Spectacular sunrise at Kualoa Beach Park in Kaaawa, Oahu, Hawaii

17 Best Oahu Sunrise Hikes & Oahu Sunrise Locations: 2023 Guide

Are you ready to discover the best sunrise hikes in Oahu, Hawaii? If so, you’re in the right place!

Oahu, a beautiful island in Hawaii, is known for its stunning landscapes, lush green mountains, and crystal-clear waters.

While sunsets in Oahu are legendary, Oahu’s sunrises are equally stunning! Picture the sun slowly rising above the horizon and painting the sky with shades of gold, orange, and pink.

Golden sunrise at Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Hawaii
Golden sunrise at Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Hawaii

Getting up early in the morning is no fun, especially during a vacation.

However, with the time difference and jet lag, most visitors from the continental United States will be up early anyway.

Why not grab a cup of coffee, get an early start and beat the crowds?

In this article, we will introduce you to the best sunrise hikes in Oahu.

We will guide you through each trail, describing the scenic views you’ll encounter along the way.

If you are not early risers, or hiking is not your cup of tea, we also describe beautiful viewpoints easily accessible with little or no hiking that are worth visiting to see some colorful sunrises.

Hey, by the way! Visiting Oahu and planning your bucket-list activities? Check out our in-depth guide to the best tours and excursions in Oahu worthy of the splurge!

Spectacular sunrise in Oahu Hawaii
Spectacular sunrise in Oahu Hawaii

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BEST OAHU DAY TOURS

Planning your Oahu trip? These are the best tours to add to your itinerary!

Snorkel excursion to Turtle Canyon near the coast of Waikiki — Over 2.7K 5-star reviews! One of Oahu’s top snorkel sites, snorkel gear provided, 2 hours

Open door helicopter tour over Oahu — 750+ 5-star reviews! Narrated 50-minute flight offers breathtaking views over Waikiki Beach, Hanauma Bay, Pearl Harbor, more!

Shark cage dive on the north shore — Over 1.8K 5-star reviews! Observe wild sharks from an underwater cage and spot other marine life, 2 hours

Pearl Harbor tour — Over 2K 5-star reviews! Visit the USS Arizona Memorial (it sank in the December 7, 1941 attack) and Battleship Missouri, where WWII ended.

Sunrise on Oahu

What time is sunrise on Oahu?

In summer, sunrise on Oahu is between 5:45 am to 6:15 am. In winter, sunrise onOahu is between 6:45 am to 7:15 am.

We check this website to get an approximate time for Honolulu, Hawaii.

What time should you be ready to watch the sunrise on Oahu?

Ideally, you should plan on being at your best place to watch the sunrise on Oahu at least 30 minutes before the sunrise. The eastern horizon turns a golden orange color roughly 20 minutes before sunrise, if the conditions are right.

The civil twilight (sun is less than 6 degrees below the horizon) sometimes has beautiful blue colors.

We usually leave roughly an hour before the Oahu sunrise, depending on the hike.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!

The 4 Best Sunrise Hikes in Oahu, Hawaii: Must-Do Hikes

The 4 best sunrise hikes in Oahu are: 1) Lanikai Pillbox Hike (Kaiwa Ridge Trail), 2) Diamond Head Summit Hike, 3) Makapuu Lighthouse Hike (Kaiwi Scenic Shoreline Trail), and 4) Koko Head Hike (Koko Crater Tramway).

The first four hikes listed above are iconic, must-do hikes in Oahu.

These hikes are usually very crowded during the day, and parking is difficult, if not impossible, to find.

If you target these hikes for watching the sunrise, you typically start the hike roughly an hour before sunrise.

Sunrise from Lanikai Pillbox Trail
Sunrise from Lanikai Pillbox Trail

While you will find die-hard hikers on these popular hikes, for the most part, the crowds will be a lot thinner this early in the day, and the experience will be a lot better.

In addition, many of these hikes provide no shade, so hiking early morning will definitely be a lot more enjoyable. We usually reserve the afternoons for water activities to cool off!

Map of the 13 Best Sunrise Hikes in Oahu

The below map specifies the locations of the 13 best sunrise hikes in Oahu, the trails and the 4 best places to see the sunrise without hiking.

#1. Lanikai Pillbox Hike Trail (aka Kaiwa Ridge Trail)

The Lanikai Pillbox trail hike, one of the best Oahu sunrise hikes, takes you up a ridge overlooking the beautiful Lanikai Beach and the Mokulua Islands, offering stunning views of the sunrise and the ocean.

