The hike itself isn't too difficult. It's flat most of the way, and the trail actually follows the old railroad line. You can still see some of the ties. I would rate it as easy, except there are a couple of spots where the trail has been washed out, and requires you to climb up the rock face if you want to keep going. So, I wouldn't bring small children on this one, but older ones who are competent hikers should be just fine. Also, I would advise starting earlier in the morning (we arrived just as the sun was coming up), as there is no shade and this part of the island gets quite hot!

Barnacles on the rocks

Rock Piles

Tide pools

On one side you have the end of the Waianae mountains, and on the other, the cliffside drops into the ocean, and offers up views of tide pools, rock arches, and sea caves. Sometimes you can see whales off the coast. (We saw one or two from a great distance; I didn't get any shots of those.) At the end of the trail, you can find The Leaping Place of the Souls, which is a rock that ancient Hawaiians believed led to the afterlife. After a person a died, their soul was thought to journey to this tip of the island, and with the help of departed ancestors, leap from the rock and into the ocean to their eternity.

Silhouettes of our group on the rocks

Making our way to the Leaping Place

The Leaping Place of Souls
Albatross! They were dancing!

I think we were making this guy nervous because we were close to his nest. He kept circling over us.

Close up of the Leaping Place

Waves coming in.
Also at the end of the hike is a bird preserve, as this area is a nesting ground for Laysan Albatross. There is actually a gate you must enter and dogs and other animals are not allowed through this gate. The best time to see them is during the winter months (October-March).

Rocky beach.

Other wildlife that enjoy the rocky beaches of Kaena Point are Hawaiian Monk Seals. We were able to watch three lounge about on the rocks. Hawaiian Monk Seals are endangered, and like most wild animals, will try to defend themselves if provoked, so for their safety and yours, please keep a safe and respectful distance. They are one of my favorite animals here, and I love when they decide to share a beach with us when we are out.

All three of our seal friends.

Spotted one more seal in the tide pools on our way back.
This is a beautiful hike that showcases the drier western side of the island's unique landscape. There are incredible rock formations that have been formed by cooling lava millennia ago. There is cultural significance and history. There are spectacular views of the western coast and the Pacific, and odds are, you will see a few native animals. I know that when you think of Hawaii, the first things that come to mind are often visuals of tropical beaches and mountains covered with thick jungle, but I love how diverse this island is! Less than an hour away from those jungles is an entirely different climate with its own harsher beauty. If you have the time, I would totally recommend it!

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