Best hikes on Oahu | 10 epic trails for anyone - Denny & Nikki (2022)

Best hikes on Oahu | 10 epic trails for anyone - Denny & Nikki (1)

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You want to hike with epic Jurassic mountain views? Check. A waterfall hike? Check. Oh, and how about endless ocean views and lava rock? Double check. Oahu is a hiker’s dream come true. You can live years on Oahu and still have not hiked every trail! And oh the diversity, from jungle treks with waterfalls to lava rock climbs with breathtaking lookouts. No matter the season, the drier summer months, or wetter winter months, these hikes can be done anytime. Most people will hike when they come to Hawaii, but it can be pretty hard to find a good trail when there’s countless hikes to do! That is why, we listed the ten best hikes to do on Oahu. The ten hikes you cannot miss when visiting Oahu and are often underrated. Keep on reading and let us know which hike you enjoyed most!

Best hikes on Oahu for sunrise

Lanikai Pillbox for the best pictures

Best hikes on Oahu | 10 epic trails for anyone - Denny & Nikki (2)

The Lanikai Pillbox hike is the perfect trail to complete for sunrise. This moderate hike will give you the opportunity to take in the most picturesque views on the island. It’s located on the windward coast of Oahu in the famous beach town, Lanikai.

The town is world renowned for its beach that hosts a view of the two beautiful Mokulua Islands. The sun rises over the two islands and becomes a photographer’s dream landscape. It’s a wonderful way to start the day.

The most picturesque views on the island

Arrive around 45 minutes before sunrise to the town of Lanikai. Parking is difficult so you may need to add 10 minutes to find an open spot in the neighborhood. The trail is popular, so you will see others heading toward the entrance.

Best hikes on Oahu | 10 epic trails for anyone - Denny & Nikki (3)

The hike features dirt trail with moderate elevation. You may have to use ropes or roots to pull yourself up during rainy days! Don’t worry though, because the views are definitely worth it. You can stop at one of the two pillboxes up top to enjoy the sunrise. The pillboxes are remnants from the WWII era and make great places to enjoy the sunrise. Of course, they also make great selfie spots.

The hike features dirt trail with moderate elevation. You may have to use ropes or roots to pull yourself up during rainy days! Don’t worry though, because the views are definitely worth it. You can stop at one of the two pillboxes up top to enjoy the sunrise. The pillboxes are remnants from the WWII era and make great places to enjoy the sunrise. Of course, they also make great selfie spots.

Makapu’u Lighthouse trail (with a secret)

Best hikes on Oahu | 10 epic trails for anyone - Denny & Nikki (4)

The Makupu’u hike is a famous trail on Oahu. It’s an easy paved path that takes you to a lighthouse that overlooks the vast Pacific Ocean. In the winter, it’s possible to spot migrating whales so make sure to bring binoculars.

As you make your way to the top, make sure to take a quick detour to see the tidepools and blowhole. It’s located right under the whale spotting signs on the path. You can even swim in the tidepools, but make sure to be mindful of the incoming tide.

The best time to experience this hike is for sunrise! The sun hits the lighthouse and mountains in a serene way. Make sure to bring your camera.

Local Secret: Finished with the hike and ready to cool off? There is a path at the entrance of Makupu’u that veers to the right. Walk to the end of that path to find Pele’s chair and a small lagoon to enjoy.

Best Hikes on Oahu for nature

Maunawili Falls jungle hike

*Currently undergoing renovations until 2023

Best hikes on Oahu | 10 epic trails for anyone - Denny & Nikki (6)

You have to do a waterfall jungle hike if you come to Hawaii! Do not skip this one. The Maunawilli Falls trail walks you through mud and rivers to find an epic waterfall at the end.

The trail has many palms and occasional banana trees.It can be muddy after rain, but still very fun! If you are a real adventurer, you can do some cliff jumping into the pool at the bottom.

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This hike is on the Windward side of the island close to the town Kailua. Visit the small community of Maunawilli by exiting off of Pali Road before Kailua town. Parking is easy and the trail is well marked!

Local Tip: Be careful with the water if you have open cuts. There is a disease on the island called leptospirosis that can be deadly if contracted. Most people swim without any issues, but be aware before you go into the water.

The isolated Ka’ena Point

Best hikes on Oahu | 10 epic trails for anyone - Denny & Nikki (8)

This hike is one of our favorites on the island. It has so much beauty! Rolling hills, lava shoreline, and MONK SEALS! It’s best characteristic is also it’s largest challenge. The isolation of the state park allows you to enjoy the trail without many people. But… you will need a car because no buses are making trips to this corner of the island. Read our detailed post on how to hike to Kaena Point!

This is definitely one of the best hikes on Oahu and you might have it all to yourself

This hike has two starting points. You can begin the trail from the Westside or from the North Shore. We recommend taking the trail from the Westside. Why? It’s the more dramatic and epic trail, with lava rock as a shoreline, tide pools and endless ocean views.

The end of the trail is a peaceful bird sanctuary. Oh, and you can see monk seals. Don’t miss them!

Best hikes on Oahu | 10 epic trails for anyone - Denny & Nikki (9)

Local Tip: Kaena Point holds an important meaning to Native Hawaiians. The area is believed to be where recently departed souls jump into the afterlife to be with their loved ones.

Best hikes on Oahu near Honolulu

Koko Crater for a workout

The Koko Head crater trail is your vacation workout! You may need the exercise though after all the Hawaiian food you’ll be eating. It’s 1,000 steps that rewards you with scenic views of Southern Oahu, a massive crater and Hanauma Bay. We’ve written this informative post on how to hike Koko Head Crater, check it out!

