Hiking in Oahu is an exhilarating experience. This is probably the best way to get out and experience the true beauty of Oahu. Whether you choose a mountain hike, beach hike, or rainforest hike, you are in for some of the best scenery you have ever seen. One thing to remember while hiking in Oahu is that the sun gets very hot and it is very humid in the rainforests. Be sure to take plenty of water, mosquito repellent, a hat and sunscreen. Also, remember to wear sensible shoes for comfort and safety. Two of the trails you will take while hiking in Oahu are very close to Waikiki. Here are my picks for the 10 best Oahu hiking trails.
Diamond Head State Recreation Area
History of Diamond Head
Diamond Head is probably the most famous and most photographed volcano in the world. Diamond head is located at the end of Waikiki on the coast of Oahu. Although Diamond head is estimated to be over 200,000 years old, it has been extinct for about 150,000 years. Diamond Head is only one of a chain of volcanoes in the 2.6 million year old Ko"olau Mountain range. The other volcanic eruptions formed other well known Oahu landmarks including; Hanauma bay, punchbowl crater, Koko Head and Manana Island. The ancient Hawaiians named the volcano laeahi which means "brow of the tuna" because of the shape of the silhouette. In the early 1800's British sailors spotted the volcano and saw how the calcite crystals in the lava rock shimmered from a distance. They thought that they had discovered a huge mountain containing millions of diamonds. The called the volcano Diamond Head. Diamond Head crater is 3520 feet in diameter and the summit is 760 feet high. In 1898 when Hawaii was annexed, Fort Ruger was built inside Diamond Head to defend the port of Oahu, Canons and ammunition were hidden in the crater from invading enemies. An observation deck was built at the summit in 1910 to provide target sighting and a four story underground complex was built as a command post. A tunnel nearly 600 feet long was dug through the side of the mountain for access to the fort. The bunkers you see near the top were used in World War II to spot and shoot down enemy planes if they were to try to attack the ports of Oahu again.
#1) Hiking Diamond Head
Hiking Diamond Head is a lot of fun but the trail is dry, hot and steep. Diamond head summit is 760 feet high. The trail is about 75% paved. You will be walking in direct sun about 90% of the time so be prepared with a hat and sunscreen. After walking about 1/3 of the way up the trail, you come to a 225 foot tunnel that you must pass through to proceed to the summit, so be sure to bring a flashlight. You will climb two tall spiral staircases, one is 99 steps and the other is 76 steps. You will come to spots along the way that are sort of look-out points where you get an amazing view of Oahu's east coast. When you have finally reached the top, you will discover old bunkers that were used during World War II to spot and shoot down enemy planes. After passing through the bunkers you will reach the summit. "WOW" what an incredible view of Oahu's west side and Waikiki beach. Bring a camera for some once in a lifetime photo opportunity. If you visit the Diamond Head summit in the winter months, keep a look-out just off the coast for migrating whales. This is a great spot to see them. First look for the spray of water coming out of the ocean and then look for their shadow under the water. If you are lucky you can spot them as they jump up out of the water. This hike is definitely worth the walk, and I rate it number 1 for being the closest to Waikiki. Make sure you bring sunscreen while hiking in Oahu.
Diamond Head Crater Adventure
The crater is open from 6:00am till 6:00pm and admission is $1.00. If you drive a car up to the crater, parking is $5.00.
Diamond Head seen from Waikiki
Diamond Head State Monument (trail-head)
#2) Manoa Falls
If you are hiking in Oahu and want to see a beautiful waterfall, one of the best hikes is within 5 miles from Waikiki.
This hike is perfect for those who wish to see a lush tropical rain forest and a beautiful waterfall. The trail can be reached by car, bus, or walking from Waikiki. At the beginning of the trailhead the elevation gradually reaches to approximately 600 feet. The total roundtrip hike is abut 2 miles and takes about 1.5 hours. The trail is very well maintained. This hike is an excellent slow paced hike that the average person can easily handle. As you hike through the Manoa valley rainforest you will see a large variety of native Hawaiian plants and flowers and a number of smaller waterfalls. Since this is a rainforest, be careful because it does get a bit slippery in some spots. You will pass through a bamboo forest that is in few words, incredible. When you reach the end, you will see the wonderfull 200 foot nearly vertical Moana falls. Take your camera for some incredible rainforest and waterfall shots. This is an easy enough hike to take your children and they will love it. Take mosquito repellent to protect yourself and take along a bottle of water because the water from the falls is not safe to drink. If it is raining, watch for flash floods. This is a great choice for hiking in Oahu to see a nice waterfall.
