9 of the Best Hikes in Oahu, Hawaii

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Searching for the best hikes in Oahu? Keep reading for a guide to the 9 best hikes in Oahu!


Oahu, the top-visited island in Hawaii, is full of culture and beauty. Whether you’re visiting the beach, taking a road trip around the island, or hitting up one of Oahu’s hiking trails, you’ll be greeted with beautiful scenery at every turn.

Oahu is a hiker’s paradise. There are hikes in Oahu for every skill level, from beginner hikers to experienced trekkers. I don’t hike very frequently back home (or while traveling), and I found hiking Oahu’s hiking trails to be one of the highlights of my Hawaiian vacation.

When you’re planning your Oahu itinerary, make sure to spend a day or two taking at least one hike. The views all across the island are gorgeous, and the feeling of accomplishment after making it to the top will be a highlight of your trip. Hiking is also perfect if you’re traveling on a budget, since most of the hikes in Oahu are either free or have a very cheap admission fee.

Are you planning a trip to Oahu and wondering about the best hikes on the island? If so, you’re in the right place! Since I was only able to experience a handful of the hikes in Oahu, I reached out to some fellow travel bloggers to help me put together a more comprehensive guide on the very best hikes in Oahu.

In this guide, you’ll find tips and tricks for some of the best hikes in Oahu, from the popular, relatively easy Diamond Head trail to the difficult Koko Crater trail. This guide has hikes for all skill levels, and each hike on this list is recommended by a traveler who has personally experienced the hike. You can guarantee that these trails are among the best hikes in Oahu!

Ready to take a hike? Keep reading for the 9 best hikes in Oahu!

A World in Reach contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I may receive a commission at no cost to you! Read my full disclosure here.

Diamond Head Summit Trail – the Best Hikes in Oahu

Hike Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
Distance:
1.6 miles round-trip (0.8 miles each way)
Elevation Gain:
560 feet
Admission:
$5 per vehicle, $1 per walk-in visitor
Location:
Diamond Head State Monument, Kapahulu, Honolulu, Hawaii (map of Diamond Head hike location)
See AllTrails for more information on the Diamond Head Summit Hike.

There’s no doubt about it that Diamond Head is the most popular hike in Oahu. No matter when you go, you’ll find a hoard of tour buses and crowds ascending to the summit. Don’t let the crowds put you off: Diamond Head is one of the best hikes in Oahu. When you get to the top of the volcanic tuff cone, you’ll be greeted with stunning views of of the eastern Oahu shoreline.

View of Diamond Head from Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Hawaii
View of Diamond Head from Waikiki Beach

If you drive and park at Diamond Head, you’ll pay $5 per vehicle (walk-in visitors pay just $1). Parking is limited, so when you arrive you’ll join a line of cars waiting for the next available spot. As cars leave the parking lot, an attendant will direct you to the open spot.

Before starting the Diamond Head hike, take time to use the restroom and fill up your water bottle (there’s a water filling station beside the restroom, and the gift shop sells water bottles if you forgot yours). When you’re ready, start walking on the paved path leading to the trail. After walking for about 0.2 miles on the paved path, the path will turn to dirt and start getting steep and uneven. At this point, you’ll begin ascending switchbacks along the side of the crater wall.

Steep stairs on the Diamond Head Trail in Oahu Hawaii

There are two reasons that the Diamond Head Trail is classified as an easy-to-moderate hike. The first is that the trail is very uneven in spots – make sure to wear comfortable, supportive shoes. The second? The stairs. There are two steep sets of stairs along the Diamond Head Trail. The first will take you to a 225-foot lighted tunnel. As you exit the tunnel, you’ll see an arrow pointing left and right. Turn left and you’ll take a longer path of stairs that wind along to the top platform; turn right and you’ll take a set of 99 stairs straight up to a military bunker room, where you’ll then take a spiral staircase to the lookout (I chose to take the left, winding path). When you finally make it to the top, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of the Oahu coast, including Waikiki, the Diamond Head volcanic crater, and Koko Head crater.

View of Honolulu from Diamond Head Summit, one of the most popular and best hikes in Oahu

Despite the uneven path and the stairs, the Diamond Head Summit Trail is a suitable hike for most fitness levels. There are plenty of places to take a break, and you can make your way to the top at your own pace. Most hikers take about 2 hours to complete the hike, including photo stops and spending time at the summit. After hiking back down, treat yourself with some fresh pineapple or a Dole Whip from the food truck parked near the visitor’s center.

Diamond Head is one of the best hikes in Oahu – make sure to add it to your Oahu bucket list!

Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail

Hike Difficulty: Easy
Distance:
2 miles round-trip (1 mile each way)
Elevation Gain:
505 feet
Admission:
Free
Location:
(map)
See AllTrails for more information on the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail.

The Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail is an easy, entirely paved, short hike in the southeastern part of Oahu. This is one of the most popular hikes on Oahu, though it’s not quite as crowded as Diamond Head. The paved path makes this hike accessible for wheelchairs or strollers.

Paved trail on the Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail in Oahu Hawaii - best hikes in Oahu
The paved trail on the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail

Free parking is available at the trailhead; if the lot is full, try circling around. We were able to get a perfect spot after just a few minutes. The trailhead is located at the end of the parking lot. You’ll start the hike by climbing a steady incline; once you get to the switchback, you’ll continue up a more gradual incline. There are plenty of rest stops and scenic views along the way – if you’re lucky, you might get to see migrating humpback whales! If you’re doing the hike between November and May, make sure to bring your binoculars to help search for whales.

The view from the summit secures the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail’s spot as one of the best hikes in Oahu. At the top, you’ll be blown away with gorgeous views of the windward coast, the sparkling blue water, and the historic Makapu’u Lighthouse. On clear days, you can see as far as Molokai and Lanai. If you want more gorgeous views with a little bit of adventure, you can also continue on the Makapu’u Tide Pools trail (keep reading for information on that hike!).

View of the Makapu'u Lighthouse with the ocean in the background - Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail Oahu Hawaii
View of the Makapu’u Lighthouse

Most hikers rank the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail as the easiest hike in Oahu, followed by Diamond Head. I found Diamond Head to be a little bit easier as the trail wasn’t as steep and the pavement was harder on my feet. Regardless, the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail isn’t terribly difficult and is doable for most fitness levels. Most of the trail is exposed, so make sure to pack sunscreen, a hat, and water. Bring along a good quality selfie stick too to snap some great photos of yourself!

Best Hikes in Oahu: The Waimea Valley Trail

Contributed by Noel of This Hawaii Life

Hike Difficulty: Easy
Distance:
1.9 miles round-trip (0.95 miles each way)
Elevation Gain:
216 feet
Admission:
Adult $18, Senior/Student $14, Child $12, Military/Hawaii Resident discounts also available
Location:
Waimea Valley Road, Haleiwa, Hawaii 96712 (map)
See AllTrails for more information on the Waimea Valley Trail.

Waimea Valley is a fantastic area of the North Shore of Oahu where you can take an easy hike. Not only is Waimea Valley a gorgeous botanical garden and historic cultural site, but there is a fantastic waterfall in the end to visit and even take a dip in. The valley is historic with ancient monuments, rock walls, and places of interest including a mock ancient village to explore and read the interesting information on placards in the village. The beauty of the valley combined with all of the interesting attractions make Waimea Valley one of the best hikes in Oahu.

While on the hike to the waterfall, there are many side trails to explore like the one to the mock village, where you will get a chance to see what ordinary buildings were made of and the various structures and meanings to their use. The botanical garden has many individual themed areas that you can also explore.

Waimea Valley Falls at the end of Waimea Falls Trail in Oahu, Hawaii - one of the best hikes in Oahu Hawaii
Waimea Valley Falls

Since the walk to the waterfall is less than a mile in distance, you can easily check out all the other attractions in the valley floor. There’s even a luau that is offered at the site starting at 5 pm (check the official Toa Luau website for up-to-date schedules). This helps maintain the non-profit organization that helps to preserve the heritage, culture, and landscape of this pristine area.

If you are planning on doing more exploration around Waimea Valley, check out this guide on the top things to do and see in the North Shore of Oahu for more inspiration and images. You’ll love seeing the natural beauty of the island and doing some fun adventures in the area.

Pu’u Ohia (Mount Tantalus) Hike

Contributed by Clemens Sehi of Travellers Archive

Hike Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 0.9 miles round-trip (0.45 miles each way)
Elevation Gain: 351 feet
Admission: Free
Location: Pu’u Ohia Trail, Honolulu, Hawaii (map)
See AllTrails for more information on Pu’u Ohia.

The Hawaiian island Oahu is a mecca for everyone who is into hiking. It is full of lush green mountains and hills and hosts some of the most spectacular trails that lead you right through the most terrific forests.

One of our favorite hikes on Oahu has been the walk to Mount Tantalus, or Pu’u Ohia as the locals call it. The hike is a short but sweet 0.9 mile heavily frequented return trip near Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii. It leads through a beautiful forest and past beautiful viewpoints; there are also beautiful wildflowers and often wild animals to see. Due to the incline and distance, the route is suitable for all performance levels. There are various activity options and the route is accessible year-round. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash.

View of Diamond Head, Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii from the Tantalus Hike
View of Diamond Head from the end of the Pu’u Ohia Trail // Photo by Clemens Sehi of Travellers Archive

The highlight of the trail is the view at the end of this hike. It gives you a unique view over Honolulu and all the way over to Diamond Head.

Pro Tip: Make sure to get some lunch before the hike (most suitable is a fresh poke takeaway), bring it up to the endpoint of the trail and enjoy the view while snacking on your lunch.

Manoa Falls Trail – The Best Hikes in Oahu

Contributed by Clara of Petite Capsule

Hike Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
Distance: 1.6 miles round-trip (0.8 miles each way)
Elevation Gain: 633 feet
Admission: Free (Parking: $5)
Location: Na Ala Hele, Honolulu, Hawaii (map)
See AllTrails for more information on the Manoa Falls Trail.

The popular Manoa Falls Trail is one of the best hikes in Oahu. The trail is picturesque and beautiful as you walk through the rainforest.

On the trail, you’ll walk through eucalyptus trees and a bamboo forest before arriving at the 150-foot tall waterfall. If you feel like you’re in the Jurassic Park movie or stuck on an island like the TV series Lost, it’s because you are – both filmed scenes here!

The waterfall at the end of Manoa Falls Trail hike in Oahu, Hawaii
Manoa Falls // Photo by Clara of Petite Capsule

The Manoa Falls Trail is a relatively easy waterfall hike, so it is suitable when traveling with a baby or toddler, children, and adults. It is a short hike at just 0.8 miles one way to the waterfall, or 1.6 miles return. It generally takes 1 to 2 hours to complete depending on your pace. The trail is an easy dirt track, though it can get muddy in parts, especially after it rains. Be sure to take your time when walking up the stairs to the waterfall as it is rocky, steep, and can get slippery. Due to the lush vegetation, the trail is mostly shady. This is perfect as it means it doesn’t get too hot if you decide to do the hike in the afternoon.

Admission to the Manoa Falls Trail is free, but there is a $5 charge for parking. The easiest way to get there is by car, but you can also take the Oahu bus (from the Ala Moana Center, take the #5 Manoa Route bus). Guided half-day hiking tours of the Manoa Falls Trail are also available.

Makapu’u Tide Pools

Contributed by Amy Dodd of Oceans to Alpines

Hike Difficulty: Moderate
Distance:
1.9 miles round-trip (0.95 miles each way)
Elevation Gain:
449 feet
Admission:
Free
Location:
(map)
See AllTrails for more information on the Makapu’u Tide Pools.

While the Makapu’u Tide Pools trail is not a sanctioned trail, visiting the tide pools at Makapuu Lighthouse is a unique treat on a visit to Oahu. This hike will start off easy with a stroll up the paved path to Makapu’u Lighthouse. About halfway to the top, you will spot on the side of the path a sign for whale sightings and caution signs. This is the trailhead for the Makapu’u Tide Pools.

Breaking away now from the paved road, you need to be comfortable climbing down an unpaved hill made of grass and loose rocks (wear proper shoes for this!). You will know where you are going, as you will be able to see the tide pools from the paved road at the top. Just keep carefully moving down the hill towards the pools.

Makapu’u Tide Pools // Photo by Amy of Oceans to Alpines

After the hike down, enjoy swimming around in the pools. I recommend sticking to the inner pools, as you will quickly find out the outer pools are continuously be hit by incoming waves making them dangerous. Once you have enjoyed the pools, you can start heading back up the hill. This climb can be completed quicker than the downhill climb – just look for the spray-painted white arrows that show the easiest route.

For those seeking a little bit of danger and a lot of adventure, the Makapu’u tide pools are one of the best hikes in Oahu and make for a unique experience.

Ka’ena Point Trail

Contributed by Agnes Groonwald of Travel on the Reg

Hike Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 5 miles round-trip (2.5 miles each way)
Elevation Gain: 442 feet
Admission: Free
Location: Farrington Highway, Waialua, Hawaii (map)
See AllTrails for more information on the Ka’ena Point Trail.

The Kaʻena Point Trail through the Ka’ena Point Natural Area Reserve offers some of the best scenery and wildlife-spotting of any Oahu itinerary, yet it’s common to have the trail all to yourself.

There are two points of entry for the trail, the Mokule‘ia route and the Wai‘anae route. Mokule‘ia is the more direct route, with fewer switchbacks. There is no fee to hike either route. To reach the start of the Mokule‘ia route, you’ll need to take Farrington Highway to the North Shore, past Waialua. You’ll see a parking lot at the end, where the paved road stops.

