Hawaii is the land of breathtaking views and pristine beaches, and one of the best ways to explore its natural beauty is by hiking in Oahu.
I decided to challenge myself on my most recent trip to Oahu by going on some hikes, so today, I’m sharing all the best Oahu trails I found during my research!
No matter what kind of hiker you are, there are plenty of Oahu hiking trails to embark on an exciting challenge or a laidback journey with plenty of photo opps.
After hiking Oahu, book more fun Hawaii activities below through GetYourGuide:
Either way, getting outdoors and in touch with nature is always a good idea, and Hawaii is one of the best places in the world to do it.
Locals have been hiking Oahu for a long time, as many of these trails date back to the early 1900s when they were used as transportation for Hawaiian royalty and to connect remote villages.
Modern-day visitors to Hawaii can choose from dozens of trails that range from easy to difficult, offering something for everyone.
From spectacular scenery to breathtaking views, nothing beats the experience of hiking Oahu—and here’s exactly how to do it.
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Hiking Oahu: 10 Best Trails
1. Koko Crater Trail
The Koko Crater Trail (also known as Koko Head Stairs and Koko Crater Tramway) is a challenging 1.6-mile out-and-back trail that gains 885 feet of elevation.
Those who tackle the trail will be rewarded with spectacular panoramic views from the top of Koko Head Lookout.
This hike follows over 1000 steps up an abandoned railway track used to transport supplies during World War II.
Koko Crater Trail is the definition of “no pain, no gain,” but the views are worth the challenge.
If you plan on visiting this open-air hike, it’s best to begin early in the morning to beat the heat. Otherwise, come in the evening when crowds have dispersed, and the hiking trail is less packed.
At the summit of Koko Head Lookout, you’ll be treated to stunning views of Hanauma Bay, Moloka’i, and Honolulu’s eastern shoreline.
2. Waimea Valley Trail
Oahu is full of stunning trails and hikes, but one must-see excursion is Waimea Valley Trail.
Stretching just 1.9 miles round trip along paved roads with a gentle 270 feet elevation gain, this trek offers unparalleled views of the gorgeous 45-foot Waimea Falls.
This moderate hike is perfect for families with small children and anyone looking for a strenuous hike.
The entrance fee for Waimea Valley is $20 per adult and $12 for children, which is well worth it, considering this also provides access to the botanical garden and historical sites on the way to Waimea Falls.
After splashing around in the falls, stop at a North Shore food truck near Haleiwa or Shark’s Cove. It’s the cherry on top of a perfect day in Hawaii.
3. Hau’ula Loop Trail
Hau’ula Loop Trail, situated near Hauula, south of Kahuku at Oahu’s northern edge, is my favorite trail in the North Shore region.
With an elevation gain of 879 feet over a 2.7-mile loop, you can expect to hike for around 60 to 90 minutes round trip, and there’s ample shade along the way.
Hau’ula Loop Trail is perfect any time of day, so you don’t have to set your alarm for the crack of dawn, thank goodness.
On this trail, you’ll travel through lush forests with magnificent trees and trickling streams—it’s like taking an adventure into an exotic jungle.
Although the route is easy to follow, be aware of roots and other tricky spots along your journey, and wear hiking boots with good ankle support.
No public parking is available near the trailhead, so head to the beach lot, bringing you 0.3 miles closer to your start point.
Don’t forget your bug spray because conditions may be muddy and buggy if it’s rained recently.
4. Kuliouou Ridge Trail
If you’re ready for an adventure, go to Kuliouou Ridge Trail, located at the edge of Hawaii Kai in Kuliouou Forest Reserve (about a 30-minute drive from Waikiki).
This exhilarating trail is almost five miles round trip with 1,700 feet of elevation gain that’s classified as moderate to difficult, perfect for those seeking a challenge.
With breathtaking views of Hawaii’s southern coasts, Kuliouou Ridge is one of the most incredible places for hiking Oahu.
You will see spectacular coastal vistas, and the trek also takes adventurers into the Ko’olau Mountains.
As you hike through various terrains scaling up the Ko’olau Mountain Range, you’ll be rewarded with classic Hawaiian views—unlike many Oahu hikes, it’s also dog friendly, making it a local favorite.
This trail is around 4.7 to five miles, and you can expect your journey to take anywhere from 2.5 to 4.5 hours, depending on your pace, plus rest time to take in all the breathtaking views and photo ops along the way!
Don’t forget to hold back some energy for that final 0.5-mile push of stairs—thankfully, it isn’t too bad, and the summit views are well worth it.
With breathtaking views of Kaneohe to Hawaii Kai, this hike is a treasure providing an excellent workout and gorgeous sights unique to Hawaii.
5. Lanikai Pillbox (Kaiwa Ridge) Trail
The captivating Lanikai Pillbox (aka Kaiwa Ridge) Trail in Kailua earned its name thanks to the WWII-era bunkers atop the ridge overlooking iconic Lanikai Beach.
Ascending just 600 feet over two miles, Lanikai Pillbox Hike is relatively moderate, and most visitors make an out-and-back trip to stop at one of the pillboxes.
You can also venture down the other side of Kaiwa Ridge Trail, where a loop will lead you past breathtaking views, ending on gorgeous Lanikai Beach.
This hike is short and sweet, with stunning panoramic views awaiting you at the top—I recommend visiting on a clear day for a quick sunrise or sunset hike.
