oahu

Hiking Hawaii: O’ahu

Hawaii has some of the most beautiful hiking in the world, and Steve and I have been fortunate enough to explore a lot of them on our trips to the islands! With O’ahu being the most populated and most visited of the islands, you won’t likely have a trail to yourself here, but you will definitely be rewarded with epic views and lush landscapes.

The popularity of these trails also makes for very safe hiking, even for solo travelers, as you will never be too far from help should you get hurt—someone will likely be passing by soon. Safety is always very important when hiking anywhere in the world!

Honolulu and East Honolulu

Diamond Head Summit Trail

Diamond Head is by far the most iconic symbol of O’ahu, and possibly all of Hawaii! Its proximity to Waikiki Beach makes it easy for most visitors to get to, and the stunning views from the top make the whole trek worthwhile!

The view from the top! That’s Waikiki over there!
Stats
  • Location: 4204 Diamond Head Road; Honolulu
  • Total Hiking Time: 1 hour
  • Distance: 2 miles round-trip
  • Cost: Cash only! $5 per car or $1 per person on foot; $30 annual pass per car or $10 annual pass on foot
  • Parking: Yes; lot on site
  • Terrain: Paved, gravel, dirt, stairs, steep inclines
  • Restroom Facilities: Yes; after the pay station, at the trail head
Diamond Head as seen from Waikiki Beach
Other Tips
  • Its Hawaiian name is Le’ahi.
  • Hours are 6:00am-6:00pm daily, but last hiking entry is 4:30pm.
  • No pets except service animals; sorry, dog lovers!
  • Gift shop onsite; snacks and beverages available for purchase.
We made it to the top!

Koko Head Crater Railway Trail

Koko Head Crater is famous for its railroad ties that act as stairs to the top. The railroad was built to accommodate the bunkers the U.S. military built at the top during World War II. The bunkers are mostly gone, the train is long gone, but the tracks remain. There are over 1000 steps to the top, but bear in mind that these are not standard stairs! The views all the way up (as well as at the top) are absolutely stunning, so don’t forget to look up every now and then to see the beauty around you!

Going up!
Stats
  • Location: Koko Head District Park; 423 Kaumakani St; Honolulu
  • Total Hiking Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes
  • Distance: 2 miles round-trip
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Parking: 2 lots at Koko Head District Park; opens at 5:30am daily
  • Terrain: Railroad ties laid as stairs up the side of the crater
  • Restroom Facilities: Yes, at the first parking area at Koko Head District Park
Meet Cookie! She made it all the way up and was very excited for her photo op!
Other Tips
  • It’s okay to take a break! Or a lot of breaks.
  • Bring water and snacks—this is a good idea on any hike, but especially this one!
  • Let other hikers pass going both ways when appropriate.
  • The rails are great for gripping to help you on the way up and back down again.
  • Start early—we got there about 6:30am and the lots were full by the time we left at 8:30!
  • Beware of falling rocks kicked loose by hikers above you.
  • There were some carpenter bees making their home on the railroad ties about 1/2 way up the trail. Be very careful in this section, as there is a significant drop-off below the tracks here, and if you’re allergic to bees, bring your epi-pen or forego this hike for one of the other beautiful hikes on the island.
Just a part of the amazing view from the top!

Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

The Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail is really a paved path, not a true hike, but it is steep, so you will break a sweat and start breathing heavy on the way up! Your effort to get to the top will be rewarded with stunning views of the Makapu’u Lighthouse, the islands of Molokai and Lana’i on clear days, Koko Head Crater, and Waimanolo Bay!

