We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Please read our disclosure policy at the bottom of the page for more information
We are a very spontaneous couple. This hike popped into our minds and we said: “yeah sure, let’s do it”. Now, that might sound pretty careless considering it’s close to a 20-mile hike. But, we still ended up having an absolute blast. This method works for us. I understand it doesn’t work for everyone. I don’t want anyone else to go on this hike not knowing anything about it. So, I’ve created A Complete Guide To The Muliwai Trail Hike. This guide will tell you everything from what you should pack to where you should park. Make sure you watch the video of our experience doing the hike at the bottom of this page! Or you can click HERE to view all our videos.
*This hike is not meant for the average tourist. We lived on Oahu for 3 years and are used to this type of terrain and climate. Do not take on Muliwai Trail if you’re not used to hikes of this nature!!*
Before You Even Go
Let’s talk about the type of gear I recommend. This is an intense hike. 9 miles in. 9 miles out. You need to bring equipment for camping overnight.
Backpack – You need a durable backpack that won’t hurt your back after you’ve been carrying lots of weight for hours. I’ve read the reviews on the TETON Sports Scout 3400 and they seem fantastic. I used a CamelBak. It worked great but, I wish I had something bigger like the Sports Scout 3400.
Sleeping Mat/Blanket/Pillow – Unfortunately, you’re not going to be sleeping on a memory foam mattress. It’s just not practical. When you’re hiking this far you’re going to want to be carrying as much lightweight gear as possible. I recommend getting this Sleeping Pad. It’s extremely lightweight. You won’t even realize it’s there. It’s not the comfiest to sleep on but, you’re there for the experience right? I recommend getting a compact blanket. It’s tiny and lightweight. You can find it here ->Pocket Blanket For a pillow I just used my travel pillow. I have a travel pillow that folds really small. It’s memory foam and I love it. It takes up hardly any room and gave me more of a pillow than any other camping/hiking pillow I’ve found. You can find it here ->Evolution Pillow
Tent – Whatever you do, don’t use a one person tent if you have 2 people. If it says 1 person, it’s meant for 1 person. Sounds logical right? Yeah, you’d think so. We had a tent given to us so we went with the 1 person tent. Boy, we regretted it. There are cheap 2-Person Tents for sale on Amazon. We should have bought it. It would have given us a lot more sleeping room. Don’t make our mistake. Buy the 2-Person Tent.
Misc. Supplies – Bring food that won’t go bad. Food such as beans, tuna, granola bars, nuts, sunflower seeds, and canned fruit. Remember: what you grab you have to carry. Also, don’t forget to grab a first aid kit, lighter, and a knife. (You never know)
WATER WATER WATER!!!
Don’t forget to pack water. If you go with a backpack like the CamelBak then it already comes with a hydration bladder. But if you get a backpack like the TETON Sports Scout 3400 then I highly recommend buying a hydration bladder to insert into your backpack. Hydration Bladders are very inexpensive. This much water will not be enough though. There are multiple streams on the hike and at the campground. Do not drink this water without a water filter. I recommend buying a LifeStraw Personal Water Filter.
Alright, now that you have the basics for this hike (and really any hike) we can start talking about this hike specifically. Below is the map of the hike. If you want to access the pdf file click HERE -> Muliwai trail You can also get a physical copy of this map from the park rangers at the Waipio Valley Lookout.
Parking is an obstacle when it comes to this hike. It always seems to be in Hawaii. You can’t park at the Waipio Valley Lookout because that is reserved for tourists to look at Waipio Valley. We talked to the park rangers and they said we could park a little bit down the road underneath a street light. We didn’t feel comfortable with that. Because they also said that the lookout becomes a hangout spot at night time. So we took the safe route. This adds a little bit more to your hike, but it’s a trade-off considering you’ll have ease of mind. There is an Art Museum .6 miles away from the lookout. It cost us $20 a night to keep our car parked behind the museum. It’s quite pricey. We were a little upset about that but we weren’t worried about our car at all. It was definitely worth it. Below is a map of Waipio Valley to the Art Museum.
THE ROAD DOWN WAIPIO VALLEY
On the pdf file map you see Waipio Valley Lookout. Then, you see a black line that says 4WD. Yeah, you’re going to want to find a ride down that line and up that line. Line = really steep road that only 4wd vehicles can drive on. Depending on the time of day there can be quite a few people going up and down that road. Wave some people down and hitchhike down that thing. We didn’t on our way down. We were tired by the first hour, it seemed. It’s a really steep hill. We got a ride on the way up and it was like a Godsend. And we met a nice French couple. So that’s pretty cool.
Once you get down the hill you will come to this nice long beach. There will actually be quite a few people there. (There was for us) It seemed like a nice surf spot. So we started walking towards the beach. See how the black line on the map continues to follow along with the beach? keep taking it allllllllll the way down. You’re going to run into a stream that you have to cross. Trust me, you’re not going to want to get your shoes wet just yet. We took ours off. And then crossed. And then we walked along the beach with our shoes off. It was actually really refreshing. But, do it however you’d like to do it. The trailhead is at the end of the beach on the left. Congratulations… All that work and now you’re finally ready to start the hike!
The dreaded switchbacks….. A challenging ascent of 1200 ft in less than a mile. You are going to want to start these switchbacks early in the morning. We were on the switchbacks by 10 am and that wasn’t early enough. The sun was beating down on us and it got hotter than a billy goat with a blow torch. But, the shade you feel once you make it to the top of the switchbacks makes up for it. You just got to make it to the top
5 MILES AND 12 GULCHES
This is the heart of the hike. It is beautiful. You will see lots of little creeks and waterfalls. You will come to a point about 4 miles in and you’ll be like “are we done yet?”. Just keep on moving. Enjoy the beautiful scenery because It really is a gorgeous hike. This part of the hike is the most enjoyable. Take it all in. Listen to nature and even do some soul searching. I loved this part of the hike.
There are another set of switchbacks heading back down into the camp. Yes, they suck just as bad as the first ones. You can see the end in sight on these ones though. I’m not sure if it made it worse or better. And then once you finally get to the bottom of the switchbacks you come to a big stream you have to cross. Depending on how strong the current is, it can be quite dangerous. There’s a rope that you can hold on to. On the way to camp, we didn’t have to use it. But, on the way back the current was so strong, we had to. It all depends on how strong the current is. You will get wet when crossing. It can be pretty deep. Especially if you’re short like me (5’3″).
We were so excited to be at the camp. We set up our campsite. We were on campsite #3. (You have to book these in advance. You can book them HERE.) We started a fire and hung out around the campground. We met some really cool people and had a blast. This campground has a rule of “If you bring it in, take it out”. There is a bathroom here but it’s more of a porta potty. The campground was beautiful. I absolutely enjoyed it. We only stayed 1 night. I do not recommend that. This campground deserves multiple nights! Set up camp and enjoy your stay for a few days. If you only stay one night then it ends up being: setting up camp, sleeping, and then doing it all over again the next day. I wish I had this Complete Guide to the Muliwai Trail hike whenever we did it. It would have helped tremendously. I hope it helps you.
Written By: Allyson Spieler