Beautiful sunrise over Lanikai Beach in Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii
Beautiful sunrise over Lanikai Beach in Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii

Along the way, you will also encounter two old military pillboxes, World War II concrete bunkers that were observational posts; hence, the spectacular views from these pillboxes.

The trailhead is located in the upscale neighborhood of Lanikai. The hike starts from Ka’elepulu Drive, across from the Mid-Pacific Country Club.

There is no official parking lot for the trailhead, so you will have to find street parking in the residential area.

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 1.5 miles round trip (out-and-back)
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Elevation gain: 625 feet
  • Pet-friendly: Yes, dogs must be leashed
  • Family-friendly: Yes, but not suitable for young children or elderly
Lanikai Pillbox Sunrise Hike
Lanikai Pillbox Sunrise Hike

The Hike

The hike begins with a challenging ascent up a dirt path with loose rocks and gravel. The first 10 yards are the steepest and most difficult part of the hike (and probably the only reason why this hike is considered medium difficulty).

Once you get past the initial steep climb, the trail becomes more gradual and opens up to amazing views of Lanikai Beach and the Mokulua Islands. On a clear day, you will also see Kailua Beach, Waimanalo Beach, Kaneohe Bay, Chinaman’s Hat, and Makapu’u Lighthouse in the distance.

Waiting for the sunrise from a pillbox rooftop, Oahu, Hawaii
Waiting for the sunrise from a pillbox rooftop, Oahu, Hawaii

About 20 to 30 minutes into the hike along the ridge, you will reach the first pillbox (covered with graffiti). From here, you can enjoy panoramic views of the ocean and take some photos.

If you want to continue, you can follow the trail for another 10 minutes to reach the second pillbox. Most hikers turn around at this point and head back down the same way they came up. 

The sun rises from behind the Mokulua Islands, creating a spectacular sight that will make your early morning hike worth it. The best time to start the hike is about an hour before sunrise, so you can reach the first pillbox just in time to see the sky light up with colors.

Oahu sunrise from the Lanikai Pillbox hike
Oahu sunrise from the Lanikai Pillbox hike

The best places to see the sunrise are from either of the pillboxes or anywhere along the ridge that faces east.

Planning this hike? Check out our tips in the Lanikai Pillbox Hike Trail Guide!

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!

#2. Diamond Head Summit Hike Trail (aka Le’ahi Summit Trail)

The Diamond Head Summit Trail is an iconic hike on Oahu’s south shore to the top of Diamond Head (a dormant volcano that formed more than half a million years ago).

Aerial view of the Diamond Head volcanic crater
Aerial view of the Diamond Head volcanic crater

You get breathtaking views of Waikiki, Honolulu, and the Pacific Ocean from the summit. Doing the Diamond Head Trail is one of the best things to do in Oahu!

The hike starts from the parking lot inside the crater, which can be accessed from Diamond Head Road between Makapu’u Avenue and 18th Avenue. Non-Hawaiian residents must pay an entrance fee (currently $10 per car) to enter the Diamond Head State Monument Park (gates open at 6:00 am). Reservations are required.

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 1.9 miles round trip, out-and-back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation gain: 515 feet
  • Pet-friendly: No pets allowed
  • Family-friendly: Yes

The Hike

The Diamond Head sunrise hike begins with a paved path that gradually ascends along the crater wall. Keep a lookout for native plants and birds, such as the koa haole, the ilima, and the red-vented bulbul.

About 0.6 miles into the hike, you will reach a long, narrow tunnel that is lighted. The tunnel is about 225 feet long and leads you to a concrete staircase with 99 steps.

From the top of the stairs, you can enjoy panoramic views of the south shore of Oahu and take some photos. You can continue to the highest point of the summit by following a short trail to another set of stairs with 76 steps.

View from the summit of the Diamond Head Crater on Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii, at sunrise
View from the summit of the Diamond Head Crater on Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii, at sunrise

The sun rises from behind the Koolau Mountains over Waikiki and Honolulu, creating a spectacular, colorful sight. The best sunrise viewpoints are from either of the bunkers or anywhere along the summit that faces east.

Don’t want to drive or find parking? Check out this shuttle service that will get you to the trailhead bright and early for your sunrise hike!

