14 Amazing Hiking Trails in Oahu

There are an unlimited number of fantastic hiking trails in Oahu. Most people are familiar with only a handful of popular hikes (some are included in my favorites list below!). However, I wanted to find the less trodden path to truly escape the crowds and enjoy the beauty that is unparalleled to Hawaii.

Before you get started hiking on Oahu, be prepared and check out my blog post Everything You Need to Know About Hiking in Hawaii! In addition, always keep in mind that we are a visitor to Hawaii’s ecosystem and to the lands of native residents. Be respectful, be mindful, and leave the island better than you found it. I hope you love these hiking trails in Oahu as much as I do!

NOTE: As of October 15, 2020- Stay up to date on Oahu’s travel guidelines here. Furthermore, consult the Hawaii Travel Requirements website before you plan your trip to any Hawaiian island.

Disclaimer: This post is in no way sponsored. We paid for all the activities mentioned and all opinions are our own. This page may contain affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission (at no extra charge to you) if you make a purchase after clicking my link. Thank you for being a loyal reader!

‘Aiea Loop Trail

Hiking Trails Oahu Aiea Loop Trail

Length: 5 miles (loop)
Difficulty: Moderate
Rating: Family Friendly, Fairly Active Hiker
Location/Parking: Keaiwa Heiau State Recreation Area

The ‘Aiea Loop trail is a lesser known trail to Oahu visitors. In comparison to other popular hikes on the island, this trail doesn’t offer much as far as epic views are concerned. However, you will be surrounded by the Hawaiian rainforest. You’ll also be rewarded with a few peek-a-boo views of the iconic H3 highway and Pearl Harbor.

TIP: Park at the lower parking lot close to the campground. Although you’ll have to walk uphill to the trailhead, when you finish the loop, it will dump you out at the campground. Then, you won’t have to hike uphill to your car AFTER the hike!

Once could argue that the trail leans more towards “easy” in difficulty. But, after a rain it can get very muddy and become strenuous. The ‘Aiea Loop trail is easy to follow and takes you into the solitude of the jungle! The trailhead also has ample parking and a restroom.

TIP: Keep your eyes peeled for the remnants of a B-24 bomber that crashed in 1944!

Makapu’u Point Lighthouse

Length: 2.5 miles (out and back)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Rating: Family Friendly, Stroller Friendly
Location/Parking: Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline

The Makapu’u Lighthouse trail is one of my favorite hiking trails in Oahu! During the winter months (November-April) humpback whales can be spotted from the trail! There isn’t anything more exciting than watching whales breach while you’re hiking!

TIP: The gate to the parking lot doesn’t open until 7AM, so if you want to hike at sunrise, just park along the road (don’t leave any belongings in your car!).

Because the trail is paved and fairly short, it’s considered to be an easy hike in Oahu. It’s also very popular with visitors and locals alike. Therefore, the trail tends to be crowded, especially in the early morning hours. However, the trail is wide and there are a lot of spots along the way to take a break. Don’t forget to catch your breath and enjoy the 360 degree views of the ocean on the way up!

There is a moderate scramble leading away from the trail that leads you to tide pools. This is a popular side trail, however, do this with caution at your own risk!

TIP: There are no restrooms or a place to re-fill water at this trailhead!

Ka’ena Point

Ka'ena Point Hiking Trail Oahu

Length: 5 to 6 miles (out and back)
Difficulty: Moderate
Rating: Family Friendly, Fairly Active Hiker
Location/Parking: Ka’ena Point State Park

There are two ways to hike to Ka’ena Point. You can start from the North Shore (Mokule‘ia) or from the west/south side (Keawaula Section). We enjoy the west/south side more because of the cliffside trail and stunning views of the Wai‘anae Mountain range in the distance.

TIP: Since 2020 (on the west/south side), the road leading to the trail has been closed. Therefore, you’d have to park along the street and walk an additional mile (along the road or along the beach) to reach the trailhead. Be sure to park within the confines of the white lines or you could be ticketed!

Both trails are about the same distance and difficulty level. The trail is fairly straightforward and doesn’t vary in elevation. However, once you reach the bird sanctuary at the end, the path does take you through sand and rocks.