View of a rainbow over the ocean from the Ka'ena Point Trail in Oahu, Hawaii - one of the best hikes in Oahu
View from the Ka’ena Point Trail // Photo by Agnes Groonwald of Travel on the Reg

You’ll have two options for your hike: hiking along the road or the beach. The road is much easier, as you’re not sinking into sand for two miles, but it’s less scenic, as you have the waves breaking on one side if you’re on the beach. On the way, don’t miss the remains of the railway that used to pass through here, transporting sugar cane.

The biggest payoffs come at the very end. Just when you think you’d been walking for hours – in reality, it takes about an hour to get to this point, with photo stops – you’ll see a gate into the park’s bird sanctuary. Make sure the gate shuts behind you, and keep going past the nesting albatross. You’ll come across a ridge with a tower, and just past the tower, you should encounter some of the park’s guides. They were kind enough to point out some sleeping monk seals that we certainly would have missed otherwise.

The hike is rated as moderate, as it is quite long – 2.5 miles each way – and does require some coastal trekking.

Lanikai Pillbox (Kaiwa Ridge Trail)

Contributed by Gourmand Trotter

Hike Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 1.8 miles round-trip (0.9 miles each way)
Elevation Gain:
649 feet
Admission:
Free
Location:
265 Kaelepulu Drive, Kailua, Hawaii (map)
See AllTrails for more information on the Lanikai Pillbox Hike (Kaiwa Ridge Trail).

Lanikai Pillbox Hike is located close to the famous Lanikai Beach, which is famous for its fine sand and stunning color of the water. Lanikai Pillbox Hike is a moderate hike that is suitable for all ages. However, those hiking with children should take precautions and always keep an eye on their children, as some parts of the hike fall straight down. The trail is also known as the Kaiwa Ridge Trail and is often cited as one of the most pleasant and beautiful hiking trails in Oahu. It rewards visitors with impressive views of the ocean and landscape.

Man looking out over the view from the Lanikai Pillbox Hike in Oahu Hawaii - best hikes in oahu hawaii
View from the Lanikai Pillbox Hike // Photo by the Gourmand Trotter

The reason why this hike is ranked as moderate is mostly because of its steep grade which includes uphill climb right from the start. Once you’ve walked uphill though, it gets a lot easier. Mokulua Islands, Kailua Beach, and Lanikai Beach are just some of the vistas that you can admire while walking the Lanikai Pillbox Hike.

The hike is free and you can easily find the starting point of the hike by entering Lanikai Pillbox Hike in Google Maps. The Oahu bus stops very near the start and the bus driver can notify you as well. You’ll need proper hiking shoes to help keep you from injuring yourself as you walk along the trail.

Koko Head – Koko Crater Trail

Contributed by Erin Tracy of Traveling Thru History

Hike Difficulty: Hard
Distance:
1.8 miles round-trip (0.9 miles each way)
Elevation Gain: 990 feet
Admission: Free
Location:
7604 Koko Head Park Rd #7602, Honolulu, Hawaii 96825 (map of Koko Head Hike location)
See AllTrails for more information on the Koko Crater Trail.

Koko Head is one of the most popular hikes on Oahu. Formally known as Koko Crater Trail, this is a hike that is like no other. Instead of winding around the mountain and varying in pitch, this hike goes straight up the side of the mountain. No twisting, no winding.

Railroad ties at the Koko Crater Railway Hike, one of the best hikes in Oahu
Railway stairs on the Koko Crater Trail // Photo by Erin of Traveling Thru History

Koko Head follows an abandoned railroad track up the side of Koko Crater, so you’re pretty much just climbing a really tall staircase with a pretty fantastic view. There are 1,045 railway stairs from the bottom until you reach the top, which means you should only do this hike if you’re in pretty good physical condition and have good balance. There are no handrails and at one point, the tracks go over open space. Although there are steps the whole way, this should be considered a moderate-to-hard difficulty level.

When you do this hike, go several hours before sunset as the hike down can be dangerous in the dark. Wear sturdy shoes with ankle support, wear a hat, and bring plenty of water and snacks. Wearing a backpack that is securely strapped to your back will leave your hands free for balancing. Avoid going on rainy days as the railroad ties will become slick.

At the top of the hike are a few pillboxes and great views, so plan on exploring and taking photos. With a decent amount of time to rest, explore, and take pictures, you should plan at least 3 hours for this hike.