Here are the best tips for hiking the Diamond Head Summit Trail!

#3. Makapuu Lighthouse Hike Trail (aka Kaiwi Scenic Shoreline Trail)

The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail on Oahu’s southeastern coast, one of Oahu’s most popular sunrise hikes, takes you to the historic red-roofed Makapu‘u Lighthouse and an observation deck from which you can enjoy stunning views of the ocean, the windward coast, and the offshore islets (wildlife sanctuaries).

Makapuu lighthouse at sunrise from Makapuu Beach, Oahu
Makapuu lighthouse at sunrise from Makapuu Beach, Oahu

The hike starts from the parking lot off Kalanianaole Highway (Hwy 72), near the Hawaii Kai Golf Course. There is no entrance fee for the park or the trail.

If you do not want to drive to the trailhead, consider this shuttle service that will get you there for sunrise.
>> Check pricing and availability for the shuttle to the Makapuu Lighthouse trailhead!

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 2.5 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation gain: 505 feet
  • Pet-friendly: Yes, but must be on leash
  • Family-friendly: Yes

The Hike

The Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail hike is a great option for families and begins with a wide and smooth paved path that ascends gradually along the hillside. You may also see some native plants and birds, such as the naupaka kahakai, the ilima papa, and the red-crested cardinal.

Red crested cardinals in Oahu Hawaii
Red crested cardinals in Oahu Hawaii

About 0.6 miles into the hike, you will reach a lookout point with a telescope that allows you to view and identify the whales that migrate through this area from November to May. You may also see some dolphins, turtles, and seals in the water.

If you want to continue to the lighthouse, you can follow the path for another 0.6 miles until you reach another lookout point with a fence. From here, you can see the Makapuu Lighthouse on your right and the Makapuu Beach on your left.

The lighthouse itself is off-limits to visitors, but you can admire it from a distance.

Makapuu Lighthouse at sunrise in Oahu Hawaii
Makapuu Lighthouse at sunrise in Oahu Hawaii

The sun rises from behind Rabbit Island (Manana Island) and over Makapuu Point and Makapuu Beach, lighting up the sky with vibrant colors. The best viewpoints to see the sunrise are from either of the lookout points or anywhere along the path that faces east.

Here are the best tips for hiking the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail!

#4. Koko Head Hike Trail (aka Koko Crater Tramway)

The Koko Head Hike Trail is a popular tourist destination that requires climbing over 1000 steps to the top of the Koko Head volcanic crater, where you can enjoy panoramic views of Honolulu, Hanauma Bay, Sandy Beach, and Diamond Head.

This is a great hike for fitness enthusiasts craving a calorie-burning workout, and my favorite sunrise hike when I want a workout!

Crater Head Railway Trail to the summit
Crater Head Railway Trail to the summit

The trail is located in the Koko Crater Regional Park and the hike starts from the parking lot off Kealahou Street, near the Hawaii Kai Golf Course. There is no entrance fee for the park or the trail.

While the trail is open 24/7, the main parking lot opens at 6:30 am, so if you reach there earlier look for street parking.

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 1.6 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Elevation gain: 885 feet
  • Pet-friendly: Yes, but must be on leash
  • Family-friendly: Yes, but not suitable for young children or elderly

The Hike

The hike begins with a flat and easy dirt path that leads you to the base of the railway track. This is where the real challenge begins.

You will have to climb over 1,000 steps made of wooden ties that vary in height and distance. Some of them are broken or missing, creating gaps that you have to jump over or avoid. The steps are also very steep and uneven, requiring caution and stamina.

About halfway up, you will reach a bridge section where there is no ground beneath about 50 steps. This can be scary for some people, but there is an alternative dirt path on the right side that you can use to bypass this section. However, this path is also steep and slippery, so be careful.

After the bridge section, the trail continues with a steep incline up the railway track until you reach the top of the Koko Head crater. From here, you can enjoy amazing views of the south shore of Oahu and beyond. You can also see more of the crater’s interior and the botanical garden below.

Watching a sunrise from the top of Koko Head Crater
Watching a sunrise from the top of Koko Head Crater

The sun rises over Koko Head and Koko Beach and behind Rabbit Island (Manana Island) and Makapuu Point. The best vantage points to see the amazing sunrise are from anywhere along the summit that faces east.

Planning this hike? Check out our tips in the Koko Head Hike Trail Guide!

