Into the clouds on the Three Peaks Trail, Oahu, Hawaii

25 Best Hikes In Oahu (Easy, Sunrise, Sunset, Waterfall & More)

If you’re looking for the best hikes in Oahu, you’ve come to the right place.

Oahu is one of the most beautiful islands in Hawaii, with stunning natural scenery, diverse landscapes, and rich culture.

Whether you want to see a beautiful waterfall, a lush rainforest, a colorful sunrise or sunset, amazing views or simply an adventure or challenge, Oahu has a hike for you!

Sunset view of Hanauma Bay and Diamond Head from the Koko Head Crater summit, Oahu
Sunset view of Hanauma Bay and Diamond Head from the Koko Head Crater summit, Oahu

In this blog post, I’ll share with you the best hikes in Oahu. I’ll also give you some tips on which trail to select based on what you want to see, how to prepare for your hiking adventure and what to expect on each trail.

Planning your trip to Oahu? Check out our 2024 guide to the most popular tours and excursions in Oahu!

River flowing through the hanging roots of banyan tree on Judd trail in Oahu
River flowing through the hanging roots of banyan tree on Judd trail in Oahu

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Kinds of Best Hikes in Oahu

For ease of description, I’m going to categorize hikes based on what you, as a hiker, may want to hike, see or explore: easy hikes, sunrise hikes, sunset hikes, waterfall hikes, challenging hikes and hikes to avoid at all costs. Some hikes will overlap categories.

If you are a first-time visitor to Oahu, I strongly recommend you do all the easy hikes – they will give you a wonderful flavor of Oahu’s natural beauty. Make sure you pick a sunrise hike and a sunset hike among them.

Dense bamboo forest on Manoa Falls Trail
Dense bamboo forest on Manoa Falls Trail

If you want a challenging hike beyond that, the Koko Crater Railway trail is a great option (a lot of climbing, but great views)!

If you are a repeat visitor or would like to try something new, you can’t go wrong with any of the others listed here – pick some based on your preference of what you want to explore and your capabilities.

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

Map of the Best Hikes in Oahu

The below map shows the different best hikes in Oahu, color coded by the categories described above.

The 5 Best Easy Hikes in Oahu

If you’re looking for easy hikes in Oahu that are suitable for beginners and families with kids, you have plenty of options to choose from.

Oahu has many trails that are short, flat, paved, or well-maintained, and that offer stunning views, historical sites, or natural attractions.

The 5 best easy hikes in Oahu that you can enjoy with your loved ones are: 1) Waimea Valley Trail, 2) Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail, 3) Diamond Head Crater Trail, 4) Manoa Falls Trail, and 5) Lanikai Pillbox Trail (aka Kaiwa Ridge Trail).

1. Waimea Valley Trail

Quick facts

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 1.9 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 200 feet
  • Family friendly: Yes
  • Pet friendly: No, dogs aren’t allowed

Waimea Valley Trail is a great hike for beginners and families with kids who want to enjoy nature and Hawaiian culture in a relaxed setting.

Paved path through beautiful Waimea Falls Park, Oahu, Hawaii
Paved path through beautiful Waimea Falls Park, Oahu, Hawaii

Waimea Valley Trail is located on the North Shore of Oahu, in Waimea Valley, a paid attraction that showcases a beautiful botanical garden, a refreshing waterfall, a traditional Hawaiian luau, and ancient archeological structures.

To reach Waimea Valley from Honolulu, take H-1 west to H-2 north. Follow H-2 until it ends and becomes Kamehameha Highway (Route 99).

Continue on Kamehameha Highway until you reach Waimea Valley Road on your right. Turn right and follow the signs to the Waimea Valley visitor center.

The entrance fee is $20 for adults, and parking is $5 per vehicle.

The trailhead for Waimea Valley Trail is located at the Waimea Valley Visitor Center

Waimea Valley Trail is a paved path that winds through a lush botanical garden with over 5,000 species of plants from around the world.

You can learn about the native Hawaiian culture and history as you pass by various cultural sites and exhibits along the way.

The trail ends at Waimea Falls, a 45-foot waterfall that flows into a large pool where you can swim and cool off. There are lifeguards, changing rooms, and life jackets available at the falls.

Waimea Falls pool, excellent spot for family fun with life jackets and life guards
Waimea Falls pool, excellent spot for family fun with life jackets and life guards

Waimea Valley hike is one of the best easy hikes in Oahu, literally, a stroll in the park!

Visiting Waimea Valley? Check out our detailed blog post on Waimea Valley and learn how you can save money on the entrance fees!

Want to avoid the hassle of driving? These highly-rated, popular tours include Waimea Valley on their itinerary:

2. Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail

Quick facts

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 2 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 500 feet
  • Family friendly: Yes
  • Pet friendly: Yes, on leash

Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail is a great hike for beginners and families with kids who want to enjoy a leisurely, scenic coastal walk with a historic lighthouse and amazing views.

Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail is a scenic coastal walk
Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail is a scenic coastal walk

Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail is located in East Oahu.

From Honolulu, take H-1 east to Kalanianaole Highway (Route 72). Follow Kalanianaole Highway until you reach Makapu’u Lighthouse Road on your left.

Turn left and drive to the end of the road where you’ll find the parking lot and the trailhead.

Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail is a paved path that climbs up the slope of Makapu’u Head, the easternmost point of Oahu.

Along the way, you’ll enjoy sweeping views of the ocean, the coastline, and the offshore islands of Molokai, Lanai, and Maui. You might also spot some humpback whales during the winter months.

The trail leads to an observation deck where you can see the Makapu’u Lighthouse, a red-roofed structure that was built in 1909 and is still operational today.

Iconic Makapu‘u Lighthouse, Oahu
Iconic Makapu‘u Lighthouse, Oahu

You can also take a short detour to check out the tide pools below the cliff if you’re feeling adventurous.

Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail is a very popular hike. I recommend you hike this early morning for sunrise to avoid the crowds, this is one of the best sunrise hikes in Oahu!

Planning to hike this trail? Check out our detailed blog post on the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail for tips on the hike!

Want to skip the hassle of driving and finding parking? These shuttle services or tours may be a better option for you:

3. Diamond Head Crater Trail

Quick facts

  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Distance: 1.6 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 560 feet
  • Family friendly: Yes, older kids
  • Pet friendly: Dogs are not allowed (except for service animals)

Diamond Head Crater Trail is a great hike for families with older kids who want to experience a historic landmark and a panoramic vista. It is located in South Oahu, in the Diamond Head State Monument.

Well-maintained Diamond Head Trail
Well-maintained Diamond Head Trail

To get to the trail from Honolulu, take H-1 east to Kapahulu Avenue (Exit 25A). Turn right onto Kapahulu Avenue and follow it until it becomes Diamond Head Road.

Turn right onto Diamond Head Road and follow it until you reach the entrance to Diamond Head State Monument on your left.

Turn left and drive through a tunnel to reach the visitor center and the parking lot ($10/vehicle). The park also has an entrance fee of $5 per person.

To hike the trail, unless you are from Hawaii with proper identification, you need to make reservations in advance here for parking and entry.

The trailhead is at the Diamond Head State Monument Visitor Center.

Diamond Head Crater Trail is a dirt and concrete path that ascends the inner slope of Diamond Head, a volcanic cone that is one of the most iconic landmarks of Oahu.

The trail was built in 1908 as part of the coastal defense system and features some historical structures such as bunkers, batteries, and a fire control station.

The trail also has some steep sections, stairs, and a spiral staircase that lead to the summit.

From the top, you’ll have a breathtaking view of Waikiki, Honolulu, and the ocean.

Beautiful views from the summit of Diamond Head Crater
Beautiful views from the summit of Diamond Head Crater

The Diamond Head Crater Trail is one of the best sunrise hikes in Oahu! Get up early and beat the crowds!

Planning to hike this trail? Check out our detailed blog post on the Diamond Head Crater Trail for tips on the hike!

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!

4. Manoa Falls Trail

Quick facts

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 1.6 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 800 feet
  • Family friendly: Yes
  • Pet friendly: Yes, on leash

Manoa Falls Trail is a great hike for beginners and families with kids (not too young) who want to enjoy a tropical rainforest and a cascading waterfall. It is located in Central Oahu, about 5 miles from downtown Honolulu.

Stunning bamboo forest and natural arch on Manoa Falls Trail, Oahu
Stunning bamboo forest and natural arch on Manoa Falls Trail, Oahu

From Honolulu, take H-1 west to University Avenue (Exit 24B). Turn right onto University Avenue and follow it until it becomes Oahu Avenue.

Turn right onto Manoa Road and follow it until you reach the end of the road where you’ll find the parking lot ($5 / vehicle) and the trailhead.

Manoa Falls Trail is a dirt and gravel path that winds through a lush rainforest with towering trees, ferns, bamboo, and flowers.

You can hear the sounds of birds and insects as you walk along the stream that feeds the waterfall.

The trail ends at Manoa Falls, a 150-foot waterfall that plunges into a rocky pool. You can admire the falls from a viewing area, but swimming is not allowed due to safety and environmental reasons.

Majestic Manoa Falls and pool at the base
Majestic Manoa Falls and pool at the base

Manoa Falls Trail is a very popular hike, and I recommend you do it earlier in the morning when the crowds are thinner or on weekdays.

Want to learn more about Manoa Falls and the hike? Check out our detailed blog post on Manoa Falls, Oahu!

Don’t have a car? This tour Manoa Waterfall Hike with Health Lunch Included picks up from many Waikiki locations.

Check out pricing and availability on the Manoa Waterfall Hike guided tour now!

