The Lost Palace

Very little about this trip played out as planned so lets start with something that did. If you find yourself on the North Shore around 6 a.m. then go to Lāʻie Point. I can’t imagine a better place to watch the sunrise, even if a torrential downpour is just over the horizon.

For us the downpour wasn’t just over the horizon, it was right on top of our heads. That made things complicated in a couple of ways. The first was that the roads on the North Shore started flooding which made getting around pretty complicated. The second was that most of the popular hiking trails were washed out and muddy within hours.

Determined to get an epic hike in, we drove to the Pali Notches in hopes that the weather was nicer as we move inland. It wasn’t. The trail was muddy and in places almost collapsing. Coming from Utah, where established trails are constantly being destroyed by careless hikers, we decided that we didn’t want to risk harming a trail that was struggling to sustain itself in the heavy rain.

So what did we do? One option was to just sit at the viewpoint and soak up that rain washed landscape (which we did). Another was to drive until we had reception and start Googling for another more stable trail to hike (we did that also).

Fastforward 40 minutes and we had a destination picked out. The summer palace of Kamehameha III of wasn’t far from where we were, and the directions were vague at best, which gave it an air of mystery and intrigue, how could we say “no?”

One fallen tree on the road, one mudpit for a parking lot, and one unmarked bamboo forest and we were on our way! It took close to an hour to find our bearings, even though we were following our sparse instructions closely. Walk through an unmarked clearing, follow the bamboo forest, cut along a broken pipe, pray that the bamboo clears up eventually, and voila! We had found the palace!

Surrounded by crumbling walls and a garden courtyard was what remained of a small, celebratory palace. The monument stone in front described the old families and massive parties that the palace had hosted. Behind the palace walls lay what appeared to be a covered over well or pit-fire; in front there were trees with funerary messages tied to their branches. Even though the ruins were only 200 years old, it felt like discovering the remnants of an ancient civilization. We had traded one of the most popular hikes in Hawaii for something that was private and secluded and I think we were better for it.

In an equally adventurous conclusion to the day we managed to find our way to the nearby waterfalls. They were similarly unmarked and in a lot of ways more private than the palace. It was the first time we’d hiked to a destination that really felt like it had been unvisited for years, making it a truly unique experience that I’ll never forget.