To find the base of the trailhead, take Kalaianaoli Highway south from Waikiki until after it changes to Highway 72. At Hawaii Kai Shopping Center, turn left onto Lunalilo Home Road and then right onto Anapalau Street. On your left, you will see the parking lot at Koko Head District Park. Once you park, walk behind the baseball fields towards the crater. There is no fee for the park or the parking lot.

Safety Tips for Hiking in Oahu

Make sure to stay safe while hiking in Oahu! Even if you’re going on easy hikes, it is important to take precautions to protect yourself from getting injured. Here are a few of my top safety tips for hiking in Oahu:

  • Stay hydrated. I brought my Camelbak Eddy water bottle and filled it up before hiking. Make sure to bring plenty of water on your hikes, even if they seem short or easy.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. At the beginning of my trip to Oahu, I went to Walmart and picked up a bottle of sunscreen (budget-friendly tip: go to the beauty section to find sunscreen rather than the tourist section at the front of the store – they have cheaper options!). I made sure to apply sunscreen every couple of hours, especially before hiking or going to the beach. It’s also a good idea to bring a hat and sunglasses for extra protection.
  • Wear sturdy, supportive shoes. I went on easy hikes in Oahu, so I stuck to sneakers. However, if you’re going on a more difficult hike, I would recommend getting some supportive hiking shoes or boots.
  • Hike with a buddy. You can get away with hiking trails like Diamond Head or Makapu’u Lighthouse Point alone since they’re frequented by tourists and there is a clearly defined path. If you’re going to be hiking a trail that’s more dangerous or doesn’t have a clear path, make sure to hike with a partner.
  • Lock your valuables in your trunk. Hawaii is very safe, but there is petty crime against tourists. Protect your belongings by locking any valuables in your trunk.
  • Purchase travel insurance. Hiking can sometimes lead to injuries, so make sure you’re protected with travel insurance. I use and recommend World Nomads – check out their website to find a plan that’s right for you.

Oahu is full of hikes that’ll allow you to get your heart rate up while taking in some amazing scenery. Make sure to add at least one of these epic hikes to your Oahu itinerary!

Have you been to Oahu? Which hike was your favorite?

Check out more Oahu travel tips:

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38 thoughts on “9 of the Best Hikes in Oahu, Hawaii

  1. kmf says:

    Love day hikes and love Hawaii so this post is a perfect resource for me. Pinning it for later. I’ve only been to Oahu once so would love to explore more.

  2. Emma says:

    Such an informative post with so many great ideas! Thanks for putting so much detail in, gonna add these to my list for the next time I visit Hawaii!

  3. Ale says:

    Adding these hikes to my list next time I’m in Hawaii! Last time I was in Oahu I spent my time in the tourist trap of Waikiki, looking forward to seeing more of it!

  4. Kay says:

    Yesss I loved hiking on Oahu! The last time I was there, I didn’t get to any waterfall hikes though, so I’m dying to go back to do more of the ones you listed!

  5. Jen says:

    Ahh I love this. I’ve already done a few hikes on Oahu but I can’t wait to go back and do some more. Such a beautiful place especially for hiking!

  6. Katie says:

    Some great hikes on Oahu, I have done about half of these so will the others on my list when I return to Oahu. My 70 year old father did Koko Head with me a year ago, killed it!

  7. Menty says:

    Wow, great sharing! I like your list by putting different hiking style together! There are so many options, I think I would love to try the waterfall ones and the lighthouse trail first if I’m going to visit! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Jenny says:

    I almost have my husband convinced to travel to Hawaii in December (if we are allowed to travel by then). These hikes are perfect recommendations. And I love the pictures.

  9. Jasmine says:

    I’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii and I knew about Diamond Head, but I never knew about the others! I’ve saved this for when I get to Hawaii eventually!

    • Sydney says:

      Diamond Head was pretty much the only hike I knew about before my visit too. Oahu has so many great hikes, not to mention all the hikes on the other islands!

  10. Imani Escapes says:

    Beautiful photos! Especially love the look of the Makapu’u Tide Pools. I really want to go to Hawaii, and it’s great to know that there are some good hikes for beginners too (me)!

    • Sydney says:

      Thank you! I did the Makapu’u Lighthouse hike but we didn’t go down to the tide pools. I am a beginner hiker but I really enjoyed the hikes that we did!

  11. Travelling Tam says:

    Hawaii is absolutely so high ony bucket list, mainly for the hiking so this is such a great read. Saving it for when I make it there!

  12. Sara Moore says:

    You made everything sound so amazing! Thank you for providing so much detail- especially logistics and costs.

  13. Erin says:

    I love Hawaii! It’s so beautiful there and it has such a varied landscape. I’ve done several of these hikes and they’re really great. Thanks for sharing!

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