You’ll want to wear sturdy shoes as there can be mud on steeper sections if there have been recent rainstorms.
This trek offers an unbeatable combination of convenience and captivating landscapes that will make you want to visit over and over again.
6. Diamond Head (Le’ahi) Summit Trail
Take on the 1.8-mile Diamond Head Trail (aka Le’ahi) that gains 452 feet of elevation to reach one of the most iconic island landmarks, Diamond Head Summit (don’t worry, it’s easier than you think).
This scenic journey (built in 1908 as part of Hawaii’s coastal defense system) is popular among casual hikers who want to experience the stunning beauty firsthand.
There are only 300 parking spots at the trailhead of Diamond Head State Monument, so you’ll want to arrive early if you want to miss the tourist crowds. Or take an Uber like we did.
If that isn’t an option, you’ll have to look for a parking space further away, adding some uphill trekking to your journey.
Once you get started on this partially-paved walkway, you’ll traverse through a beautiful valley until reaching narrower switchbacks that lead you to the Diamond Head crater, formed hundreds of thousands of years ago by a volcanic eruption.
At one point, you’ll make your way through a tunnel and arrive at what seems like the summit, but you’ll instead be met with an intense set of stairs.
Don’t get too intimidated, though—take it slow. There’s no rush to get to the summit!
Experiencing the summit of Diamond Head in person is an absolute must for your hiking Oahu bucket list.
7. Ehukai Pillbox Hike
The breathtaking Ehukai Pillbox Hike on Oahu’s North Shore spans miles of sandy beaches and provides a stunning view that can’t be missed.
Although only 1.5 miles long, this trek is best for Hawaii tourists looking for an intense physical challenge due to its rigorous inclines and sparse shade—I wouldn’t suggest this Oahu trail to anyone with knee, hip, or ankle issues.
As the name suggests, plenty of WWII-era “pillboxes” can be found along this hike, which lends to its difficulty.
The best part of Ehukai Pillbox Hike is at the end, where you’ll be rewarded with spectacular 360-degree views of the Ko’olau Mountains, Waimea Bay, and Banzai Pipeline.
It should go without saying this is one of the best hikes Oahu has to offer!
8. Ka’ena Point Trail
Ka’ena Point Trail is a hike worth the drive out to Waianae. While the five-mile roundtrip journey may seem daunting, it’s a moderate walk with a few areas of rocky terrain along the way.
This trail begins at Ka’ena Point State Park and is most accessible when low tide hits in the afternoon since there will be an easier path to walk along the shoreline.
The lush foliage that envelops this pathway is extraordinary, and you’ll be surrounded by some of the finest examples of Hawaii’s natural beauty.
You might even spot some rare shorebirds, monk seals, and turtles if you’re lucky enough!
Once you reach the end of the trail at Ka’ena Point (a great place for whale-watching in wintertime), prepare to be amazed by stunning views of the Pacific’s powerful waves.
The best time to hike Ka’ena Point Trail is right around sunrise or sunset because the sun can get intense during midday.
9. Manoa Falls Trail
If you want a fun adventure for the whole family, Manoa Falls Trail is just a short drive from Waikiki and only 1.7 miles round trip with 633 feet of elevation gain.
This hike is surrounded by natural beauty as it borders Lyon Arboretum, one of Oahu’s most picturesque locations.
Manoa Falls Trail is quite famous, so it’s best to start early to avoid the crowds—at the end, take in breathtaking views of a 150-foot waterfall cascading from the jungle cliffs.
Keep safety in mind when exploring this area, as the terrain can be slippery. Wear proper shoes with good traction and keep a close eye on younger children to ensure they don’t get too close to the edge.
If Manoa Falls looks familiar, it was featured in several movies and TV shows like Jurassic Park and Lost.
You can snap some photos and relish in the beautiful scenery, but be aware that swimming is highly discouraged due to the potential of contracting Leptospirosis, a flu-like disease.
After your hike, treat yourself and the kiddos to a refreshing dole whip or snow cone at the parking lot cafe.
10. Mokolii Island (Chinaman’s Hat)
For a picture-perfect hiking trail in Oahu, you must visit Mokolii Island, also known as Chinaman’s Hat.
Although the hike is less than half a mile roundtrip, it’s considered strenuous because of the rocky and steep terrain.
Don’t forget to also factor in the hike or kayak trip to Mokolii Island itself—the changing tides can make travel unpredictable, so keep a close watch on the weather.
Once you land on this tiny island, the challenging hike becomes justified when you see the incredible sights.
I hope this hiking Oahu travel guide inspires you to explore the outdoors on your next Hawaii trip!
Tag me on Insta (@wtfab) if you take on any of these hikes so I can see your summit selfies.
Find more travel guides and recommendations here.
Yes, Oahu is home to some beautiful hikes and trails.
I recommend Waimea Valley Trail or Manoa Falls Trail.
Sadly, this hiking trail is closed until further notice.
Elise Armitage is an entrepreneur and founder of What The Fab, a travel + lifestyle blog based in California. At the beginning of 2019, Elise left her corporate job at Google to chase her dreams: being an entrepreneur and helping women find fabulous in the everyday. Since then, she’s launched her SEO course Six-Figure SEO, where she teaches bloggers how to create a passive revenue stream from their website using SEO. Featured in publications like Forbes, Elle, HerMoney, and Real Simple, Elise is a firm believer that you can be of both substance and style.