The island of O’ahu was formed by volcanic eruptions 2-4 million years ago, and its landscape still shows that fiery past. Landmarks and hikes feature tuff rings (like Hanauma Bay), cinder cones, spatter cones, and our most famous landmark, Lē`ahi (more widely known as Diamond Head). Thanks to its “middle age” (compared to the other Hawaiian Islands) and its stunning natural topography, O`ahu has some of the best hiking in the state. Leave the city and the resort life behind and explore deep valleys, plunging ridge hikes, and hidden waterfalls. A thorough list of the authorized and maintained Oahu hiking trails on the island can be found here.
Our Favorite Oahu Hikes
The west side of the island around Ko Olina offers plenty of phenomenal hikes, but many are of the more advanced and longer variety. What follows is some of our favorite easier and intermediate Oahu hikes, along with one advanced hike that, in our opinion, might just be the best on island. Caution should be exercised at all times when hiking, as changing weather and extreme conditions can present physical challenges.
For The Family
Diamond Head – The iconic landmark above Waikiki, the large crater is the remnants of a dormant volcanic vent that last “erupted” 150,000 years ago. Switchback up the interior walls on 1.6 miles of paved trails and stairs, progressing through old military fortifications to observation decks on the rim, 760 feet up. This is the most popular hike on O`ahu.
Ka`ena Point – The northwestern tip of the island, and a sacred place to native Hawaiians. Hikers can reach the point – and the bird nesting areas and monk seal haul outs – via dirt road paths from the north (2.5 miles) or the west side (2.4 miles), which we recommend. Along the way you will skirt blowholes, pass magnificent sea arches, and have a cave or two to explore. A relatively flat and easy hike, it can be hot so bring water and be mindful of the protected flora and fauna.
Makapu`u Lighthouse – an easy 2-mile Oahu hiking trail on a paved trail that wraps around the headlands and takes visitors to the top of Makapu`u Point, above the lighthouse. Panoramic views of the windward coast all the way to Kaneohe Bay are reward enough, but during the winter this is an excellent spot for whale watching.
For the Hikers
Maunawilli Falls – 2 miles of maintained, if muddy and “rooty” trails. The trail quickly takes you into the jungle and crosses several streams before ascending a ridge only to drop back down a winding path to the jungle floor and the tropical oasis below. Stay and relax, marvel at the 20-foot falls and the towering Ko`olaus above, and watch the adventurous perform their best cannonballs.
Lanikai Pillboxes – a relatively short hike (~1 hour round trip) that rewards climbers with a stunning view of Kailua and Lanikai, the Mokulua Islands, and Kāne`ohe Bay. The first 100 yards of the hike are the most difficult as hikers must scamper up a steep slope with the aid of some ropes. After this, the hike is intermediate and winds up the Kiawa Ridge to the old military pillboxes that command the windward coast. Bring a picnic, come for sunrise or sunset, or just wander through the grassland as you gaze out to sea before heading to the beach to cool off.
The Best View on Island
Our personal favorite, Olomana is one of the more rigorous and advanced hikes on the island. A series of 3 peaks and a testament in willpower, this Oahu hike climbs 1,800 feet to the first peak in just 1.5 miles, the whole time traversing a razor-thin ridge with steep vertical drops on both sides. Caution is advised, and this hike is for advanced hikers only. Meander through ironwood forests and native flowers and scale rock walls with provided ropes. At the top you are rewarded with absolutely amazing 360 degree views of the Windward Coast. Make sure to check out the views during your next Oahu vacation!