Oahu, Hawaii, is a powerhouse when it comes to outdoor activity. Visitors to the island will find breathtaking beaches to relax on, delectable regional cuisine to savor, and miles and miles of hiking paths to discover within its 597 square miles.
On the amazing island of Oahu, countless hiking paths will take you over peaks, around coastlines, and to waterfalls. You will have more time to complete multiple walks if you choose the gentler hikes, which offer some elevation gain and beautiful scenery.
Only experienced hikers familiar with rock climbing are advised to attempt the difficult hikes. Select the top hikes on Oahu while making travel plans for the island. Continue reading to find out the best hikes in Oahu, Hawaii.
Read this list of the top 20 hikes on Oahu to choose which ones to go on during your visit. The hikes are divided into easy, moderate, and hard portions, with difficulty ratings ranging from 1 (very easy) to 20 (extremely hard). We’ve compiled a list of Oahu’s top hikes so you can explore the island while taking in the views.
1. 20 Best Hikes in Oahu
Hiking is one of the ideal ways to discover the stunning island of Oahu. The best Oahu routes highlight the natural splendor of this island paradise, whether you’re seeking a stroll or a strenuous climb on your Hawaii vacation.
As you traverse a range of native and exotic flowers, plants, and trees, take in the breathtaking vistas of the huge Pacific Ocean and well-known locations.
The noises of exceptional and ordinary birds and other animals living in the lush valleys and wooded pathways will also be audible. To be amazed by what nature has to offer, lace on your shoes and experience the trails on some of the best treks on Oahu.
Our top picks for treks on the island of Oahu are the ones with a number next to them. Trail length, difficulty, elevation variation, views, clarity of the way, and overall safety are all factors to consider while ranking trails for visitors.
We’re confident that after exploring these incredible routes, you’ll view Oahu from an entirely new viewpoint, whether you decide to go on these more difficult climbs or keep wandering alone. Let’s rank Oahu’s top trails in order of quality.
1.1. Diamond Head Trail
This is unquestionably the most well-liked trail for casual hikers due to its connection to one of Hawaii’s most famous sights.
The diamond head trail ascended to the peak and was constructed in 1908 as a component of Oahu’s coastal defense system. If you want to snag one of the 300 or so parking spots at the trailhead and escape the hundreds of visitors, the trick is to arrive as soon as the park (Diamond Head State Monument) opens.
If not, be ready to park farther away, adding a mile (uphill) to the distance to the trailhead. The route begins mostly paved and travels through a picturesque valley before beginning your ascent via smaller switchbacks.
You’ll go by the huge crater in the shape of a saucer created here by a single enormous volcanic eruption 300,000 years ago!
You will reach the summit by ascending a flight of extremely steep climbs after making a difficult ascent into the diamond head crater’s interior and passing through a tunnel.
Postcards worldwide have displayed Honolulu’s stunning scenery for many years. It is a must-do experience to see it as the summit’s prize.
1.2. Lanikai Pillbox Hike (Kaiwa Ridge Hike)
The historic Lanikai Pillbox (bunkers) from World War II is located on a ridge above Lanikai beach. It provides views of the Mokulua islands and the entire windward side of Oahu Island, which gives the Lanikai pillbox trek in Kailua its name. The hike is around 2 miles long (roundtrip) and gains 600 feet in height.
The Lanikai pillboxes can be hiked in one of two primary ways: an out-and-back path that finishes at the second or third pillbox or a loop path that continues down the opposite side of the mountain and culminates at Lanikai beach, which is also well worth a visit.
The Lanikai Pillbox hike has a lot of repeat value since, despite being relatively short, you still get breathtaking, incredible views from the top of the pillboxes. It is well known for being one of the favorite areas on the island to see the dawn and sunset!
Sturdy hiking shoes are still advised because the initial ascent is steep and can become muddy after rain. The good perspectives can be reached in 30 minutes or less on a dry day.