You will be hiking on old railroad tracks that were used during WWII. Some of the wooden steps are missing, but it’s doable if you have a little endurance.

At the top, you will get to visit a WWII pillbox and awesome views overlooking the crater. Very adventurous hikers can continue around the crater to explore the rim and plant life! Can you make it to the top?

Best hikes on Oahu | 10 epic trails for anyone - Denny & Nikki (11)

Local Tip: This hike can get hot during the middle of the day! It’s better to catch this hike around sunrise or sunset if you can make the climb! Afterwards, you can walk across the street to Hanauma Bay to cool off and view some of the island fish.

The most popular trail in Oahu (Diamond Head)

Best hikes on Oahu | 10 epic trails for anyone - Denny & Nikki (12)

Any guidebook or google search is taking you to the iconic Diamond Head trail! It’s synonymous with Waikiki and it’s on most postcards from Oahu. A great hike with great views of Waikiki! Plus you’re in an actual volcanic crater! The hike is a steady incline but short. If you can walk for 45 min straight, then you should be good to go.

The hike starts inside the crater where you can view the many pillboxes that line the ridge. The climb to the top offers a variety of plant life and a chance to take in many of the birds of Oahu.

The reward at the top is a panoramic view of Waikiki and southeastern Oahu. The ocean and the crater slopes will be sparkling in the sunlight (hence the name). Take it all in! After all, you are standing in a volcanic crater.

You will see many sparkles in the ocean, it almost looks like tiny diamonds

Local Tip: This hike can get crowded. It’s one of the few trails that has it’s own trolley stop. Get here early to avoid the crowds or choose another volcanic crater to tackle. You can try out Koko Crater for a step workout or Ka’au Crater for advanced hikers. Ka’au Crater is beautiful with a long ridgeline hike and waterfalls, but it’s tough… I mean really tough! I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone other than adult adventures seekers.

Best short hikes on Oahu

A hike with a picnic (Friendship Garden)

Best hikes on Oahu | 10 epic trails for anyone - Denny & Nikki (13)

The one place on the island that will take your breath away is Kaneohe! The Ko’olau mountain range snuggles the town, which makes for an amazing backdrop to any hike.

While Kaneohe has plenty of trails that could make this list of best hikes on Oahu, we chose a short but sweet hike. The Friendship Garden trail has a lot to offer.

It’s a jungle hike that includes benches to relax on and lookout points over the Kaneohe Bay. It’s a perfect place for a picnic or bird watching. The garden hike can is perfect for a lunch break or as a quick stop on your road trip around the island! The total time should take about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how many pictures you want.

Local Tip: Grab some poke from the local Foodland and head up to one of the benches on this trail! Eat this meal while looking over Kaneohe Bay! You can thank us later!

Jungle hike with a natural swimming pool (Judd Trail)

Best hikes on Oahu | 10 epic trails for anyone - Denny & Nikki (15)

This short hike has a little something for everybody! The trail takes you through bamboo forest, pine trees, and guava groves! A little rain beforehand will make it muddy, but not unbearable. A little mud has never hurt anyone.

After completing the trail, take a dip in jackass ginger pool! Don’t ask me where the name comes from… You can jump into the 8 ft deep water or slide off the mossy rocks into the pool. This pool was once a place only for the royals of Hawaii, so feel fancy as you enjoy your day on this trail.

Local Tip: The parking area for this hike is risky for crime. Make sure to lock up valuables and stow them out of sight. Tough times for the Hawaiian economy are making petty theft uncommon. Reduce your risks as much as possible.

Read more about Judd Trail before you hike out there.

Pink pillbox hike

Best hikes on Oahu | 10 epic trails for anyone - Denny & Nikki (16)

Wow, wow, wow! This pillbox hike is short, rewarding and thrilling! It took us about 30 minutes to hike to the top where you will find five pillboxes. And one of them is, you guessed it, pink. They painted it pink for breast cancer awareness. You will see whale watching boats on the ocean during the winter months and early spring (whale season).

You will see mountains that look softer than the Jurassic mountains on the other side of the island. And the foggy clouds that sit snug on top of the green mountains, which is so iconic for Hawaii.

You’ll have to walk a thrilling ridge line to get to all the pillboxes, which makes this hike exciting and fun. This hike exceeded our expectations and we will definitely do this hike more than once.

Our favorite hike on Oahu (Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Trail)

Best hikes on Oahu | 10 epic trails for anyone - Denny & Nikki (17)

No list of the best hikes on Oahu would be complete without our favorite trail! Do you want to stand on top of the majestic Ko’olau Mountain range? The Kuliouou Ridge Trail is the best way to do that!

The ridgeline is glorious, but the real treasure is the journey up the mountain. You will cross through pine forest, lookout over Diamond Head, Koko Crater and a picnic area. You can make an entire day out of this hike and you should! We felt a sense of calmness and clarity while climbing the mountain. You could compare it to meditation.

Hiking essentials in Oahu

  • Good hiking shoes. Trails in Oahu can be really muddy, with loose rocks and narrow ridgelines. Shoes with good traction and grip are a must.
  • Backpack. A small backpack to carry your waters and snacks.
  • Sun protective clothing. We’ve seen many people with sunburnt skin. If you don’t want to be part of this group, wear some sun protective clothing!
  • Sunscreen. Because, wow, the sun gets hot in Hawaii!
  • Binoculars. If you want to spot some whales, this is a must.
  • Camera

Let yourself be heard!

Have you done any of these 10 hikes? Or which one is missing on this list? Share your experience and thoughts below in the comment section!

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