HIKE: Friendship Garden, Kāneʻohe, O‘ahu
WHEN: June 2015
LENGTH: 0.6 mile
FEATURES: Short hike with great views of Kāneʻohe Bay, historic, great for kids, pet-friendly
Dog owners are always on the lookout for pet-friendly hikes.
So when I heard about a little-used trail in Kāneʻohe that allows leashed dogs, I quickly put it on my #40Trails list.
But the Friendship Garden wasn’t exactly what I had expected.
For starters, it has a very interesting history.
The sign at the start of the trail.
Turns out, this 10-acre on the slopes above Kāneʻohe Bay — above the Kokokahi YWCA — is a garden created for the residents of this small, 87-lot subdivision developed in 1927 as Hawai‘i’s first interracial community. This garden was built as a place of peace and tranquility, to be enjoyed by everyone.
There’s a teahouse, a banyan valley, bamboo grove and less than a mile of non-stenuous hiking trails that offer stunning views of Windward O‘ahu.
It’s hard to believe there was a need to create a multiracial community in such a multiracial place. But back in 1927, Rev. Theodore Richards, who was then the principal at Kamehameha Schools, and his wife, Mary Atherton, purchased 41 acres here and built Kokokahi (which means “of one blood” in Hawaiian). At the time most people lived in camps or areas segregated by race. But not here.
The garden fell into disrepair, especially after World War II. In 1973 Jack Gillmar and his wife, Janet, took out a 50-year lease for the garden, at $1 a year, promising to restore it. In 1998 a nonprofit was set up and the garden was deeded to it.
Today, volunteers maintain the trail and the nonprofit, Friendship Garden Foundation, collects donations for its upkeep.
The trailhead starts in this community, at the top bend of Kokokahi Place just off Kāneʻohe Bay Drive, mauka of Kokokahi YWCA.
There’s hardly any parking here — see above — so you’ll need to find a spot in this residential area and walk.
Once you get here, though, the trail is well marked, with signage and even a pavilion where you can learn more about the gardens and pick up a map of the trails.
If you see this, you’re at the right spot!
Inside the pavilion is a bulletin board with stories and information about the gardens. It’s worth stopping here to read about it.
Here’s the map of the trails. There are several ways to navigate this area.
As you can see from the above map, there’s an upper and lower loop. The view that everyone raves about is located at the upper left-hand corner of the map, labeled as “ridge lookout.” Just keep heading to the left and you’ll see it.
It’s easy to get there, too. It took us maybe 15 minutes total to reach the top.
The trail meanders along several switchbacks to the ridge lookout.
Taro vine — one of many various plants and trees in this thought-out but non-manicured garden.
The bamboo grove heading toward the ridge lookout.
I loved seeing red hibiscus on the trail. Nice pop of color!
The trail takes you through groves of macadamia, banyan, mahogany, strawberry guava and eucalyptus trees, many of them marked with plaques.
And soon enough — like, in 15 minutes — you’re approaching the top.
Part of the well-worn trail to the lookout.
The last push to the clearing.
The ridge lookout is pretty nice, though the views of Kāneʻohe Bay aren’t as spectacular as the ones from the pillboxes at the end of Puʻu Māʻeliʻeli in Temple Valley. But the trail is easier and shorter and you’ll likely run into way fewer people along the way.
Here’s the view.
Of course, we brought champagne! This bottle came from one of our winery visits in the Russian River Valley, Calif.
OK, so here’s where the trail got interesting.
If you look on the hand-drawn map, you’ll see the ridge lookout in the upper left-hand corner, then the Talbott Trail starts here, through a grove of Norfolk pines.
We had initially walked along that trail before heading to the lookout when a couple with a dog stopped us and said that wasn’t a trail. In fact, the woman told us it was dangerous.
But I looked at the map again. Wasn’t that the Talbott Trail? Isn’t it just another half-mile loop back to the start?
We started up that trail, thinking it was going to lead back to the trailhead — and our car — and it didn’t.
But it turns out, this is a whole ‘nother trail, called Oneawa Hills, which heads along the ridge and away from Kokokahi.
But it was a marked trail and well-worn, so we didn’t hesitate.
See? It’s marked!
This is a more challenging hike, with steep sections that required some tree-gripping along the way.
But stops along the way offered even better views of Windward O‘ahu — we were even higher above the tree line — and the 800-acre Kawai Niu Marsh (above), the largest wetlands in Hawai‘i.
Here’s a better view of Kāneʻohe Bay.
The Oneawa Hills trail is not as well-used as the ones throughout the Friendship Garden, but it’s obvious people still hike through here fairly regularly.
We kept trudging along, passing telephone poles and reaching what appeared to be a communications tower of some sorts surrounded by a fence.
Here’s one of the telephone poles we followed along the trail.
We walked along the fence to find the rest of the trail. It’s there, on the other side of the fence.
There’s another clearing here, which offers sweeping views of the opposite side of Kāneʻohe.
We made our way down a very steep, slippery trail — still marked! — past the fence, down toward another residential community. Not the only where I had parking my car.
The marked trail leading down the ridge.
It’s not a hard trail, but it is steep on the descent. I slide a few times, so be careful and wear shoes with good traction.
I’m not sure if we actually did the official Oneawa Hills trail, since we didn’t hit a rope section or any great views of Kapa‘a Quarry and the green-colored pool that lies below it. But we did follow the ribbons and wound up in someone’s backyard. (We tend to do that often.)
The end of the trail — is here.
We ended up in a residential community about a mile away from our car.
We popped out on Nāmoku Street, close to Bay View Golf Course, and had to walk all the way back to my car, parking the slope of Kokokahi Place.
It was a brutal walk, so long, in fact, I almost considered catching the bus back.
It’s funny — I had commented to my husband at the ridge lookout that I didn’t even need to wear shoes on this hike, it was so easy and quick. And here we were, two hours later, walking along Kāneʻohe Bay Drive with no water on one of the hottest days in June.
At least we could laugh about it — and got a decent workout, too.
VERDICT: The Friendship Garden is a great trail for families and dog owners who are looking for an easy, safe and short hike with a nice view. I’d recommend touring the gardens more — there’s a Japanese teahouse that we never saw before we took the wrong trail — and quiet spots to sit and relax. If you’re planning to do the Oneawa Trail, might be good to pack some water.
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