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9 Incredible Oahu Hikes for All Skill Levels

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Oahu is known for many things—swaying palm trees, pristine beaches, and vibrant culture. But did you know there’s also dozens and dozens of amazing hikes in Oahu? From towering waterfalls and lush green mountains to ancient volcanic rims, there’s something for every type of hiker on this island. Here’s the 9 best Oahu hikes to add to your bucket list.

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Woman hiking down Wiliwilinui Ridge hike in Oahu
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 Best Oahu hikes

All of the hikes listed in this article are AWESOME, but I’m arranging them from easy to challenging, so you can easily find whatever kind of trail you’re looking for. 

Let’s hit it!

1. Manoa Falls Trail

  • Location: The trailhead is located here, in Honolulu. 
  • Length: 1.7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 633 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Permit or fee? There’s no permit, but there’s a $7 fee for parking in the trailhead’s lot (or you can risk trying to find parking in the surrounding residential area!). 

This out-and-back trail winds up through an incredibly lush jungle to Manoa Falls, a gorgeous waterfall that cascades 150 feet over a cliffside to a plunge pool below.

Be sure to take in your surroundings as you’re making your way to the falls. The jungle itself is quite stunning—so much so that it was actually used as a filming location for both Jurassic Park and the Hunger Games! Just be sure to pack along bug spray, though—the mosquitoes here are SAVAGE.

Woman walking through a tunnel in Moana Falls hike in Oahu

The trail culminates with an overlook of Manoa Falls, towering dramatically overhead. 

This viewing area is pretty small and given the popularity of the hike, it can get PACKED. So be conscientious of other visitors—when my husband, Justin, and I visited, there was a group of girls, who were having a full blown photo shoot in front of the falls, making it impossible for others to get any photos. Don’t be that dude!

Moana Falls along the Moana Falls Hike in Oahu

To enjoy this stunning trail in tranquility, I’d recommend trying to show up as early as you can (it’s open from sunrise to sunset) and visiting on a weekday. The early morning wake-up call will be well worth it!

2. Waimea Falls

  • Location: The trailhead is located here, in Haleia on the North Shore.
  • Length: 1.9 miles
  • Distance: 272 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Permit or fee? You’ll need to purchase a ticket to enter Waimea Valley, which runs from $14 for children up to 12 to $25 for an adult.   Alternatively, if you’re interested in going to a luau while you’re on the island, I’d suggest looking into attending the Toa Luau in Waimea Valley, one of the best luaus in Oahu—admission to Waimea Valley and the falls are included in your ticket, so you’ll get to enjoy yummy food, cultural demonstrations, and hiking to a beautiful waterfall, all in one evening!

This hike follows along a paved pathway, through a beautiful botanical garden, bursting with lush greenery and tropical flowers. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to see several Hawaiian historical and cultural sites, including a heiau (or shrine) from almost 600 years ago and replicas of kauhale (or traditional living sites). It is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting and unique easy hikes in Oahu.

Trees and greenery in Waimea Valley in Oahu
Photo by Daniel Ramirez, licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

At the end of the trail, you’ll reach Waimea Falls, a 45-foot waterfall that cascades into a pool below. 

Best of all, you can actually swim in it! They sometimes close the falls for swimming if the weather is bad and you will have to wear a life jacket while in the water (which LOTS of people on TripAdvisor seem to have a problem with). But this is an awesome option if you want to swim in a Hawaiian waterfall, but under the watchful eye of a lifeguard or in a bit more of a safe and controlled environment, as compared to some of the other undeveloped waterfalls in Oahu.

Waimea Falls in Oahu

3. Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail 

  • Location: The trailhead is located here, on the southeastern tip of the island.
  • Length: 2.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 505 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Permit or fee? None—it’s free!

The pathway for this trail snakes around a dramatic sea cliff, with the sparkling waters of the Pacific to your right and the impossibly green hills of Oahu, including Koko Crater, to your left. 

