Things to do in Honolulu

The Best Oahu Hikes

From its windswept beaches to dizzying ridges, Oahu is best experienced on foot. Get set to explore our favorite island hikes!

Hit the trail and surround yourself with Oahu’s exciting scenery. Whether strolling by the ocean or journeying through lush rainforest, Oahu’s hikes captivate trailblazers of all skill levels. A thrilling adventure awaits in this blissful paradise.

While outdoor lovers can easily find fun things to do in Honolulu and Oahu, it’s important to treat the land respectfully—appreciate it without interfering with the natural habitats. Join us as we guide you to stunning vistas and unforgettable experiences.

Coastal and Beach Trails

Feel that cool ocean breeze and the sand between your toes. Breathtaking beaches line the coast of Oahu. Just wait until you see the sunset over the ocean.

1. Ka'iwa Ridge (Lanikai Pillbox) Trail

One of the most popular hikes in Hawaii, the Ka’iwa Ridge Trail, offers panoramic views of Lanikai Beach and Kailua Beach. While it’s always fun to meander along the beach, this hike has a more unique experience in store.

Keep an eye out as you move along the trail’s 1.6 mi. length, and you’ll eventually encounter old military pillboxes. Built during World War II, these lookout posts were strategic positions for gun batteries. The elevated vantage point granted Oahu’s soldiers a decisive advantage against invasions from the sea.

Come to see a piece of Hawaii’s history. Stay for the sweeping views across the Mokulua Islands and the Ko’olau Range. The Ka'iwa Ridge Trail’s 613.5-ft. elevation gain makes it more difficult than flat hikes. However, walking the entire length only takes about 40 minutes, and this trail is free to hike.

2. Ka'ena Point Trail

The Ka'ena Point Trail winds around the Ka’ena Point Natural Area Reserve and takes you along the coastline. At around six miles long, the whole walk can be difficult for beginners and takes just over two hours. However, the first trek to the reserve stops at 2.5 miles. Pack a picnic lunch to be ready for a leisurely journey.

Birds flock to the trail and reserve, drawn by the isolation from urban environments. While some species, such as the Laysan albatross, tend to be skittish, you might still catch a glimpse of these majestic avians flying into the nest. As you cross tidepools and beaches, you could even see a Hawaiian monk seal napping between dunes.

Ka'ena Point Trail is a favorite for wildlife lovers. Hiking this trail brings you that much closer to Hawaiian spirituality. The surrounding land is a Wahi Pana, a sacred location where spirits begin their journey toward the afterlife. There's no charge.

3. Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail

For our performers, lighting accentuates movements, enhancing drama and suspense. It’s impossible to overstate its importance to a good show. Of course, marine navigators may say the same thing about lighthouses.

Makapu'u Point Lighthouse holds the distinction of having the largest lens of any lighthouse in the United States. Its powerful beam shines 21 miles. out to sea, illuminating everything in its path. This beacon is also the highlight of a trip along the Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail.

Of course, other exciting rewards await explorers who brave the hike’s nearly 2 miles and 498-ft. elevation gain. Once you reach the cliffs, rest and enjoy the incredible views.

Whales migrate through this area from November to May, and seabirds are known to rest upon the coastal rocks. Much of the hike follows a paved trail, making it comfortable for the whole family. And here's the best part: This hike won't cost you a dime.

Photographer: alemus

4. Diamond Head Summit Trail

Around 300,000 years ago, an explosion tore apart Diamond Head, leaving a massive crater. Of course, volcanic activity isn’t unusual across the Hawaiian islands. The archipelago constantly shifts and changes under its influence.

Dramatic scars like the enormous crater of the Diamond Head Summit Trail are quite rare. If you happen to see a glimmer coming from the earth, it’s possible that you saw what sailors believed to be diamonds. In fact, this trail got its name for sailors mistaking calcite crystals for diamonds.

Like other volcanic areas, Diamond Head is teeming with life. This short 1.6-mi. round-trip hike to the summit and back offers an array of diverse plants covering the slopes. This moderately difficult hike has an elevation gain of about 557 ft. Despite the challenge, its panoramic views of Honolulu and Waikiki make it well worth the trip. The best part is that it's free to hike here.

Photographer: Christian Joudrey

5. Koko Crater Tramway to Kokohead Lookout

Looking for the best view of Hanauma Bay and Oahu’s eastern shores? You'll find it on the Koko Crater Tramway to Kokohead Lookout trail. This hike isn't for the timid. If you want to conquer the Koko Head Stairs, you’ll push your calves to the limit. Over 1,000 steps across railroad ties await you, and the hike offers little shade.