Every time we have hiked this side, we’ve spotted Hawaiian Monk Seals, Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, and Laysan Albatross! Also, in the winter, we’ve enjoyed sightings of the Humpback Whales. It’s truly a wildlife paradise. Because the bird sanctuary is at the end of the trail, dogs are not allowed.

TIP: There is little to no shade along the trail! Bring lots of water and sunscreen with you!

Diamond Head Summit Trail

Diamond Head Hiking Trail Oahu

Length: 1.6 miles (out and back)
Difficulty: Moderate
Rating: Family Friendly, Fairly Active Hiker
Location/Parking: Diamond Head State Monument

Diamond Head is one of Hawaii’s most recognizable landmarks. The short, but fairly steep climb to the crater is on nearly every visitor’s hiking list. Due to the ease of accessibility this trail is considered an easy hike on Oahu.

TIP: Beginning 04/19/2021, all non-Hawaii resident visitors to Diamond Head State Monument will be required to purchase both Entrance tickets (per person) and Parking ticket (per vehicle) unless arriving on-foot. Children 3 years old and under are free. *CREDIT CARD ONLY*

The beginning of the Diamond Head Summit Trail is a paved walking path that takes you to the base of the crater. From there, the trail becomes uneven and the switchbacks gently bring you to the top. This portion of the trail is not stroller friendly and be challenging for older or younger family members.

To reach the viewing platform, there are a few steep stairs. Other small stops along the stairwells give you sweeping views of the coastline, including Diamond Head Lighthouse. Once you return from your climb, don’t forget to grab some pineapple Dole Whip or mango Dole Whip from the food truck nearby!

Crouching Lion

Crouching Lion Oahu
Photo by Chelsea Stratso Photography

Length: 0.4 mile (out and back)
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Rating: Adventurous Hiker
Location/Parking: Ahupuaʻa ʻO Kahana State Park (parking is on the side of the road near Kahana Bay)

Most of the best hikes on Oahu are illegal or dangerous. Technically, Crouching Lion isn’t illegal, but it is classified as “closed” as of April 2021. Be respectful of the laws and residents that live on Oahu.

We opted to have our 10 year vow renewal photographed at the top of Crouching Lion! The panoramic views of Kahana Bay and the Ko’olau Mountain Range are unparalleled.

The trail is straight uphill from the start and it’s very loose and slippery. You’ll want to wear sturdy shoes and have both of your hands free to use tree roots and existing ropes to pull yourself up. It’s also not a bad idea to bring trekking poles to use on your way back down the steep cliffside.

DO NOT attempt this hike if it is raining or has rained recently. This trail is not suitable for pets or young children.

TIP: DO NOT leave anything in your car. The parking area along the road across from the trailhead is a known hot-spot for petty theft.

Special thanks so our talented photographer, Chelsea Stratso Photography! Definitely look her up if you are searching for a photographer while in Hawaii!

Pu’u O’ Hulu

Pu'u 'O Hulu Hiking Trail Oahu

Length: 1.6 miles (out and back)
Difficulty: Moderate
Rating: Fairly Active Hiker, Adventurous Hiker
Location/Parking: Parking is on side of the road (Kaukama Street in Nanakuli)

Pu’u O Hulu, also known as the pink pillbox hike, offers stunning views of the leeward side. The climb to the pillboxes consists of many switchbacks and rocky terrain. Be extremely cautious when hiking along the cliff’s edge!

TIP: Check out this hike during the winter months (November-April) for an excellent opportunity to see humpback whales!

There are numerous pillboxes or bunkers to explore once you reach the top. Each bunker has murals, quotes, and depictions of local culture. Of all the hiking trails in Oahu, Pu’u O Hulu is a great bang for you buck! However, you will be sharing the view with A LOT of people if you choose to enjoy this easy hike for sunset.

TIP: We’ve seen countless car break-ins. Unfortunately, thieves target rental cars. Therefore, DO NOT leave anything in your vehicle.

Kuaokala Trail

Kuaokala Loop Hiking Trail Oahu

Length: 4.7 miles (out and back)
Difficulty: Moderate
Rating: Fairly Active Hiker, Adventurous Hiker
Location/Parking: Kuaokala and Mokuleia Forest Reserve Access via Kaena Point Tracking Station

Kuaokala trail is a best kept secret on the island of Oahu. It’s secluded and rarely frequented by tourists because a permit is required to access the trailhead. The trail is located on a military station on the leeward side of the island.

