Local April 30, 2022

O’ahu’s Best Hikes

A hike on Oʻahu will reward your senses. You’ll be treated to panoramic ocean views, walk through verdant tropical forests and even encounter some of Hawaiʻi’s endemic native fauna and flora, such as the fire red ʻapapane, or Hawaiian honeycreeper and the bristled ʻōhiʻa lehua tree. And with nearly perfect weather year-round, hiking on Oʻahu is great way to experience the island. Here are five of my favorite hikes on Oʻahu.

Note: Bring water and snacks on your hike and wear sunscreen! Hiking on Oʻahu can be dangerous, so be sure to heed warning and “no trespassing” signs on the trail and bear in mind your personal health and fitness before you head out.

Diamond Head State Monument

Diamond Head is one of the defining landmarks of Oʻahu and is a volcanic tuff that formed about 300,000 years ago. It got its English name from 19th-century British sailors. They thought the shining calcite crystals found on the crater were diamonds! Native Hawaiians called the extinct volcano Lēʻahi. Today, the state monument is a 1.6-mile out-and-back trail that ends with panoramic vistas of the island, from the nearby Koko Head crater, downtown Honolulu, Waikīkī and Oʻahu’s west side.

Mānoa Falls

Sure, the other Hawaiʻi Islands may have more impressive waterfalls, but Mānoa Falls, tucked into the Honolulu neighborhood of the same name, is still worth the visit. This trail is well maintained, albeit often muddy, thanks to the frequent rain. The .8-mile-hike ends with a wide viewing area of the 150-foot waterfall and its cool, surrounding pool. Be sure to bring mosquito repellent!

ʻAiea Loop Trail

ʻAiea Loop Trail hike is a welcoming oasis just 20 minutes from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu. Located in central Oʻahu, the trail is situated in the Keaʻiwa Heiau State Recreation Area, a 384-acre park and campground. The 4.8-mile loop trail hugs the western slopes of Hālawa Valley and has a 900-foot elevation gain. Much of this hike is shaded, though; you’ll meander through Norfolk pines, lemon eucalyptus trees—giving the air a slight fragrance—and higher up, native ʻōhiʻa lehua and koa trees. The forest then give way to views of South Oʻahu, from Pearl Harbor to Diamond Head. You’ll also be able to spot the island’s H-3 highway, considered the nation’s most beautiful highways, and its most expensive one.

Lanikai Pillbox Trail

While it’s officially known as the Kaʻiwa Ridge Trail, this nearly one-mile out-and-back hike is better known by its colloquial name, the Lanikai Pillbox Trail. That’s because of the two military observation stations built in the area during World War II. This trail is very popular! The trailhead is located in the tranquil Lanikai neighborhood on Oʻahu’s Windward side, so be sure to respect nearby residents. The dusty, rocky trail is unshaded and has a steady, sloping incline. What it lacks in cover, it makes up for in sweeping views of Kailua, Lanikai, the Koʻolau Mountains and Mokulua Iki and Mokulua Nui, two offshore islets.

Kuliʻouʻou Ridge Trail

If you’re looking for intense cardio with a stunning payoff, head to the east Oʻahu neighborhood of ʻĀina Haina. That’s where the quad-burning Kuliʻouʻou Ridge Trail is located. The 5-mile round-trip hike ends at the summit of the Koʻolau Mountain range. You’ll encounter a 2,000-foot elevation gain and dozens of steps, so this hike is only recommended for intermediate and advanced hikers. The trail winds through Norfolk pine, guava, ironwood, formosa koa and Christmas berry trees. Two covered picnic tables appear roughly two-thirds into the hike, and I recommend resting here! From there, the trail continues to incline and at its steepest parts, there are stairs. But at the top, a near 360-degree view of Oʻahu awaits.