Best Oahu Hikes: The Top-Rated Hiking Trails & Walks

Want to explore Oahu? Make sure to find time during your Hawaii vacation to tackle the best Oahu hikes. Venturing through lush forests and unleashing dramatic vistas over the coastline, the island’s top trails are a must-see for any Hawaiian vacation.

Whether you’re only spending a few days in Oahu or making your trip a full winter vacation, spending time on the most popular Oahu hiking trails delivers breathtaking views of this tropical island. Enjoying the outdoor scenery is one of the top ways to enjoy Oahu. Hikes range from short trips to full-day excursions. You can even find easy hikes around the island that are perfect for the whole family.

Ready for the perfect Oahu outdoor adventure? Careen over all the island’s best hiking trails with this complete Oahu hiking guide.

Where to go hiking on Oahu

Lanikai Pillbox Hike

Looking for a short morning hike? The Lanikai Pillbox Hike takes you up rocky terrain for stunning views of Lanikai Beach. On the way to the apex, you’ll hike right along the Kaiwa Ridge Trail near Waimanalo Beach, one of Oahu’s most beautiful beaches.

Lanikai Pillbox Hike

Even though the Kaiwa Ridge Trail is short, it’s steep and isn’t ideal if you’re traveling with small children. If it’s rained earlier in the day, the trail can also get slippery. Although challenging, traversing the rocks and enduring the strong wind is worth it for the killer views of the beaches and water below.

For the Lanikai Pillbox Hike, be sure to strap on weatherproof hiking boots with ample traction. To enjoy the best views, time your visit with the sunrise or sunset.

  • Distance: 1.8 miles
  • Time: 30 to 50 minutes 
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging 

Koko Crater Trail

Searching for a challenging hike to keep your beach body fit? Koko Crater Trail is one of the most difficult hikes in Hawaii with its steep grade and lack of shade.

Koko Head Crater Trail

It’s all worth it though. When you get to the top of Koko Head Crater, one of the top attractions in Oahu, you’ll witness dramatic panoramic views of Hanauma Bay. Along with traversing across rocks, you’ll also climb across abandoned railroad ties used during World War II.

The Koko Head Crater trailhead is easily accessible as it’s only a 30-minute drive from Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach. If you still have energy after this in-and-out hike, you can take your car around the opposite side of the crater to see Koko Gardens.

  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Time: 1 to 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Challenging 

Manoa Falls Trail

Looking for a quick hike close to Honolulu? Head for the short in-and-out Manoa Falls Trail. This waterfall hike, winding through the Manoa Valley, is one of the favorite hikes in the area, especially with traveling film buffs. If you’re a fan of the Jurassic Park movies or the Lost Series, you’ll recognize the scenery as you hike along this paved road trail.

Manoa Falls

The Manoa Falls Trail is used as a hiking and running trail among tourists and locals. The waterfall at the peak of the trail is spectacular.

Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to cool off by swimming in the falls or the pool. If you’re visiting during the rainy season, wear sturdy hiking boots unless you want to take a fall and get mud in between your toes.

If you’re looking to escape the Waikiki Beach bubble, Manoa is also one of the coolest places to stay around Honolulu. Book yourself into one of its inns or vacation rentals to enjoy a more rural and local feel to your Honolulu trip itinerary.

  • Distance: 1.6 miles
  • Time: 30 to 45 minutes 
  • Difficulty: Easy 

Hanauma Bay Rim

Looking for a short half-day hike? Set your sights on the Hanauma Bay Rim. The uphill trail makes for a great family hike as it’s fairly easy. Along the way, you’ll find wildflower fields and gorgeous views of Hanauma Bay.

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

The descent from Hanauma Bay Rim will bring you down to its beach, one of the finest beaches around Honolulu. Many hikers go for a dip afterward to cool off from the long walk. The coastal views as you walk along the Hanauma Bay Rim are a great photo op for the family.

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Make sure to bring plenty of water for the family as the rainy season can get sticky and humid.

  • Distance: 3.6 miles
  • Time: 2 to 3 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Waimano Falls Trail

Located near Pearl City, the Waimano Falls Trail is one of the busiest trails on Oahu. At the apex, you’ll dazzle at rewarding views of its namesake waterfall and a natural pool with turquoise waters.

Waimano Falls

The Waimano Falls Travel has an elevation gain of 247 meters. Make sure you bring your water bottle and sturdy shoes as the trail can also get heavily muddy in certain areas.

Once you reach the top of the falls, you can jump off into the cool water below. There’s even a rope swing you can swing off of!