5. Lanikai Pillbox Trail (aka Kaiwa Ridge Trail)

Quick facts

  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Distance: 1.8 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 600 feet
  • Family friendly: Yes
  • Pet friendly: Yes, on leash

Lanikai Pillbox Trail is a great hike for beginners and families who want to enjoy a ridge walk and an aerial view of Lanikai Beach. The initial few yards are steep, but otherwise the hike is easy.

The Lanikai Pillbox Trail and views from the hike
The Lanikai Pillbox Trail and views from the hike

The Lanikai Pillbox Trail is located in East Oahu, in the upscale neighborhood of Lanikai.

From Honolulu, take H-1 east to Pali Highway (Route 61). Follow Pali Highway until it becomes Kailua Road.

Turn right onto Kalaheo Avenue and follow it until it becomes Kawailoa Road. Turn left onto Aalapapa Drive and then right onto Kaelepulu Drive.

Park on the street (please make sure you don’t block residential driveways).

Look for a dirt path on your left between two residential driveways. This is the trailhead.

Lanikai Pillbox Trail is a dirt and rock path that climbs up the ridge behind Lanikai Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Oahu.

Along the way, you’ll pass by two pillboxes, which are concrete bunkers that were used for military observation during World War II. You can enter the pillboxes and enjoy the views from inside or outside.

From the pillboxes, you’ll have an aerial view of Lanikai Beach, the turquoise ocean, and the Mokulua Islands.

Chinaman's Hat from the Lanikai Pillbox hike in Oahu Hawaii
Chinaman’s Hat from the Lanikai Pillbox hike in Oahu Hawaii

You can continue along the ridge for more views or return the same way you came.

This hike is also very popular, and is best done early morning (one of the best sunrise hikes in Oahu) or late evening (one of the best sunset hikes in Oahu). You will beat the crowds and will enjoy the hike better since there is very little shade on the trail.

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

The 5 Best Sunrise Hikes in Oahu

If you’re looking for sunrise hikes in Oahu that will take your breath away, you have many options. Oahu has trails that offer spectacular views of the sun rising over the ocean, the mountains, and the islands.

The 5 best sunrise hikes in Oahu are: 1) Lanikai Pillbox Trail (aka Kaiwa Ridge Trail), 2) Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail, 3) Diamond Head Crater Trail, 4) Kaena Point Trail, and 5) Koko Crater Railway Trail.

1. Lanikai Pillbox Trail (Kaiwa Ridge Trail)

Lanikai Pillbox Trail is an easy hike that was described above in the 5 best easy hikes in Oahu. This hike is also one of the best sunrise hikes in Oahu!

The sun rises from behind the Mokulua Islands, creating a spectacular sight that will make your early morning hike worth it. 

Sunrise from the Lanikai Pillbox hike in Oahu Hawaii
Sunrise from the Lanikai Pillbox hike in Oahu Hawaii

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.

2. Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail

Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail is an easy hike that was described above in the 5 best easy hikes in Oahu.

This hike is also one of the best sunrise hikes in Oahu!

The sun rises from behind Rabbit Island (Manana Island) and over Makapuu Point and Makapuu Beach, lighting up the sky with vibrant colors.

The rising sun illuminating the Makkapu Point Lighthouse
The rising sun illuminating the Makkapu Point Lighthouse

The best viewpoints to see the sunrise are from either of the lookout points or anywhere along the path that faces east.

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!

3. Diamond Head Crater Trail

Diamond Head Crater Trail is another of the 5 best easy hikes that is also one of the best sunrise hikes in Oahu!

However, since the trail is in the Diamond Head State Monument park, hiking to the top for a sunrise view is possible only some months, depending on the sunrise time and the opening time of the park.

When you can reach the summit in time to view the sunrise, it is simply amazing!

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.

4. Kaena Point Trail

Quick facts

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 5 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: Minimal
  • Family friendly: Yes
  • Pet friendly: No

Kaena Point Trail is in West Oahu in the Kaena Point State Park, a remote area on the island of Oahu, far away from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu.

Kaena Point State Park, west Oahu, Hawaii
Kaena Point State Park, west Oahu, Hawaii

Kaena Point Trail is a great hike for hikers and families who want to enjoy a remote hike in the wild and see a wildlife sanctuary.

From Honolulu, take H-1 west to Farrington Highway (Route 93). Follow Farrington Highway until you reach the end of the road at Kaena Point State Park.

You’ll find the parking lot and the trailhead on your right.

Kaena Point Trail is a dirt and sand path that follows the coastline to the westernmost tip of Oahu.

Kaena Point Trail along the westernmost tip of Oahu
Kaena Point Trail along the westernmost tip of Oahu

Along the way, you’ll enjoy views of the rugged terrain, volcanic formations, and wildlife habitats. You might see some monk seals, seabirds, or whales along the way.

The trail ends at Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve, which is a protected area for native plants and animals. You can explore the reserve and see some rare species such as Laysan albatrosses, Hawaiian coots, and Hawaiian lobelias.

You can also see spectacular sunrises over the ocean, creating a serene atmosphere in this remote and wild place.

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

5. Koko Crater Railway Trail

Quick facts

  • Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
  • Distance: 1.8 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 1,000 feet
  • Family friendly: Yes, for older kids
  • Pet friendly: Yes, on leash

Koko Crater Railway Trail is a challenging but rewarding climb with a stunning view of Hanauma Bay.

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

Koko Crater Railway Trail is in East Oahu in the Koko Head District Park.

From Honolulu, take H-1 east to Kalanianaole Highway (Route 72). Follow Kalanianaole Highway until you reach Koko Head District Park on your left.

Turn left into the park and drive to the end of the road where you’ll find the parking lot and the trailhead.

Koko Crater Railway Trail is an old railway track that was used during World War II to transport supplies to a lookout post on top of Koko Crater.

The trail consists of more than 1,000 wooden steps that climb up the steep slope of the crater.

The trail is challenging but rewarding, as you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment when you reach the top. From there, you’ll have a stunning view of Hanauma Bay, one of the most popular snorkeling spots in Oahu.

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

You can also see the sun rising over the bay, creating a beautiful contrast between the blue water and the green hills.

The 5 Best Sunset Hikes in Oahu

Oahu has many trails that offer spectacular views of the beautiful colors of the sun setting over the ocean, the mountains, and the city.

The 5 best sunset hikes in Oahu are 1) Ko Olina Beach Park Walking Trail, 2) Ehukai Pillbox Trail, 3) Tantalus Lookout, 4) Kaena Point Trail, and 5) Koko Crater Railway Trail.

1. Ko Olina Beach Park Walking Trail

Quick facts

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 4.7 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 269 feet
  • Family friendly: Yes
  • Pet friendly: No

Ko Olina Beach Park Walking Trail is a great hike for families with kids who want to enjoy a hike on a paved and manicured path with a beautiful view of the ocean and the lagoons.

Well-maintained, paved walking path along the four lagoons
Well-maintained, paved walking path along the four lagoons

Ko Olina Beach Park Walking Trail is located in West Oahu in the Ko Olina Beach Park, and winds along the 4 man-made Ko Olina lagoons.

From Honolulu, take H-1 west to Farrington Highway (Route 93). Follow Farrington Highway until you reach Aliinui Drive on your left.

Turn left onto Aliinui Drive and follow it until you reach Ko Olina Beach Park on your right. Park your car near the park entrance.

Ko Olina Beach Park Walking Trail is a well-maintained paved path that winds along the coast of Ko Olina Resort.

Along the way, you’ll pass by four man-made lagoons that are open to the public for swimming and snorkeling. You’ll also pass by some hotels, restaurants, shops, and golf courses that are part of the resort.

You’ll also encounter some scenic overlooks that offer views of the ocean and the mountains. You can also see some wildlife, such as turtles, dolphins, and whales. 

The sun sets over the ocean, and you can see spectacular, colorful sunsets along most of the trail.

Spectacular sunset from Ko Olina Beach Park Walking Trail
Spectacular sunset from Ko Olina Beach Park Walking Trail

2. Ehukai Pillbox Trail

Quick facts

  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Distance: 2.1 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 500 feet
  • Family friendly: Yes
  • Pet friendly: Yes, on leash

Ehukai Pillbox Trail is a great hike to enjoy a ridge walk with a view of the famous Banzai Pipeline surf break.

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

Ehukai Pillbox Trail is located in the North Shore of Oahu in the Ehukai Beach Park.

From Honolulu, take H-1 west to H-2 north. Follow H-2 until it ends and becomes Kamehameha Highway (Route 99). Continue on Kamehameha Highway until you reach Ehukai Beach Park on your left.

Turn left into the park and find a parking spot near the trailhead.

Ehukai Pillbox Trail is a dirt and rock path that climbs up the ridge behind Ehukai Beach Park, where the world-famous Banzai Pipeline surf break is located.

Along the way, you’ll pass by two pillboxes, which are concrete bunkers that were used for military observation during World War II. You can enter the pillboxes and enjoy the views from inside or outside.

From the pillboxes, you’ll have a view of the ocean, the coastline, and the surfers riding the waves. You can also see the sun setting over the water, creating a stunning display of colors in the sky.

Beautiful North Shore sunset, Oahu
Beautiful North Shore sunset, Oahu

3. Tantalus Lookout

Quick facts

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: Drive only or optional short walk
  • Elevation gain: Minimal
  • Family friendly: Yes
  • Pet friendly: Yes, on leash

Tantalus Lookout Trail is a great hike in Central Oahu at a viewpoint that provides a panoramic vista of Honolulu and Diamond Head.

Sunset over Honolulu from the Tantalus Lookout, Oahu
Sunset over Honolulu from the Tantalus Lookout, Oahu

Tantalus Lookout is a scenic spot that can be reached by driving along Tantalus Drive, a winding road that offers views of the mountains and the city along the way.