The trail’s midpoint may make you pause because 50 railroad ties form a precarious bridge. While you don’t need to cross it, it’s undoubtedly the most thrilling part of the journey. While we’re used to heights, defying gravity may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Those who reach the top earn bragging rights and spectacular views across the island. While the hike only covers 1.6 mi. out and back, it ascends 912 ft. by the end. Hike the trail for free, and you'll be paid back in spades with stunning views.

6. Koko Crater Arch Trail From Halona Blowhole Lookout

Geological wonders can be found in many spots across Oahu, but the Koko Crater Arch Trail from Halona Blowhole Lookout gives you a front-row seat to two of the most impressive.

The hike begins at Halona Blowhole Lookout. As you meander along the trail’s 0.9-mile loop, you’ll travel up the hill of Koko Crater. Sandy coves and rocky coastline scenery flank you, so the view remains picturesque for the entire journey. Koko Crater Arch lies at the end, offering a stunning reward for completing the hike.

While the trail has a 354-ft. elevation gain, it’s gentle enough for most travellers. Leashed dogs are also welcome, so bring your furry friend! Fortunately, this trail is also free to hike.

Photographer: Thomas Leemon

Rainforest and Waterfall Trails

Travel through the mist-shrouded jungle and discover the wild heart that beats within Oahu. Oahu’s waterfalls and rainforests provide a refreshing escape from the city.

7. Mānoa Falls Trail

Mānoa Falls may look strangely familiar. That’s not déjà vu. Both the waterfall and parts of the rainforest appeared in Jurassic Park.

While you won’t need to worry about velociraptors pursuing you as you stroll along Mānoa Falls Trail, you’ll still feel like you’re walking through a prehistoric landscape. Perhaps it’s the lush ferns everywhere, but the rainforest has an otherworldly vibe.

As dense as the rainforest is, it’s teeming with life. Watch for colorful native birds and exotic-looking banyan trees. The trail itself only spans 1.7 miles out and back, but the rugged and often muddy terrain makes it moderately difficult.

Even a hike benefits from a grand finale. Once you reach the end, your reward is the magnificent waterfall. While the trail is free to hike, you must pay a small parking fee.

Photographer: CraigJ

8. Aihualama Trail

At just 1.2 miles long, Aihualama Trail only takes about 40 minutes to complete. Its lush bamboo groves and towering banyan trees give it a unique aesthetic. Part of it winds through the Lyon Arboretum, so you may be fortunate enough to see some of its 5,000 plant species.

This trail sometimes gets busy, but it tends to be quieter than other popular hikes. Its tranquil setting makes it a great spot for your dog to stretch its legs while you connect with nature.

If you want a longer hike, this trail is part of the Honolulu-Mauka Trail Network. The 18 interconnected trails allow you to take the adventure in any direction. Hiking this trail or anywhere along the network is free—but locals request your utmost respect as you explore it.

9. Likeke Falls Trail

A short but somewhat challenging route, the Likeke Falls Trail ventures through thick rainforest near the mountainside. Although the trail only spans 0.8 miles and has an elevation gain of about 216 ft., the hike offers an incredible payoff. Once you reach the end, relax in a tropical oasis with a double waterfall.

For much of your journey, the trail evokes a wild sensation. Towering trees and thick ferns creep toward dirt paths worn into the ground by hikers. If people stopped visiting, the dense plants would soon swallow the trail.

While there’s a lot of greenery around t of jade-colored leaves. These flowers take on even richer orange and red hues as they age. The views you get here have a fairly big payoff, and you don't have to pay to see them.

10. Pauoa Flats via Kalawahine Trail

Up for a challenge? Lace up your hiking boots and prepare to walk nearly two hours through the rainforest. The Pauoa Flats via Kalawahine Trail carries you 3.4 miles around the Ko'olau Mountains.

Like Ka'ena Point, the Ko'olau Mountains are sacred spaces revered as the home of gods. It’s easy to understand why when you see the dramatic cliffs and valleys. As moisture-rich winds crash against these cliffs, the sky becomes shrouded in mist, giving the area an ethereal atmosphere.

You’ll need to finish the hike to get the best views of the mountains and rainforest, which also means tackling a 770-ft. elevation gain. However, once you reach the Pauoa Flats, there’s space to relax, have a picnic, or take photos. Forget your gym membership. This trail gives you a great workout, and it's free.

