Kaau Crater

HARD 158 reviews

Kaau Crater is a 4.5 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Honolulu, Hawaii that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible from March until November.

4.5 miles 2208 feet Loop

birding

hiking

nature trips

rock climbing

walking

forest

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

muddy

old growth

over grown

rocky

scramble

This is an amazing hike with three waterfalls and gorgeous views of Honolulu, Kaneohe, Kailua, Diamond Head, and Ka'au Crater

1 day ago

Clouds at the top but still rate this as one of the best I've seen here! I got 6.2 miles total on gps though, not 4.5.

5 days ago

Great views of the crater, town and the east side. It's fun climbing up the waterfall, and there are ropes to get up with no problem. You can also loop the crater rim which takes longer than the normal out and back

hiking
5 days ago

Seriously amazing hike despite the mud. I will be taking a group up on Jan 18 and Jan 28 if you are interested in hiking this with a guide. Email me at venturealoha@gmail.com or check out my ig @venturealoha

hiking
7 days ago

Beautiful hike. Awesome views at the top. Closer to 6 miles than 4.5. This will take most people 5 hours to fully complete. I think we did it in 4:30 and that was moving faster than anyone else we saw on the trail that day.
Definitely do this one on a dry day with at least one dry day before. This would be close to impossible in muddy conditions. We went on a dry day following two prior dry days and the conditions were fine.
As another reviewer wrote, stay close to the stream and the drain pipes and you'll be on the right trail.
Also get there early as there are only about 6 parking spaces.
NOT DOG FRIENDLY!

7 days ago

hiking
8 days ago

Awesome and tiring. We did this with a nine year old and she smoked us. Don't use you kids as an excuse, this hike is amazing.

12 days ago

I loved this hike. I typically go barefoot when I hike and I would recommend this to everyone. It's a mud filled hike so prepare to get dirty and if you aren't wearing the correct shoes you will not be having such a fun time. Beautiful view from the top, three waterfalls and a switch back route. Enjoy.

14 days ago

Wear some stout walking boots. I did it in sneakers and it took the fun out of it. I would also allow plenty of time. I did Aiea loop trail in 1.5 hours it is rated moderate and suggests time is 3-4hrs. This took me 4:40 and I didn't do the crater loop.

hiking
17 days ago

hiking
26 days ago

MUD!!! I did this with my 6-year-old, my wife, and brother-in-law on Christmas Day. We're seasoned hikers, and this was the most memorable hike we've ever done.

The difficulty level depends on the conditions. I've hiked more technical and difficult mountains that would be impossible to ascend/descend on a rainy day. That's not to say this mountain was easy. The weather conditions today made it by far the hardest hike I've ever done.

The 1.5 miles to the first waterfall was the most mentally challenging for us. My son is a competitive gymnast, loves to hike, and is accustomed to breezing through pretty challenging mountains, but his kryptonite is mud. He hates getting messy/dirty, and the first 1.5 miles was filled with whining and constantly trying to clean off his hands and shoes whenever they got muddy. What should have taken 30 minutes to run to the 1st waterfall (even in the mud) took us nearly 2 hours.

The mud got much better after the 1st waterfall, and my son started having fun. He was right at home with the gentle class 2 rock scrambling. Ropes were there, but weren't necessary. Some of those ropes were badly frayed. They're useful for descending, but not ascending IMO, but you shouldn't go down this trail anyway (more on that later).

The scrambling got tougher and longer at the 3rd waterfall. The slick rocks made it much more dangerous than any scramble we've done. The vertical gain became more intense at this point. At the top of the 3rd falls, is a choice to go left or right. Left brings you to another fork where you have a choice of descending the alternate (non waterfall trail) or continuing clockwise around the crater. Going right goes counterclockwise, and eventually joins the alternate trail down.

We went right, counterclockwise around the crater, the preferred direction (crater on the left). This was by far the hardest part of the hike. The verticals to the top were fun with lots of ropes, then came the mud going down. We thought we somewhat embraced the mud before the 1st waterfall. Nope. It was so slippery, it was literally impossible to stay upright. There were no ropes, and the only way down was to slide in the mud on our butts. I tried to descend belly facing down (in a plank position) to stay dry. Fail. We embraced the mud and slid, which turned out to be the favorite part of the hike for my son. It was hundreds of feet of water slide-like descent, except we slid on mud instead of water. The mud/clay was soft, so not painful through the bumpy sections. Just give the person in front of you plenty of room so you don't crash hard into them. Going clockwise would mean ascending this section. I don't think that's possible when wet. Once we could walk the ridge, there was no way to avoid the mud unless you go off the cliff, but by that time, we had all truly embraced the mud. My son was actually jumping into the mud and trying to splash it as far as he could.

My wife has trouble climbing a 6-ft ladder because she's so afraid of heights. She managed the waterfall and crater scrambles just fine. Traversing the knife's edge of the ridge on the descent was a different story, but by that time she was so committed, she had to just keep moving forward.

A little before completing the full loop was the alternate trail down, which avoided all the waterfalls. The entire alternate trail was calf-deep mud with well-defined steps leading down. There was minimal danger of serious injury here. It was pretty fast-going since we weren't afraid of mud anymore. It took less than 30 minutes to finish the last 1.5 miles compared to 2 hours starting the hike.

While I had a great time and created deep memories, I would not do it again during the rainy season, and it's not a hike for everyone. That's why I gave it 4 stars instead of 5.

6.32 miles, 2,631ft AEG, 5:51 moving time, 1:15 total breaks for food and pictures. Not sure why some trail maps say 4.5 miles.

Tips:
1. Use Uber/Taxi. We drove and got there early enough to get the last of 5 parking spots (we actually had to create that 5th parking spot by parking half the car into the bushes).

2. There's a set of mailboxes at the trailhead. We hiked right past these boxes and continued up a driveway onto private property. That's NOT the way to go. We had to go back to the mailboxes and go behind those boxes and descend into the jungle to start the hike.

3. Wear pants if you don't want your legs to get scratched up.

4. Embrace the mud. Don't try to avoid it. The first mud puddle you see, just soak your shoes and keep them there until mud soaks through your socks. This will ensure you won't waste time trying to avoid the mud, which will get much much worse on the second half of the crater.

5. Follow the pipes and stream. Don't take the alternate trail up.

6. Go counterclockwise on the crater.

7. Don't look over the top of the waterfall to take pics like we did. Super slippery. People have died this way.

8. Brin

hiking
1 month ago

The maps for this trail are incorrect. This crater cannot be accessed from Lai Rd. It is private land on private roads and there is no hiking trail. The neighbors are angry about this. Do not waste your time. You must start on Waiomao Road and hike to Palolo Falls to get to the Crater.

1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

1 month ago

hiking
1 month ago

Great hike, went prepared for 5 hours to do the entire loop. At the top of the rim ridge trail got hit with high winds and rain so hunkered down for :30, the trail got real snotty and I'm sure I would have looked hilarious if others could have seen me on my butt inching down to the saddle between the two highest rim peaks. So needless to say I was dead tired when I got back to trail head. Zero people on the trail today but it was truly beautiful. Head to toe mud probably would do again if I find an "expert that needs to be humbled"!! 4:50

Jim

2 months ago

2 months ago

Perfect but high level emotional! Really good to change your mind about your fears.

2 months ago