Oahu is home to some of the best hikes in all of Hawaii. The island is home to two vast mountain ranges, the Koolau and Waianae. Running alongside each other they help to create dramatic and memorable landscapes and most of the best hikes on Oahu soar up their ridgelines.
Hikes on Oahu range in difficulty from casual paved strolls through botanic gardens to epic muddy treks deep into the jungle in search of waterfalls. Whatever takes your fancy, unique scenery will surround you in every direction and the summit views will be worth every leg-burning mile.
Best Hikes On Oahu
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Deciding what hikes you should add to your Oahu itinerary can be tricky, so read on and learn all about the 15 best hikes on Oahu. After completing one of these outstanding treks, read our article on the best things to do in Oahu to keep the fun times rolling.
Manoa Falls Trail
Only fifteen minutes from downtown Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, Manoa Falls presents the perfect urban escape and is one of the most popular Oahu hikes for locals and travelers alike.
From the instant you hit the trail, your world will transform into a jungle paradise. Flanked by the lush Manoa Valley on either side, you will rise past the valley towards a beautiful 150ft waterfall. You will hear the tumble of the water long before you arrive, and when you do, color prisms and rainbows will float through the air.
Manoa Falls is a relatively simple hike that is a great starter trek for newcomers to Oahu and also for families looking for an outdoor adventure.
Trailhead: Manoa Falls TrailheadDistance: 1.6 milesDifficulty: EasyElevation Gain: 633ft
Lanikai Pillbox Hike (Kaiwa Ridge Hike)
In one of the most picturesque corners of Oahu, a short ridge hike ends in iconic and colorful pillboxes. Also known as the Kaiwa Ridge Trail, this trek is one of the most rewarding yet straightforward hikes on Oahu.
The steady, steep grade will get the legs moving but Lanikai Pillbox Hike is only roughly a mile one-way. Views are had all along the trail, giving you a glimpse into what is to come. Once you are at the top, you will enjoy epic views of Lanikai Beach, Kailua Beach, and the Mokulua Islands.
The pillbox faces due east, so all the more reason to get up early, complete the hike and take in an unbeatable Hawaiian sunrise.
Trailhead: 265 Kaelepulu Dr, Kailua, HIDistance: 1.8 milesDifficulty: EasyElevation Gain: 656ft
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Now that you have stretched your legs and broken in your hiking boots, it is time to challenge yourself a little more. This is where the Olomana Trail comes in.
As one of the more challenging hikes on Oahu, the Olomana Trail takes you up a steep incline to the first of three peaks. After gaining 2000ft of elevation, take a break and soak in the views of the Ko’olau Mountain Range and the rugged Oahu coast, before making your way across to the second peak.
Although you can climb the third peak, we recommend turning around after peak two because of safety concerns. Once you’re back on level ground, head to the local pub and toast to an incredible day in the mountains.
Trailhead: Loop Drive near Royal Hawaiian Golf ClubDistance: 4.4 milesDifficulty: DifficultElevation Gain: 2761ft
Waimea Falls Trail
Similar to the Manoa Falls Trail, Waimea Falls is a very accessible hike near Oahu’s north shore. The trail makes its way through the wonderful botanical garden of Waimea Valley. The valley is worth exploring further after the hike as it comes with a significant cultural and archaeological site.
This popular hike features a mostly paved trail along flat ground. Along the trek, dense forests and gorgeous gardens will welcome you at every turn. Once you have reached the end, you will be able to sit, relax and take in the 45ft waterfall as it tumbles into the Kamanui Stream. To help make the hike even more accessible, there are optional shuttles for young families and elderly hikers.
Trailhead: Waimea Valley Visitor CenterDistance: 3.5 milesDifficulty: EasyElevation Gain: 272ft
Don’t have time to do all these hikes on Oahu? This best-selling full-day Oahu island tour covers all the highlights including Hanauma Bay to the North Shore, the Kualoa Ranch, Halona Blowhole Nu`uanu Pali Lookout, the beaches of the North Shore and more.
Diamond Head Trail
Anyone who has visited Oahu will know about the mass of volcanic rock that is visible from so many parts of the island, the Diamond Head State Monument. This iconic natural feature is also home to one of the best hikes on Oahu. The Diamond Head Trail takes you through some incredible landscapes that are a world away from the previous treks through rainforests.
