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10 of the Top Hiking Trails on Oahu

Trek to some of Hawaii’s most beautiful spots, from volcanic craters to blissful beaches.

Hikers explore a rainforest trail on Oahu
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A destination with year-round warm weather and stunning natural landscapes, Oahu is a hiker’s paradise. From flowing waterfalls and lush tropical valleys to endless coastlines and volcanic peaks, this Hawaiian island is ideal for discovery on foot. Whether you’re looking to climb craters or traverse rainforests to see endemic plants, there’s a hike for you here, no matter your hiking level. These are some of the top treks in Oahu that you can’t miss.

1. Lanikai Pillboxes

Hikers walk in the Lanikai Pillboxes area of Oahu, enjoying the bright waters.
This simple hike is only about one mile long.Foto: Gregory Zamell / Shutterstock

1 mile (1.6 kilometers)

Also known as the Kaiwa Ridge Trail, this easy hike is only about a mile long but offers one of the best views of the windward side’s iconic Mokulua Islands. Take the well-traversed trail up the ridge to the two former military bunkers, which makes for a great vantage point for staring off into the ocean. Since this trail can get hot during the daytime (there’s very little shade), hike in the early morning to enjoy the sunrise.

2. Kaena Point

White caps along the coast at Kaena Point on Oahu, and one hiker walking by.
This remote landscape is also a bird sanctuary.Foto: E.J.Johnson Photography / Shutterstock

5 miles (8 kilometers)

Remote and rugged, Kaena Point State Park is located in the northwestern corner of Oahu, offering recreational activities for nature lovers as well as a bird sanctuary. Back in the day, locals thought it was where the souls of ancient Hawaiians would jump off to meet their ancestors in the spirit world. The flat dirt trail takes you through the Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve, and you can enter from Waianae or Mokuleia on the North Shore. Wander the volcanic coast, checking out small blowholes, tidepools, and cliffs. If you visit during the wintertime, you may spot breaching whales.

3. Koko Head Crater Trail

A hiker on lush Koko Head Crater Trail on Oahu, amid bright greenery.
This trail includes 1,000 steps made from abandoned railroad tracks.Foto: Kelsey Neukum / Shutterstock

1.4 miles (2.25 kilometers)

This hike is like a StairMaster, only outdoors and with a stellar view at the end. Climb over 1,000 steps made from abandoned railroad tracks for a total elevation of 1,200 feet (366 meters). While the first half of the trail’s incline is manageable, about halfway up, the trail gets steeper. Once you reach the top, enjoy a panoramic view of the south shore of Oahu, from Hanauma Bay to Diamond Head. Walk to the other side of the summit to see more of the east side, like Makapuu and Sandy’s Beach.

4. Kaau Crater Trail

Water and rocks on Kaau Crater Trail on Oahu.
Kaau Crater Trail is difficult yet rewarding.Foto: Nervevana / Shutterstock

5.1 miles (8.2 kilometers)

Even skilled hikers may find trekking Kaau Crater Trail difficult (but rewarding). Starting in a quiet neighborhood in Honolulu, this trail takes hikers along a stream before sending them up three waterfalls (ropes will help you scale them!) before walking along the edge of the crater. From up here, you can look down into the crater for a rare view or see the windward side of Oahu, like Chinaman’s Hat and the twin islands.

Related: Where to Find the Best Views on Oahu

5. Diamond Head Crater

A busy day at Diamond Head Crater on Oahu, with dozens of hikers.
Diamond Head is a must-visit for first-timers.Foto: Elyse Butler / Viator

0.8 miles (1.3 kilometers)

Located in central Honolulu, Diamond Head, or Leahi in Hawaiian, is iconic to Oahu, and a must-visit for first-timers. The crater was formed 300,000 years ago from a volcanic eruption. This easy trail dates back to 1908 and takes visitors up the crater, offering both a look into the geological and military history of the landmark as well as gorgeous views of Oahu’s south shore. Once at the summit, you can take in its natural beauty and also check out a military station and bunkers that once directed artillery fire.

6. Pu’u Ma’eli’eli

Views of the ocean from Pu’u Ma’eli’eli on Oahu.
Pu’u Ma’eli’eli offers vast ocean views.Foto: Allen.G / Shutterstock

2.2 miles (3.5 kilometers)

Tucked into the Kahekili Highway is the trailhead to a beautiful view of Kaneohe Bay. This easy-to-moderate hike can get steep at times, but there are ropes to help you out, especially since it can be muddy. However, its short length and shaded trail make it manageable for families and even pets. At the end of the hike, you’ll reach an old military bunker that overlooks Kaneohe Bay’s turquoise waters and the Koolau Mountains.

7. Olomana

The pointed geology of Olomana on Oahu.
The pointed geology of Olomana is a site to behold.Foto: Pavel Tvrdy / Shutterstock

4.4 miles (7 kilometers)

Also known as Three Peaks, this strenuous hike takes experienced hikers over sharp mountain peaks via rope hand lines and some bouldering, so it’s best for adventurists. Start the trail in Kailua and take care not to park illegally. The first peak is about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) in, and the ridge can have steep drop-offs. Follow the trail down to the second peak. Then, if you’re brave enough to handle the rocky scrambles, you can reach the third peak before following the same trail out.

8. Makapuu Lighthouse

Makapuu Lighthouse as seen from the bright waters of Oahu.
The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is a great option for hikers of all levels.Foto: Mike Kane / Viator

2 miles (3.2 kilometers)

For a low-effort, high-reward hike, the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is apt for hikers of all levels. A paved pathway with a moderate incline takes you around the southeastern coastline of Oahu, where humpback whales breach during the winter months. At the end of the trail, stop at the lookout point for views of Makapuu beach to Waimanalo and the iconic Makapuu Lighthouse, which was built in 1909. Consider taking this hike in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is less intense.

Tip: Keep in mind that many hikes start or end in residential areas, so be respectful and keep trails litter-free.

9. Waiakeakua Falls

Travelers get their photos taken at Waiakeakua Falls on Oahu.
Many travelers opt for a photo in front of Waiakeakua Falls.Foto: Elyse Butler / Viator

3 miles (4.8 kilometers)

Manoa Valley is home to Manoa Falls, a popular and very easy hike for those looking to see a beautiful waterfall. A little deeper into the valley is another, more difficult waterfall hike called Waiakeakua Falls. Start at Puu Pia, a brief ridge trail. About halfway through, take a small path to the right and climb down the steep hill to get to a stream. Follow the stream, crossing over boulders and through the overgrowth. Then wander over smaller cascade waterfalls to get to a 20-foot (6-meter) waterfall. Walk a little further for the winner: a secluded, stunning 50-foot (15-meter) waterfall.

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