The Crouching Lion is a formidable hike, only for experienced hikers. It is formidable because of the steep climb through the thick forest, stepping over large tree roots webbing throughout the trail, slippery grounds, overgrown bushes, and the risky walk on knife-edge hilltops with sharp 1000 feet drop offs. Want to feel like Tarzan for a day? This is your jungle!
The Crouching Lion is also known as the Pu’u Manamana. Pu’u in Hawaiian means “hill”, and Manamana means “supernatural or divine power”. This trail is located on the east of Oahu, in the humid and rainy micro climate zone. More rainfall means muddy grounds.
Hawaii legend has it that the Crouching Lion was a Tahiti demigod, Kauahi, who couldn’t resist the siren call of a Hawaiian goddess. The siren call froze Kauahi into the Crouching Lion. To this day, he is still perching on top of Pu’u Manamana, watching over this beautiful part of the island. The drive from Waikiki takes about fifty minutes.
I love this hike because of the lush forest, full of tropical plants and flowers. The shorter trail leads up to the top of the Crouching Lion, and it took me 30 minutes one way. I ranked this hike a tough one, with gorgeous photo spots along the way. If you are in the mood for a longer workout, you can continue up the ridge and hike for another four to five hours. The longer hike will take you through a more treacherous route; higher and narrower. Go on a sunny day for a more enjoyable and dryer condition.
How to Find the Trail Head of the Crouching Lion Hike
To start, you must be able to find the trail head; it is obscure. When you drive from Waikiki towards Crouching Lion, you will pass a town called Ka’a’awa. Soon after, you will come to a sharp left turn overseeing the Kahana bay. After the turn, slow down, and look for a sign that says “27 mile mark”. You will see cars parked on the right side by the Huilua Fishpond. Go ahead and park along side them. But do not park by the Trout Farm Road’s private road. Your vehicle could be towed. Earlier start is better to hike in cooler temperature with fewer people. This area does get hot and humid compared to Waikiki.
Once parked, walk across the street and then walk 20 feet back to where you came from, and you will see the start of the trail on your right, located before a telephone pole, with a sign that says “Do not pass “. The start of the trail is on Kamehameha highway. If you find the trail ascends quickly, you are at the right place.
The Hike Starts in the Jungle
The trail slopes up fast! Steep incline right from the start with webs of tree roots. I had to hold on to tree branches and tree roots to pull myself up and keep my balance. I wish I had gloves to protect my hands. The grounds were muddy with overgrown bushes. Look for red ribbons tied on the trees for direction. The day I visited this trail was a weekday, and it wasn’t crowded.
This trail was a jungle, nothing like the other well maintained trails on Oahu. Think of it as an informal trail walked out by the locals. Do not expect any man-made staircases, ropes or safety railings. You will be hiking at your own risk. But that was part of the fun!
Hikers should wear long pants to avoid being scratched by tree branches. Sturdy trail shoes with traction is a must! A rain jacket, water, sunglasses, insect repellent, sun screen and hats are musts. I wish I wore jeans instead of yoga pants because jeans are thicker and less penetrable by tree branches and sticks. My yoga pants were too thin, and not enough to protect me from being scratched by branches. I would also recommend gloves for protection while holding on to tree roots and branches to climb up the steep hills.
Some of the Best Views on Oahu
After the beginning steep incline, I came to a flatter area, which provided a nice break from the strenuous climb. The water was as green as emerald, and as peaceful as an undisturbed mirror. What a nice view of the Huilua Pond, Kahana Bay, Mahie Point and Laie! This flat area was covered by long grass, and when the wind blows, the grass bends uniformly; calming and soothing.
Soon enough, I saw the ridge on the right, with a narrow trail and sharp drop offs on both sides. This must be the ridge that forms the “Crouching Lion”. Be prepared to use your hands and knees to climb up and crawl through the narrow and rocky areas. The rocks were not stable, and some of them came off and crumbled.
Remember that this is one of the famously dangerous hike after all. But do not let the danger stop you from your adventure. Be careful and be aware of your surroundings. Slow down, get a good grip, and one step at a time. The top of the ridge had great photo spots. Steep drop offs on both sides makes the photos look astonishing. It’s windy and slippery on top, be careful when taking photos.
At last, I came to the end of the trail, called the “Turnout.” It had a 180 degree view of the ocean, and mountain cliffs. Looking straight down, I saw brown townhouses in the valley below. Descend was more difficult than going up because my legs were shaking from fatigue. I deliberately stepped on tree roots to prevent myself from slipping.
The Crouching Lion Hike is a test of courage and a rewarding trial for experienced hikers. I do not recommend people with vertigo and children to hike this trail. It’s dangerously high, narrow and can be slippery. But adults in good physical condition can make it. Go out there and challenge yourself.
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Oahu Hikes: Laie Falls Trail and Kaiwa Ridge Trail
Koko Head Trail Hike: a 1048-Step Challenge
Waimea Valley and Waimea Falls – One of the Best Easy Hikes in Oahu
Lanikai Pillbox Hike
Lulumahu Falls Trail