The Best Hikes in Oahu

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The Best Hikes in Oahu

Oahu, Hawaii. The most popular Hawaiian island for tourists, it has it all: incredible beaches, lush jungles, shopping, good food, breathtaking views, and spectacular hikes. But, with so many hiking trails and viewpoints, you may be wondering what the best hikes in Oahu are.

Now, I’ve visited Oahu a couple times, both as a student traveler (although the second time, I spent most of my days in an Airbnb hanging out with a litter of kitties) –

A litter of kitties in Oahu
I mean, how could I leave them?

– and throughout these trips, I’ve embarked on several hikes. And, while I have struggled scrambling up these hills in the humidity and the heat (picture me as Po in Kung Fu Panda), they were all worth it in the end.

But remember to properly prepare for your hikes: bring lots of water and some snacks, wear good shoes, and go at your own pace – there’s no rush. Once you reach the top, you may get to see views like this:

View of the ocean from the Koko head trail - One of the best hikes in Oahu
View from the top of the Koko Crater Trail

Well, without further ado, here is my list of some of the best hikes in Oahu. Enjoy!

The Best Hikes Near Honolulu

First, let’s discuss the hikes near Waikiki and Honolulu! While some of these hiking trails are not within Honolulu’s city limits, they are all easily accessible from the city, either by car or by bus.

Diamond Head Crater Hike

First, let’s talk about one of the most popular hiking trails in Honolulu: the Diamond Head Hike. Not only is it one of the best hikes in Oahu, but it is also pretty easy, and offers incredible views of Honolulu and the surrounding area.

View of the crater and the ocean from the Diamond Head Hike, one of the best hikes in Oahu
View of some hills and the ocean from the Diamond Head Hike near Honolulu

Some cool features of the Diamond Head Trail include the panoramic views of Oahu, the ability to climb through narrow tunnels, its geological significance (it’s a volcanic cone!), and its historical significance (it was a WWII bunker).

However, one con of the Diamond Head hiking trail is that it’s quite the tourist attraction, so it can get pretty crowded. If you want to avoid the crowds, it is best to visit early in the morning, or later in the afternoon (but note that the trail is only open from 6 am to 6 pm, with the last entrance at 4:30 pm). The hike typically takes around 1.5-2 hours, round trip, to complete.

View of a lighthouse and the ocean from the Diamond Head Hike near Waikiki

How to Get to Diamond Head: A simple bus ride can easily get you from Waikiki to Diamond Head (for instance, you can take the number 23 bus, or the number 24). You can also walk from Waikiki (although it takes 45 minutes), or drive. All in all, this is easily one of the best hikes in Honolulu.

Other useful information:

Manoa Falls Trail

Next, let’s talk about one of Honolulu’s waterfall hikes: Manoa Falls. Another one of the easy hikes in Oahu, it features thick jungles and a towering waterfall.

A view of the Manoa Falls, one of the best waterfall hikes in Oahu

Like the Diamond Head Hike, the Manoa Waterfall hike receives heavy foot traffic. There are many reasons behind this: it’s close to Honolulu, it’s easy, and it’s one of the shorter hikes in Oahu. It’s also a great hike for families, and as Oahu is one of the top USA family travel destinations, you’ll see many families visiting! Overall, it appeals to many tourists, whether they are traveling as a family, with friends, or alone, young and old.

Manoa Falls takes around 1-2 hours to complete, depending on how long you spend at the waterfall.

However, one important thing to note is that this trail can get quite muddy. This can be dangerous (or just plain annoying) if you’re not wearing the right footwear. I recommend checking the weather prior to your hike, as the rain can make this mud even worse.

The lush jungles on the hiking trail leading to the Manoa Falls near Honolulu

Another thing to note is there’s a Paradise Park building open near the entrance to the hiking trail, with public washrooms, a gift shop, and food (like Hawaiian shaved ice!) I definitely recommend grabbing one after your hike; it’ll help you cool off.

Overall, Manoa Falls is one of the best waterfalls in Honolulu, Hawaii.

How to Get to Manoa Falls, Honolulu: You can get there by bus, or by car. From Waikiki Beach, it’ll take around 20-35 minutes by car, and over an hour by bus. The only bus that goes all the way to Manoa Falls is the number 5 bus; so, you may need to take an additional bus to get to the right bus stop.

Other useful information:

10 Incredible Waterfall Hikes in Oahu Alt Image

Want to learn more about the incredible waterfalls on Oahu? I have another article, where I specifically list the absolute best waterfall hikes on Oahu! Click here to read more.

Makapu’u Lighthouse Hike

A view of the Makapu'u Lighthouse Hike alongside a cliff, with a view of the ocean

Next, we have one of the lighthouse trails in Oahu: the Makapu’u trail.

Another popular excursion, it is definitely one of the top hikes in Oahu. While the hike itself is pretty simple – an easy, short climb up a paved path – there are so many features of this hike that make it amazing.

First, in the surrounding area (before even embarking on the trail), there are some incredible tidal pools and a hidden blow hole. While you do have to be careful, as the spurt of the blow hole can be dangerous, it is awesome to watch! Additionally, there is a beautiful beach nearby, where you can relax and watch the locals surf.

