Ka’au Crater is a pretty fun hike. In order to see the whole crater, you must hike to the top. You will climb 3 waterfalls, cross the stream several times and walk through the woods. Once you get to the top of the third waterfall or water slide, you can choose to go back down or continue on around the whole rim.
Level: In my opinion, I would say intermediate. Not kid friendly.
Directions: I use navigation and put in Waiomao Rd. It takes you to a road that veers to the right. You will pass a temple. Continue on until you see sign that says kapu or beware of dog. There’s a small parking area on the right. Park there and walk to the set of mailboxes on the left. That’s where the trail starts. Take that left at the boxes and you will immediately be greeted by a rope to go down.
Once you get down the rope, you will come to the stream. Follow the stream and the pink ribbons. You cross the stream numerous times. When you come to the water pipe, use that as a guide.
Eventually you will come to the first waterfall. We stopped here for lunch. There was actually a place to sit and rest for a little. Keep continuing up the trail. And it will take you to the 2nd waterfall. This one there was one section that was a little sketchy. You have to travel across to the 2nd waterfall. Once you are at the top of the 2nd, you will see a Memorial in the rock where someone had died. There was also a recent death and where someone fell, but survived. Don’t lean over too far to get the “perfect” shot! This is my pic of the top…I was too scared to go any closer.You’ll come to the 3rd waterfall or water slide as some may call it. There’s about 3 sections to this one. There’s a lot of rope climbing here.
You do have to cross the water towards the top of the 3rd waterfall. It was flowing pretty good the 2nd time we went. Just be careful and hold onto the rope. The rocks are also quite slick!
Once you get to the top of the waterfall, you can choose to take the trail left to go back or go right to continue around the rim. The first time we took the left to go back down. You will come to an open area where there’s enough room for your group to sit down and take a break-take pics. Then you will continue until you see a pink ribbon to turn left and continue the trail down. From the waterfall to the ribbon is maybe 5-7 minutes depending on how fast you hike. If you miss it, you will be continuing around the rim.
If you go right, the rim is quite long and sketchy in some areas. It was cloudy when we went. When you come to the summit look for the pink ribbon to the left to follow it around.
The whole ridge took us about 7 hours. But remember towards the end to follow the ribbons to the right to go back down. Otherwise you end up at the waterfalls again.
Tips: Wear pants if doing the ridge! The ferns will scratch you. Also we were on our butts a lot going down. There are parts that are windy and can blow you off the ridge. The trail was muddy. I wore Five Fingers and they worked well with the stream crossing and mud. Prepare to spend pretty much a whole day. Bug spray, bring it. Bring about 2 liters of water and snacks. It’s loooonnnggg. We thought it was never ending! Also gloves for the ropes. There’s a lot on the waterfalls and rim. Watch your stepping. There’s some areas where you are near the edge, but super foggy. I’m not sure if it was good or bad that we couldn’t really see anything below us!