1.3. Koko Head Crater Trail
The well-known Koko Head Crater Trail is easily accessible from Waikiki, making it a popular spot for adventurers. A 1.6-mile track leads up, and you should proceed slowly. That’s because there are wildflowers on every side of the ascent.
The Koko Crater Botanical Garden, located near the top, offers visitors even more vegetation and panoramic views. A lengthy section of abandoned railroad ties that run along the crater’s edge must be ascended during this excursion, requiring more than 1,000 steps.
Be cautious that this hike is highly exposed. Arrive early for the best experience—and avoid the heat and congestion at this popular location. Otherwise, come here when the crowds have thinned down in the evening.
If you need to use both hands to steer, having a bag with water and snacks is a good idea. You can see Moloka’i, Hanauma Bay, and the eastern Honolulu shoreline from the summit.
1.4. Lulumahu Falls Hike
One of the best climbs on Oahu leads to the stunning, tall waterfall at Lulumahu Falls, where you can take pictures. You don’t need a bathing suit because the pool behind the falls is not deep enough for swimming. The Lulumahu Falls hiking trail leads you through a bamboo jungle before climbing steadily along a creek.
Be ready because the bamboo jungle might become very muddy. You must carefully cross the stream using the rocks or walking through it when you reach it.
When you come to another trail crossing the stream, turn around and continue on the right-side trail. Exercise extreme caution when crossing the stream.
1.5. Manoa Falls Trail
Manoa Falls Path should be at the top of your list of must-do hikes in Oahu if you’re looking for a trail that is more of a “walking trail” but still offers stunning scenery.
You’ll be relieved to learn that the Manoa Falls Trail undoubtedly falls on the “walk” end of the walk-hike bandwidth, with a roundtrip distance of just 1.6 miles and a steep hill grade that isn’t too taxing if you’re like many people who can’t hike the challenging trails or you’re exploring with children.
The route is only a 15-minute drive from Honolulu’s busy city center, but once you’re on it and looking out over Manoa Valley, you’ll feel like you’re in a completely different world.
1.6. Ka’ena Point Trail
You can climb the adjoining ridge to see a historic military pillbox with breathtaking views of the surrounding area if you want to enhance your trip to Ka’ena Point. This is a fantastic way to enhance one of the best hikes on Oahu!
Although short, the sidetrack to the pillbox at Kaena Point is rather difficult. Finding the unmarked, rough, and a little overgrown path up the ridge is one of the challenges. From here, the pillbox path begins.
For this one, you’ll need shoes, not sandals. If you choose to go at dusk, carry a decent headlight.
1.7. Moanalua Valley Trail
One of the most challenging hikes on Oahu is the one from the Moanalua Valley Trail to the steps in Haiku.
Before joining the Moanalua Middle Ridge, the authorized “backway,” the climb takes the Moanalua Valley Trail, which leads to the satellite top of the Stairway to Heaven (Haiku Stairs).
This approach is a wonderful alternative to the contentious and severely restricted Haiku Stairs because you can get up to the area even if entering the stairs or satellite top region (the front way) is illegal.
1.8. Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail
You can see Waikiki, a metropolis of white structures that appears in another world from the ridges we traverse, from Wiliwilinui Ridge.
The east coast’s turquoise waters and the expansive views are visible when you turn the other way at the trail’s summit. You’ll think you’re in the island’s center, which you nearly are!
It’s undoubtedly off the paved road and one of the most distinctive things to do on Oahu.
1.9. Kuliouou Ridge Trail
The Kuliouou Ridge Trail is a moderate to challenging trail with reasonably dry trekking conditions compared to many hiking trails on our list. As a result, the journey is a popular running route for locals.
You will encounter areas of rugged terrain that require you to climb stairs; at other times, you will have to do it on your own. The crest has multiple plateaus that offer stunning views of Oahu’s eastern shore before passing through a lovely arch made of banyan branches.
