Hawaii October 17, 2017
The Colossal Mountain Range In Hawaii Where Time Stands Still
Mauka: a word in the Hawaiian language, meaning “toward the mountain,” and most commonly used in giving directions. Mountains are an integral part of the Hawaiian landscape, and while there are countless mountain ranges, peaks, and valleys across the islands, some are more well-known than others. From the lush, green mountains of Kauai to the stark volcanic landscapes of Hawaii Island, there is little more awe-inspiring than Hawaii’s towering mountains. And while we love
Hawaii Island’s Mauna Kea and Kauai’s Mount Waialeale as much as the next local, we are particularly drawn to Oahu’s Koolau Mountains.
If you live on Oahu, you undoubtedly see the Ko’olau Mountains on a regular basis, whether you’re watching the clouds roll over the verdant peaks from Honolulu, driving through the mountain on H-3 via the Tetsuo Harano Tunnel, or lounging on Kailua Beach and looking back towards the towering mountains. But how often do we really take a step back and appreciate the beauty of this colossal mountain range?
Today, we’re doing just that. Serving as a backdrop to Oahu’s stunning windward coast, these verdant mountains rise more than 3,000 feet above sea level.
The Ko’olau Mountains are not a mountain range in the traditional meaning of the word; the mountains are what remains of the island's eastern shield volcano, which is expected to have towered over the sea at perhaps higher than 10,000 feet in elevation.
The eruptions of the Ko’olau Volcano created many of Oahu’s most notable landmarks, including Diamond Head, Koko Crater, Koko Head, Aliapaakai, Punchbowl, and Tantalus, collectively known as the Honolulu Volcanic Series.
The volcano became dormant approximately 1.7 million years ago, and steady erosion resulted in the mountains as we know them today — tall, rugged, and majestic wonders that tower over the Hawaiian landscape.
The mountain range dominates the eastern half of the island, stretching for more than 35 miles from Oahu’s southeastern point, Makapu’u, to its northeastern point, Kahuku. At its widest, the mountains are nearly 13 miles across.
The summit area was known to the ancient Hawaiians as
Wao Akua, meaning "realm of the gods." Only special Kahuna (priests) could enter and escort commoners through to get to the valuable resources hidden away in the mountains.
Aside from a handful of popular, well-maintained trails, most trails found within the Ko’olau Mountains are barely maintained, overgrown, and difficult, meaning you’ll almost always find solitude here.
Despite most of the views showing human development, the mountains themselves are a vast wilderness, containing steep cliffs, rare plants, and dense forest in addition to sweeping panoramic views.
The Ko’olau Mountains were recognized as a National Natural Landmark in 1972 — and it’s easy to see why.
The lush, emerald green mountains are simply stunning all year, but particularly when it is raining: the mountains are not only shrouded in clouds but provide a magnificent locale for a series of stunning waterfalls cascading down the sheer cliff faces of the mountains.
While the crystalline turquoise waters and fine white sand beaches of the Oahu invite you in, it is the majestic Ko’olau mountains that keep you coming back for more.
For more colossal views, you might want to read about the
11 highest mountain peaks in Hawaii.