Waimanolo Bay
Stats
  • Location: Southeast tip of O’ahu; just search “Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail” in your phone or GPS
  • Total Hiking Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Distance: 3.5 miles round-trip
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Parking: Yes; opens at 7:00am; street parking is also acceptable when the lot fills up
  • Terrain: Blacktop pavement with a steep grade
  • Restroom Facilities: Nope!
Makapu’u Lighthouse
Other Tips
  • This path is part of the Kaiwi Scenic Shoreline.
  • The gate opens at 7:00am and leads to a parking lot for the trail head, but you can start earlier and park on the side of the road instead.
  • The lighthouse dates from 1909 and is off limits, but the views of it are beautiful!
  • This part of the island is particularly hot and dry, so bring plenty of water!
The view of Koko Head Crater from the top of the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail!

Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail

The Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail is one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever taken. It’s beautiful all the way up, at the top, and all the way down. It’s absolutely stunning, and while the rope climb and muddy stairs at the top definitely best suited for those with some athletic ability, the first half or so of the trail is easier and offers beautiful views of Diamond Head and Waikiki!

We made it! Photo by our new friend and fellow hiker, Jimmy from O’ahu!
Stats
  • Location: Inside the gated Waialae Iki subdivision; 2385 Okoa St; East Honolulu
  • Total Hiking Time: 3 hours and 15 minutes
  • Distance: 5.2 miles round-trip
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Parking: Lot on Okoa Street inside the gated subdivision
  • Terrain: Pavement, steps, roots, loose rocks, mud, and dirt
  • Restroom Facilities: Nope!
This is the most challenging part of the hike. You have to use the rope to get up and back down again!
Other Tips
  • As mentioned above, the trail head is located inside a gated community. There are a limited number of parking passes distributed by a gate guard each day, so go early to make sure you can get a pass.
  • There is a map to the parking area and trail head on the back of the parking pass.
  • Be here by 8:00am on any given day to make sure you get one of only 30 passes given each day.
  • You will have to show driver’s license to the gate guard and tell the number of people in your car.
  • if you miss out on a parking pass, you will have to park about a mile and a half from the trail head and walk uphill to get there.
  • There are 30 passes available, but the parking lot accommodates 14 cars; others must park on street, but do not park in front of driveways or mailboxes.
  • The mist at the top will come and go, so just wait a few minutes if it’s cloudy when you get to the top—you earned a break anyway!
This is real life!

Kuliouou Ridge Hike

The first mile or so of the Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Hike gives a new meaning to the word “switchback”! This is one of the most diverse hikes I’ve ever done. You’ll hike through evergreen forest, rain forest, and mud puddles, but the journey will all be worth it for the incredible views at the top!

It rained on us through part of this trail, but it was worth it to see this double rainbow!
Stats
  • Location: At the end of Kalaau Place; 900 Kalaau Pl, Honolulu
  • Total Hiking Time: 3 hours and 15 minutes
  • Distance: 5 miles round-trip
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Parking: Street parking on the cul-de-sac at Kalaau Place; do not block residents’ driveways
  • Terrain: Dirt, rock, mud, surface roots, stairs
  • Restroom Facilities: Nope!
Leaning into that celebratory kiss at the top!
Other Tips
  • Locals use this as a challenging running trail, so be on the lookout and kindly move to the side for them.
  • This trail is said to have the best view of the island from the top!
  • There is one fork on the trail; to the right you’ll take the ridge trail (just remember “right ridge”), to the left you’ll take the valley trail.
  • The first part of the trail is somewhat difficult to follow, and you will be making a lot of switchbacks as you climb the mountain to the ridge.
  • Bring your solid hiking shoes—no flip flops!
  • Some parts of this trail are narrow, with steep drop-offs on either side. Be careful!
Be ready for mud and a lot of stairs, but these views are worth it!

All these hikes are near Honolulu, but there are so many hikes all over the island, there’s no way we could have done them all! These are within convenient driving distance of Waikiki. Hopefully we’ll be going back to O’ahu again and again, and when we do I’ll be sure to add to this list as we do more hiking each time!

Want more? Check out my Hiking Hawaii posts for the Big Island, Maui, and Molokai! Stay tuned for a hiking post all about Lana’i next May, and for all things Hawaii, your ultimate resources are on my Pacific Islands Page!

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