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A Complete Guide To The Muliwai Trail Hike

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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)


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.

Art gallery map


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.

The Beach

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


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.


The Camp

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

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


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  • Reply
    Food and Footprints
    December 23, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    So cool that you decided to do it on a whim! Often the best travel experiences come from the spontaneous choices. Nice detailed breakdown with the maps.

  • Reply
    Angela @ Dang Travelers
    December 21, 2017 at 8:21 am

    Yes, please! We spent the last three months visiting 10 national parks in the US and love to hike so sign us up! A good backpack is definitely key on these types of hikes. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to checking out this area!

    • Reply
      December 21, 2017 at 9:19 am

      You would absolutely love this hike then!! Go check it out 🙂

  • Reply
    Katie @ Zen Life and Travel
    December 20, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    Sounds fun but I am a total novice hiker so this would be a little intense for me!! I don’t think I would do well sleeping in a tent either…camping is not my thing. But I imagine it’s beautiful out there!

    • Reply
      December 21, 2017 at 9:19 am

      Lol! It might be tough then 🙂 Thats ok! It was beautiful though! They have helicopter tours over the valley for people who don’t want to hike there!

  • Reply
    Christina Lyon
    December 20, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    I love everything about how you organized this post! The maps are so helpful and the pictures are so helpful to those embarking on this hike to have reference of what to look for. I haven’t been to Hawaii since I was 12, and I’m itching to get back!

    Love how you guys did this on a whim, maybe my tickets to Hawaii will be in the same fashion. 🙂

    • Reply
      December 20, 2017 at 2:59 pm

      Thank you so much for the feedback! I really appreciate it! 🙂 I just know that when we researched the hike there was not much information on it. So I thought i would create one 🙂

  • Reply
    Alice Ford
    December 20, 2017 at 12:28 am

    Great guide, I loved that you included what gear you would need because many people have no idea what to bring on a hike if its more than an hour or two.
    I haven’t had the pleasure of doing this hike yet, but I hope to in the next few years.

  • Reply
    Lara Dunning
    December 19, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    This looks like a challenging and rewarding hike. They should really think about making a spot for hikers to park their car overnight or work out a deal with the Art Museum for a lower rate. Thanks for the guide, great tips! And, I agree, it would be best to camp for a couple of nights!

    • Reply
      December 20, 2017 at 9:17 am

      They really should! But its not really a hike that is done that often. Maybe only 5 people a night. So it wouldn’t really be in their best interest to spend money on a parking lot.

  • Reply
    December 19, 2017 at 12:42 am

    Hawaii has some really great hiking spots! I need to go back there soon! Is this your favorite hike in Hawaii?

    • Reply
      December 20, 2017 at 9:16 am

      It was my favorite hike on the big island! I have done countless hikes on oahu! 🙂

  • Reply
    December 18, 2017 at 6:09 am

    I love making spontaneous trips and hikes like this myself, and like yourself, it may seem careless to some but it’s so much fun discovering things as you go on. I haven’t been to Hawaii yet but this will be an amazing hike to do and now I have your post to guide me through it 😀 I love how you’ve broken the hike down.

    • Reply
      December 18, 2017 at 7:59 am

      Thanks so much! glad you liked it 🙂 This should prepare you pretty well for the hike!

  • Reply
    December 18, 2017 at 4:44 am

    Such a great hike and you gave great tips! I feel you about the backpack! Sometimes it’s better to bring a bigger and more comfortable one. Love the view you guys had along the beach!

  • Reply
    Preethika GN
    December 17, 2017 at 10:39 am

    This does seem not easy at all but the place looks amazing. Great post 😀

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