Exploring Paradise: The Best Hikes on Oahu

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If you are looking for some of the best hikes on Oahu that offer incredible views, you have come to the right place. We will go over the top 6 best hikes on Oahu with details about the hike, its length, difficulty, and what to expect on the trail.

We will also touch on hiking safety, what you need on your hikes, Oahu’s culture and history, and the best time to visit these iconic trails. So, let’s break it down and find the best hikes on Oahu to suit what you’re looking for out of this rewarding experience.

Hiking in Oahu

Oahu landscape
Image Credit: The Travel Scrapbook.

Oahu has some of the most stunning hikes in all of Hawaii. With its lush green landscapes and scenic blue water views, it’s no wonder that hiking in Hawaii is so popular among tourists and locals. If you are looking for the best views on Oahu, hiking is one of the best ways to see all the beauty that Hawaii offers. When searching for some of the best hikes on Oahu, it’s important to consider what you are looking for out of your hiking experience regarding difficulty, length, and views.

Make sure to check if your trail has seasonal closures or is having maintenance by checking the updates online before you go. This will also provide you with any information you need to know about the trail before heading out such as the need for permits or possible weather concerns. Be sure to respect the trail, review hiking safety, and come prepared so you have a memorable and enjoyable experience.

What You Need Hiking in Oahu

Due to Oahu’s incredible mountain ranges, such as the Ko’olau Range and Waianae Range, some trails can be steep and have uneven terrain. When planning your packing list for Hawaii, here are some of the top items you need for the best hikes on Oahu:

These are some recommendations for some essentials you will need when exploring the best hikes on Oahu. It is important to wear the proper footwear when hiking in Oahu due to the uneven terrain on many trails, and bringing plenty of water! 

The sun is strong on this magical island, so it is very easy to get dehydrated and sunburnt if you aren’t prepared with sunscreen. Due to the climate being somewhat unpredictable, it is important to bring layers and moisture-resistant clothing. Lastly, bug spray is a must if you are hiking in the rainforest!

Hiking Safety

Oahu landscape
Image Credit: The Travel Scrapbook.

When hiking in Oahu, being aware of your surroundings is also important. Due to these lush majestic mountain ranges, many hikes can have steep drop-offs, which can be dangerous if you are not careful. Never get too close to the edge on one of these hikes, we promise you will get an incredible view of the emerald-green cliffs and scenic Hawaiian coastlines without risking your safety. 

Make sure to have a fully charged cell phone with a GPS to monitor your route. It is also important to tell somewhere where and when you plan on hiking before you embark on your journey. Consider a portable charger and a GPS device to help you navigate more remote areas. 

If there has been heavy rainfall in the areas recently, it is important to check online if this hike has a risk of flash flooding. Overall, hiking in Oahu can be a very safe experience as long as you are adequately prepared and take the necessary precautions.

Oahu’s History and Culture

view of Oahu ocean
Image Credit: The Travel Scrapbook.

Oahu has a rich indigenous culture, with many trails passing through sacred lands. On your hike you may pass heiaus (sacred temples), fishponds, and petroglyphs that represent the native Hawaiian culture. Many hiking trails on Oahu are associated with Hawaiian deities and legends, which the name of the trail can represent. The native Hawaiian culture shows a lot of respect to its land, so it is important to act accordingly when hiking through Oahu and practice “leave no trace” principles to protect these sacred preserved areas and its wildlife.

When to Hike in Oahu

The best hikes on Oahu can get very busy, so if you want to avoid the crowds, consider the best sunrise hikes in Oahu. Not only will you see an incredible sunrise in one of the most beautiful places in the world, but you will also have a more enjoyable experience by avoiding the crowds and afternoon heat.

Oahu tends to experience higher visitor numbers during certain times of the year, such as winter (December to February) and summer (June to August). So, if you are traveling to Oahu during these times, hiking early in the morning and during weekdays will help you to avoid the traffic.

Best Hikes on Oahu

Oahu landscape
Image Credit: The Travel Scrapbook.

1. Diamond Head

 Diamond Head Trail is one of the best hikes on Oahu, located an eyeshot from Waikiki Beach. This is a very popular hike that offers panoramic views of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean. Many tourists attempt this hike. Therefore it is important to go early to avoid the crowds. With moderate difficulty, this trail can be completed by most.

The trail is approximately 1.6 miles roundtrip and typically takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete. So, if you are looking for a quick and moderately easy hike to see Oahu from a panoramic view, Diamond Head is a great trail for you.

