Ka’au Crater

Ka’au Crater

This is what my crowd hating, adventure loving husband was looking for!  We had read some various blogs/articles about this hike and it sounded amazing – waterfalls, jungle, non-touristy. The onllllly complaint would be the lack of factual information that we read about the hike in terms of mileage and the route. 

We arrived around 11am at this random dead end road that Google Maps had taken us to. It was correct, which was awesomely unexpected – the trailhead was behind a bunch of shacks and mailboxes. 

Immediately, it felt like we were in a completely different world. I was possibly, but actually definitely, pretending I was in a jungle in an undiscovered world battling for my survival. I also envisioned I was wearing a really cool safari hat. Side note, I’m terrified of snakes and am SO glad that Hawaii has none. 

Despite it feeling like this was a place we were first discovering, the trail was “marked” with a pipe to follow and random hot pink tape on trees that you would see during a trail race (humble brag, I’m an ultra-marathoner, so I’ve seen those a few times). 

We had originally read that this trail was “moderate,” about 5 miles long, and would take 4-6 hours depending on how long you stopped at the waterfalls. No biggie, we can handle that. 

Along the relatively unmarked trail, we would come across a lot of narrow trails on cliff edges, had to use ropes to get up various sections, and saw less than 10 other people throughout our time here. Oh, and had zero cell service. This is when I learned that my husband is secretly a planner – normally, I plan everything for us. But when it comes to this kind of stuff, I tend to be “la-di-da, things will work out, right?” Mike was planning on worst case scenarios and when we would turn around and would comment often on trail markers. Definitely a good compliment to my attitude towards it all. 

It took us about 70 minutes to get to the first waterfall. It was the most beautiful sight – mostly because I was sweating my balls off and I wanted to cool down. The second waterfall was only another 10 minutes past that, and the third and final fall was another 20 minutes past that. 

Then it got even trickier. The ropes that we had been using occasionally along the way to help us up were no longer an option, but a requirement to use. The belayer in me struggled to trust all these ropes, as they were way past what we would have considered retirement. However, we had to climb up about 500 feet vertically up this third waterfall to continue. Obviously, we survived… but hot damn, if I’m ever back, I’ll be bringing new ropes to replace and be a good Samaritan. 

Now, we arrived to the top of the waterfall. This is where we realized the information we had was most likely incorrect or at the very least, incomplete. We were around 3 hours in, and at 4 miles already. The hike around the crater itself would have been at least 2 miles, if not more. We were finally high enough to get some service, so we pulled a map up. It was a long lasso – follow the stream all the way, up the waterfalls, and then around the crater. There was a different route, parallel to the stream to go back, so you didn’t have to take the waterfalls back down. that would eventually get back to the stream and follow the beginning route back. To do the whole hike, you would have to go right after the waterfall (this was not clearly marked because there were pink markers both directions). 

It also looked like a flashflood/storm was about to start – that was one risk we read about. Mike was getting nervous about our timing and getting back safely. This is a big moment for me because I was convinced that if we went to the left, which seemed to be wrong based on the map, that we would come across the parallel route back down. Mike wasn’t sure so he wanted to just go back the way we came. However, we agreed that we would go my way for 20 minutes and if it didn’t feel right, we would turn around. GUYS, I WAS RIGHT. I’m literally NEVER right when it comes to directions. I sang a lot of Moana at this time because the water calls to me, obviously.  

We made it back safely, and saw some of the most amazing views. And it stormed there when we left, so we totally made the right call. Winners. 

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