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Oahu tour now!

The Next 9 Best Oahu Sunrise Hikes: Enjoyable Optional Hikes

If you have additional time in Oahu, and you have already finished all four must-do hikes described above, we list below many other lesser-known hikes that have amazing sunrise views!

#5. Mau’umae Hike Trail (aka Wilhelmina Rise Trail)

The Mau’umae Trail is a lesser-known hike that offers a beautiful sunrise experience. This is beautiful ridge trail hike with fantastic views along most of the hike of Kaneohe Bay, Kailua Beach, Kaau Crater, Honolulu, Diamond Head, Waikiki Beach and the Pacific Ocean.

Beautiful sunrise over Kailua Beach in Oahu Hawaii
Beautiful sunrise over Kailua Beach in Oahu Hawaii

This hike takes you to two cinder cones that have grassy summits and great views.

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 6.8 miles round trip (out-and-back)
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Elevation gain: 2,854 feet
  • Pet-friendly: Yes
  • Family-friendly: No
  • Trailhead: Maunalani Circle, near Wilhemina Rise
  • Parking: Street parking

This hike is much less crowded, allowing you to enjoy a stunning sunrise over the Ka’au Crater and Koko Head in serene and peaceful surroundings!

#6. Crouching Lion Hike Trail

The Crouching Lion Hike is a short, exciting hike on Oahu’s northeast side with stunning sunrises. The trail starts near the town of Kaaawa (near Kualoa Ranch and Chinaman’s Hat) and takes you to a rocky outcrop that resembles a crouching lion (hence the name) from where you get the best views of the mountains, jungle, Kahana Bay and Chinaman’s Hat.

Views from the Crouching Lion Hike, Oahu
Views from the Crouching Lion Hike, Oahu

The sun rises over Kahana Bay and the beautiful Kaaawa valley.

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 0.5 miles (0.8 km) round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Elevation gain: 300 feet (90 m)
  • Pet-friendly: Yes
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Trailhead: Off Kamehameha Highway (Hwy 83) near Swanzy Beach Park
  • Parking: Small parking lot

#7. Hanauma Bay Ridge Hike Trail

The Hanauma Bay Ridge Trail is a short, easy hike on Oahu’s southeast side that takes you to a hilltop with amazing views of the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, a crescent-shaped bay formed by a volcanic crater that is now a marine sanctuary.

This is one of my favorite sunrise hikes because of the beautiful views from the top of the trail. The sun rises over the Hanauma Bay and Koko Head creating a spectacular colorful view over these iconic landmarks.

Hanauma Bay sunrise in Oahu Hawaii
Hanauma Bay sunrise in Oahu Hawaii

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 0.8 miles (1.3 km) round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation gain: 200 feet (60 m)
  • Pet-friendly: Yes
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Trailhead: Off Kamehameha Highway (Hwy 72) near Koko Head Regional Park
  • Parking: Small parking lot

#8. Ehukai Pillbox Hike Trail (aka Banzai Pipeline Pillbox Hike)

The Ehukai Pillbox Hike is one of the top sunrise hikes on Oahu’s north shore. The first pillbox offers beautiful views of the Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach. The second pillbox offers even better views and includes the Kaena Point and the Waimea Bay.

Oahu North Shore sunrise
Oahu North Shore sunrise

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 1.5 miles (2.4 km) round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation gain: 300 feet (90 m)
  • Pet-friendly: Yes
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Trailhead: Off Kamehameha Highway (Hwy 83) near Sunset Beach Elementary
  • Parking: Small parking lot
Ehukai beach during a surf contest from the Ehukai Pillbox hike in Oahu Hawaii
Ehukai beach during a surf contest from the Ehukai Pillbox hike in Oahu Hawaii

#9. Kaena Point Hike Trail

While most sunrise points are on the east coast or high up, the Kaena Point Trail is a long, easy hike along the coastline to Oahu’s westernmost point. The hike includes beautiful views of the ocean and mountains on both sides.

Kaena Point and the Yokohama Bay are excellent locations for spotting dolphins in Oahu Hawaii
Beautiful views of the ocean and mountains from the Kaena Point Trail in Oahu Hawaii

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 6.1 miles (9.8 km) round trip from south side; 10 miles (16 km) round trip from north side
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation gain: 488 feet (149 m) from south side; 656 feet (200 m) from north side
  • Pet-friendly: No
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Trailhead: Off Farrington Highway (Hwy 93) near Keawaula Beach (south side) or Camp Erdan (north side)
  • Parking: Small parking lots

You get a spectacular view of sunrise from behind Kaena Point.

