Updated: Dec 27, 2021
Hawaii is a nature lover's paradise, full of pristine beaches, scenic overlooks, waterfalls, volcanos, you name it! Some of the most beautiful hikes in the USA, and arguably in the world, are located in the Hawaiian Islands and today I'm breaking down my favorite hikes on Oahu, tips and details. Here's all you need to know to explore the island's trails, connect to nature and get a workout. Ps.: Remember to stop and enjoy the views!
What To Bring
These trails all offer incredible scenic views of the island, but there are some essential gear that will make your hikes much easier and safe. Here's what to include in your backpack before you head out:
1- Hiking boots or sneakers with very good traction (most of the trails are out in the wild on uneven, strenuous terrain)
2- Bug Spray (I learned this the hard way)
3- Water (again, many of these hikes don't offer any structure and it's extremely important to hydrate while exercising under the sun)
4- Snacks (such as cereal bars, fruits, crackers)
5- Sunscreen (the sun in Hawaii is no joke, you'll get a sunburn if you don't apply sunscreen frequently)
6- Camera (to register the unforgettable moments and landscape you're about to witness)
I honestly don't think that anything I say or any picture that I share here can do this place justice. Lanikai is BREATHTAKING. It's my favorite hike ever and the most beautiful place I've ever seen. It's not as crowded as many of the popular hikes on Oahu and in my opinion, it offers the best views of the island. Looking out to the coastline, the turquoise color of the ocean here is just unlike anywhere else, it feels like a true view of paradise.
Location: Lanikai, Kailua (to see more things to do on the Windward Coast of Oahu, click here)
Enter "Lanikai Pillbox Trail" on your maps (or click this link) and it will take you right to the spot.
Trailhead signs are near the Mid Pacific Country Club.
Parking is very scarce so be careful not to park in a tow away area. We were lucky to find parking on the street, though it was on a weekday around lunch time.
The trail is not the easiest with moderate to intense ascent and uneven terrain. It includes holding up to ropes at certain times to keep the balance on slippery parts, mostly on the way down. The hardest part of the hike is the beginning and it takes about 30 minutes to get to the top of the pillbox (it's a 2 miles roundtrip). It's a super fun trail and I've seen plenty of kids hiking there with parents. After the first 1/3 of the hike, you'll start to see the ocean and that's enough reason to stop several times along the way.
Makapuu Lighthouse and Tide Pools
I was super excited for this hike and it did not disappoint, I absolutely loved it and plan to do it every time I'm in Hawaii. There's an excellent structure built for this hike, the trail is paved all the way up, and even though there's not a lot of shade to protect from the harsh sun, it's great for families with strollers and for newbie hikers.
Another bonus point is that Makapuu is way less crowded than Diamond Head and it offers some of the most beautiful panoramas of Oahu's coastline, that's why it is number 2 on my list :)
There are several viewpoints to stop and refresh on your way up. And once you get to the top, you'll want to stay for a while.
Enter "Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail" on maps (or click the link) and it will take you to the parking lot which includes free but limited parking.
Tide pools: There's another trail that starts about 3/4 up on the Lighthouse trail, and it takes to the tide pools, but we did not go there this time due to high surf. Make sure to check ocean conditions and tide report before you go!
This hike is not for beginners and I don't recommend doing it alone. It's not easy to find, the trail is not paved and can be easily mistaken in the first hundred yards. If you feel confident and are an experienced hiker, this steep climb can be one of the best you can ever do. I highly recommend going with a local if you can, or someone that has done it before.
We started it but didn't make it till the end as it had just rained and the path was just slippery and unclear. We plan to go back with a local next time!
The trailhead is hard to find but Google is way more accurate than Apple for this hike.
Enter "Crouching Lion Hike" on Google Maps or address: 52-204 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744
I've heard the trail has been closed, so no official trailhead signs will be available. You'll have to look for a "Do Not Pass" sign and the trail starts right behind it.
Ehukai Pillbox Hike
This hike offers an unforgettable viewpoint of the world famous Pipeline waves in the North Shore of Oahu. After just about twenty minutes of hiking, you will come across a small pillbox that has the peace sign painted on it, that's why it is known as "Peace Sign Hike".
I recommend hiking on a day with big swell so you can see the huge waves of Banzai Pipeline breaking one after the other.
Trailhead is located behind the Sunset Beach Elementary School, if you're using Google Maps, you can enter 'Ehukai Pillbox Hike and it will take you right there. Otherwise, look for Sunset Beach Elementary School.
Free parking is available at 'Ehukai Beach Park (Banzai Pipeline)
It will take you about 30 min to get to the top. It's a short distance hike, but elevation gains are quite intense.
The North Shore is a must visit on any trip to Oahu, click here to check out the many things to see and do on this side of the Island.
Diamond Head Crater
I wasn't sure if I should include Diamond Head on this list because it just wasn't my favorite. But talking with other people who've visited the island before, it seemed fair to do it, since you might have a different experience from mine.
This is one of the most popular hikes in Hawaii, and with that being said, expect it to be packed with tourists. During my research before our trip I remember reading that it could get crowded but I think that we took the advice for granted, as we headed out around 10-11am and it was busy in a very unpleasant way.
The hike itself is close to 1 mile, it includes lots of stairs and ascends 560 ft. The views are really nice, and I believe that you'll be able to better enjoy the 360-degree views of Oahu if you arrive earlier (it opens at 6am). From the top you can also see the crater (Lēʻahi) that was created over 300,000 years ago from a volcanic eruption.
Parking lot fills up quickly and is cash only ($5 per vehicle).
Diamond Head is located on the South Shore, just minutes from Waikiki and Honolulu. Considered the biggest visitor area of the island, there's a lot to do in this area, read my South Shore Guide for all the details - click here!
Bonus: Waimea Valley (Waimea Falls)
I wouldn't really call Waimea Falls a hike because it's more of a walk through a gorgeous botanical garden where lots of movies and tv shows were filmed (Jurassic Park, Lost, Hunger Games are just the names out of the top of my head). It is located on the North Shore, close to Waimea Bay and other beautiful beaches. My favorite thing about this "hike" though, is the waterfall at the end of the trail, so worth it!
Enter Waimea Valley on maps and it will take you to the parking lot area. The trail is just about 1 mile and you can jump right in the water once you reach the waterfall (life vests are mandatory).
Open daily between 9 am and 5 pm
Senior $14 (age 62+)
Student $14 (college students must present ID)
Kids $12 (ages 4-12)
Group Rate $14 (per person - groups of over 10 Adults)
Do you know other cool hikes on Oahu to recommend? Let me know in the comments below!
Love this? Pin it for later: