Oahu Hiking Trails
Hidden Hikes with Panoramic Views

On Oahu hiking trails are a nature lover's dream come true. There are actually a lot of places to get"lost" here even though we have the major city of Honolulu nearby.

Whether you want to hike through the rainforest and jungle to a waterfall, up a volcano or along the ocean there is something here for you. You can hike on your own or go on a tour although in some cases I recommend being guided.

diamond head oahu

makapuu lighthouse

manoa waterfall

koko head
kaena
stairway to heaven
There are the well-known famous hikes such as Diamond Head and Manoa waterfall but there are so many unnamed hikes and getaways that you could easily spend a month or so just pulling over to the side in your car and exploring.

 


Waterfall hikes deserve their own section so learn more here. In a nutshell the 2 main ones are Manoa and Waimea valley.

For a jungle, dirt trail hike choose Manoa and for a paved, more manicured stroll choose Waimea


MY PERSONAL TOP NON-WATERFALL HIKES are...

Diamond Head- famous volcano hike at Waikiki's edge; 360 island & city views; gravel & dirt terrain

Makapuu-gorgeous coastal hike w/ ocean & mountain views at top; gradual paved incline

Koko Head-volcano hike; panoramic 360 views; VERY steep; ALL STAIRS

Kaena Point-beach hike along edge of mountains; rocky &/or sandy; remote

Stairway to Heaven-granddaddy, motherload of all hikes, 3,922 VERTICAL steps to a 2800ft summit


 

 

 

Oahu Hiking Trails-East Side

Makapuu Lighthouse Hike

My favorite repeat hike is the Makapuu lighthouse. It's paved, takes about 20-30 minutes each way over the course of 2 miles round trip, with great breezes and breathtaking views at the top.

You can see the entire windward coastline including Waimanalo and Bellows Beach all the way over to Kailua. Once at the top you are standing next to the lighthouse built in 1909 perched atop a mountain with a sheer, vertical drop down to Makapuu beach below.


Makapuu Lighthouse Hike Gallery

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makapuu lighthouse

Makapuu Lighthouse

makapuu lighthouse makapuu lighthouse lookout makapuu lighthouse hike start makapuu lighthouse hike trail makapuu lighthouse rabbit island view


In the mornings you'll see joggers, regulars and people who walk their dogs. If you want the benefits of the view without the work of a hike you can pull to a scenic lookout at the base of the hike in your car. It's far less dramatic and breezy because you're not up as high as a bird but it's still beautiful.

If you choose to do the hike during whale season from late November to mid-April you will probably be able to sight whales breaching in the Molokai channel below. They like to hang around there and I've often seen the splash from them breaching.

PRICING for Makapuu Lighthouse & Halona Blow Hole Combo Shuttle


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Koko Head Crater Hike

Koko Head crater hike is stunning rising 1208 feet high above Hanauma Bay and the outlying city and island below. Offering 360 degree views you can even see Maui and Molokai on clear days.

The stairmaster at your local gym has got nothing on this hike. Over 1,000 stairs. Oh...but it is sooooo worth it. I had to stop and start several times but I kept going.

During the pauses I'd turn around and marvel at the view and receive encouragement from descending hikers who would tell me to "keep going, you're almost there".

Others would say how beautiful it was at the top.

koko head crater aerial Shaped like a cone in the classic volcano shape Koko Head Crater trail is a dormant volcano that used to have an active railway going up and down.

You'll notice the tracks running alongside the stairs that you'll be climbing.

Imagine that ride!

There are a couple of sections where there are no stairs for about 5-10ft or so and the face is sheer vertical wall. No worries.

If you veer off into the bushes to the right on the way up (left on the way down) there is a dirt trail that will take you around the cumbersome section easily. You can also climb it rockwall style if you wish but the other way is much easier (and safer).

The total distance for the hike is about 1km and times to complete vary. I saw people running it for a workout. We won't count them. I'd say 30-45 minutes on the way up and about the same on the way down. If you are afraid of sheer steep stairs on the way down like I normally am I think you'll be fine for the most part.


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Koko Head Crater Photo Gallery

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koko head crater

Koko Head Crater

koko head crater koko head crater looking down koko head crater stairs koko head crater bunker koko head crater hole
koko head crater windward view koko head crater hanauma bay koko head crater hawaii kai koko head crater coastal 9-11 Preview Site

Most of the steps are very wide and deep so you won't feel like you are going to tumble off and fall to your death so long as you take your time.

There is also room for people to pass each other as they go up and down simultaneously.

Once at the top the views are UNBELIEVABLE!!!!! You will definitely feel like you are King or Queen of the world once you get up here and you'll be so proud of yourself for persevering your way to the top.

There's a few older looking bunker style shacks up there but for the most part you can walk around and enjoy the view freely. When I was up there I couldn't help but think to myself that THIS is what coming to and being in Hawaii is all about!

There's no real address but if you go to Koko Head Park (Koko Head Park Road, 96825) and park near the very far back end of the parking lot you will see other people heading off into nowhere really. That is the trail that leads to the base of the hike. I suggest that you go either early morning or late afternoon in order to avoid the peak sun.


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Oahu Hiking Trails-West Side & North Shore

Kaena Point
North Shore and West Side Approaches

Another favorite hike of mine is Kaena Point. This is either a very romantic or relaxing walk along the beach if you approach it from the north shore or a stroll along a cliffside if coming from the west side.Kaena I like this hike for the sheer, raw, undeveloped beauty that it offers.

When I dream of walking for miles along a beautiful, secluded beach for miles and miles this is Kaena.