Once you embark on the trail, you get incredible views of the lighthouse (which you unfortunately can’t access), and occasional whale sightings from December to May!

A view of the Makapu'u Lighthouse surrounded by the ocean - a great lighthouse hike in Oahu
No whales here… sorry.

It’s a pretty short hike to the top viewpoint, only taking about 30 minutes.

How to Get to the Makapu’u Lighthouse: You can get there by bus, or by car. From Waikiki Beach, it’ll take around 28-45 minutes by car, and over an hour by bus. By bus, you can either take bus number 22, or bus number 23.

Other useful information:

  • Cost: Free (and free parking!)
  • Hours: Parking is open from 7 am to 6:45 pm.
  • Distance: 2.5 miles (4.0 km)
  • Elevation Gain: 505 ft (154 m)

Koko Crater Trail

Now, let’s talk about my absolute favorite hike in Oahu: the Koko Head Crater Hike. Compared to the previous hikes I’ve mentioned, this trail is definitely harder. But, it is also the coolest.

But, the hike itself lacks variety: it consists solely of stairs. And it is super hard: 1048 steps up a steep incline where there is absolutely no shade… Needless to say, you’ll get sweaty. And yet, it’s still one of the top Oahu hikes.

The trail takes you to the top of a volcanic tuff cone, to a pillbox used in WWII. Your climb will consist entirely of scrambling up railway tracks – tracks that were previously used to bring supplies to the pillbox.

A view up the railtracks from the bottom of the Koko head trail - One of the best hikes in Oahu

When you climb this Oahu crater hike, don’t make the same mistake I did: don’t climb this hike in the middle of the day. The heat will be at its worse, and there is no shade and no wind… it sucked.

I recommend either going early in the morning, or right before sunset. While there will be more people (as everyone wants to avoid the midday heat), it’ll make this climb exponentially easier. But, if you go when it’s still dark out, remember to bring a flashlight!

Once you reach the top of this laborious hike, you will be gifted with incredible panoramic views of Oahu’s coastline, and Hanauma Bay.

A view of the ocean and the crater from the top of the Koko head trail
A view of a city, the ocean, and a harbor from the top of the Koko head trail

Important things to remember: Properly prepare for your hike! Bring lots of water, some snacks, sunscreen, a hat, and wear proper footwear! This hike will, at times, require you to get on your hands and knees (on the way up), or sit on your butt and scoot (on the way down). It is definitely not safe (or easy) to do in flip flops. Be careful, and take your time.

I would recommend giving yourself around 3 hours, round trip, to complete this hike. As it is quite difficult to reach the top, you’ll probably want to spend ample time at the summit, relaxing and enjoying the views (especially since you’ll be blessed with winds and shade). It’ll take from 30 minutes to 1 hr to actually climb to the top, one-way.

Vivid pink flower surrounded by brown shrubbery on the top of the Koko head trail in Oahu

Overall, the Koko Head Hike in Oahu is without a doubt one of the best hiking trails in Oahu.

How to Get to the Koko Head Crater Trail: You can get there by bus, or by car. From Waikiki Beach, it’ll take around 26-40 minutes by car, and about 50 minutes by bus (taking the number 22 bus).

Other useful information:

  • Cost: Free (and free parking!)
  • Hours: Sunrise to sunset.
  • Distance: 1.8 miles (2.9 km)
  • Elevation Gain: 991 ft (302 m)

Lanikai Pillbox Hike (Kaiwa Ridge Trail)

The Pillbox Hike in Lanikai is a longer trip from Waikiki (taking 2 hours by bus), but it is one of the most well-known pillbox hikes in Oahu. It’s a relatively short hike, only taking around 20-30 minutes to reach the first pillbox. And yet, for little effort, the resulting views are amazing: overlooking the neighborhood of Lanikai, Lanikai Beach, and Kailua, the ocean extends for miles.

The trail consists of two pillbox lookouts. While it is a short hike, taking 1-1.5 hours round trip, there are a few things to consider. For instance, the trail receives heavy traffic (so it may be crowded), there isn’t much shade, it can be slippery when wet, it gets quite steep, there are no restrooms, and a few areas are narrow with a steep drop-off.

So again, please properly prepare: where proper footwear, bring lots of water, and take your time!

View of the Lanikai Pillbox and the sky - one of the best hikes in Oahu

How to Get to the Lanikai Pillbox Hike: You can get there by bus, or by car. From Waikiki Beach, it’ll take around 35-55 minutes by car, and about 2 hours by bus (taking multiple buses).

Other useful information:

  • Cost: Free (but there’s no designated parking lot).
  • Hours: No designated hours (so, it’s essentially open 24/7).
  • Distance: 1.8 miles (2.9 km)
  • Elevation Gain: 650 ft (198 m)

Stairway to Heaven

Finally, let’s talk about one of the most famous hikes on the Hawaiian Islands: the Stairway to Heaven Hike in Oahu. I won’t get into too much detail about this hiking trail, as I have never actually hiked it. But, as it is so well-known, I figured it’ll be best to briefly mention it.