TIP: Go to trails.ehawaii.gov to book your permit to hike this trail and pay the $2.50 fee. Don’t forget to bring your photo ID and a copy of your rental car info/insurance to check in at the gate.

The path can be connected to a service road that loops back to the parking area, however, the last half of the loop is not scenic and is much more difficult climbing through deep road ruts. It’s better to save time and energy to hike this as an out and back trail instead of a loop.

Although, the Kuaokala trail is a bit lengthy, the solitude and views make up for it. The Waianae Mountain Range and ocean views definitely make this a must-do easy hike in Oahu!

Manoa Cliff and Pauoa Flats Trail

Manoa Cliffs Hiking Trail Oahu

Length: 4.2 miles (out and back)
Difficulty: Moderate
Rating: Fairly Active Hiker
Location/Parking: Puʻu ʻUalakaʻa State Wayside (Round Top Drive)

The Manoa Cliff trail is a loop that is less than 3 miles, however, we combined the Pauoa Flats trail for more epic views of the mountains. In total, these two hikes combined were a little over 4 miles out and back.

We began the hike early and were rewarded with an empty trail and colorful sunrise. The peek-a-boo scenes of Manoa valley and the distant mountain ridges are stunning. There’s also an abundance of flora and fauna, such as the fiddlehead fern and bamboo.

TIP: The trail can be muddy, so be sure to bring sturdy shoes and bug spray!

Hanauma Bay Ridge Trail

Hanauma Bay Ridge Trail Hiking Oahu

Length: 4-5 miles (loop)
Difficulty: Moderate
Rating: Fairly Active Hiker, Adventurous Hiker
Location/Parking: Hanauma Bay State Park (or park on neighboring side street)

Hanauma Bay Ridge trail is definitely one of my absolute favorites on the island! Not only do you have a bird’s eye view of the iconic Hanauma Bay, but also a gorgeous perspective of Koko Crater.

This trail has everything you could hope for when hiking in Hawaii, but it is exposed and can get very hot. Stay hydrated!

TIP: This trail is listed as “closed”. Hike at your own risk, however be respectful of Hawaii and its residents.

Want to know every detail about what to expect for this hike? Check out my blog post all about Hiking the Hanauma Bay Ridge Trail to learn more!

Waipuilani Falls

Waipuilani Falls Hiking Trails Oahu

Length: 2 miles (out and back)
Difficulty: Moderate
Rating: Fairly Active Hiker
Location/Parking: Nuʻuanu Pali State Wayside (Park at the Pali Lookout)

Out of all the waterfall hikes in Oahu, this one is my favorite (so far)! I still remember being in complete awe when I saw the sheer steepness of this waterfall. Not only is the waterfall exceptional, the trail is one of the quietest on the island.

When hiking Waipuilani Falls trail, I’ve only ever seen a handful of people on the trail. Also, we’ve never had to share the falls with anyone else. However, due to the less trafficked trail, it can be difficult to follow.

I would bring a downloaded trail map on your phone to be sure you haven’t accidentally wandered off onto a hunter’s trail. The trails are marked with flags, however, some of them have the same colors and it’s difficult to distinguish between them.

TIP: Bring a bit of rope or poles to help climb into the cave that is located at the base of the waterfall!

Makiki Valley Loop Trail

Makiki Valley Hiking Trails Oahu

Length: 3-4 miles (loop)
Difficulty: Moderate
Rating: Family Friendly, Fairly Active Hiker
Location/Parking: Drive to the Hawaii Nature Center (Park at lot on the left and take the Makiki Arboretum Trail.)

Makiki Valley Loop actually consists of a few other trails that just connect with each other. If you’re looking for a well-covered rainforest hike, this one is for you!

TIP: Although this is a less popular Oahu hike, the parking was full by 10AM! Be sure to start on the hike early!

This trail consists of overgrowth foliage, tree roots, and creeks. The trail can be challenging due to the rugged terrain. Watch your step and bring trekking poles, if you have them! This hike provides plenty of shade and is enjoyable during the summer months.

