Here are seven ways to get off the sunny beach and explore more of the island paradise on foot. We’ve put together a list of the best easy hikes in Oahu.
Even though it’s the most congested of the Hawaiian islands, you can find some fantastic places where you can stretch your legs and see the sights. You’ll also venture through lush rainforests, encounter beautiful and fragrant wildflowers, and take in some gorgeous panoramic views.
Hiking in Oahu: What to Expect
At first glance, wide-open spaces may not seem as plentiful in Oahu as on some of the surrounding islands, such as Maui. And many of the places that aren’t over-developed are extremely hilly, making strenuous hiking. While many experienced hikers embrace a good uphill climb, others want an easier walk.
So the challenge is finding relatively flat ground that still offers views of interesting and varied terrain. These seven prime hiking spots fit the bill, and some of them lie just minutes from the island’s busiest population centers.
You’ll get a great feel for the island’s trees and foliage and enjoy some spectacular views and even some majestic waterfalls. Some of these easy hikes in Oahu are free to use, while others have admission fees or a parking charge. Most trails have limited parking, so go early.
Even though these trails are not too strenuous, be sure and pack water and sunscreen. You’ll also want to bring insect repellent, rain gear, and sturdy shoes with good traction.
Pro Tip: Here’s a rule of thumb for how long an easy hike in Oahu takes. Count on 20 minutes for every mile plus 30 minutes for every 1,000 feet of ascent. For instance, a two-mile trail with an elevation gain of 500 ft will take 55 minutes.
7 Easy Hikes in Oahu with Scenic Views
Sometimes going for a hike serves as the greatest stress reliever, and of course, terrific exercise, too. Another priceless benefit from these easy hikes in Oahu is you’ll see gorgeous landscapes from a new perspective.
Pro Tip: Want to sleep under the stars and in the sand while in Hawaii? We uncovered Where Can You Go Beach Camping in Hawaii?
1. Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
About This Hike: This paved route is inside the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline Park at Oahu’s southeastern tip. The hike stretches a mile each way, or a two-mile round trip, with an elevation gain of just over 500 ft.
The pavement is five feet wide in most places. You’ll come across steps toward the end, and it gets hilly there, too. It has observation points with guardrails along the way. It also doesn’t have a lot of shade, so it can get extremely sunny and hot.
How to Get to the Trailhead: From Honolulu, go east on the H-1 interstate until it becomes the Kalanianaole Highway, also called Highway 72. Take the road past Kawaii Kai, Hanauma Bay, and Sandy Beach Park until you reach the parking area.
Don’t Miss: You don’t want to miss the picturesque red-topped lighthouse built in 1909. You can see natural features from the ridge, like Koko Crater and Koko Head. With binoculars, you may see Molokai and Lanai and migrating humpback whales.
2. Lanikai Pillbox
About This Hike: This short hike is on the rocky terrain of Ka’iwa Ridge northeast of Honolulu. The 1.4-mile round trip has an elevation change of 226 ft.
It gets its name from the raised concrete platform that the military used for observation during World War II. The ground gets steep and slippery in places, and it’s probably not best for those scared of heights.
How to Get to the Trailhead: Take Route 61 (the Pali Highway) to the end, where it intersects with Kalaheo Avenue. Turn right and continue over the canal and to the stop sign at Alala Road.
Take a left and follow the road until it turns into A’alapapa Drive. Take your second right onto Ka’elepulu Drive and look for the Pillbox Trail sign on the left.
Don’t Miss: The pillbox structure still serves as a base for stunning views of Kailua Bay and beyond. The area overlooks Lanikai Beach and its surrounding community and the Ko’olau Mountains. As a word of caution, do not climb on the boulders along the trail.
3. Manoa Falls
About This Hike: This place might look familiar. Manoa Falls served as a filming location for “Jurassic Park” and “LOST.” If it’s not closed for movie production, you’ll enjoy a 1.7-mile out-and-back gravel route with a waterfall at the top. Many call it the best hike in Honolulu.
It has an overall elevation gain of 633 ft, mainly toward the end. It has some steps to navigate there too. Just keep following the sounds of rushing waters and remind yourself that the return trip is all downhill.
