Oahu has a seemingly endless amount of beautiful hikes, but it can be hard to figure out which ones are actually worth doing, and which ones are simply tourist traps. Hiking is not only a great workout, but one of the best ways to explore the island and immerse yourself in the beauty of Hawaii! I try to get out at least once or twice a week to try a new trail, so look for updated article in a month or two.
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1. Old Pali Highway
The Old Pali Highway has been closed for over fifty years now, and is overgrowing with wild plants, flowers, and fruits. The trailhead begins at Ko’olau Golf Club, but if you don’t want to make the trek all the way up the mountain, you can begin at the Pali lookout instead. This hike is relatively easy, with gorgeous views of Kaneohe and the Pali mountains.
Ocean View Hikes
2. Pu’u’ohulu Kai, Waianae
If you’re seeking a beautiful view, look no further. The Pu’u’ohulu Kai Pillbox hike on the West coast of Oahu boasts insanely clear, turquoise waters and picturesque mountains. The climb is relatively short, but be sure to bring sunscreen and sunglasses because the trail is in direct view of the sun and it gets HOT.
Crouching Lion offers one of the most picturesque views on the island, with minimal effort. The trail is about 15-20 minutes of steep uphill climbing, and you are quickly rewarded with stunning views of East Oahu’s countryside and mountains.
4. Makua Cave
Located on the West side of Oahu by Ka’ena Point, the hike to Makua cave is a relatively short trek with gorgeous views of the mountains and sea. Once you reach the top of the mountain, there is a small cave in the mountain where you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the crystal clear waters in front of you.
5. Dead Man’s Catwalk, Hawaii Kai
The infamous dead man’s catwalk trail is one of the most beautiful hikes on the island in my opinion, but it’s unfortunately illegal (but not hard to do). The trail begins at high elevation on the East side of Oahu in Hawaii Kai. After scaling a few gates and fences, it doesn’t take long to reach panoramic views of Waimanalo beach below.
6. Maunawili Falls, Kailua
Maunawili Falls is one of the most popular hikes for those visiting on the island. Located deep in the Maunawili Valley, this trail is a quick hike through an otherworldly realm of greenery. At more than one point on the trail you get spectacular views of the Pali mountains, which tower above the valley. The waterfall at the end was a lot bigger than I expected, and was easy to climb up and explore further. I think this is one of the best waterfall hikes on the island, but I would definitely advise you to go early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
Manoa falls is definitely one of the more touristy hikes on the island, but don’t let that scare you away. I avoided this hike despite it being literally 2 minutes from me for the first six months living in Hawaii, and when I finally went, I was blown away! This trail is easily one of the most underrated hikes on Oahu. Only a few minutes into the hike you feel as though you’re in a completely different world, surrounded by greenery. You might even say, you feel “lost” (they filmed scenes from the TV show lost here, i’m sorry I couldn’t resist).
Hikes I Haven’t Finished/Done
8. Ka’au Crater, Honolulu
Ka’au Crater is not for the faint of heart. Located in Palolo Valley, the 5 hour hike takes you across a stream several times, up 3 waterfalls, over mountain ridges, and finally to Ka’au Crater. Leave early in the day if you’re going to complete this hike, and try to avoid going on a day with heavy rain (you have to cross a stream and you could get stuck in a flash-flood). I’ve actually done part of this hike for a shoot before, but only to the first waterfall.
9. Stairway to Heaven
What gets college kids out of bed at 3 am to hike 3,922 stairs? Stairway to Heaven. I have admittedly never done the famous Haiku stairs, though I plan to one day. The stairs were originally built during World War II, so that the military could access a radio station on top of the mountain. Today the hike is illegal, with a fine of $1,000 of you’re caught, but that doesn’t stop avid adventurists seeking a thrill. The hike is nestled in the Koolau mountain range, with breathtaking views of the Keahiakahoe summit. If this hike isn’t on your bucket list, be sure to add it!