Follow the trail signs carefully or you might end up at the river instead of the waterfall. Backtracking will add about 15 minutes to your hike. 

  • Distance: 2.9 miles
  • Time: 1.5 to 2 hours 
  • Difficulty: Challenging 

Ka’au Crater

Although it’s one of the island’s finest trails, the Ka’au Crater Hike is technically on private property and requires an invitation to hike. As long as you get the proper permission, this long, upstream ridge hike is the perfect full-day excursion. Along the way, you’ll spot three waterfalls—and even get to climb to the top of one!

Ka'au Crater

If you don’t have the energy, you can hike to the first two waterfalls and return. The most rewarding part of the journey, however, is to venture to the third waterfall at the crater. At the top of the ridge, you’ll be able to relax to amazing views before your descent.

Keep in mind that the Ka’au Crater Trail is quite challenging. Only experienced hikers should attempt the trail as it’s muddy and treacherous in parts.

  • Distance: 5.3 miles
  • Time: 6 hours
  • Difficulty: Challenging

Waimea Falls

For a less difficult waterfall hike, take the whole family to Waimea Falls. This popular paved trail in the Waimea Valley is perfect for small children and dogs on a leash. Although the trail is paved, it can still get pretty steep in some areas. Wear shoes with good traction. 

Waimea Falls

Overall, the Waimea Falls trek is mellow but can still get wet and foggy. You might not want to attempt it after heavy rainfall; the views at the top might not be as visible.

The falls themselves offer hikers a nice deep swim to cool off. If you plan to swim with the kids, be sure to bring along some life jackets.

  • Distance: 3.5 miles
  • Time: 20 to 30 minutes 
  • Difficulty: Easy 

Likeke Falls Trail

For another popular trail to keep your feet busy on your Oahu vacation, check out the Likeke Falls Trail. Along the trail, you’ll see several waterfalls before arriving at its namesake Likeke Falls. The easiest way to get to the trailhead is to park at the Old Pali Highway and walk along the Pali Lookout

You might want to avoid this trail on rainy days; it can get extremely muddy after heavy rainfall. Along with hiking, the Likeke Falls Trail is a hotspot for other activities, including wildlife watching, birding, and running. You’ll also spot wildflowers fields along the way that are perfect for letting the kids and family pets run and play.

  • Distance: 0.8 miles
  • Time: 1 to 1.5 hours 
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate 

Kaena Point Trail

Looking for a long day hike? Take the whole family to the Kaena Point Trail. At 5 miles, the out-and-back trail is long but fairly easy for all skill levels, including small children.

Kaena Point Trail

Feeling adventurous? Climb down the rock formations or hike through one of the coves. Once you reach the tip of the island, cool off by taking a dip in one of the many natural swimming pools.

Pack extra water and sunscreen as the majority of Kaena Point Trail doesn’t have any shade. With little elevation change and smooth ground, you can lazily walk along this trail to burn some extra vacation calories.

  • Distance: 5 miles
  • Time: 1 to 3 hours 
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate 

Stairway to Heaven

Also known as the Haiku Stairs, the Stairway to Heaven hiking trail is one of the most popular hikes in Oahu—despite the fact it’s illegal.

The main part of the Stairway to Heaven trail that excites hikers is the dangerous Haiku Stairs themselves. Many people cross them every year, but keep in mind: They can be extremely risky without proper footing and gear.

Stairway to Heaven

If you’re not such a daredevil, you can just hike the Moanalua Valley Trail and stop when you get to the stairway. Still, most hikers recommend spikes to help you get through the tough terrain.

No matter what, make sure to bring your camera. For the experienced hiker, the trail offers some of the most incredible views in Oahu.

  • Distance: 10.5 miles
  • Time: 4 to 6 hours 
  • Difficulty: Challenging 

Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

Looking for a simple walkable hiking trail? Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail is perfect for all skill levels. Beautiful views unfold as you wind through the sea cliffs around Makapuu Point. You can even slide up next to the historic Makapuu Lighthouse by climbing down the small path near the whale lookout spot.

Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail

From the trail, you can also catch outstanding views of Koko Crater and Koko Head. Throw a pair of binoculars in your bag to get a better view of all the wildlife and marine life.

Most of the trail is a paved path; you don’t need special shoes, just plenty of sunscreen and water. The parking lot for the trailhead is located just off of the Kalanianaole Highway.