From Honolulu, take H-1 west to University Avenue (Exit 24B). Turn right onto University Avenue and follow it until it becomes Oahu Avenue. Turn right onto Manoa Road and then left onto Makiki Street.

Turn left onto Makiki Heights Drive and then right onto Tantalus Drive. Follow Tantalus Drive until you reach the lookout on your right.

The lookout has a large grassy area where you can park your car and enjoy the view.

You can also walk along a short trail that leads to another viewpoint with a bench. From the lookout, you’ll have a panoramic vista of Honolulu, Diamond Head, Waikiki, and the ocean.

View of Honolulu from Tantalus Outlook at sunset
View of Honolulu from Tantalus Outlook at sunset

You can also see the sun setting over the horizon, creating a dazzling effect on the city lights.

4. Ka’ena Point Trail

Kaena Point Trail is a hike along the coastline to the westernmost tip of Oahu and was discussed above as one the 5 best sunrise hikes in Oahu.

Oddly enough, from its location on the westernmost tip of Oahu, the sunsets are also incredible!

You can see the sun setting over the ocean, creating spectacular colors in this remote and wild place.

Sunset view from Kaena Point, Oahu
Sunset view from Kaena Point, Oahu

5. Koko Crater Railway Trail

The Koko Crater Railway Trail is a strenuous hike up a railway track to the summit of Koko Crater, and was described in the 5 best sunrise hikes in Oahu section.

Due to its destination at the summit of Koko Crater, Koko Crater Railway Trail hike is also an excellent choice for watching beautiful sunsets in Oahu.

Stunning sunset with Diamond Head in the distance from the summit of Koko Head Crater.
Stunning sunset with Diamond Head in the distance from the summit of Koko Head Crater

What better way to enjoy the sunset than after an excellent workout?

The 5 Best Waterfall Hikes in Oahu

Oahu has many trails that lead to beautiful waterfalls that offer scenic views and opportunities for swimming, rope swinging, and cliff jumping.

The best waterfall hikes in Oahu are 1) Manoa Falls Trail, 2) Waimea Falls Trail, 3) Waimano Falls Trail (Manana Ridge Trail), 4) Maunawili Falls Trail, and 5) Lulumahu Falls Trail.

1. Manoa Falls Trail

The hike on Manoa Falls Trail, one of the 5 best easy hikes in Oahu described above, is a very popular hike that leads to a 150-foot waterfall, Manoa Falls, one of the tallest in the island of Oahu.

A great hike for families, the trail takes you through a lush rainforest with towering trees, ferns, bamboo, and flowers.

Manoa Falls and surroundings are so spectacular, they were featured in movies and TV shows like Jurassic Park and Lost.

Manoa Falls Oahu, a stunning waterfall in a beautiful rainforest
Manoa Falls Oahu, a stunning waterfall in a beautiful rainforest

You can admire the falls from a viewing area, but swimming is not allowed due to safety and environmental reasons.

Check out pricing and availability on the Manoa Waterfall Hike guided tour now!

2. Waimea Falls Trail

The hike on Waimea Falls Trail, or Waimea Valley Trail, was also described in the 5 best easy hikes in Oahu. It is is also a very popular hike, especially for families with smaller kids, due to the waterfall pool being one of the few that legally allow swimming.

The paved trail ends at Waimea Falls, a 45-foot waterfall that flows into a large pool where you can swim and cool off. There are lifeguards, changing rooms, and life jackets available at the falls.

Waterfall in Waimea Valley Botanical Garden, one of the best waterfalls in Oahu
Waterfall in Waimea Valley Botanical Garden, one of the best waterfalls in Oahu

Waimea Valley Falls Trail is a very popular hike for families with smaller kids, due to the facilities available and the waterfall pool being one of the few that legally allow swimming.

3. Waimano Falls Trail (Manana Trail or Manana Ridge Trail)

Quick facts

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Distance: 2.9 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 810 feet
  • Family friendly: Not for small children
  • Pet friendly: Yes, on leash

Waimano Falls Trail (also called Manana Trail or Manana Ridge Trail) is a scenic hike for experienced hikers who want to enjoy a ridge hike, a beautiful waterfall, and a view of Pearl Harbor and Waimano Valley.

Along the way, you’ll pass through a pine forest, a bamboo forest, and some open areas.

Be careful of exposed tree roots on Waimano Falls Trail
Be careful of exposed tree roots on Waimano Falls Trail

You’ll also encounter some steep sections, switchbacks, ropes, and stairs that will help you climb the ridge.

Waimano Falls Trail is a detour on the main Manana Ridge Trail, and takes you an amazing 40-foot, cascading waterfall, featured in TV shows like Lost, Hawaii Five-O and Magnum P.I.

There are two pools at the base of the waterfall and Tarzan rope swings in the second, deeper pool.