Ultimately, the trail culminates at an observation deck, overlooking the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse, built in 1909, and the sparkling water of the Pacific. On a clear day, you can see Oahu’s island neighbors, Molokai and Lanai, and during the winter in Hawaii, you might even see humpback whales jumping out of the water (this might be a good one to bust out those binoculars for)!

View from the Makapu'u Point Lighthouse hike in Oahu

I love that this hike is suitable for all kinds of hikers. The path is well-maintained and paved and while there’s a relatively steep incline, it’s consistently graded along the trail. Therefore, this is a good option for hikers with strollers or wheelchair hikers.

Alternatively, if you like to get off the beaten (or paved) path, there’s several steep and uneven trails that branch off the main trail, which you can scramble down for even more jaw-dropping views of the ocean below.

View from the Makapu'u Point Lighthouse hike in Oahu

4. Diamond Head Trail

  • Location: The trailhead is located here, in Honolulu.
  • Length: 1.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 452 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Permit or fee? You must make a reservation to do this hike, which you can book here. There’s a $5 entrance fee for all non-residents and, if you want to park here, a $25 per vehicle parking fee. Even if you pay for parking it can be CHALLENGING to find a parking spot, so your best bet will be to get here bright and early!

Diamond Head is arguably the most iconic hike on the island and on almost every traveler’s Oahu itinerary—I mean, you’ll literally be hiking up the side of a massive crater of the Koʻolau Volcano, formed 300 THOUSAND years ago in a volcanic eruption. Beyond just being an enormous volcano, the summit of Diamond Head was also used as an observation station by the U.S. military in the 1900s, with a bunker equipped with lots of fancy operational and defense gadgets.

Diamond Head crater with the Honolulu skyline in the background

To reach the summit, you’ll climb up a paved pathway, along the volcano’s lush slopes. Although the trail is short, it’s STEEP with pretty much no shade—so bring lots of water (Justin and I each have one of these comically giant Nalgene bottles and LOVE them)! 

Good news, though—the steepest parts of the trail have stairs and there’s plenty of benches and overlooks along the way if you need to rest for a moment. Before you know it, you’ll be at the glorious summit, with views of Waikiki Beach, the Honolulu skyline, and the Pacific Ocean, unfurling at your feet.

View from the top of Diamond Head hike in Oahu

Given that Diamond Head is probably one of the most famous Oahu hikes, it also tends to be the most crowded. So expect lots of other hikers on the trail and if you’d like to take in the views in relative peace and quiet, get here EARLY (as in 6 AM early!)—and bonus, it’s a hell of a place to see the sun rise! 

5. Lanikai Pillbox Hike 

  • Location: The trailhead is located here, in a residential area of Kailua on the east side of the island (and one of my favorite towns on Oahu!).
  • Length: 1.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 626 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Permit or fee? This trail is freeee (my fave!).

Along the Lanikai Pillbox hike, you’ll start by scrambling up a dusty hillside. While this hike is short, portions of it are incredibly steep (so much so that there’s rope to help you up!) and have significant drop-offs. Accordingly, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this one for the kiddos.

Woman hiking up Lanikai Pillbox hike in Oahu with the Koʻolau mountains

Provided that you’re comfortable with those slightly more technical aspects of the hike, you’ll soon make your way to the top of a ridgeline and find two World War II bunkers (or “pillboxes”), perched on its summit and covered with colorful graffiti. Climb atop the pillbox and take in the views of Lanikai Beach (one of the best beaches in Oahu!) and beyond, the electric blue water of the Pacific Ocean.

This is one of the most bang-for-your-buck Oahu hikes—but it can be a PAIN to find parking near the trailhead, due to its location in a residential neighborhood that prohibits street parking in certain areas. Keep a lookout for “no parking” signs (the police here love to give tickets!) and be prepared to walk quite a bit from wherever you’re lucky enough to find parking to the trailhead.

Couple sitting in the top of Lanikai Pillbox, overlooking Lanikai Beach in Oahu

6. Wiliwilinui Ridge Hike

  • Location: The trailhead is located here, in the swanky gated community, Waialae Iki 5, in the hills of Honolulu.
  • Length: 4.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,617 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Permit or fee? There’s no fee or permit, but, since this trail is on the private property of a bougie gated community, you’ll need to snag one of the limited number of parking passes from the guard at the gate. If all of the parking passes are in use while you visit, you’ll need to park outside of the community and walk almost two extra miles roundtrip (and uphill!) to the trailhead.

