Hiking Poli Poli is a refreshing retreat filled with sprawling exotics and endemic Hawaiian plants. Sometimes in the belly of a thick cloudbank, other times drenched in sunshine, it is always a fun adventure to visit here with kids.
Location: Waipoli road in Kula
What to bring: drinking water, snacks, sunscreen and a jacket; hiking shoes and brightly colored clothing recommended
Typical weather: foggy, rainy or glaring sun
Best time to go: All day, all year; This is a flash flood area so always check weather advisories.
Difficulty level: Level 3- uneven terrain. slippery footing. Kids ages 5 and up can easily hike this as well as very active 3 and 4 year old kids.
How to get there: take Lower Kula Highway to the intersection with Kekaulike Hwy (377). This is a good spot to meet for groups hiking together. From here to the trailhead, its a 25 minute drive. Take 377 up then turn at the first right onto Waipoli Road. Follow it through the cattle guard and past Alii Kula Lavender Farm. Continue following the road for about 20 minutes until you see the state forest sign stating only 4 wheel drive vehicles past this point. Proceed at your own discretion or park along the roadside and walk the 1/2 mile to the trailhead.
On our adventure here,we heeded the warning, parked in the pullout and walked along the even, flat road. Along the way, we passed several ravines and a hunter in an orange vest carrying a rifle. I remembered seeing a sign: “Kula Forest Reserve: Bird season closed. Pig season open” driving in. We passed a paraglider launch area before reaching the Boundary Trail sign. We descended on a wide, well groomed path through vines and shrubs and the occasional towering pine. I was fascinated with downward facing pink flowers. Upon inspection, it revealed itself to be a passionflower and we soon found vines full of ripening “banana poka” draped alongside the trail.
Native pukiawe shrubs and endemic akala vines also lined the trailside. Parts of the trail looked like a rototiller was taken to it ; we discovered the hoofprints that identified wild pigs as the culprit. We turned back after an hour of exploration; as we hiked out I was already planning our next visit.