Hawaii Trip, Days 1-2: First Impressions, Maunawili Falls, and Pillbox Hike (Ka’iwa Ridge)


A quick introduction – 5 of my best friends from college and I took a 10 day trip to Hawaii in May of 2008, after we all graduated from the University of Florida (Go Gators!). We viewed this as our last hurrah before we all starting going our separate ways. We had all met as freshmen living on the same floor in the dorms, and had stuck together since then, as roommates and great friends. Traveling with me (your humble narrator for this journey) were Daniel (“Neubs”), Danny, Chen, Sal, and Dave. We were staying with Daniel’s family, who had moved out to Hawaii from Tampa a few years earlier.

I don’t know if we could have possibly had a better first day in Hawaii. A secluded waterfall (complete with jumping platform) and the best view on the island, all in one day? Yeah, I will take that – with an extra helping of awesome, please.

After the long flight from Tampa, Daniel’s dad picked us up at the airport. Driving from Honolulu to Kailua (where Daniel’s family lived) was a pretty surreal experience. As we passed through the mountains that separate the East and West sides of the island, I couldn’t help but feel like I was in Jurassic Park, about to get eaten by a dinosaur. On the Honolulu side of the mountains, there was some jungle-like foliage, but on the East side…wow. Waterfalls all around you, towering cliff faces, and a lush, deep green all the way to the perfectly blue ocean. Coming from Florida, where the highest elevation is the pitcher’s mound at the nearest baseball diamond, it was a cool sight to see mountains right on the beach. Yeah, I could see living here.

The next day we went on our first excursion. Our first hike of the trip was to be to Maunawili Falls, a fairly secluded waterfall that was known to be a good spot to waterfall jump. So we trekked through the jungle, meeting very few people along the way. The falls itself was situated right between two rock faces on either side, with the small pool at its base that separated the falls from the trail. When we arrived, we immediately started surveying for the best spots to jump from. The obvious location was about halfway down the face of the falls, where a small outcrop made a pretty ideal platform. This was maybe 7-8 feet above the water. So we quickly swam over and started taking turns jumping into the water. Soon, we saw a spot higher up that could be reached by climbing along one of the rock faces to the side of the falls. This spot was maybe 25-30 feet above the water, and was much more challenging to get to. Obviously, always make sure the water you will be jumping into is deep enough for a jump, and check very very carefully for underwater rocks if visibility is poor. All in all a very cool first adventure on the trip. Ah, but the day was not yet over.

Our second hike of the day was what Daniel’s dad referred to as the “pillbox hike”. Scattered all over the island are these old pillboxes from World War II, and along a ridge just south of Kailua are a number of them – and they overlook the ocean. So we head on over, and the view was just incredible. The wind was whipping up off the ocean, and we were treated to an expansive view of the coastline and the perfectly blue waters, with the sun setting behind the mountains. Dave snapped a panorama from this, and it is one of my favorite pictures from the trip. This trail was apparently a local exercise hotspot, with a number of people jogging the ridge and doing pushups and other things at each of the pillboxes.

We had such an awesome first day we all had to joke that since we had done the coolest things our first day we couldn’t possibly have fun the rest of the trip. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case.