Listen, guys, I try not to play favorites, but the Wiliwilnui Ridge trail is definitely my favorite hike in Oahu and literally, maybe my favorite hike I’ve ever done—which is saying a lot!

You’ll start this hike through a lush forest, climbing gradually uphill. Before long, you’ll come to a clearing and encounter a seemingly endless number of stairs, cobbled together out of the clay mud and wood, steeply leading up the spine of one of the Koʻolau mountains. 

Couple hiking up stairs along the Wiliwilinui Ridge hike in Oahu

Some of the steps are totally fine, while others have been eroded away to be nothing more than slippery lumps of clay. There’s even ropes in certain sections to help you down the hillside. Be prepared to be a bit creative with how you climb up the mountain—and to get a little dirty (I wouldn’t wear white on this trail, as the mud here stains. And yes, I know from experience!). 

Your work, though, will pay off as you approach the summit, where you’ll see the layers upon layers of impossibly lush ridgelines, stretching out to the Pacific Ocean. 

Per Waialae Iki 5’s rules, you’ll need to be off the mountain before it gets dark, but if you can try to time your descent with golden hour in the late afternoon, I HIGHLY recommend it—it seriously was one of the most breathtaking sights I’ve ever seen! Just don’t forget to bring a headlamp in case it gets darker quicker than expected. Justin and I have these ones and I LOVE them- they were super affordable and you can easily charge them with a micro USB port.

Woman watching the sunset along the Wiliwilinui Ridge hike in Oahu

7. Ehukai Pillbox Hike

  • Location: The trailhead is located here, in the adorable, surfer town of Haleiwa on the North Shore.
  • Length: 2.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 734 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Permit or fee? Free!

This trail is located on the famed North Shore of Oahu, known for its quirky food trucks, mega surfer vibes (never have I seen so many folks wandering around grocery stores barefoot!), and world-class beaches. 

Couple sitting on top of peace pillbox along the Ehukai Pillbox Hike in Oahu

On the Ehukai Pillbox Hike, you’ll start making your way through a lush forest and soon, reach a steep hill of rocks and tree roots you’ll need to scramble over. 

Shortly after your climb, you’ll be rewarded with the first pillbox of this trail, perched atop a hill overlooking the stunning coastline of Ehukai Beach and the world famous Banzai Pipeline (used by the best Big Wave surfers on the planet!). Like the pillboxes along the Lanikai Pillbox trail, these bunkers were built in the 1940s to serve as observational lookouts and to house operational equipment. Be sure to pop your head into the interior of the pillbox before you continue along—it’s now covered with colorful graffiti. 

Woman looking at graffiti in the pillbox along the Ehukai Pillbox Hike in Oahu

Continuing down the path, you’ll reach a second pillbox, painted with a bright peace sign and with a big ol’ floofy palm tree next to it. The views here of the North Shore are nothing short of epic—it’s hands-down one of the best hikes in Oahu for watching the sunset.

But, like above, be sure to bring a headlamp along!. We had to “rescue” two hikers just after sunset that were minutes away from stumbling down this incredibly steep hill in pure darkness because they didn’t have headlamps and both their cellphones were dead. We’re positive they would have had to sit on the ridgeline all night if we hadn’t passed them.

8. Lulumahu Falls Trail

  • Location: The trailhead is located here, in Honolulu. 
  • Length: 1.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 931 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Permit or fee? This hike is on private property, so you’ll need to purchase a permit for no more than five hikers here

The trailhead for the Lulumahu Falls is right along the Pail Highway, which cuts from the west to the east of the island. Because of the easy access to the highway, the parking area is a REALLY common area for break ins—so I’d suggest either taking rideshare here or, at a minimum, making sure to not have any valuables in your car!