On March 23, 2008 we decided to take an Easter morning hike to Manoa Falls. We took the #5 Bus from the Ala Moana Shopping Center across from Nordstrom. We took the bus to the end of the line, which coincidentally is the begging of the trailhead. This year we saw alot of wonderful wildlife while hiking. I saw numerous different birds that I don't recall seeing there before. Passing a small stream we saw a couple of turtles and numerous chameleons and geckos. We saw alot of different snails that looked as if they were living in sea shells instead of the regular looking snail shells. We had a wonderful hike and took alot of great pictures.
To reach Manoa Falls from Waikiki, take McCully street out of Waikiki towards the mountains. Turn right onto Kapiolani blvd and turn onto university and drive through the University of Hawaii campus.... turn right onto Manoa road and it will dead end at the trailhead. If you take the bus, get on the university bus.
Manoa Falls Hiking Adventure
Ahupua'a O Kahana State Park
#3) Nakoa Trail
While hiking in Oahu, try the Nakoa trail. Nakoa trail is a moderate to difficult 2.5 mile loop in a wet valley rainforest with stream crossings and a 400 foot elevation gain. As you hike through part of the Kahana Valley Rainforest you will spot many different species of trees including Koa, guava and octopus trees. There are alot of ferns on the hike. Kahana is the wettest place on Oahu and was used as a jungle training site in World War II. You may even see crushed coral roads and bunkers that still remain. This valley can be dangerous if it is raining. Flash flooding may occur. This is a hot and humid hike with lots of mosquitos. The trail crosses the Kahana stream at three locations. two crossings are about 30 feet wide with no bridges and one is a 40 foot long narrow cement spillway that is very slippery. This is a beautiful but wet hike through a thick lush rainforest. This trail proves that hiking in Oahu can be wet also.
From Honolulu take route 83 over the Ko'olau mountains and take Kahekili highway cut-off. The road becomes Kamehameha Hwy. Go through Ka'a'awa town and then enter Kahana State Park in the coconut grove near Kahana Bay.
#4) Kapa'ele'ele Trail
Kapa'ele'ele Trail is also located in Ahupua'a O Kahana State Park. This is a 1.2 mile round trip hike that is considered easy to moderate with a 130 foot elevation gain. This Trail loops around a slope on the western side of Kahana Bay. You will see fantastic views of Kahana Bay, Luilua fishpond and the Kapa'ele'ele ko'a (fishing shrine) and Keaniani Kilo lookout. The fishpond is 7 acres of ocean that was enclosed by walls that were built in the 1600's by Hawaiians to raise and harvest fish. This one hour hike has shade trees but it is still hot. Watch out for mosquitos. Make sure to bring insect repellent while hiking in Oahu.
Keaiwa Heiau State Recreation Area
#5) Aiea Loop Trail
While hiking in Oahu check out the Aiea Loop Trail. Aiea Loop Trail is a 4.8 mile loop that is easy to moderate. It is forested and open at spots and has a 900 foot elevation gain. The trail runs along the ridge on the west side of Halawa Valley. You will see Norfolk island pine tree, fragrant lemon eucalyptus trees, Koa and Ohi'a trees. You get great views of the entire southern coastline of Oahu from Pearl Harbor to Honolulu and Diamond Head. If you look closely as you near the top, you will see remnants of a B-24 bomber that crashed in 1944 just before the end of World War II. This hike has about the best views of any of the hikes although it is a longer hike. When hiking on Oahu, this hike is worth the walk if you want to see this incredible vista.
Directions from Honolulu are to take Hwy 1 to Moanalua Highway (78) take the Aiea cutoff to the 3rd traffic light and make a right turn at Aiea Heights Drive and follow it for 3 miles to the end of the road, continue on to the trailhead.