#10. Kuliouou Hike Trail

Kuliouou Hike on Oahu’s southeast side is a medium difficulty hike that takes you through the lush forests of Kuliouou Valley, one of the most beautiful valleys in Oahu. The summit (Puu Kanehoalani) is a rocky outcrop that has a flat top and offers great views of Hawaii Kai, Waimanalo Bay, Kailua Bay, Kaneohe Bay, Kaena Point, Waimea Bay, Diamond Head, and more. 

Beautiful views from Kuliouou Ridge Trail Hike in Oahu Hawaii
Beautiful views from Kuliouou Ridge Trail Hike in Oahu Hawaii

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 4.7 miles (7.6 km) round trip
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation gain: 1,650 feet (500 m)
  • Pet-friendly: Yes
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Trailhead: Off Kalaau Road near Kuliouou Road
  • Parking: Small parking lot

The beautiful sunrise is over the Windward Coast and the Koolau Mountains.

#11. Kahekili Ridge Hike Trail

Kahekili Ridge Hike is another challenging hike for the seasoned hiker with rewarding views located on Oahu’s east coast. This steep and rocky ridge hike offers amazing views of Kualoa, Chinaman’s Hat, and Kahana Bay.

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 2.9 miles (4.7 km) round trip
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Elevation gain: 1,774 feet (540 m)
  • Pet-friendly: No
  • Family-friendly: No
  • Trailhead: Off Kamehameha Highway (Hwy 83) near Swanzy Beach Park
  • Parking: Small parking area

The beautiful sunrise is over two major Oahu landmarks: Kualoa and Chinaman’s Hat.

#12. Olomana Three Peaks Hike Trail, Oahu

While one of the most stunning hikes on Oahu, the Olomana Three Peaks Hike is also one of the most dangerous with many steep sections, and many hikers stop at the first or second peak. The views and sunrise from the first peak are amazing!

Views from the Three Peaks - Olomana Trail
Views from the Three Peaks – Olomana Trail

The third peak is the most difficult with a lot of technical climbing with rope sections.

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 4.6 miles (7.4 km) round trip
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Elevation gain: 1,794 feet (547 m)
  • Pet-friendly: No
  • Family-friendly: No
  • Trailhead: Off Auloa Road near Maunawili Road
  • Parking: Small parking lot

The sunrise is over Kailua and Kaneohe Bay and is amazing!

#13. Pali Notches Hike Trail

The Pali Notches Hike is a short but thrilling hike on Oahu’s central side, one of the most dangerous hikes on Oahu. Due to its location near the center of the island, the views along the ridge are panoramic and beautiful, but be wary of the steep drop-offs.

Early morning Pali Notches hike to view sunrise in Oahu Hawaii
Early morning Pali Notches hike to view sunrise in Oahu Hawaii

Most hikers turn back at the second notch, which offers fantastic views of Honolulu, Diamond Head, Kaneohe Bay, Kailua Bay, Kaena Point, Waimea Bay, and more.

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 0.7 miles (1.1 km) round trip
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Elevation gain: 472 feet (144 m)
  • Pet-friendly: No
  • Family-friendly: No
  • Trailhead: Off Pali Highway (Hwy 61) near the Pali Lookout
  • Parking: Small parking area

The sunrise is over Honolulu and Diamond Head, simply spectacular!

Summary Table of the 13 Best Sunrise Hikes in Oahu

The below table provides a quick summary of the best sunrise hikes in Oahu discussed above.