The fun, but challenging hike features a steep climb up to the viewpoint that rewards you with panoramic views of turquoise waters and the Honolulu skyline. Along the way, the trail leads you through an exciting 225ft tunnel, which is almost as memorable as the views.
Trailhead: Diamond Head Crater TrailheadDistance: 1.6 milesDifficulty: ModerateElevation Gain: 560ft
Don’t just see Oahu from the ground, get up in the air with this helicopter tour that we did. It goes from Waikiki Beach to the North Shore and it was beautiful. Magnum PI fans will also love this helicopter tour in a replica of the series helicopter to see filming locations plus Pearl Harbor, Sacred Falls and Le‘ahi (Diamond Head).
Koko Crater Hike
Nearby to Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach is one of the most interesting hiking trails on the island of Oahu. The infamous Koko Crater stairs aren’t just there to make your legs heavy, they are the remains of a railroad built in the Second World War. Now instead of transporting supplies, hikers take to this trail for the physical challenge.
The Koko Crater trail takes you over 1,000 steps up to the summit in less than a mile. From the top of the Koko Head District Park, you will have stunning views of the Pacific Ocean from 1200ft above sea level.
For those who are up for the adventure, prepare to have some jelly legs on the descent.
If you are hooked on Oahu’s unique landscape, go a step further and find out the most amazing facts about Hawaii.
Trailhead: Koko Crater Railway TrailheadDistance: 2 milesDifficulty: DifficultElevation Gain: 990ft
Where to Stay on Oahu
Turtle Bay Resort
If you want to stay on Oahu’s north shore, a good spot is the Turtle Bay Resort. If you watched the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshal, this is the spot where Jason Seigal met Mila Kunis and enjoyed a fun-filled vacation in Hawaii. (once he got over Sarah Marshal). This is the largest resort on the island located far away from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki.
Waikiki is the most popular place to stay in Oahu with hotels lining the beach. If you want to be in the heart of the action this is the place to stay. You can’t go wrong with the Hilton Hawaii Village Waikiki Beach Resort plus it has one of the best luaus on Oahau.
Seven Falls Hike
All the best Oahu hiking trails have something unique to enjoy. But for an all-around adventure, it is hard to pass up on the Seven Falls trail. Featuring waterfalls, plenty of wading through streams, and boulder hopping along the challenging route, Seven Falls has it all.
The hiking trail is next to a rocky stream that cuts through a deep and narrow gorge. Along the way, you will pass several waterfalls, with the trail requiring the use of ropes so you can hike beside them.
It is possible to complete the entire trek and reach the seventh waterfall, however, your technical ability will need to be sound as it quickly becomes a trail for experienced hikers.
Trailhead: Yellow Gate on Maakua RoadDistance: 5 milesDifficulty: DifficultElevation Gain: 1805ft
Ka’au Crater Hike
From one epic adventure to another, Oahu sure doesn’t take its foot off the pedal. This hike comes complete with an ancient volcanic crater, waterfall after waterfall, and panoramic views at multiple stages.
From your first step, you enter the jungle with magnificent soaring trees everywhere you look. The foliage is so dense that the sun only makes its way through the canopy at rare intervals. From gaps along the ridge, you will see as far as Waikiki Beach and Oahu’s southeastern shoreline.
At various stages, you can glimpse beautiful waterfalls. Some that you can pause and take a dip in, providing the perfect break to what is a challenging but exhilarating hike, finishing with views into the crater from the summit.
Trailhead: Ka’au Crater TrailheadDistance: 5.1 milesDifficulty: DifficultElevation Gain: 1942ft
Crouching Lion Hike
A steep, yet short hike is a great way to see the breathtaking Kahana Bay from above, along with the imposing sight of Pu’u Manamana. Like seemingly all the Oahu hiking trails, there is no gradual beginning, with the path immediately ascending into the heavens.
The trail comes with not just one, but multiple viewpoints which create many spots to rest along the way. It is likely you will need it as the trail can be slippery and the roots can bring you unstuck.
But the best view is, of course, from the peak where you will see the vibrant coral reef below. At the right time of day, the surrounding mountains will light up under the sun’s rays.
