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225. ‘Aiea Loop Trail, Aiea, Hawaii

A nearly five-mile path northwest of Honolulu where you can spot honeycreepers, Mariana Swiftlet, and other forest birds.
By Lance Tanino | Published: 12/22/2015

I love ‘Aiea Loop Trail because it’s a one-stop shop for native and introduced forest bird species on the island of Oahu. It’s in a 384-acre park that is a hidden gem on the outskirts of the town of Aiea. (Fun fact: Aiea, pronounced AH-ee-EY-ah, is the only city in the United States whose name is made up only of vowels.)

From the trail, I have seen about 20 species, including the most sought-after island species — ‘Apapane, Oahu ‘Amakihi, and Oahu ‘Elepaio. After the first mile of hiking, I stop at a bench that faces a spectacular view of the northern side of Ko‘olau Mountain and its many ridges. I usually see most birds along the second mile. It’s where I had one of my most memorable sightings of endangered Mariana Swiftlets — a relatively large flock of about 10 birds. The trail is the only reliable location in Hawaii to see the non-native, introduced species — the lone resident member of the Apodidae family in the islands.

One of my favorite sections is at about the halfway point, where the loop trail intersects the 11-mile-long Aiea Ridge Trail. The shaded spot is a good place to have lunch, watch honeycreepers, and take in the breathtaking Halawa Valley.

Lance Tanino operates Manu Conservation Birding and Nature Tours, and he serves on the Hawaii Audubon Society’s board of directors.

225. ‘Aiea Loop Trail, Aiea, Hawaii

Directions

The ‘Aiea Loop Trail is a 4.8-mile path within Keaiwa Heiau State Recreation Area, northwest of Honolulu. From the city, take Interstate H201 west, exit onto Moanalua Rd., go 0.4 miles, and turn right on Aiea Heights Dr. Follow the road for three miles to the recreation area. Continue on the one-way loop to the parking area at the top of the hill.

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At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
21°23’55.20″N 157°54’0.95″W

Habitat

Wet, mesic, mixed native, and introduced forest.

Terrain

Well-maintained trail starts at elevation of 1,068 feet, climbs to 1,587 feet, and snakes along a ridge. Hike not strenuous but involves gradual uphill climbs, a steep switchback, and a stream crossing at the end.

Birds

Year-round: Spotted and Zebra Doves, Mariana Swiftlet (endangered non-native), Red-crowned Parrot, Oahu ‘Elepaio (endangered island endemic), Red-vented and Red-whiskered Bulbuls, Japanese Bush-Warbler, Japanese White-Eye, Red-billed Leiothrix, White-rumped Shama, Common Myna, Red-crested and Northern Cardinals, ‘Apapane (endemic), Oahu ‘Amakihi (island endemic), House Finch, Common Waxbill, Scaly-breasted and Chestnut Munias, Java Sparrow. August through April: Pacific Golden-Plover.

When to go

Year-round. March through June is best. Go in early morning, before clouds and winds increase later in the day.

Amenities

Restrooms and 10 tent campsites available Friday-Wednesday, $12 per campsite per night.

Access

State recreation area. No fees. Open Labor Day to March 31, 7 a.m.-6:45 p.m.; April 1 to Labor Day, 7 a.m.-7:45 p.m.

Tips

Bring mosquito repellant. Be prepared for wet weather and a muddy trail. Conditions can vary from hot and humid to windy and cool.

For more info

‘Aiea Loop Trail
Keaiwa Heiau State Recreation Area 
Hawaii Audubon Society
Native Forest Birds of Hawaii

Sites nearby

Neal Blaisdell Park
Five miles from trail, on the shores of Pearl Harbor. Kolea (Pacific Golden-Plover) in winter and ʻAeo (Hawaii’s subspecies of Black-necked Stilt).

Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden
15.2 miles from trail in Kaneohe. Many introduced urban and forest bird species, endangered Hawaiian Coot.

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