I had gone hiking in Hawaii several times before. But never on Lanai. This was my first trip. And the Koloiki Ridge Trail would be my first hike on the island. And as much as I wanted to hit as many trails as I could on the trip, I knew I must spread out my enjoyment. I needed to be picky. Selective. Otherwise I’d get tired, burned out, and the point of a relaxing Hawaiian vacation would be ruined. But everyone who I spoke with about hiking on Lanai told me I needed to do this trail. They said the view at the end is one on of the best anywhere on the islands.
Back in my room at the Four Seasons, the Lodge at Koele on my sponsored trip to Lanai, Hawaii, I packed up everything I thought I’d need to go hiking. It was a short trail, only five miles roundtrip, but the brochure said it was of moderate difficulty. So I knew I’d need to take a few things with me, most importantly water and sunscreen. And with such a talked about view, my camera was a must.
I wasn’t long onto the trail, hoofing it uphill past the resort’s golf course, and I already had the camera out snapping pictures. The day was bright and blue, and I was greeted along the first part of the trail by butterflies. It was here, on the first leg of the trail, that I did the greatest work since it was all uphill. Sure, it was a workout that had me huffing and puffing nearly 3,000 feet above sea level, but the good news? It’s all downhill on the way back.
Actually, it’s all downhill on the other side. The first third of the trail, from the resort, past the golf course, and up beyond the Cathedral of Pines – a grove of giant pine trees – is the one big hill on the hike that will get the heart pumping. I enjoyed it, breathing heavily, because I needed the workout. I needed to stretch my legs.
Initially, I anticipated the rest of the trail to be the same up and down as the first part. But once down the backside of the hill, the trail flattened out with only a subtle, hardly noticeable, incline the rest of the way. It was canopied by various flora, supposedly hiding both Axis Deer and Mouflon Sheep. I was hopeful I’d see some, but it wasn’t until the end of the second part of the trail – the section which overlaps the Munro Trail, now a little-used road – that I was surprised with the site of a deer jumping across the road, stopping only momentarily to take stock of me.
No sooner had I snapped a photo of the deer than it darted into the forest on the opposite side of the road from whence it came, and off to who knows where. Pulling out my map, I knew exactly where I was going. I was continuing on the last third of the trail, and through the forest to what was likely going to be a spectacular view on such a bright and beautiful day.
It was a short walk through a forest of ironwood trees before the view opened up to my left. The Naio Gulch below me lead out to the Pacific Ocean and the island of Molokai beyond. It was beautiful, yes, but surely not what everyone had told me about; it was not the end of the trail, and likely not the best view on the islands. So I continued on.
A short walk farther along, only about an hour into the hike, the view finally did open up. First it was with the Maunalei Valley, so different in appearance with its lush green walls to that of its browner, drier cousin on the other side of the trail. I stood appreciating the valley’s beauty for a moment, but knew a stunning panoramic was about to present itself. So I pushed on, and sure enough, just beyond a small stand of trees, there it was; from the Maunalei Valley to my right to the Naio Gulch on my left, and the islands of Maui and Molokai sandwiched in between across the ocean, there was one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen on any of the Hawaiian Islands:
Click on the above picture if you haven’t already. After it opens, click on it again so it fills your screen. Then pan across it from one side to the next and simply enjoy the beauty of the island of Lanai wherever you’re at right now, knowing that the estimated 2.5 hours to hike the Koloiki Ridge trail is grossly underestimated; that time can easily be spent over a picnic lunch – something which can be picked up at the Lodge at Koele – while feasting on the view.