Waimano Falls, in tropical jungle settings
Waimano Falls, in tropical jungle settings

If you continue on Manana Trail you reach a clearing where you can see Pearl Harbor, Waimano Valley, and the ocean. You can also see the sun rising or setting over the horizon, creating a beautiful glow in the sky.

4. Maunawili Falls Trail

NoteThe Maunawili Falls Trail is expected to be closed until 2024 for re-alignment. You can get to Maunawili Falls via the Maunawili Trail (also known as the Maunawili Demonstration Trail), which is accessed from the scenic overlook just beyond the hairpin turn on the Pali Highway.

Quick facts

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 3 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 500 feet
  • Family friendly: Yes
  • Pet friendly: Yes, on leash

Maunawili Falls Trail is a scenic hike to a fun waterfall, located in Maunawili Valley on the lush, windward side of Oahu.

Maunwali Falls Trail through the tropical rainforest
Maunwali Falls Trail through the tropical rainforest

From Honolulu, take H-1 west to Pali Highway (Route 61). Follow Pali Highway until it becomes Kailua Road.

Turn right onto Auloa Road and then left onto Maunawili Road. Look for street parking near the trailhead.

Maunawili Falls Trail is a dirt and mud path that follows the contour of the Ko’olau Range into Maunawili Valley.

Along the way, you’ll enjoy views of the mountains, the valley, and the stream. The trail is of moderate difficulty due to some slippery and muddy sections that will test your balance and agility.

The trail ends at Maunawili Falls, a fun waterfall that has a pool and a rope swing. You can swim in the pool and jump from the rocks or the rope swing, but be careful of the depth and the current.

Beautiful Maunawili Falls in stunning tropical jungle setting!
Beautiful Maunawili Falls in stunning tropical jungle setting!

5. Lulumahu Falls Trail

Quick facts

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 1.7 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 800 feet
  • Family friendly: Yes, older kids
  • Pet friendly: Yes, on leash

Lulumahu Falls Trail is located in Central Oahu, about 25 minutes from Waikiki, and is a great hike for people who want to explore a rainforest with a beautiful 100-foot waterfall.

The hike is on private property owned by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply. You need to get a free permit before you go (print two copies, one for your vehicle and one to keep with you at all times on the trail).

From Honolulu, take H-1 west to Pali Highway (Route 61). Follow Pali Highway until you reach Old Pali Road on your left.

Turn left onto Old Pali Road and look for street parking near the trailhead.

Lulumahu Falls Trail is a dirt and mud path that traverses into a dense bamboo forest, along the Nuuanu Reservoir and up to Lulumahu Falls.

Note that the trail is not maintained. Also, do not attempt this hike if it is raining as the stream can be very dangerous after and during heavy rainfall.

Lulumahu is a beautiful waterfall in a lush rainforest setting, and was featured in several movies and TV shows, such as LostHawaii Five-0, and Jurassic Park III.

Lulumahu falls Honolulu Oahu island, tropical waterfall
Lulumahu falls Honolulu Oahu island, tropical waterfall

The 5 Best Challenging Hikes in Oahu

Oahu has many trails that offer steep climbs, narrow ridges, and thrilling views that will test your stamina, strength, and courage.

Some of these are quite dangerous and require technical climbing skills (hikers have died on these trails). Make sure you align the difficulty of the trail with your hiking skills and ability, and check weather and trail conditions before starting.

Here are the 5 best hikes in Oahu that you can challenge your fitness buddies with: 1) Koko Crater Head Trail, 2) Mt Olomana Trail (Three Peaks Trail), 3) Pali Notches Trail, 4) Kuliouou Ridge Trail, and 5) Moanalua Valley Trail to Haiku Stairs.

1. Koko Crater Head Trail

Koko Crater Head Trail is a great hike for fitness enthusiasts who want to challenge themselves and enjoy a fabulous view.

Due to its destination to the summit of Koko Crater Head, the hike on the Koko Crater Head Trail is very popular, and also mentioned in the 5 best sunrise hikes in Oahu (where it is described in detail) and the 5 best sunset hikes in Oahu!

Stairs to Koko Crater Hear summit near Waikiki on Oahu
Stairs to Koko Crater Hear summit near Waikiki on Oahu

This challenging but rewarding trail consists of more than 1,000 wooden steps (old railway track) that climb up the steep slope of the crater.

2. Mt Olomana Trail (Olomana Three Peaks Trail)

Quick facts

  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Distance: 4.5 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 1,600 feet
  • Family friendly: No
  • Pet friendly: No

The Olomana Three Peaks Trail is a great hike for adrenaline seekers who want to enjoy a thrilling ridge hike and amazing views.

The Olomana Three Peaks Trail is on the windward side of Oahu, and takes you through lush forests and up the Koolau Mountain Range.

Lush rainforests at the start of the Olomana Three Peaks Hike, Oahu, Hawaii
Lush rainforests at the start of the Olomana Three Peaks Hike, Oahu, Hawaii

From Honolulu, take H-1 west to Pali Highway (Route 61). Follow Pali Highway until it becomes Kailua Road.

