Kahekili - Manamana - Crouching Lion

Gazing at the ocean blue
DATE: September 5, 2010
DIFFICULTY: Medium - Hard
PARTICIPANTS: “The Optimist” Jeremy, “Mp3” Stefanie, Me

THIS is what I was expecting when I did Manamana a few months back. The traditional Manamana loop started off quickly and the initial climb was a whole lot of badass. Unfortunately, the initial experience was demolished when the rest of it consisted of breaking through 45 minutes worth of head high ulehe and a boring descent down a steep narrow ridge lined with strawberry guava trees, effectively blocking the excellent views and making it too easy.

Left to right:  Jeremy, Stefanie, Me
On the Kahekili trail
The Kahekili – Manamana – Crouching Lion loop fixed all of that. The initial scramble was a combination of the ascents up Mt. Ka’ala and traditional Manamana. It featured narrow ridges, excellent views, and a steep climb that just … went … on … forever. The Kahekili hike is also known as the Hidden Valley trail because the route ends in a small valley tucked away at high elevation. A stream rolls down the middle of it, creating a few cascading waterfalls and swimming holes, eventually leading downstream to a larger waterfall which flows down into the valley below.

Lately, my luck has been terrible when actually looking for flowing waterfalls. The ones I’ve sought out recently have either been dried up, or down to a leak. This time was no different. Water was down to a mere trickle and the pools, although filled, were stagnant. In case you’re wondering, my overall record to date (in Oahu) is in favor of success. I’m currently 9 – 5. Take that!

So it begins
"Narrow" is the operative word
No luck this day with the waterfall
Connecting to the Manamana trail did involve about 30 minutes worth of climbing through some overgrowth, but the difference was that I knew how this hike would end, and it was a blast. Rock dikes, steep descents, rock scrambles, and those oh-so-awesome narrow ridges with the “legendary” drop-offs. I noticed that the “safer bypass” sign was missing, which would have sucked for the less experienced.  Ignorance "could" be bliss though.  We actually bypassed the bypass anyway and the rope provided along the way was extremely unnecessary.

Down the Manamana trail
Woman versus wild
We absolutely had to check out this whole Crouching Lion rock formation this time around since we previously blew it off. All I can say is, wow. What a way to end the hike. For anyone going up or down Manamana, the crouching lion route is the WAY TO GO! Stuart Ball’s suggestion for the trailhead needs to at least include this as an alternate. His revised edition is in serious need of revising because its just criminal to omit this experience from your itinerary. Lo and behold! It’s also a faster and less painful way to gain the ridge or go back down.

Checking out the Crouching Lion rock formation
Atlas lost his day job
I cannot say enough about this hike. Anyone thinking of hiking the Manamana loop should just forget it and do this variation instead. Granted, you won’t get to the Kahana Valley overlook, but that’s like giving me a skateboard in exchange for my Ford Mustang. If you really have a hard-on for a view of Kahana Valley, go up Pu’u Piei, as it provides a more complete vantage point. After today, I truly feel that there’s a brand new entry in my overall top five favorite hikes on the island.

The world is our playground
Looking back from where we came
Rope is for pansies
Looking out as the end nears


  1. Sic pics. i gotta do this hike!! but why would u want to snag da bypass sign? its people like me who would appreciate dat a sign is actually there directing me to a safer route. and ur comment about wiping ur ass with one of balls pages is pretty ignorant considering his book is one of the main reasons you are hitting up da trails around oahu. a joke....maybe... but immature at best. have some respect.

  2. The Crouching Lion definitely provided great views and some very interesting spots with some rock climbing up faces, balancing on narrow ridges, and a hard initial ascent to work the body.

  3. @womanly. Took four years, but I always thought you were right. I've replaced the line and given the man a break. Thanks!