Trail NameTrailhead LocationDistance (Round Trip)DifficultyElevation Gain
Lanikai Pillbox TrailKailua, Oahu, Hawaii2.4 milesEasy500 ft
Ehukai Pillbox TrailHaleiwa, Oahu, Hawaii2.4 milesEasy500 ft
Kaena Point TrailWaianae, Oahu, Hawaii5.8 milesEasy200 ft
Makapuu Lighthouse TrailHonolulu, Oahu, Hawaii2.8 milesEasy500 ft
Diamond Head Summit TrailHonolulu, Oahu, Hawaii1.8 milesEasy560 ft
Hanauma Bay Ridge TrailHonolulu, Oahu, Hawaii4.4 milesModerate1,500 ft
Mau’umae TrailWaialua, Oahu, Hawaii3.8 milesModerate1,500 ft
Crouching Lion TrailKaaawa, Oahu, Hawaii2.2 milesModerate1,000 ft
Kahekili Ridge TrailKaneohe, Oahu, Hawaii5.3 milesDifficult2,402 ft
Kuliouou TrailHonolulu, Oahu, Hawaii5.5 milesDifficult2,220 ft
Olomana Three Peaks TrailKailua, Oahu, Hawaii4.5 milesDifficult1,643 ft
Koko Head Crater TrailHonolulu, Oahu, Hawaii1.8 milesDifficult1,048 ft
Pali Notches TrailHonolulu, Oahu, Hawaii5.2 milesDifficult2,624 ft
13 Best Sunrise Hikes in Oahu, sorted by difficulty.

Important Tips for Oahu Sunrise Hikers

Here are things we always do before a sunrise hike in Oahu:

  • Pack plenty of water and snacks (most hikes have no facilities or vendors along the trails).
  • Wear sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat as there is no shade on the trail. You may need them on the way back, depending on when you decide to hike back.
Chinaman's Hat from the Lanikai Pillbox hike in Oahu Hawaii
Chinaman’s Hat from the Lanikai Pillbox hike in Oahu Hawaii
  • Wear sturdy hiking shoes with a good grip, since many of these trails can be slippery and uneven, especially when hiking down.
  • Bring a fully charged headlamp or flashlight for safety and visibility in the dark.
  • Dress warmly as it can be chilly before dawn, and some hikes can be very windy.
  • Make sure your cell phone is fully charged. We use the AllTrails app and download the maps. Cell reception may be spotty on most trails.
  • Depending on the season we also use bug repellent.
Beautiful sunrise from Oahu beach
Beautiful sunrise from Oahu beach

Some things to note when planning the hike and during the hike:

  • Every hike in Oahu is crowded during peak season, so plan to reach early to secure parking and to avoid crowds. Many trailheads can be reached by bus as well.
  • For most hikes, we usually start roughly an hour or so before sunrise (typically around 6:45 am – 7:15 am in winter and 5:45 am – 6:30 am in summer)
  • Some hikes require reservations for parking and / or entry. Visit the websites referenced above to make the reservations.
Sunrise from the Lanikai Pillbox hike in Oahu Hawaii
Sunrise from the Lanikai Pillbox hike in Oahu Hawaii
  • Many hikes require parking in residential neighborhoods. Please respect the rights of the residents and do not block their driveways.
  • Be careful of the the edges of the trail, some trails have steep drop offs.
  • Pillboxes have sharp edges and can be dangerous, so be careful.
Kailua Bay from the Lanikai Pillbox hike in Oahu Hawaii
Kailua Bay from the Lanikai Pillbox hike in Oahu Hawaii
  • If you decide to swim or snorkel in the tide pools along some of the above spots, please be careful since the waves and currents can be dangerous.
  • Respect other hikers, do not block the trail.
A gorgeous tropical sunrise over Lanikai Beach in Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii
A gorgeous tropical sunrise over Lanikai Beach in Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii

Best Oahu Sunrise Locations (Watch Without Hiking)

If you are not upto waking up 1-2 hours before sunrise and hiking, don’t worry, we have you covered!

Beautiful sunrise in Waikiki, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii
Beautiful sunrise in Waikiki, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

There are several excellent sunrise viewpoints along the east coast (the sun rises in the east!) and certain parts of the south shore that are readily accessible with an easy car drive. If you are staying on the east coast of Oahu, even better!

Sunrise from the Pali Lookout on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.
Sunrise from the Pali Lookout on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.

Sandy Beach Park

Sandy Beach Park, a beautiful beach on Oahu’s southeast side, is known for its powerful waves and shorebreak that attracts boarders and surfers from all over the world.

With its strong currents, high surf and sharp coral, this is one of the most dangerous beaches in the island.

Amazing colorful sunrise over Sandy Beach in Oahu Hawaii
Amazing colorful sunrise over Sandy Beach in Oahu Hawaii

However, from the beach, you can safely admire spectacular sunrises from behind Kaena Point and Makapuu Point.

Kualoa Beach

Kualoa Beach is a beautiful, serene beach on Oahu’s windward side, with great views of Mokolii Island (Chinaman’s Hat), a small cone-shaped island roughly half a mile offshore, and the Koolau Mountains.