  • Distance: 2.0 miles
  • Time: 1 to 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy 

Olomana Trail

Want to put your hiking skills to the test? Olomana Trail is a beautiful hike for experienced hikers only. Many trekkers don’t even make it to the top either due to exhaustion or a fear of heights.

Olomana Trail

On the Olomana Trail, you’ll traverse a dense forest to reach three separate peaks. Intermediate hikers should be able to tackle the first two peaks. The last peak though requires rock climbing along heavy-duty ropes.

Can’t make it to the third peak? No worries: Many hikers say the views from the second peak are among the finest along the trail.

  • Distance: 4.4 miles
  • Time: 2 to 3 hours 
  • Difficulty: Challenging 

Ehukai Pillbox Hike

Taking the whole family on a hiking adventure? Slot the Ehukai Pillbox Hike into your Oahu trip itinerary. Unless it’s raining, it’s a wide and easy route that’s perfect for hikers of all ages and skill levels.

The Ehukai Pillbox offers plenty of great photo spots. Walk slowly to take in the views. Much of the trail is shaded making it one of the best Oahu hiking trails on hot days or when the midday sun is out. The top of the trail dazzles with sweeping views of the North Shore all day. Even better, book a room in North Shore, one of the best places to stay on Oahu, and time your visit with the sunset to see the island at its most magical. 

If you’re set on tackling the Ehukai Pillbox on a rainy day, make sure to wear boots with traction and expect to use ropes in certain sections. Parking for the trailhead is easy, with several lots available right off the Kamehameha Highway.

  • Distance: 2.3 miles
  • Time: 1 to 1.5 hours 
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate 

Judd Trail

Staying around Honolulu? The Judd Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in the Honolulu area. Like most of the trails in Oahu, it’s not the best destination on rainy days—unless you want to take a few falls in the mud. Bring some hiking shoes with good grips for the mud and a swimsuit to cool off in the Jackass Ginger Pool once you reach the summit.

Judd Trail

There are small trails branching off from the main Judd Trail if you want to venture further into the rainforest. The smaller trails don’t loop back around like the main one. Make sure to turn around before you get too tired.

  • Distance: 1.0 miles 
  • Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour 
  • Difficulty: Easy 

Crouching Lion

If you’re looking for stunning mountain and ocean views, scale up to the top of Crouching Lion. After the short but steep hike, you’ll soak in dramatic views of Kahana Bay.

Crouching Lion

The Crouching Lion trail closed in April 2021 to the public, but most hikers can still experience the trail without any problems. Just make sure you follow the trailhead signs. Don’t venture off onto the smaller paths as they can become extremely slippery in wetter weather. 

One of the shortest hikes in Oahu, Crouching Lion is a great hike even if you have a busy day planned. Bring lots of water for the incline and shoes with good treads to help you slog through the mud.

If you’ve got more energy in the tank, extend the shorter hike to the full 4-mile Crouching Lion Trail, following Pu’u Manamana Ridge.

  • Distance: 0.4 miles
  • Time: 20 to 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: Moderate 

Kuliouou Ridge Trail

Climb up 1,800 feet to get the best views of Kuliouou Valley by meandering along the Kuliouou Ridge Trail. On the hike, you’ll admire a mountainous landscape with the shore in the distance. As you climb along the mountain ridge, you’ll marvel at stunningly tall trees and patches of wildflowers. 

Right before you get to the top, you’ll challenge yourself with more than 300 steps. Climb slowly and be sure of your footing, especially if it’s been raining.

Other than the potential to slip on the steps, the Kuliouou Ridge Trail is easily doable with the proper shoes. Offering plenty of shade, the trail also has tons of places to relax and cool off. 

  • Distance: 4.4 miles
  • Time: 3 to 4 hours 
  • Difficulty: Moderate 

Pink Pillbox Hike

Staying on the west coast of Oahu? Tackle the Pink Pillbox Hike in Waianae. The trail roams through a forest offering plenty of shade from the hot Hawaii sun. At the top, you’ll enjoy serene views in several directions, including Mount Kaala, Kaena Point, and the Kapolei/Campbell Industrial Park. To get the best views, plan your hike for a clear day without fog or mist. 

Other than a few narrow spots along the ridge, the Pink Pillbox Trail, also called the Pu’u O Hulu Trail, is easy. It offers a drier climate than many other Oahu hiking trails. You don’t need to worry about slipping or mud even after heavy rain. You should still wear sturdy shoes to help you easily get over the rocks and boulders.

  • Distance: 1.6 miles
  • Time: 30 to 45 minutes 
  • Difficulty: Moderate 

Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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