Mokoli'i Island

Mokoli'i Island

Prompted by a local TV show he had seen a few weeks before, Nathan Yuen, a moderator of and regular poster to the USENET group soc.culture.hawaii, asked if anyone had ever been out to Mokoli'i Island (aka Chinaman's Hat) [45K JPG Image] and hiked to its summit. I had kayaked out to the island once before but just circled it in my craft. This past Saturday (5/18/96), accompanied by a Kamehameha school buddy, Bill Melemai, and his 11-year-old son, Willie, I paddled out to the island and made the short, steep ascent to the top of the well-known windward side sight-of-interest.

Earlier that day, Bill, Willie and I had ventured forth on mountain bikes from the Boy Scout camp atop Pupukea along the Palaa Uka Pupukea Road, a coral gravel-covered mountain byway, to an exit point along Kamehameha Highway near Chun's Reef, a popular surfing spot between Haleiwa and Waimea Bay. (If anyone wants to read about that adventure, let me know).

With our mountain biking adventure behind us, Bill and I decided to pick up our kayaks (Bill has a two-person boat and I have a single-seater) and make the drive over to Kualoa. We arrived there around 4:00 under mostly cloudy skies and with a steady 10-15 mph trade winds pulsing along the windward coastline. Mokoli'i sits about a third of a mile offshore and when the tide is low, one can wade out to the island in waist- to chest-deep water. In our case, the paddle out took about ten minutes.

Because I had never set foot on Mokoli'i before, I was unsure where the best landing place was. After skirting around the right (southern) side of the island and seeing no suitable place to come ashore, I decided that the a low-lying rocky finger on the left (northern) side of the island would be the best place to land our boats. Timing the small swells that rolled in from the north, Bill and Willie in their two-seat kayak and I in my one- man boat made our way to the rocky shore safely.

We dragged our boats to dry ground, put on our hiking boots, and set out to find the trail to Mokoli'i's summit. Near where we landed, a narrow rectangular-shaped cove opened up to open ocean swells from the east. The wall on the right side of the cove looked almost manmade, so straight had it been hammered through years of the constant ebb and flow of the sea.

A clearly discernible path headed around the island's backside. Towering above us at that point was a near-vertical outcropping that sprung forth skyward above the green waters of Kaneohe Bay. Willie pointed out a spot that appeared like a cave 10 feet or so below the north side of the summit. One would have to use ropes to rappel to that point.

We continued our trek around the island, traversing a path along its oceanward side. A sparse corridor of scratchy, dry vegetation (pu kiawe?) lined the path. About 20 feet below us, white-topped trade wind swells launched themselves against the black lava rock shoreline. As we hiked along, we looked upslope for a path to the summit. We thought we spotted one on Mokoli'i's backside but after receiving a slashing from the thorny plant life on our ascent, we decided that this wasn't the way. We descended and continued our circle-island journey.

We found the path to the top on the right (southern) side of the island. The trail ascends through more thorny vegetation, over a couple of short, rocky sections, to the left of two large quite sizable trees (kamani?), and up a final rock face. The 206-foot climb was short (we took less than 10 minutes to get to the top), there were ample hand- and footholds, and because we climbed carefully, we had no problems at all. Having reached the top, we exchanged high-fives and whoops of joy.

The prize for our offshore journey were beautifully cooling trade winds and awesome panoramic views. Directly west was the awesome and mysterious Pu'u Ohulehule (elevation 2,265), guarding the north side of Waikane Valley like a green sentinel. Extending east toward us from Ohulehule was Mo'o Kapu o Haloa Ridge, its highest point, Kanehoalani (elev. 1,900 ft.), watching over the sacred land of Kualoa below it.

Along the shoreline at Kualoa Park [55K GIF Image], several dozen campers and beachgoers, just specks from our vantage point, were enjoying the beauty of the late Saturday afternoon. Just offshore, a couple of novice windsurfers were trying their sails, and a lone snorkler, armed with a Hawaiian sling and floater, prowled the reefs.

Turning away from the onshore magnificence, Willie marvelled at the vastness of the Pacific Ocean to the east and northeast. "It seems to go on forever," he said, his 11-year-old eyes beaming with wonder. I just nodded, recalling similar times of wonder I had had when I was a keiki.

A U.S. Geological Survey benchmark stamp marked the summit, a mostly rocky, windswept place. Several prior visitors had scratched their names in the pohaku at the summit. Seabirds had also left calling cards--white splotches of kukae. Willie also found a sun-worn ti-leaf lei, perhaps another guest's ho'okupu.

When 5:30 neared, we decided it was time to leave. We descended from our temporary summit abode (spotting a tern in a rocky crevice on the way down) and made our way along the shore-facing side of the island to complete our circumnavigation of Mokoli'i. The island isn't very large and I'd estimate that one could complete the loop around it in 10 minutes.

We paddled back to shore, stopping about midway between land and island to turn and absorb the beauty of the offshore world we had just explored.

It was another great day in our wonderful island home.

Return to top | Return to Dayle's Home Page | Email Dayle