Stunning sunrise at Kualoa Beach Park in Kaaawa, Oahu, Hawaii
Stunning sunrise at Kualoa Beach Park in Kaaawa, Oahu, Hawaii

You see beautiful sunrises from behind the Chinaman’s Hat and Makapuu Point from Kualoa Beach.

Tantalus Lookout

Tantalus Lookout, a short drive from Honolulu, offers a breathtaking, panoramic view of Honolulu city, from downtown to Waikiki, the Diamond Head crater, Pearl Harbor, and the Koolau Mountains in the background, and, on a clear day, you can even see the islands of Molokai and Lanai on the horizon.

Rainbow over Manoa valley from the Tantalus lookout near Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii
Rainbow over Manoa valley from the Tantalus lookout near Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii

Tantalus Lookout is famous for its frequent rainbows and colorful sunrises from behind the Diamond Head crater.

Sun rising over Oahu from top of Diamond Head
Sun rising over Oahu from top of Diamond Head

China Walls

China Walls on Oahu’s southeast side is a unique and scenic park in Oahu, named after a series of lava-rock ledges that resemble the Great Wall of China. The park has stunning views of the Diamond Head crater, Koko Head crater, Koolau Mountains, Honolulu skyline and the Pacific Ocean.

The best time to visit the park is about an hour before sunrise. The colors in the sky and the sunrise behind the Koko Head crater and Makapuu Point are spectacular!

Sunrise Hikes in Oahu: FAQ

Where is the best place to watch the sunrise on Oahu?

The best place to watch the sunrise on Oahu is the second pillbox on the Lanikai Pillbox hike: the sunrise and views are spectacular! The hike is a short, family-friendly hike.

What is the best place for sunrise on Oahu (without hiking)?

The best place for sunrise on Oahu is Sandy Beach Park, the sunrise views and colors are stunning!

Can you hike Makapuu Lighthouse for sunrise?

Yes, the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is popular as a sunrise hike. Takes roughly 30 minutes to hike up, so plan accordingly!

Is it safe to hike before sunrise on Oahu?

For the most part, hiking in Oahu is safe. Since pre-dawn hikes are in the dark, you should have a headlamp or flashlight for the trail.

Most trails mentioned above are popular, and you will see other hikers on the trail. But hiking in a group is always preferred!

Beautiful sunrise view from the Lanikai Pillbox hike in Oahu Hawaii
Beautiful sunrise view from the Lanikai Pillbox hike in Oahu Hawaii

Sunrise Hikes On Oahu, Hawai: Memories for a Lifetime

From easy, family-friendly hikes like the Lanikai Pillbox Hike and Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail to more challenging adventures like the Crouching Lion Hike and Koko Head Crater Trail, there’s a sunrise hike in Oahu for everyone.

Beautiful Oahu sunrise at Lanikai Beach
Beautiful Oahu sunrise at Lanikai Beach

Don’t want to get up that early? You can still drive to beautiful viewpoints like the Sandy Beach Park or the Tantalus Lookout and watch amazing sunrises with little or no hiking!

Book a Guided Oahu Hiking Adventure!

Excited about hiking in Oahu but haven’t hiked in Hawaii before? This guided hiking adventure is a great way to get started.

It’s customizable to your interests and abilities and a local guide that’s familiar with the terrain will accompany you. Plus, round-trip transport is included.

You can pick two short hikes or a longer hike, and your guide can suggest specific hikes if you don’t know which ones you want to try.

>> Check pricing and availability on this customizable Oahu hiking adventure now!

Best Oahu Tours

Have you booked these popular Oahu tours and excursions yet?

Love snorkeling? This Turtle Canyon snorkeling excursion from Waikiki lets you frolic with colorful fish and Hawaiian green sea turtles. Hands down the MOST BOOKED Oahu snorkeling tour: turtle sightings are guaranteed!

The most popular luau in Oahu, Paradise Cove Luau has a 4.5 rating on Viator with over 3.5K reviews. The tour includes pick-up from your Waikiki hotel, pre-dinner games, arts, and crafts, a delicious meal, and an award-winning show.

Based in Waikiki but want to see more of the island? This full-day Oahu Circle Island Tour includes Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Haleiwa, the Dole Plantation, and more!