All your effort will be rewarded when you reach the peak, which offers breathtaking views of the shoreline and far into the distance.
1.10. Seven Falls Hike
The top hiking paths on Oahu each offer something special to appreciate. But the Seven Falls trek is difficult to pass up for an all-around adventure.
A stony stream runs alongside the hiking trail through a deep gorge. You will cross several waterfalls on the route, and the trail requires ropes so you can hike alongside them. You can make the entire journey to the seventh waterfall, but you’ll need good technical skills because it quickly becomes a trail for seasoned hikers.
Seven Falls offers it all, including boulder, hopping along the difficult path, and many wading across streams and waterfalls.
1.11. Pali Notches Hike
You must first scramble up a short, steep rise to reach the narrow Pali Notches ridge trek, then climb over the notches. Although it may sound difficult, experienced hikers will find it a manageable trip.
One of the riskiest hikes is the one via Pali Notches. You ascend through a stand of Hau trees, which soon give way to a breathtaking panorama view of Kaneohe to your right and the Pali Highway to your left.
1.12. Pink Pillbox Hike
The West Side of Oahu has a short ridge trek called Pink Pillbox’ Hike that provides views of the neighboring suburbs and the island’s world-famous beaches.
The climb is visible from the Farrington Highway below and along the ridge between the Nanakuli and Maili neighborhoods. There are several ways to get to the five pillboxes at the summit of this climb, which is one of its unique features.
There are two options for climbing the mountain: a steep and difficult route that is substantially shorter or a simpler, kid-friendly approach that zigzags up the mountain.
1.13. Stairway To Heaven (Haiku Stairs)
The stairway to Heaven Oahu is a challenging hike, risky, and against the law. Still curious? Three thousand nine hundred twenty-two metal stairs of sheer adrenaline and doom, known as the “Stairway to Heaven,” will carry you to the peak of the Ko’olau mountains. The staircase, which clings to the side of the steep mountain, is nearly vertical at several spots.
At the mountain’s peak is a vintage World War II radio station. Even security personnel are always patrolling the area. Nevertheless, tens of thousands of individuals attempt the climb each year, and with good reason – it’s one of the most breathtaking walks on the planet!
1.14. Olomana Trail
It is a challenging trail in Oahu, Hawaii, the Three Peaks hike, also known as Olomana. It may be the riskiest popular hike Oahu has to offer.
On the second and third summits, numerous tourists and locals have perished, including one as recently as 2022. If you can practice Olomana, I don’t want to scare you away, but it’s necessary to be aware of the hazards. This trek is no joke.
You can trek to the first or second peak before turning around to make the hike safer and simpler. Most agree that the first and second summits offer the most picturesque vistas.
1.15. Maunawili Falls Trail
Maunawili Falls Trail would probably be my favorite waterfall trek on Oahu if I had to choose. It is one of the best waterfall hikes in Oahu. Even though it’s not a particularly large waterfall, you can climb up and leap off the rocks, and there’s a nice swimming spot below.
This one is easy to moderate, in my opinion. It doesn’t take long to climb to the waterfall, but there are several stream crossings, muddy areas, and insects. You pass through some stunning rainforest landscapes along the route.
1.16. Hanauma Bay Ridge Trail
One of Oahu’s most well-known snorkeling locations, Hanauma Bay, can be seen from afar during this quick, paved hike. A natural rock bridge beside the sea and other intriguing sites can be found if you continue south along the bay, although most people use this trail to get to the ridge before turning back.
Early in the day is the best time to hike the Hanauma Bay Ridge Trail because it’s cooler and better for photos.
1.17. Ehukai Pillbox Hike
This pleasant walk on the North Shore offers aerial views of Ehukai and the shoreline and is called the “peace pillbox” climb.
On this trip, there are two concrete World War II pillboxes. Trees at the first one block the view, but exploring the bunker is still entertaining.
