The tropical beauty of Hawaii is what sets the island apart from so many other destinations around the world. I had the privilege of living on the beautiful island of Oahu for 4 years and hands down, my favorite activity was experiencing the picturesque views from hikes. When friends and family would come to visit, it became my mission to play tour guide and find the best hiking spots in the area to show off the incredible views.
There are TONS of hikes to choose, from simple paved roads to scary steep drop offs. Whether you are a casual stroller or like a daring adventure, there are trails for everyone. After spending years trying to test them all, I would consider these my top 10 hikes on Oahu.
If you are looking for a fairly easy trail I would suggest doing this hike. You start off in the middle of the Diamond Head crater and make your way up about 500 feet. The trail is a little steep, but it's a simple dirt path leading up to two staircases towards the end. Be aware that this hike is very popular and can get extremely crowded, especially at the staircases. At the top you will take in a 360 view of Oahu. The views at the end are amazing, however if you’re looking for something more adventurous, this may not be the best fit for you.
This is not exactly a normal hike, it is constructed of steep steps ... 1,048 steps to be exact. I'm exhausted just thinking about it, but it leads to the most incredible view, that is 100% worth it. This hike is definitely an intense workout, but the views are ones that can’t be missed on the island. Make sure to take your time as the steps get steeper and steeper as you go up and you will get worn out if you do not pace yourself. Don’t forget to bring lots of water. =) Once you reach the top you can sit and catch your breath as you take in the unbelievable backdrop. I can't even count how many times I did this hike while living on the island, that is how special it is!
This is a very easy hike and a great place for strollers and dogs, as it is a short 3.3 miles round trip on a wide paved road with a slight incline. During season you may spot some whales as you make your way up this trail. At the top you will get some great photos of the lighthouse and if you walk up to the metal platform at the end, you will take in breathtaking views of Makapu’u beach. My favorite part of this hike is the tide pools. Not many visitors know about these gems. Once you reach the whale signs you can climb down the rocks and swim in the tide pools. Follow the white arrows spray painted on the rocks which will lead you to the pools. Make sure you are wearing good shoes and take your time going down, as the loose gravel under your feet could make you slip.
This is my favorite hike on Oahu. The surrounding area feels like you are hiking through a rain forest. I highly suggest wearing shoes you do not mind getting wet, as you will have to cross multiple rivers throughout the hike. If it has been raining be aware that it will be EXTREMELY muddy. The first time I went on this hike my shoes kept getting stuck in the mud and we were slipping and sliding everywhere. It is part of the fun =) If you want to walk on flat smooth ground, make sure it has not rained prior to going. At the end of the hike you will reach a beautiful waterfall. If you're up for an adventure you have the option of jumping from the side of the waterfall.
This is also a beautiful hike where you feel like you’re in a jungle surrounded by lush green trees and a variety of plants. This trail also gets muddy during rainy weather, but it is a bit easier than Maunawili trail, with a tall slow trickling waterfall at the end. Scenes from the movie Jurassic Park and the TV show Lost were filmed here.
Also known as Crouching Lion Trail. This is one of the scariest hikes I have ever done (take that with a grain of salt, as I am very scared of heights =)) but also one of the most rewarding. The views you get on this side of the island are unbeatable. The trail goes up and down the ridge line and has steep drop offs. I suggest only doing this hike if you’re an experienced hiker and preferably not afraid of heights.
This hike has been closed for some time (aka illegal) and during a storm in 2015 the stairway was damaged, which makes it even more dangerous now. I'm not completely promoting this hike, but if you are looking for an adrenal rush, this is the toughest hike on Oahu. The hike is 4,000 STEEP steps up a steel staircase. This staircase was built for Military to reach a radio station antennae during World War II. We lived on the Island before the stairs were damaged and snuck up onto the hike in the middle of the night to make it up for sunrise. It truly was a hike of a lifetime.
This is not a true hike, but more of a walk through a giant botanical garden. This is a great option for anyone who cannot hike, but wants to see the beautiful outdoors of Oahu. There is also a 50 foot waterfall at the end where you can get in and swim.
The Lanikai pillboxes were originally used as military observation stations during World War II. This is a moderate hike with breathtaking views. It is a bit of a rocky climb to the top. I recommend going to the second pillbox as you will get better views of Kailua, Lanikai beach and the Mokulua islands. Make sure to wear good shoes as the gravel makes it a bit slippery heading back down.
The start of this hike begins at the Hanauma Bay entrance. This is not a tough hike, but has steep hills so it is a bit of a workout. There is very limited shade, so make sure to bring plenty of water. The best time for this hike, for best temperatures and views, is at sunrise. Many people do this hike for the rock bridge, which is very fun, but if you decide to venture out onto the rock make sure to check the tide chart and be cautious of your surrounding! There have been reports of injuries due to people not being careful.
Check out Best-of-Oahu for more information on all of these hikes. Length, difficulty, history etc.
Would love to hear about your experience if you have done any of these hikes. If you need further direction as to where to park, specific locations, etc., drop a comment below!