TIP: Travel clockwise to avoid going downhill on a slippery incline.

Waimea Falls

Waimea Falls Hiking Trails Oahu

Length: 2 miles (out and back)
Difficulty: Easy
Rating: Family Friendly, Stroller Friendly
Location/Parking: Waimea Valley

Waimea Falls is located inside the botanical gardens of Waimea Valley. This waterfall is definitely one of the easiest hikes on the North Shore.

Waimea Valley Trail is honestly more of a botanical walk instead of a hike. The path is paved and isn’t too steep. Although it can be bustling with tourists and less rugged than other trails on the island, it is still one of the best waterfall hikes in Oahu!

Enjoy the side trails and paths that lead into various sections of the garden on your way to the falls! You’re likely to spot birds, butterflies, and plenty of blooming flowers.

TIP: The fee for entrance to the botanical garden is $20 per adult and $12 per child, however, you can swim at the falls for free! Be sure to bring your swimsuit and a change of clothes. In addition, bring sunscreen, an umbrella, and bug spray!

Koko Crater Stairs

Koko Crater Stairs Hiking Trails Oahu

Length: 1.6 miles (out and back)
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Rating: Fairly Active Hiker, Adventurous Hiker
Location/Parking: Koko Head District Park

Koko Crater Stairs is on almost everyone’s Hawaii hikes bucket list. But, should you do it? Honestly, this trail felt more like a workout than a hike. The views are phenomenal and that alone is worth doing the hike. However, the trail is simply a steep, straight line and you’re sharing it with a ton of other people.

TIP: Unlike other hikes on the island, Koko Crater has ample parking and a restroom.

There isn’t much shade and parts of the railroad track “stairs” are under repair. The tracks occasionally have open dips underneath and if you’re the least bit nervous about heights, it’s enough to rattle you a bit.

As far as Honolulu hikes go, Koko Crater Stairs is a great option to do at least once- just to say you tackled it!

Ehukai Pillboxes

Ehukai Pillbox Hiking Trails Oahu

Length: 2-3 miles (loop)
Difficulty: Moderate
Rating: Family Friendly, Fairly Active Hiker
Location/Parking: Park at ‘Ehukai Beach Park and walk across the street or park at Sunset Beach Neighborhood Park.

‘Ehukai trail is a lesser known pillbox hike on the island. The trail is good for bringing your kiddos or pets along because the trail isn’t very steep. When you reach the first pillbox, enjoy stunning views of the North Shore.

The pillbox overlook is a perfect spot to watch the surfers catch a big one on the most popular surfing beaches on the island! North Shore’s Pipeline and Sunset beach are full of talented surfers during the winter months (and the rest of the year, too!).

TIP: To check out pillbox #2, stay to the left left of the first pillbox for about 10 min.

This is a great trail for families and dogs. Be sure to hike with caution because the trail can become very slippery when it has recently rained. To avoid the crowds at Lanikai, give ‘Ehukai a try! It’s a great alternative for an easy hike on Oahu!

Lanikai Pillbox, Manoa Falls, Kuliouou Ridge, and Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail are just a handful that we haven’t hiked yet, but would love to! We are hoping to add these to our list of hiking trails in Oahu soon! What hikes have you explored in Oahu? Let me know in the comments below!

More Hawaii Blog Posts:

Did you enjoy this read? Please share and pin for later!

Breannahttps://thegoldenhouradventurer.com
Howdy! I’m Breanna and I’m intensely passionate about creativity, outdoor exploration, and food! My goal is to inspire you to embrace your adventurous side and experience the joy of God’s earth through my lens. 🙂

Related Stories

spot_img

Search

Follow Us

Subscribe

Popular Categories

Recent Posts

The Most Incredible Horseback Riding Tours in Oahu

An Oahu horseback riding tour should be on every visitor's must-do list! Most people imagine the beaches when they think of Hawaii. Although, the...

Best Snorkeling in Oahu

Snorkeling in Oahu is one of the most incredible water activities to do on your Hawaii vacation! The best places to snorkel in Oahu...

14 Amazing Hiking Trails in Oahu

There are an unlimited number of fantastic hiking trails in Oahu. Most people are familiar with only a handful of popular hikes (some are...

Comments

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here