Turn right onto Auloa Road and then left onto Maunawili Road.

Look for street parking near the trailhead.

Mt Olomana Trail is a dirt and rock path that ascends the ridge above Maunawili Valley.

Along the way, you’ll pass by three peaks, each with its own name and challenge.

The first peak is Olomana, which means “divided hill” in Hawaiian. It is the highest and most popular peak, with a steep climb that requires the use of ropes and cables.

Peaks and beautiful views from the Olomana Three Peaks Trail hike
Peaks and beautiful views from the Olomana Three Peaks Trail hike

The second peak is Paku’i, which means “hill” in Hawaiian. It is slightly lower than Olomana, but still offers a great view of the valley and the ocean.

The third peak is Ahiki, which means “fin” in Hawaiian. It is the lowest and most difficult peak, with a narrow ridge that drops off on both sides.

Only experienced hikers should attempt this peak, as it is very dangerous and exposed.

From any of the peaks, you’ll have a thrilling view of the Ko’olau Range, Kaneohe Bay, and Kailua Beach.

Views from the Olomana Three Peaks Trail hike
Views from the Olomana Three Peaks Trail hike

You can also see the sun rising or setting over the water, creating a dramatic effect on the landscape.

3. Pali Notches Trail

Quick facts

  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Distance: 0.8 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 500 feet
  • Family friendly: No
  • Pet friendly: No

This is a great, short hike for experienced hikers who want to enjoy a dangerous hike and a view of two notches.

Man-made notches on the Pali Notches Trail, Oahu
Man-made notches on the Pali Notches Trail, Oahu

The Pali Notches Trail is located on the windward side of Oahu, with the trailhead starting at Pali Lookout.

From Honolulu, take H-1 west to Pali Highway (Route 61). Follow Pali Highway until you reach the Pali Lookout on your left.

Turn left into the lookout and park your car ($3 / vehicle) near the trailhead.

Pali Notches Trail is a dirt and rock path that climbs up to two notches on the Ko’olau Range. The notches are gaps in the ridge that were used as gun emplacements during the Battle of Nuuanu in 1795.

The trail is dangerous and exposed, with steep drop-offs, loose rocks, and strong winds. You’ll need to use ropes, cables, and your hands to scramble up and down the trail.

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

The trail ends at the second notch, where you can see the windward coast, Kaneohe Bay, and Chinaman’s Hat.

The sunrise and sunsets here are also spectacular, creating a stunning contrast between the green mountains and the blue water.

4. Kuliouou Ridge Trail

Quick facts

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 5 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 1,800 feet
  • Family friendly: Yes, for older kids
  • Pet friendly: Yes, on leash

Kuliouou Ridge Trail is a great hike for families who want to enjoy a forest hike and a view of Waimanalo Bay and Koko Crater.

Kuliouou Ridge Trail, Oahu, Hawaii, one of the best challenging hikes in Oahu
Kuliouou Ridge Trail, Oahu, Hawaii, one of the best challenging hikes in Oahu

Kuliouou Ridge Trail is located in East Oahu.

From Honolulu, take H-1 east to Kalanianaole Highway (Route 72). Follow Kalanianaole Highway until you reach Kuliouou Road on your left.

Turn left onto Kuliouou Road and follow it until you reach Kalaau Place on your right.

Turn right onto Kalaau Place and look for a dirt path on your left at the end of the cul-de-sac. This is the trailhead.

Only street parking is available.

Kuliouou Ridge Trail is a dirt and rock path that ascends the ridge above Kuliouou Valley.

Along the way, you’ll pass through different types of forest, such as pine, ironwood, and guava. You’ll also encounter some switchbacks, stairs, and ropes that will help you climb the steep sections.

The trail ends at a clearing where you can see Waimanalo Bay, Koko Crater, and the windward coast.

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

You can also see the sun setting over the ocean, creating a beautiful contrast between the blue water and the green hills.

5. Moanalua Valley Trail to Haiku Stairs

Quick facts

  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Distance: 9.3 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 2,500 feet
  • Family friendly: No
  • Pet friendly: Yes, on leash

Moanalua Valley Trail is a great hike for adventurous hikers who want to enjoy a long hike and a view of the Stairway to Heaven. Be warned, the hike will consume most of the day!

Hiking Moanalua Valley Trail, Oahu, Hawaii
Hiking Moanalua Valley Trail, Oahu, Hawaii

Moanalua Valley Trail is located in Central Oahu in the Moanalua Valley Park.

From Honolulu, take H-1 west to Moanalua Road (Exit 3). Follow Moanalua Road until you reach Ala Aolani Street on your right.

Turn right onto Ala Aolani Street and follow it until you reach Moanalua Valley Park on your left. Park your car near the trailhead.

Moanalua Valley Trail to Haiku Stairs is a dirt and rock path that leads to the backside of the Stairway to Heaven, also known as Haiku Stairs.

