Magazine article Sunset

Island's End: Pick Your Trail to Oahu's Western Tip for Wildlife, Explosive Surf ... Perhaps Ghosts

Magazine article Sunset

Island's End: Pick Your Trail to Oahu's Western Tip for Wildlife, Explosive Surf ... Perhaps Ghosts

Article excerpt

Even on a calm day, Kaena Point emits a sense of physical and spiritual energy. The rugged west and north shores of Oahu converge here, at the tip of the volcanic Waianae Range. The point itself is a massive coral sand bluff that narrows to a reef as it slips needlelike into the sea amid waves and colliding currents. Hawaiians believed that it was a jumping-off point into the otherworld for souls of the recently dead.

Compared to the populous hubbub of downtown Honolulu barely 40 miles to the southeast, Kaena Point Natural Area is otherworldly Some of the largest waves in the world assault the point from late October into March. Primarily north swells, they can be 50 feet high.

The biggest waves roll into the north side of the point, then wrap around to batter the west shore. But sometimes massive winter swells converge on the island's tip from the north, west, and south, in collisions that rocket sea spray 100 feet into the air. The roar of the crashing surf--though safely offshore--can be deafening, making conversation longer than an ooh or aah difficult to understand. In the brief interludes between breaking waves, gentle sounds emerge: the clickety-clack of lava boulders being pushed by surging whitewater, tradewinds whipping across dry dune grasses.

This time of year listen too for the shrills of Laysan albatross huddling over their chicks. Like the Kaena akoko, an endangered plant related to euphorbia, the birds find protection here in this refuge for native Hawaiian plant and animal species. …

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