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Water springs from a rock wall and cascades over moss-covered rocks in a secluded spot along the Likeke Trail. Peace envelops this space. The sound of the falling water provides a calming soundtrack for the lush green foliage and tropical flowers at hand and the starkly beautiful backdrop of the pali cliffs. This trail snakes along the sheer Koolau mountains on the windward side — the side away from Honolulu, facing the top of Oahu as you look at the island on a map.
We were able to enjoy this experience as part of a hike that began at the Koolau Golf Course and continued on to a clearing that was once a heiau — a sacred worship space. There are two important aspects of this hike. First, the trail is open to anyone. We saw inpiduals and families setting out on their own, and passed a guided adventure tour on the path. The hike I took is considered a cultural heritage tour — led by a local of Hawaiian descent (Hawaiian is a specific ethnicity, not just a current resident of the state). A Hawaiian Civic Club sponsors the hike. I prefer to support civic groups in their efforts to preserve and protect important cultural sites and I enjoy the cultural/historical perspective they provide. There is certainly nothing wrong with other paths to the experience.
The second point. Our hiking group included a pregnant woman with her husband who carried their young child in a backpack and a handful of us well over 50. That said, it was not an easy stroll. It is not paved or graded — the hike is mostly along a narrow footpath of damp (but not muddy) ground covered with large roots. We crossed one stream — the one below the waterfall. Most of us balanced on rocks, others walked through the water. It seems that this is a fairly standard hiking trail in Hawaii. If you hike in other places, you will not be uncomfortable. If you’re looking for an easy stroll, it will be a little more challenging. But it provides a glimpse of Hawaii from a time when it was even more a slice of paradise.