2. Lanikai Pillbox Trail

This stunning hike is located in the neighborhood of Lanikai in Kailua, Oahu. This sought-out trail provides panoramic views of Lanikai Beach and the Mokulua Islands. The trail gets its name from the World War II-era concrete bunkers, known as pillboxes, that are scattered along the ridge. The pillboxes were used as military lookout points, which is not an Instagram-worthy shot of the island of Oahu.

The trail is considered moderately difficult but can be completed by those who are prepared with the proper footwear and water. The Pillbox Trail is 2.4 miles roundtrip and typically takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete.

3. Koko Head Crater Trail

Koko Head is an incredibly rewarding hike located in East Honolulu that is a 1,048-step ascent up a volcanic crater. The steps were originally part of a World War II-era railway that transported military supplies to the lookout bunkers at the summit. When you reach the summit of the trail, you will experience panoramic views of the southeastern coast of Oahu, including Hanauma Bay, Hawaii Kai, and the Pacific Ocean stretching out into the horizon.

Although the trail is approximately 1.8 miles roundtrip, don’t let the distance fool you. This hike is considered challenging, and you need a moderate physical fitness level to complete it successfully. Due to how steep the steps are, the trail can be tricky. Take your time and make sure to exercise caution. Some people climb this trail using their hands as well for better balance. As long as you are prepared with ample water, the proper footwear, and allow yourself to take breaks, you should be able to complete this incredibly rewarding hike. Trust me, the views are worth it.

4. Makapuu Lighthouse Trail

The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail offers sweeping vistas of the Pacific Ocean and the southeastern shoreline. This historic lighthouse has been guiding ships since 1909 and continues to serve as a vital navigational aid. The picturesque lighthouse contrasted with the crystal blue waters of the Hawaiian ocean creates a stunning scenery to enjoy making this one of the best hikes on Oahu.

This trail is paved and well-maintained. This would be a great hike for the family in Oahu due to its easy ascent. This paved walkway is perfect for joggers and strollers. 

This is a relatively easy trail, so hikers of all skill levels should have to problem ascending to the lighthouse. The trail is approximately 2 miles roundtrip and usually takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete.

5. Manoa Falls Trail

Manoa Falls is a stunning waterfall located deep in the Oahu rainforest. If you want to be surrounded by lush green vegetation, towering trees, and abundant wildlife, then Manoa Falls is the trail for you.

This 150 ft waterfall cascading down the mountainside is a picture-perfect scene to soak up some of Oahu’s nature. It’s important to note that swimming at the base of the waterfall is not recommended due to falling rocks and the risk of flash floods.

Manoa Falls is also a relatively easy hike compared to the others with it being 1.6 miles roundtrip with a gradual incline. Due to the hike being in the rainforest, the trail can be wet and muddy so wear shoes that you aren’t afraid to get a little dirty.

6. Kaena Point Trail

Let’s head to the iconic North Shore and explore Kaena Point Trail. This trail is located at the westernmost tip of Oahu in a remote area that is perfect for those wanting to explore the untouched beauty of Hawaii. The trail has two main access points: one from the Waianae side and another from the Mokuleia side. The Waianae side is accessed via the end of Farrington Highway, while the Mokuleia side starts at the end of Mokuleia Farms Road. Both trails intertwine and lead to Kaena Point. 

As this hike starts out, you’ll find yourself surrounded by rugged coastal cliffs, sandy dunes, and captivating views of the Pacific Ocean. On your journey, you can encounter plenty of wildlife, including Hawaiian monk seals!

Kaena Point holds a lot of historical and cultural significance since it is believed to be the place where souls depart the island after death. 

Kaena Point trail is approximately 5-6 miles long with moderate difficulty. This hike can be completed by those with a moderate fitness level, as long as they are prepared with adequate water, the proper footwear, and snacks. Soak up the panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean at Kaena Point and enjoy the serenity that this tranquil Hawaiian gem has to offer.

These top six best hikes on Oahu will allow you to see the best views this stunning Hawaiian island provides. Hiking in Oahu is an experience you have to try while spending time on this picturesque island, for it will reward you with a memorable and rewarding experience.

Although every part of Oahu is gorgeous, these highly rated viewpoints will really allow you to experience the natural beauty of this American paradise. So, lace up those hiking boots and set out on your journey to explore the best hikes on Oahu.

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