Whether you’re an avid, experienced hiker or just looking for a leisurely morning workout, Oahu has a hike for you. The island offers a wide variety of terrain, from wet rainforest to rocky, volcanic coastline. Here are 10 amazing places to experience the nature of Hawaii.
The 10 Best Hikes on Oahu
- Makapuu Lighthouse Trail
This beginner-friendly, 2-mile hike is perfect for families with young children. The best part is that the entire trail is paved, making it easy for strollers and people with mobility issues. The reward at the top is the famous Makapu Lighthouse built in 1909 and a bird’s eye view of almost all of the winding coast.
During the winter months, the trail in Makapu is one of the best spots on the island to spot migratory humpback whales, and the neighboring islands of Molokai and Lanai can also be seen in the distance on clear days. Get back in your car after the hike and continue down the Kalanianaole Highway for a few miles and enjoy the nearby Makapu Beach Park for some body surfing and sunbathing.
- Diamond Head
The undisputed favorite hike among visitors on Oahu has to be Diamond Head. The proximity of the popular hike to tourist-friendly Waikiki, combined with the jaw-dropping ocean views at the top, has kept people in full force over the years.
Not to mention, as one of Oahu’s most memorable sites, there’s something about seeing a 300,000-year-old volcanic crater that makes you want to climb to the top! Less than a mile each way, the bumpy trail has some steep terrain and relatively no shade, so remember to bring sun protection, water, and appropriate footwear.
- Manoa Falls
Hiking through the Hawaiian rainforest to a hidden natural waterfall should be on everyone’s island bucket list, and the 100-foot Manoa Falls is certainly a great place to complete it. While the trail is well maintained and the entire hike comes in under 2 miles roundtrip, the trail leading up to the legendary waterfall can be steep and rocky enough.
Tough hiking boots are a must and don’t be surprised if you see more than a few hikers wearing ponchos to combat the notoriously wet Manoa weather (which is why it makes up the rainforest). Easy-to-access parking lots and location just 15 minutes from Honolulu’s center make this hike as user-friendly as it is epic.
- Aiea Loop Trail
Located within the Kiwa Hiau State Recreation Area in Aiea, this loop trail is only 5 miles long and will take you along a ridge of historic Halwa Valley. If you’re into trees, this area will be of particular interest, as a variety of lemon eucalyptus, native ohia, koa, and pine trees line the trail. The unique wreckage of the B-24J bomber in the 1944 plane crash was visible off the mark, but it’s nearly impossible to see these days. The hike itself isn’t very strenuous, but it can be muddy with some tough moments, providing a comfortable workout.
- Lanikai Pillboxes
Also known as the Kaiva Ridge Trail (though you’ll rarely hear locals calling it that), the Lanikai Pillbox Hike offers beautiful views of the brightest blue waters on the island. Once you reach the top, get an Instagram-worthy shot of the famous white sands of the Mokulua Islands and Kailua Beach, and spend some time enjoying the breeze while you’re at it. With the trailhead being only walking distance from the nearest beach, don’t be fooled by your fellow hikers in bathing suits and casual sandals—you definitely don’t want to tackle this hike with good grip without closed-toe shoes.
- Ka’ena Point
This isolated trail features not one but two separate trailheads, each from a completely different part of the island. However, both lead to the same place: a protected seabird sanctuary at the western end of Oahu. Hike from Yokohama Bay toward the edge of the island for a dry, warm coastal route filled with switchbacks and volcanic cliffs, or start at Mokulia on the north coast to experience more of the green, sand dune-filled terrain. The two are about 2.5 miles in each direction and be sure to allow enough extra time to explore the seabird sanctuary at the end. This trail has long been considered a local secret, so be sure to be respectful when you visit (and do so before word really gets out).
- Koko Head
With more than 1,000 vertical steps to reach the top, bragging rights are enough to visit the Cocoa Head Trail; And it goes without saying, this hike is best avoided by those who are afraid of heights. The steps are actually old railroads that were erected on the side of the crater during World War II to bring supplies to the military bunkers at the top. You will undoubtedly be trying to break your previous record by running to the top on a regular basis, but fear not, everyone respects each other’s pace at Cocoa Head. The reward, in the end, will be a windy, panoramic view of East Beach below, so be sure to take your time enjoying the top (while you catch your breath).
- Maunawili Falls
An accessible, scenic hike to Maunawili Falls near Kailua is the perfect way to spend a Saturday (as long as you don’t mind a little company). This 2.5-mile round-trip hike is highly trafficked on weekends and people often spend time on their leisure days enjoying the area around the waterfall, although it is quite quiet on weekdays and during the tourist off-season. it happens. Balance is important, as reaching a fall on slippery rocks requires more than a few maneuvers, so sturdy shoes that don’t feel like getting you wet.
- Ka’au Crater
With three separate waterfalls, more than nearly 7 miles of unmarked trail, and an elevation gain of more than 2,000 feet, the Kauai Crater Hike has earned its reputation as one of Oahu’s toughest. Only experienced climbers should attempt to tackle this rocky, slippery trail, as it takes knowledge of the area and some scrambling skill to successfully reach the end. From the top of the extremely narrow ridges, you’ll get a breathtaking view of the eastern side of the island from Upper Palolo, and in less than five hours’ time, your feet will certainly be shaken up after you’re done.
- Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Trail
A ridge hike located in the Hawai Kai neighborhood, overlooking the Kuli’ou Valley, this intermediate trail travels through many different environments including a wooded forest, steep hills with winding roots, and tough, natural vegetation. Takes hikers through. Be prepared for a good workout, though the panoramic views at the summit are well worth the burn. The entire hike stretches for about 2.5 miles through several switchbacks and some more challenging inclines; Once you reach the erosion-proofing stairs, you’ll know you almost made it.
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