Pali Puka is considered one of the more dangerous trails on O’ahu. Most people consider “danger” as just a test of physical strength but sometimes nature outnumbers you, especially with the windy conditions at the Pali, regardless of how physically strong you are.
The trailhead is off to the left side of the Pali Lookout’s parking lot. You’ll find a clearing in the bushes above the rock wall and that’s where the trail starts. You’ll venture through a bamboo forest before you heading up to the ridgeline. From here the trail is pretty clear, follow the ridgeline all the way up until you reach a huge boulder towering over you. This is the end. So now you’ll be wondering, where’s the pali puka? You’re standing on top of it, and you’ll have to step down to your left to the platform below to get an instagram picture of that puka.
The trail itself isn’t that difficult, in fact it’s pretty short. It took my friends and I about 2 hours round trip, but that’s because we took frequent stops to take pictures. I think the trail demands a lot more strategy than strength because of how narrow the ridgeline is. I recommend going on a day with low winds because of how dangerous it can be on a day with full-power. There are parts of the ridge that are pretty thin and even if you’re really careful you could get easily blown off. It’s a long way down and there’s no coming back. People have died on this hike before. There are some parts that aren’t as exposed but for the most part you’re walking on a ridgeline for your ascent and descent.
This hike is not kid-friendly, at least I don’t think it’s worth the risk. I would bring your dog if you feel comfortable with potentially losing him or her. My dog is an experienced hiker and I didn’t take him on this hike because he’s too clumsy and curious that I was worried he might just sniff his way off the cliff (a legitimate concern.)
Parking is available at the Pali Lookout lot, which can get pretty packed on the weekends; so if you have a day off during the week, I’d recommend going then. As usual, don’t leave valuables in the car, and bring a waterbottle with you. You’ll definitely want both hands free while doing this hike, so wear a backpack to carry all of your things. If it’s recently rained in the area, I would wait a week or so because you don’t want a muddy, slippery ridgeline. That’s even more dangerous with windy conditions.
Although the hike is pretty dangerous, it’s definitely worth it. The views are unbelievable and the hike doesn’t get that much traffic compared to others like Makapu’u Lighthouse. It’s also an incredible experience to be at nature’s edge (quite literally,) and feel so vulnerable. Make sure to stop along the way and take lots of pictures and enjoy the moment.