As soon as we got started on the valley portion or the trail I began thinking of the last time that I had hiked this trail and how much I despised the constant and neverending switchbacks that this trail presents. There has to be at least twenty switchbacks in the first forty minutes alone. As we kept pushing forward and climbing higher, conversation between the four of us was fluid and I found myself completely oblivious to the fact that this trail was actually pretty strenuous. The jokes, laughter and good times between the four of us on our way to the summit completely took my mind off the tiring climb and surprisingly turned the ascent to the top of the ridge in to a pleasant one. About half way to the summit of Kuliouou we entered a grove of norfolk pines and the trail shortly evened out. Just after the norfolk pines we finally reached the sheltered picnic area where we had planned early to take a short rest. As we checked the time and realized we were making very good time, we cut our break short and headed up a hill that would prove to be the steepest and most tiring part of the hike. After about ten minutes of pure uphill climbing we came to another bench with a valley overlook and stopped for no more than a few minutes. Next we were to encounter the final steep climb to the summit. From the bench at the valley overlook to the summit there are steps in place almost the rest of the way to the top. At times I wondered if the steps were more of a help or a hinderness to us, but after reaching the final step and walking just around the corner, we had finally reached the Kuliouou summit just a little over an hour after we had started hiking.
Once again we were all lucky enough to be greeted by totally clear views upon our arrival. The city lights were lit up below us and there was not a cloud in sight to obscure our view. A few of us commenced taking out our tripods and snapping a few pictures while trying to deal with the ever so present wind gusts that were spitting dirt at us. At first it was not to bad but after a few minutes it began to hurt and the wind was becoming more and more daunting. We began discussing amongst each other whether or not going to Puu O Kona and down the west ridge was the best idea with such strong winds. We decided that we would just make the trip to the Puu O Kona summit and then go back down the way we had come. I was trying to use the wind as an excuse not to go down the west ridge but the real reason I did not want to descend down the west ridge was because I had no idea where the junction for this trail was and I was starting to become more confident that I would not be able to find it.
As a group the four of us decided to go ahead and take a left at the Kuliouou summit and to venture to Puu O Kona. For the first time on this hike we encountered a somewhat narrow ridge and just after this we downclimbed a little rockface with the aid of a rope and then the ridge really narrowed. This part was fun and despite the strong winds this section ceased to give us any real problems. It was not scrary or anything else, just fun. I looked for the narrow portion of the ridge that is washed out due to a landslide but I never saw it because it was obviously dark out. I could tell that some of the drops were huge below us but the reality of the huge drops just didn't hit any of us because we simply couldn't see them, which is why I believe it's so much easier mentally to hike at night. My wife was dead on when she said "out of sight, out of mind." After the narrow sections there were two more sections to rock climb with the aid of some ropes once again. After negotiating those sections the trail became overgrown and we made our last push to the Puu O Kona summit. Once at the Puu O Kona summit we had a ton of room to move around and took pictures until we had all finally had enough. The views from Puu O Kona were incredibly better than the previous ones we had had at the Kuliouou summit, so I was thrilled that we had made the little stroll over to this peak. After spending a good amount of time at Puu O Kona we packed up our gear and headed back down to the Kuliouou summit and then back to the start of the trailhead. The entire hike took us a little over four hours. I have heard of this route taking some people four or five hours during the day, so I was really happy with our time. Considering that we had done it in the dark and had spent a ton of time taking pictures and fooling around I figured that we had done very well.
This night hike was, once again, an exciting and fun time with friends and was made that much better by the beautiful views of the city that we were lucky enough to be accompanied by throughout the hike. Puu O Kona turned out to not be that hard of a hike at all at night. It exceeded my expectations to put it mildly. As we arrived back to our cars the first thing that went through my head was how I couldn't wait to get back to Puu O Kona during the day. I love this hike and would highly recommend it as a day hike.
Directions: To get to kuliouou Ridge take Kalanianaole hwy heading in the general direction of hanauma bay (coming from waikiki). You will need to keep an eye out for Kuliouou road and take a left onto it when you see it. From this point you will continue straight and take another left when you come to a park. At the end of the park you will need to take a right and continue straight until you see kalaau road, at which time you will take a right and drive to the end of the road and find a parking spot. The trailhead is at the dead end part of the road. Walk down the gravel road and look for a trail heading off the gravel road to the right and take this trail. Once in the valley you will need to look for a junction where you will need to go right and head upwards. If you go straight you will be on the kuliouou valley trail, which you do not want. Just keep and eye out for a wooden marker that will point out the direction to each trail at this junction. From this point the trail should be pretty straight forward. Once you reach the Kuliouou summit, take a left if you want to proceed to Puu O Kona and just simply follow the ridgeline.