Our Top 5 Picks For The Best Oahu Hikes
5: Manoa Falls Trail
A beautiful 1.6 mile hike on well-maintained trails through lush jungle, bamboo and king fern forests with beautiful scenery, culminating at the base of a 150′ waterfall. Most of the hike is in the shade and there are breathtaking, panoramic views of the valley as you hike uphill. Certain scenes in the movie “Jurassic Park” were filmed here so that gives some idea of the primeval-feeling setting. This hike is not difficult but some areas drop off with no railing and it can be slippery and muddy so wear sturdy footwear (not flip flops) with non skid soles and keep young children close. Note: This trail is not recommended if it’s raining because it gets so muddy. The trail head is located in the hills a few miles east of downtown Honolulu on winding Round Top Drive and there is a small fee for parking.
4: Aiea Loop Trail
This is a fun hike for beginners to intermediate trekkers and it’s fairly safe (no steep drop offs) so good for families with children. The entire loop hike is about 4.5 miles long and mostly shaded with some spectacular views of the valley below. If things are hot and dry in Honolulu this is a great place to get some exercise where it’s cool and shady. The entire hike takes an average of 2 hours…an interesting aside, there is wreckage of a B-24 bomber that crashed in 1944 located just off the trail. The trailhead is located a few miles northwest of downtown Honolulu on Aiea Heights Drive in the Keaiwa Heiau State Recreation Area.
(Insider tip, it’s easiest to park at the top near the bathrooms and walk down to the lower parking area trailhead to start your hike.)
3: Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail
A popular, well-maintained, paved trail that is not too steep or long (2 miles round trip) that boasts fabulous views of the coastline and ocean. Humpback whales are commonly seen in the waters below during the months of December through May so bring your camera and some good binoculars to get a closer look. This is a perfect hike for families with children and the paved trail makes it suitable for strollers. The trail is exposed to the sun and wind so dress accordingly, bring sunscreen, and consider going early or late in the day when it’s cooler. The trailhead is located east of Honolulu on Kalaniana‘ole Highway past Sandy Beach and before Makapu‘u Beach Park.
(Insider tip: About halfway up the trail there is a path that leads down to tide pools at the base of the cliffs. It takes about 1/2 hr. to hike down the side trail and is more rugged so wear sturdy shoes or reef-walkers)
2: Hanauma Bay Ridge Trail
Disclaimer: this trail is actually not legal to hike but it’s still quite popular. It’s easy to understand why with amazing views from all sides including Koko Head Crater and beautiful Hanauma Bay and the surrounding coastline. The trail is paved and it takes about 1/2 hour to hike to the top of the ridge. If you stay on the paved trail it’s a mild to moderate hike and recommended for all ages as well as families with children. There are many side trails but these are not paved and can be steep and tricky to maneuver or even dangerous. Consider going early or late in the day to avoid the midday heat since the entire hike is in the sun. You can park on Nawiliwili St. (off of Kalanianaole St.) and walk towards the bay and look for a trail through the grass to to meet up with the paved path. Park at the Hanauma Bay paid lot and then walk back to the ridge to access the trail.
1: Diamond Head State Monument
A short but steep 1.6 miles (round trip) hike that leads to the top edge of the iconic Diamond Head crater rim. Signs at the trailhead say that the hike takes 1.5–2 hours and recommends that hikers bring water. It is a short but steep hike with a 170 560 ft. elevation gain (total elevation of 762 ft). Although not difficult, the trail is mostly unpaved and traverses uneven rock, ascends 74 steps, and through a tunnel with another steep 99 steps and another small lighted tunnel leading to a narrow staircase (43 steps) inside an artillery platform. The trail culminates at the summit above the observation platform with expansive views of Waikīkī and the Pacific Ocean.
Insider tip: Arrive as early in the day as possible; it will be less crowded and much cooler. Gates open at 6am–last entrance to hike the trail is 4:30pm and the gates close at 6pm.