The Stairway to Heaven, Haiku Stairs, Oahu, Hawaiii, is closed
The Stairway to Heaven, Haiku Stairs, Oahu, Hawaiii, is closed

The Stairway to Heaven is an old metal staircase that climbs up the ridge above Haiku Valley. It was built in 1942 as part of a naval radio station and has been closed to the public since 1987 due to safety and legal issues.

The Moanalua Valley Trail is long and challenging, with some stream crossings, switchbacks, ridges, and ropes along the way.

The trail ends close to the top of the Stairway to Heaven, where you can see the windward coast, Kaneohe Bay, and Kailua Beach. Note, the act of being on the Haiku Stairs is ILLEGAL.

Mountain top views from Moanalua Valley Trail winding on the top of the ridge in Oahu, Hawaii
Mountain top views from Moanalua Valley Trail winding on the top of the ridge in Oahu, Hawaii

You can also see the sun rising or setting over the water, creating a spectacular sight in the sky.

5 Best Oahu Hikes Now Illegal or Closed!

Some of the iconic best trails in Oahu are now closed for various reasons, including safety, environmental, or legal issues.

With so many other amazing Oahu hikes listed above, do not risk fines, arrests or personal safety by trespassing illegally on the below trails.

1. Haiku Stairs Trail (Stairway to Heaven)

  • Reason for closure: Safety and legal issues
  • Penalties for trespassing: $1,000 fine and/or arrest

The Stairway to Heaven (Haiku Stairs Trail) was probably THE iconic trail in Oahu. Alas, no more! The stairway was damaged by a storm and since then closed for safety reasons.

The Stairway to Heaven, the Haiku trail, Oahu, Hawaii
The views from Stairway to Heaven, the Haiku Stairs trail, Oahu, Hawaii

The Moanalua Valley Trail to Haiku Stairs described above takes you close to the top of the stairs, but being on any part of the Haiku Stairs Trail itself is illegal.

2. Crouching Lion Trail

  • Reason for closure: Environmental issues
  • Penalties for trespassing: $500 fine and/or arrest

The Crouching Lion Trail, another very popular trail was closed indefinitely in 2021.

The hike on Crouching Lion Traill provded excellent views of Kahana Bay, Mokolii Island (also known as Chinaman’s Hat), and the Ko’olau Range.

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

The trail is closed to protect the native plants and animals that live in the area. The trail is also eroding and causing landslides that threaten public safety.

3. Hamama Falls Trail

  • Reason for closure: Safety issues
  • Penalties for trespassing: $500 fine and/or arrest

The Hamama Falls Trail to a beautiful waterfall has been closed since 2021.

View of Hamama falls on Oahu island, Hawaii
View of Hamama falls on Oahu island, Hawaii

The trail is closed due to safety concerns related to rockfalls, landslides, flash floods, and crime. The trail is located on private government property owned by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, which does not allow public access.

4. Maunawili Falls Trail

  • Reason for closure: COVID-19 pandemic
  • Penalties for trespassing: $500 fine and/or arrest

Maunawili Falls Trail is a dirt and mud path that follows Maunawili Stream into Maunawili Valley to Maunawili Falls, a beautiful waterfall. This trail is temporarily closed since 2021, but expected to re-open, probably in 2024.

Beautiful Maunawili Falls in stunning tropical jungle setting!
Beautiful Maunawili Falls in stunning tropical jungle setting!

An alternative trail to Maunawili Falls is the Maunawili Demonstration Trail that can be accessed from Pali Highway (see note above)

5. Ka’au Crater Trail

  • Reason for closure: Safety issues
  • Penalties for trespassing: $500 fine and/or arrest

The Ka’au Crater Trail was a popular hike to three waterfalls, and a stunning view of the island from the ridgeline.

The trail is closed due to safety concerns related to rockfalls, landslides, flash floods, and crime. The trail is also dangerous and unstable due to weathering and vandalism.

The Ka’au Crater Trail is located on private land owned by various landowners, who do not allow public access.

Hiking Gear Checklist

Many of Hawaii’s hikes are demanding, make sure you are well equipped and well prepared. Here’s what we typically take with us:

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 adventure 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.

If you ar planning a short first visit to the island, we have the perfect day-by-day 3 days in Oahu itinerary for you!

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 an article on the best places to eat in Waikiki!

Check out our guide to the best beaches in Oahu, and a round-up of the best beaches on the north shore of Oahu. Also read about must-visit Oahu waterfalls and botanical gardens in Oahu you have to visit.

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 as well as the super popular Hanauma Bay.

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!

If you are a garden enthusiast, check out our detailed guide to the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, our article on the unique Koko Crater Botanical Garden, and our guide to Foster Botanical Garden!

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Discover the must-do hikes in Oahu, from easy trails like Manoa Falls and Makapu'u Lighthouse to challenging hikes like Koko Head!

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