How to Get to the Trailhead: Take Interstate H-1 East to Manoa Road and travel northeast for 5.2 miles where the road ends. Take a right and follow the signs to the parking area. The trailhead is a little farther ahead to the right.
Don’t Miss: Don’t miss the fall’s 150 ft-cascade. But you may also enjoy the walk through the rainforest. There’s rainfall in this valley nearly every day, so keep an eye out for rainbows. You’ll also see lots of banyan trees imported from India. For more flora, visit the nearby Lyon Arboretum and Botanical Garden.
4. Ka’ena Point Trail
About This Hike: This 3.5-mile mostly flat trail runs through a remote and scenic area on the island’s western end. This easy hike in Oahu takes you out and back along the volcanic soil of the open coastline. It lies within Ka’ena Point State Park and sits on an old railroad bed. Sorry, no dogs are allowed.
How to Get to the Trailhead: Take the H-1 west until it runs into Route 9, also called Farrington Highway, until you reach Ka’ena Point State Park. The trailhead starts where the pavement ends.
Don’t Miss: You’ll see some limestone bluffs and sand dunes among the boulder beaches and tide pools. One section of the trail is part of a Natural Area Reserve, a nesting area for seabirds. Dogs are not allowed here for this reason.
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5. Aiea Loop Trail
About This Hike: Located in the central part of Oahu, this forested and mostly flat loop has lots of shade. It lies within the Keaīwa Heiau State Recreation Area just west of the area known as Halawa Valley. This 4.8-mile trek is longer than other recommended easy hikes in Oahu, but it has gradual inclines.
How to Get to the Trailhead: Take H-1 to Moanalua Highway, also called Route 78. Take the Aiea Cut-Off and turn right on Aiea Heights Drive. Go about three miles to the end of the road and continue through the park entrance.
Don’t Miss: You’ll enjoy the shade of the eucalyptus groves, Norfolk pines, and the native koa and ohi‘a trees. From the ridge, you can see Pearl Harbor and Diamondhead in the distance and the Ko’olau Mountains. An observation point near the middle of the trail offers an incredible view of the valley.
6. Waimea Valley
About This Hike: This 1.9-mile mostly-paved path should take about an hour to hike on Oahu’s north shore. It may take longer if you want to stop and read up on all of what’s growing in the amazing botanical garden. It gets quite crowded despite the $20 entrance fee that keeps some hikers away.
How to Get to the Trailhead: Go west on H-1 to H-2 North and then to the Kamehameha Highway (also called Highway 99). Continue on Hwy 99 until you merge with Hwy 83 and go nearly 4 miles more. Turn right onto Waimea Valley Road and look for the entrance about 200 yards ahead.
Don’t Miss: A 45-ft-waterfall awaits you at the end of your walk through this lush garden. Go for a swim if you like. They provide life jackets. You’ll also find a café that serves local dishes.
Pro Tip: Ready to hit the highway to Hawaii? Find out how to navigate the state here: We Rented an RV Camper in Hawaii. Here’s What We Learned.
7. Diamond Head
About This Hike: Short and steep might be the best way to describe the climb up to one of Oahu’s most popular attractions. It’s just under a mile from the parking lot to the top of this dormant volcano, but it has a rise of 560 ft.
Parts of the paved path get narrow and sometimes very windy. But it’s so worth it to see this incredible state monument, and the walk back down is super easy.
How to Get to the Trailhead: Take H-1 to Exit 25B to Sixth Avenue and then to Diamond Head Road. The entrance to the parking lot lies between Makapuu Avenue and 18th Avenue.
Don’t Miss: Don’t miss the view of the surrounding shoreline from the many lookout points. The main attraction is the volcano and crater, which has a unique history.
Some of the trails and structures were built in 1908 as part of a coastal defense system. It has some old bunkers, a lighthouse, stairs, and a lighted 225-ft tunnel.
Time for an Easy Hike in Oahu?
What makes these some of the easy hikes in Oahu is often the distance. While some can get steep and slippery, they don’t go too far. They will also have guardrails or safety ropes in place.
You can experience the natural beauty of tropical plants, rainforests, waterfalls, volcanoes, and more. If you come prepared for bugs and rain, you can enjoy these easy, family-friendly hikes in Oahu. So bring the kids and dogs along if you want and have fun.
Where are your favorite places to hike in Hawaii? Drop a comment below!
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