Photo by Andrew Smith, licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Regardless of how you get here, you’ll start down an old hunting path that will narrow and slowly turn into a lush bamboo forest. You’ll eventually climb up a series of stone stairs and then follow along (and cross over a bunch of times) the Lulumahu Stream.

To be honest, it can be a bit challenging to follow the trail here, which tends to become a bit overgrown. I’d strongly recommend downloading the AllTrails map and following along with the pink ribbons tied to the trees. If all else fails, just continue to travel up the river and you’ll eventually reach a 50-foot plus waterfall, cascading down a cliffside, in the middle of the jungle. There’s a small plunge pool to get all the Instagram shots you need and to cool down before retracing your steps back to the trailhead.

Photo by Andrew Smith, licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

9. Koko Crater Trail

  • Location: The trailhead is located here, in Honolulu.
  • Length: 1.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 885 feet
  • Difficulty: Hard (y’alllll, I have rarely wanted to give up on a hike, but I definitely almost called it quits before reaching the top of this one!)
  • Permit or fee? None, although if you’re so inclined, there’s an awesome non-profit organization that helps maintain the trail, called Kokonut Koalition, that you can help support.

The Koko Crater Trail is definitely one of the most unique hikes I’ve ever completed. The entire trail consists of climbing straight up an ancient volcanic cone along railroad ties, left over from an old tramway. Built in the 1940s, the tramway originally carried soldiers and military supplies to a bunker perched atop a hill, used as an observational lookout and to house military equipment.

Woman hiking up railroad ties along the Koko Crater hike in Oahu

The tramway used to have a total of 1,048 railroad ties, but over the last several decades, the ties have eroded away to just 800. So between climbing hundreds of railroad ties, trying to scramble up the steep and crumbly pathway where the ties are now missing, and the non-existent shade, this hike is a REAL workout.

Once you’ve huffed and puffed your way to the top, though, you’ll find the old bunker (again, covered with colorful graffiti) and be rewarded for your hard work with jaw-dropping views of Hanauma Bay (which offers some of the best snorkeling in Oahu!), the Honolulu skyline, the dramatic Koʻolau mountains, and, of course, the sparkling blue waters of the Pacific.

View of Hanauma Bay from the summit of the Koko Crater hike in Oahu

When to Hike in Oahu

Listen, it’s Hawaii—there’s really no bad time to hit the trails! 

That being said, of course, there’s certain times of the year that can be a bit better for outdoor adventures. For example, Oahu’s rainy season runs from November through March, so trails may be more muddy—and, depending on what trail you’re hiking on, more dangerous—during that time frame.

Woman hiking up stairs along the Wiliwilinui Ridge hike in Oahu

Regardless of when you visit, be sure to check the weather beforehand, so you can come prepared!

Tips for Hiking in Oahu

Wear proper shoes.

Be sure to include proper waterproof hiking boots on your Hawaii packing list (I have this pair and Justin has these). Many of the trails are full of roots, rocks, and most of all, mud—so not only will boots keep your feet dry and provide more traction on the trail, but you’ll also avoid being that dude who ruins their pristinely white Air Jordans.

Man standing on top of the Lanikai Pillbox along the Lanikai Pillbox hike in Oahu

Come prepared with water, sunscreen, and bug spray.

Oahu hikes are either sunny and unshaded or jungle-y and full of bugs—and sometimes both! So be sure to pack plenty of water, slather on that sunscreen (I LOVE this reef-safe kind!), and toss some bug spray into your backpack before you hit the trail.

Respect the land and the people.

Listen, the way the Hawaiian Islands and its people have been treated by the United States has been problematic, to say the least, and tourism still has a weighty impact on this beautiful land. 

Koʻolau Mountains in Oahu

So please tread lightly and respect this incredibly special place—don’t hike on trails if they’re closed (even if you see others doing so), don’t cross barriers so that you can get a slightly better Instagram pic, and generally leave Oahu better than you found it.

I hope you have as much fun exploring the most incredible hikes in Oahu as I did—in fact, it’s one of my favorite places to hike! Do you have any questions about any of these trails or hiking in Oahu? Let me know in the comments below!

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