Mountain and Ridge Trails

Reach toward the sky as you hike up mountain and ridge trails. Over the millennia, volcanic activity has shaped Oahu’s terrain, creating a unique environment.

11. Kuli'ou'ou Ridge Trail

Pack some trail mix and conquer one of Oahu’s most challenging hikes. Kuli'ou'ou Ridge Trail traces 4.4 miles around the Kuli'ou'ou Forest Reserve, so you can expect to walk at least three hours. With an elevation gain of 1,666 ft., it’s one of the steepest hikes.

Part of the trail crosses over railroad ties and large plant roots, which adds to the intense workout. Stepping over these obstacles feels a lot like navigating a military training course. However, the exertion is worth the reward because the views from the top of the trail are glorious.

Once you reach the summit, Oahu’s southeast coast expands below you like a scene from a painting. Beaches and coastal towns stretch out into the distance, while the Pacific Ocean melts into the horizon. Fortunately, you don't have to pay to enjoy this hike.

12. Mt. Olomana Trail (Three Peaks)

We’re used to leaping high into the air, but even daredevils may think twice before attempting to hike Mt. Olomana Trail (Three Peaks). Imagine scaling a mountain by rope to get an idea of the physical feats required to reach the end of this trail.

It stretches over four mi. and gains around 1,696 ft. of elevation, offering a challenge that intimidates even the most experienced hikers. Despite its difficulty, people love hiking the Mt. Olomana Trail for its vantage points.

You'll cross three peaks on your journey, each granting breathtaking views over Oahu. While you might be afraid to look down, the ridgelines between each peak are spectacular.

A unique mix of technical hiking and climbing makes the Mt. Olomana Trail a true adrenaline rush. However, you can always stop at the first peak if you’re not ready for the full challenge. Hiking this trail won't break your wallet—it's completely free.

13. Pu'u Piei Trail

Love hiking and bouldering? You have to do plenty of both to reach the top of the Pu'u Piei Trail. At 2.4 mi., the hike is nearly half the length of other mountain trails on our list. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. You’ll ascend 1,368 ft. over rocks, pulling yourself up by rope in the final stretch.

The hike begins at Ahupua'a 'O Kahana State Park. While the summit offers impressive views, the forest surroundings won’tdisappoint either. Native Hawaiians lived off this land for generations, and their history is reflected in the remnants of temples and taro fields.

14. Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail

Pack a picnic and prepare to climb. To conquer the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail, you need to scale uneven terrain most of the way, travelling 4.7 miles, and up an elevation of over 1,512 ft. This lack of flat ground makes the hike challenging.

While most mountain trails are surrounded by dense plants, Wiliwilinui Ridge’s scenery evolves constantly. The southern landscape of Oahu and the Honolulu cityscape shift in and out of view.

The trail gets its name from the wiliwili tree. As you venture on, keep an eye out for these majestic trees. Their thick, spiny trunks and colorful blooms stand out from the sea of green, but the tree populations are on the decline. Finding one requires luck! You can hike this trail for free, so leave your wallet at home.

15. Wa'ahila Ridge Trail

If you want to get close to nature, there’s no better hike than Wa'ahila Ridge Trail. Winding 2.4 milesmi. through native forest and up an elevation of 499 ft., this trail really brings you up close to wildlife.

For the best experience, start your trek early in the morning. This is when the Hawaiian honeycreepers are most active, giving you the best chance of catching these joyful birds as they perform aerial acrobatics. Look for the distinctive curved beaks and brightly colored plumage.

While the summit is a restricted area, you’re still rewarded with spectacular views of the Ko'olau Mountain Range most of the way up. It’s the perfect way to appreciate the natural splendor of the land, during the sunset in Oahu! Imagine hiking such a beautiful trail and not having to pay a thing for entry. That's exactly what you get here.

Concluding Thoughts on Oahu’s Majestic Hiking Trails

Hiking across Oahu, you’re sure to work up a sweat, but the incredible views will make you forget all that when you see this ancient island from a whole new perspective. After a long day of venturing through the island's trails, stop by the theater for an invigorating performance that will refresh your spirit.

Our performers await to dazzle you as they dance and soar across the stage. Lose yourself in a thrilling storyline that will take you on a roller coaster of emotions. Come see our shows in Honolulu. Our heart-pounding performances rival the thrills you get reaching a mountain summit.

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