The Stairway to Heaven hike (also known as the Haiku Stairs) is an exciting climb up 3,922 stairs leading up a mountain ridge, with breathtaking views of the valley, the lush jungles, and a lot of the island.

View of peak and dense jungles on the Stairway to Heaven Hike

However, there are two main reasons why I don’t recommend hiking this trail: One, because it is dangerous. And two, because it is illegal. Recent fees have gone up to $1000, and there is frequent police presence ready to fine hikers.

There is a legal way to hike to the Stairway to Heaven, starting from the Moanalua Valley Road Trail. However, it is still quite dangerous, and you have to be careful not to cross into private property (or onto the Haiku stairs), and to avoid resident complaints. Overall, while the hike seems incredibly beautiful, my consensus is that this hike in Honolulu, Hawaii is not worth the many risks.

  • Distance: 2.4 miles (3.9 km)
  • Elevation Gain: 2,604 ft (794 m)
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The Best Hikes Near the North Shore

Now, let’s talk about some of Oahu’s North Shore hikes.

Ehukai Pillbox Hike

Another pillbox hike, the Ehukai hike is also known as the Sunset Pillbox Hike, as the trail starts next to Sunset Elementary School. It features a short climb up to the pillbox viewpoint, providing beautiful views of the North Shore coastline.

A view of the ocean and some houses from the top of the Ehukai Pillbox Hike, one of the best hikes in the North Shore of Oahu

While this is a pretty short and easy climb (taking only 30 minutes to reach the top), this hiking trail can get muddy and has a lot of tree roots, so you’ll have to be careful. And, while it is less crowded than the Lanikai Pillbox hike, it is slowly getting more and more popular.

The trail and a table at the top of the Ehukai Pillbox Hike in the North Shore of Oahu

How to Get to the Ehukai Pillbox Hike: You can get there by bus, or by car. From Hale’iwa Beach Park, it’ll take around 12-16 minutes by car, and about 20-25 minutes by bus (taking the number 60 bus).

Other useful information:

  • Cost: Free.
  • Hours: No designated hours (so, it’s essentially open 24/7).
  • Distance: 2.1 miles (3.4 km)
  • Elevation Gain: 699 ft (213 m)

Are you a beginner hiker, wondering how to start hiking safely? If so, check out my article on the 15 essential beginner hiking tips!

Kaena Point

Kaena Point is a beautiful, easy Oahu hike, completely different from the other hikes on this list. It has little elevation gain, but instead offers a leisurely stroll where you can admire the wildlife, the rugged coastline, and some tide pools. This is also a great place to have a picnic, so bring snacks!

However, some cons of this hike includes the lack of shade, larger crowds, and some instances of car theft (so be careful with the valuables in your car!) Also, you should be careful going down to the tide pools, as it can be hazardous.

How to Get to Kaena Point: You can get there by car. From Hale’iwa Beach Park, it’ll take around 20-24 minutes. Unfortunately, there is no bus that goes to Kaena Point State Park.

Other useful information:

Summary of the Best Hikes in Oahu

Overall, there are many hiking trails in Oahu, Hawaii, providing incredible views of endless waterfalls, dense jungles, and the vast ocean. As a summary:

  • Diamond Head Crater Hike: A short ascent with lots of traffic, it offers incredible views of Honolulu and Oahu’s coastline!
  • Manoa Falls: A muddy trail through the thick foliage, your prize is a beautiful, towering waterfall.
  • Makapu’u Lighthouse Hike: A short climb up to a viewpoint, it is a well-paved, scenic hike with breathtaking views.
  • Koko Crater Trail: A hard, steep climb up 1048 railroad tracks, you get amazing, panoramic views of Oahu’s coastline and Hanauma Bay.
  • Lanikai Pillbox Hike: A popular, short climb to the pink pillbox, it offers heavenly views of Lanikai Beach.
  • Stairway to Heaven: A dangerous, illegal hike with breathtaking views – consider all the pros and cons before attempting this hike.
  • Ehukai Pillbox Hike: A short climb grants you with incredible views of the North Shore coastline.
  • Kaena Point: A long scenic stroll featuring fascinating wildlife, a rugged coastline, and tide pools!

Other Incredible Things to Do in Oahu

While the Oahu hikes are some of the best things to do in Oahu, there are many other incredible bucket-list worthy things to do, including:

  • Snorkel around Hanauma Bay; while it’s a bit overcrowded, it offers safe and calm waters to explore!
  • Visit the Byodo-In Temple, a stunning replica of the thousand-year old temple in Uji, Japan.
  • Try surfing on Waikiki Beach. While it’s a popular and crowded tourist destination, it’s a convenient and incredible place to go surfing!
  • If you’re looking for more spectacular views of Oahu, go on a Honolulu helicopter tour!
  • If you want to admire some beautiful (and frightening) sharks, book a shark cage diving tour in the North Shore.
  • Visit the Halona Blowhole, then relax on Sandy Beach.
  • For an educational excursion within Honolulu, tour Pearl Harbor.

Thanks for reading the article! If you have any questions, feel free to comment down below, and if you want to see more travel and hike-related content, make sure to check out my other articles.



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