Pay your respects at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor! This popular Pearl Harbor tour includes boat tickets and round-trip transport from Waikiki.

A super popular Oahu North Shore excursion, this Oahu shark cage dive allows you to observe wild sharks in the open ocean from the safety of a cage! It’s a THRILLING Oahu advennture for your bucket list.

We have a detailed guide to the top Oahu tours and excursions if you are in the midst of planning your itinerary for the island.

Renting a Car in Oahu

If you want to explore more of the island of Oahu on your vacation, you should get a rental car.

Oahu’s popular attractions are spread over the island: the windward coast, the North Shore, and Ko Olina are great places to explore beyond Waikiki (or the greater Honolulu area).

While Oahu does have public transport options that are better than the other islands, a car offers a lot more flexibility and time savings.

We always use Discover Cars to book Oahu car rentals. They search across a variety of rental car companies, both budget and brand, to offer you the best deals, AND they offer free cancellations. Plus, there are no hidden fees.

>> Check availability and prices on Oahu car rentals now!

Honolulu Airport-Hotel Shuttle

If you are not planning to get a rental car at Honolulu Airport, consider booking shuttle transport in advance!

This shared shuttle can be canceled up to 24 hours from the date of service. It serves hotels in Waikiki and Honolulu and then back again to the airport the day you leave. It’s convenient and inexpensive, and saves time and hassle!

>> Check prices and availability for shared round-trip airport transfer in Oahu now!

Staying in Ko Olina? Consider this round-trip airport transfer instead!

Where to Stay in Oahu

Honolulu (Waikiki in particular) offers a large number of hotels and resorts, along with shopping and dining options. Most visitors to Oahu choose to base in Honolulu at least for a part of their stay.

While many of the large chains have a presence if you are looking to use your memberships, Honolulu also has several unique boutiques to consider.

Our faves include Halekulani for a splurge stay, the Lotus Honolulu for views of Diamond Head, and The Laylow for its awesome location.

Want more room to spread out or looking to stay elsewhere on Oahu? You will find VRBO listings all over the island!

On previous trips to Oahu, we have stayed in VRBO rentals in Waikiki as well as on the North Shore and the east coast and we’ve found the choice and quality great.

>> Look for an Oahu vacation rental on VRBO now!

More Oahu Travel Inspiration

Planning a trip to Oahu? Check out our other in-depth Oahu travel guides for help finalizing your Oahu itinerary!

Start by discovering the best things to do in Oahu. We also have a detailed guide to Oahu’s North Shore, a round-up of things to do on the east side of Oahu, and the best things to do in Ko Olina, on the west coast of the island.

Of course you’ll want to learn about all the exciting things to do in Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital, and Waikiki, the touristic core of Oahu.

We also have a guide to the best beaches in Oahu, and a round-up of the must-visit Oahu waterfalls.

Oahu is home to so many must-visit landmarks! Check out our in-depth article on how to visit Pearl Harbor, and our guides on the beautiful Waimea Valley in Oahu and the spectacular Byodo-In Temple.

Want to enjoy the thrill of observing sharks in the wild? Check out our article on shark cage diving on Oahu’s North Shore!

Discover the top places to go snorkeling in west Oahu, where you will find a long coastline with lovely beaches, and tips for snorkeling Kaneohe Sandbar on the island’s east coast.

And if you love marine life, also check out our complete guide to (respectfully!) see and swim with dolphins in Oahu, and the best spots to snorkel with turtles in Oahu.

For hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, we have a round-up of the best Oahu hikes, and if you are looking to exclude the harder Oahu trails, a guide to the best easy Oahu hikes.

Find out how to do the iconic (and VERY popular) Diamond Head Hike near Waikiki for exceptional views. We also have a guide to the very popular Manoa Falls Trail in Honolulu.

More advanced hikers will want to read up on the Koko Head Hike, a long set of stairs leading to expansive views.

Learn where to go for the best sunsets in Oahu, whether you want to hike or enjoy watching a colorful Hawaiian sunset without working up a sweat.

We also have a guide to the best sunrise hikes in Oahu, one of which is the spectacular Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail in the southeastern part of the island. The Lanikai Pillbox Hike is another wonderful sunrise hike on Oahu!

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Discover the best sunrise hikes in Oahu, Hawaii, from the iconic Lanikai Pillbox Hike to the Diamond Head Summit Trail. Plus, tips for the best experience!

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