Ever imagine not seeing a single building or car or maybe even seeing wild seals?

Or perhaps the wind blowing wildly and the waves crashing and thundering against the rocks or lapping lazily during the summertime? Yep, Kaena.

Kaena is the only point on the island where you cannot drive and it is that tip of the island that people always point to on the map and ask me what's over there? Can I drive around that part of the island? Nope.


Kaena West Side Image Gallery

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kaena hike start

Yokohama Beach-end of road before the hike

kaena hike start oahu hiking trails kaena sand hike kaena bird sanctuary kaena seal

Kaena also has a legend mystique about it because local Hawaiians say that this is where the spirits "jump off" into the next life after they leave this one behind.

I think you can feel the "mana" (or the spirit(s)) here. It is also home to a bird sanctuary by the point halfway between the north and west shores.

If you were to walk from the west side all the way around you would actually be on the north shore of Oahu and vice versa. I've never done the complete hike from one side to the other but if you did it would take you about 4 hours one way.


Kaena-North Shore Image Gallery

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mokuleia beach

Mokuleia beach leading to the end of the road
and the start of the hike to Kaena Point

mokuleia beach mokuleia sanddunes mokuleia beach rocks kaena tidepool mokuleia rocks

I've gone from west toward the north stopping halfway at the point and from north to some unknown spot towards the west side.

It's a real treat and one that I look forward to once in awhile, especially for clearing my thoughts and getting out of the big bad city but I don't recommend that you do it alone, especially for ladies.

Like I said it is a very isolated hike and I don't want the boogey man to get you but get a friend or 2 together and do it. It'll be one of the highlights of your trip.


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Oahu Hiking Trails-Windward Coast

Stairway to Heaven

Built in 1943 the Stairway to Heaven was originally intended to be an access way to get to a Naval Radio antenna built at the top of the mountain high above Haiku Valley.

The military wanted to be able to transmit low frequency messages to submarines out in the ocean.stairway to heaven looking up In 1987 the naval station closed and public access was subsequently denied.

In 1987 however the stairs were replaced from being all wooden ladders to having sections made out of metal. The state of Hawaii LEAVES IT CLOSED for liability reasons. HOWEVER, that doesn't stop people from doing the hike.

The Stairway to Heaven also known as Haiku Stairs consists of 3,922 steps and ascends to an elevation of 2800 ft to the summit of Puu Keahiakahoe which is part of the Koolau Mountain Range on the windward (eastern) part of the island. It rises above the H3 expressway.


Stairway to Heaven (Haiku Stairs)
Photo Gallery

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stairway to heaven hike

Hikers Along a Ridge on the Stairway to Heaven

stairway to heaven hike stairway to heaven looking up stairway to heaven peak stairway to heaven entrance gate stairway to heaven cliff
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It is nicknamed the Stairway to Heaven because as you climb the stairs there are sometimes clouds hovering around the trail making it appear as if you are climbing into heaven. One false move or slip on this hike and that just might come true.

stairway to heaven carlos It takes about 2 hours to get to the top. I need to emphasize right now that THIS IS A VERY, VERY, VERY DANGEROUS HIKE.

I am not suggesting that you do it by any means but mention and explain it because it is popular. Do not hold me liable. Hike at your own risk.

Honestly, I haven't done it myself and don't know if I want to. I know people who have and my neighbor Carlos just did it and was kind enough to share some pictures with me

He was glowing and super-excited that he did it. It's one of those bucket list things to do here. If you are afraid of heights or steep, vertical inclines DON'T GO.

This hike is also very slippery including the handrails which are metal. Gloves with a grippy palm are suggested for better hold and also to prevent chaffing. Weight lifting gloves might be good.

Some sections don't have a railing. If you lose your balance you will fall to your death. It is a straight vertical drop on either side of your feet in some areas. Also take water so that you can stay hydrated.

The trail is 90 degrees oftentimes and is quite windy and chilly at the top-no make that EXTREMELY WINDY at the top. Also visibility can be compromised by clouds and mist and it often rains on that side of the island especially overnight. stairway to heaven sign

Rain will make the stairs slippery. You do have a break at some times. There are platforms to stop at where you can catch your breath and marvel at the beauty and how far you've come-and how far you have to go.

Security guards have been employed to keep people out but that has not been entirely successful since people enter when they are not there. It used to be that they did not arrive until 8:30 am but now the time varies since the guards are trying to catch people sneaking in. I've heard stories of some guards getting there as early as 3am. They don't always wait by one of the 3 entrances either.

They may wait up at the 1st platform and then make you turn around once you've gotten that far. Many people have had to attempt to do the trail more than once because of being turned away.

Dangerous weather conditions also prohibit people such as it being too slippery or near zero visibility due to clouds and/or mist.

If you start the hike in the dark or the middle of the night (bad, bad crazy idea) your flashlights may give you away to the guards.

You don't get in trouble for coming out of the trail supposedly but you will get in trouble for trying to get in.

Usually you're just denied entry but if you've caused a commotion such as parking illegally (blocking driveways or trash cans on trash day,) leaving trash or making noise causing every neighborhood dog to bark then you may be issued a citation or towed. stairway to heaven bottom view

Expect more guards and police on the weekends when it is more crowded. The most popular entrance is through a gate in a residential neighborhood with very limited parking.

Neighbors are understandably irritated with the amount of traffic and commotion caused by hikers so try to be respectful. The gate is locked but you can slip through the middle or if you need more room you can go around the right hand side.

So, if you are in the mood for extreme adventure and something to cross off your list of amazing things to do before you die then you just might want to give the Stairway to Heaven a try.


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