A Spiritual Hike Along the Very Special, Hard-to-Access Palehua Trail
Where we remember to ask for permission and give thanks
There is always something extra amazing about doing something that’s exclusive, even forbidden. That’s why Eve ate the apple, American travelers have long secretly visited Cuba, and there’s a coterie of foodies who entrust their lives with a chef in order to eat blowfish. Well, we felt a kinda similar vibe high while in Oahu when we had the opportunity to hike the private and therefore hard-to-access Palehua trail. Located in the western part of the Hawaiian island of Oahu, the hike is sacred to Hawaiians and overlooks Nanakuli and Wai’anae. That means tourists and plenty of locals may know about the sweeping, unobstructed sea views, but few have made the journey.
Until now. The brand spanking new Four Seasons at Ko’Olina has created a relationship with “Anu” also known as Thomas Anuheali’i, the Palehua Ranch caretaker and his non profit that brings local Hawaiian students onto the land to learn about the sacred history. Exclusive to guests like myself and only via preplanned and coordinated hikes, Anu led me and few other guests along a private 6-mile road, past two gates to begin this special adventure.
We officially entered the ranch property once we passed the first gate. Anu led us to a clearing where horses roamed, their pony tails switching in the wind as the air blew noticeably cooler. Together we asked the land for permission — something we all could make a better habit of — to be cognizant of it not being a place for us to just take from.
From there Anu took us beyond the second gate to where where three satellite towers stand. The trailhead is located just to the right of the towers. Down a steep hill and some masterfully carved out stairs (thank you, Anu!) we descended, crossing a metal gate designed to keep wild boars out and set out along the trail listening to the land and Anu’s wisdom. As we quietly walk, he has us notice the sound of the wind up here mimics the sound of the crashing waves of the ocean below. He tells us the great stories of the ancient chiefs dating back 450 years, of the beautiful meanings of Hawaiian names and how every person eventually grows into the meaning of their name. As we pass native trees and plants Anu asks the question many native Hawaiians battle with as descendants and other folk who settle onto the island: Do you want to pay for something, or do you want to grow something? Powerful stuff to think about when so connected to the majesty of this primordial land.
We weave and wind up, up, up to reach the end of the trail. But not before leaning on a fertility tree for a bit, just because, well, why not?! At the tippy top, we overlook the Lualualei Valley with 360 degrees of landscape and cloud-cleared views of the Waianae coast. In the far distance we can make out sister islands that reach as far as Molokai.
Anu gently suggests we sit and really take in the moment. We all find a rock or space within the clearing and close our eyes. Anu begins chanting or calling out in Hawaiian dialect as we sit in meditation for a magical five minutes — listening to the wind, the waves, the birds, the ghosts, our breath — before quietly rising to return again to the cushy contemporary realities of the Four Seasons.