When reaching the serene state park on Waahila Ridge, cool, refreshing air instantly let’s you know that you’ve made it to the top of St. Louis Heights, an area guarded by the vast Norfolk pine trees standing astutely at the park’s entrance. They shade and protect the ridge while padding the ground with several layers of its soft pine needles. Wild chicken and roosters weave in and out of their firmly rooted trunks, and all is quiet.Waahila Ridge at sunset is a must-see if you’re in the neighborhood.
Unlike the crowded vista points on Round Top Drive and Tantalus, Waahila usually has very few or no people. It’s one of the most peaceful parks I’ve been to on the island. Have a picnic, barbecue, a nap or just enjoy the panoramic views of Manoa Valley, Palolo Valley and Honolulu. The trade winds cruise right through the trees and down into the busy city
Many people come to the state park because it’s also the entrance to the Waahila hiking trail, which isn’t an easy one. The hike has steep and narrow parts as it gradually steps into the back of Manoa Valley. And because it’s up on a ridge and more open to cloud cover, the area rains often, so it can get pretty muddy. Be on the lookout for native Hawaiian plants, like koa and ohia lehua, and even the sweet invader, the guava trees. If you look carefully, you’ll also see some native birds, like the apapane.
The National Trust For Historic Preservation listed Waahila Ridge as one of the most endangered historic places in the world. A major Hawaii electric company proposed to build huge towers and high voltage lines on the ridge, which sparked opposition by the community. In 2003, the company revised its plans and said the site was no longer under consideration.For now, telephone lines frame the sky on Waahila.
The only way to get to Waahila is to follow narrow and windy roads through the St. Louis Heights neighborhood. It’s all uphill, by the way, really, really steep uphill, so walking to the park or riding a bike isn’t advisable. You can drive or take a bus instead. The drive down isn’t so bad, despite the constant break-and-release you’ll have to do endure. The drive down offers some of the best views of Honolulu, Diamond Head and Waikiki. The experience overall is like a recess from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Photo Credit: Noa Myers
WA’AHILA RIDGE STATE RECREATION • End of Ruth Place, Honolulu, HI 96816 • Opens daily 7am-7pm • 808-587-0320 • Hiking, barbecue grills, shady areas, picnic tables, walking trails, restrooms • Parking available; Near bus route