Ka ena Point State Park
#6) Ka'ena Point Trail
This is a 3.5 mile moderate hike on the open coastline with almost no elevation gain. The trail follows an old railroad bed and dirt road that ran along the westernpoint of Oahu. The trail leads to Ka'ena Point Natural Area Reserve, a scenic protected sand dune area that is the home of many native plants and sea birds. This is a great spot to see whales in the winter because they love this spot. This is a great hike if you love the ocean. You will be hiking along the coast the whole time. Some of the scenery is pretty incredible. Take a hat, sunscreen and water. Rated #6 for hiking in Oahu along the ocean.
Lost Coast of Oahu Adventure
Directions from Honolulu are to take H1 fwy. west until it becomes Farrington highway. Follow Farrington highway until it ends at Ka'ena Point Stat Park
Wa'ahila Ridge State Recreation Area
#7) Wa'ahila Ridge Trail
Wa'ahila Ridge Trail is 2.4 miles and is considered moderate to difficult with a 500 foot elevation gain. On this hike you will see great views and see lots of trees such as guava, and Koa. You will also see native birds such as the Amakihi and the Apapane. While hiking in Oahu, you can pick guavas from the many guava trees along the trail. You get spectacular views of Manoa Valley, Palolo Valley, Honolulu and the Ko'olau mountain range. This is another great hike for the beautiful vistas.
Directions from Honolulu are to take Waialeae ave up to St. Louis Drive, go up St. Louis Drive and turn right on Peter Street, at the end of Peter, turn left on Ruth Street and continue to the park and follow the trailhead signs.
Pu'u ualaka's State wayside
#8) Ualaka'a Trail
Ualaka'a Trail is a .53 mile easy hike with a 400 foot elevation gain. You will hike through thick forest and see lots of different species of trees and birds. This is a good family hike because it is easy. Take your camera to get some good shots of the native Hawaiian birds.
Hidden Waterfall & Royal History Adventure
The trailhead is located on Round Top Drive.
Ka Iwi State Scenic Shoreline
#9) Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail
Makapu'u Point Lighthouse trail is a 2 mile moderate hike on hot dry slopes with a 500 foot elevation gain. You will see outstanding views of Oahu's southeastern coastline, including Koko Head and Koko Crater. You will also see magnificent views of the windward coast and small offshoure islands. You will see the historic red-roofed Makapuu Lighthouse built in 1909. This is a great picture of the lighthouse with the blue ocean as a backdrop. On a clear day you can see Molokai and Lanai. You can see migrating humpback whales from November until May. This is another must do hike, because of the great views. Take sunscreen and water, because it gets hot hiking in Oahu.
North Shore EcoTours Huakai Nui Hike
Directions from Honolulu are to take H1 fwy east until it becomes Highway 72. Follow the road past Hawaii Kai, Hanauma Bay and Sandy Beach Park until you reach Ka Iwi state park.
Sacred Falls State Park
#10) Sacred Falls Trail (PERMANTLY CLOSED)
Hiking in Oahu to see an awesome waterfall brings us to our #10 choice. Sacred Falls trail winds through a forested area with a lot of rock climbing on the way up. You see many native trees and birds and have a chance to pick guavas. When you reach your destination you see the best waterfall on Oahu. Sacred falls is an 87 foot waterfall that plunges through a rock chute into a pool surrounded by large flat rocks. The trail begins at the ocean a crosses a wide valley, then heads up a deep and narrow canyon with towering 1,600 foot walls. There are several stream crossings in the gorge. This area is prone to flash floods.THIS HIKING TRAIL IS PERMANTLY CLOSED SINCE 1999 WHEN A LANDSLIDE KILLED 8 HIKERS.
Here is an alternative Hawaiian Waterfall Hiking Adventure.
You can view hiking trails on the other Hawaiian Islands by clicking on one of the links below.
Whichever trail you take while hiking in Oahu, you will have a great time, fond memories and fantastic photo opportunities. Hiking in Oahu is also great excercise. If you are looking for hiking gear, click on the banner below for some great merchandise and good prices.
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