When you get to the second pillbox, which offers breathtaking views of the North Shore, you carry on past some boulders and down the slope from here.
Sunset Beach Elementary School’s parking area, which is close to Ehukai Beach Park, serves as the trailhead for the climb to the Ehukai pillboxes. The trailhead is well-marked.
1.18. Kahekili Trail
The difficult Kahekili Trail offers spectacular scenery on the windward side. Even though this trail is only 1.4 miles long, it climbs 1,789 feet in elevation, making it incredibly difficult and time-consuming.
Be careful and have good hiking boots with strong traction because there are several steep drop-offs. After the waterfall, there is a spot where the trail gets very overgrown, which is a good place to turn around.
Only experienced hikers should attempt the Kahekili Trail because of its treacherous climbing sections and extreme steepness.
1.19. Crouching Lion Hike
A short but steep trek is an excellent way to get a bird’s-eye view of Pu’u Manamana and the magnificent Kahana Bay. This Oahu hiking trail has no gradual beginning; it instantly ascends to the heavens, as do seemingly all.
There are many places to stop along the walk for breaks because the trail has not just one but many overlooks. You’ll probably need it because the Crouching Lion Trail can be slick, and the roots could cause you to become stuck.
However, the peak, where you can see the colorful coral reef below, offers the greatest view. The neighboring mountains will shine under the sun at the proper time of day.
1.20. Aiea Loop Trail
After a few strenuous hikes through the extensive forests of Oahu, it’s time to ease up on the effort. The Aiea Loop Trail is ideal for those who wish to take in some of Oahu’s best views without going far into the mountains.
You can wander around the circle leisurely while admiring forests full of eucalyptus groves, Norfolk pine, and native Koa because of many shelters and flat terrain.
The trail offers numerous distant views of Pearl Harbor, the Ko’olau Mountains, and the ever-present Diamond Head monument due to its location on the west side of the Halawa Valley.
2. What should you pack for hiking trails in Oahu?
2.1. Daypack for Hiking –
A comfortable daypack is crucial to transport your necessities, including water, snacks, a phone, and a small first aid kit. For short overnight trips and day walks on Oahu, the Osprey Talon 33 is perfect.
2.2. Walking Boots
These are arguably the most crucial hiking gear because uncomfortable boots can seriously derail any trek, especially if you’re hiking in Oahu’s tropical climate.
Forsake produces a selection of excellent waterproof sneakers and boots that are tough, adaptable, and suitable for use on any surface, even pavement.
2.3. The Water Bottles
Another vital piece of gear you should bring hiking. Hydration packs are fantastic since they can be stowed within your backpack and allow you to drink while hiking without removing your bag.
2.4. The Rain Shell
Even if the weather is perfect, you should always bring a rain shell when hiking on Oahu since it can change in minutes. Due to its tropical environment, rain is a given in Oahu, so bring a decent jacket.
Using sunscreen Is essential for trekking! Always bring sunscreen when hiking because you can still get sunburned even in bad weather.
3. Final Thoughts
On Oahu, hiking offers an incredible variety. You can start with a crater walk and end with a jungle journey to a stunning sunset viewpoint.
The remarkable topography of Oahu was greatly influenced by the eruption of two separate shield volcanoes. The majority of the trekking on the island entails hard climbs due to the mountains’ sharp angles of departure from the valley.
Although the deep forest contributes to the stability of the earth, many pathways nevertheless experience erosion, and they can be slick and muddy. For hikers of all experience levels, Oahu offers thrilling terrain. The easy climbs allow you to get close to the island’s breathtaking surroundings without exerting yourself too much.
However, experienced hikers who want to go the extra mile for a spectacular vista will smile at various difficult walks. This list of the 20 top Oahu hikes has something for everyone; whether you’re visiting Hawaii to enjoy the sun, surf, and drinks with the occasional day hike, or you want to travel the endless trails, you’ll find what you’re looking for here.