Trailhead: 51-676 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaaawa, HIDistance: 4 milesDifficulty: DifficultElevation Gain: 2000ft
Aiea Loop Trail
After some challenging, adventurous hikes through the vast Oahu forests, it’s time to take the difficulty down a notch. The Aiea Loop Trail is perfect for those who want to enjoy some of Oahu’s best scenery without venturing deep into the mountains.
With plenty of shade and flat sections, you can stroll around the loop at a leisurely pace viewing forests packed with eucalyptus groves, ??hi?a trees, Norfolk pine, and native Koa.
Being on the west side of the Halawa Valley, the trail also provides plenty of long-range views of Pearl Harbor, the Ko’olau Mountains, and the ever-present Diamond Head monument.
Trailhead: Aiea Loop TrailheadDistance: 4.8 milesDifficulty: EasyElevation Gain: 900ft
Mt Olympus Hike
As one of the tallest mountains on the island, Mt Olympus is a common goal for a lot of adventurous residents. At over 2400ft tall, Mt Olympus is regularly hidden by cloud coverage. Despite having multiple options, the most popular summit trail begins in the Wa’ahila Ridge State Recreation Area.
This Oahu hiking trail takes you deep into one of the island’s main mountain ranges with several vantage points that allow you to view the entire island. The entire hike takes around a 4 to 5-hour round-trip to complete. With many muddy sections, bring along sturdy boots and hiking pants.
Trailhead: Wa’ahila Ridge TrailheadDistance: 5.9 milesDifficulty: DifficultElevation Gain: 2618ft
Maunawili Falls Trail
This trail is temporarily closed as of July 2021 for restructuring. You can still access the trail via the Pali Highway or Waimanalo entrance until the scheduled re-opening in 2023. Please check with hawaiitrails.hawaii.gov for the updated trail conditions.
On the windward side of Oahu, the Maunawili Falls trail is a three-mile trek. However, it can take as long as two hours to reach the cascading waterfalls.
Along the way, you will reach a plateau where you can have a break and take in the views down to the valley along with the surrounding jungle.
Afterward, the trail descends into the trees where, after many enormous steps, you will be greeted by the 20ft falls tucked into the Pali Cliffs. The journey doesn’t end here though, continue across another stream and your reward will be a refreshing natural pool.
Trailhead: Maunawili Falls TrailheadDistance: 2.8 milesDifficulty: ModerateElevation Gain: 1007ft
Kuliouou Ridge Trail
The Kuliouou Ridge Trail is a moderate to difficult trail that comes with relatively dry hiking compared to many of the trails on this list. For this reason, the trek is a common running trail for locals.
Along the way, you will have sections of stairs taking you up and over rocky terrain, at other times you will have to do it yourself. The ridge comes with several plateaus providing excellent views to the eastern side of Oahu before traversing through a beautiful archway of banyan branches.
From the peak, all your toil will be worth it with stunning views of the coastline and as far as the eye can see.
Trailhead: End of Kalalau PlaceDistance: 4.4 milesDifficulty: Moderate–DifficultElevation Gain: 1800ft
Makapuu Point & Lighthouse Trail
For beautiful ocean views and the chance to see a historic lighthouse, the Makapuu Point and Lighthouse Trail provide plenty of bang for your buck.
At the end of the 1-mile journey to the eastern tip of Oahu, you will have unbeatable views of Manana and Black Rock islands. From the top of the 600ft volcanic cliff, you will also be able to see the century-old lighthouse.
If you are hiking the trail from December to May, Makapuu Point is a great place to have a picnic and keep an eye out for whales who arrive in great numbers during these months.
Trailhead: Makapuu Point Lighthouse TrailheadDistance: 2 milesDifficulty: ModerateElevation Gain: 500ft
Stairway to Heaven via Moanalua Valley Trail
Arguably the most famous hike not just in Oahu but Hawaii as a whole is the Haiku Stairs trail. Since the late 1980s, the trail has been closed to the public, yet its fame continues to rise. One way to reach the impressive viewpoint along the Haiku Stairs is to take a difficult, yet legal route.
The hike starts on the Moanalua Valley side and takes you to the summit via a series of rope climbs and steep ascents. It will take around half a day to reach the summit shared with the closed route. Keep in mind that once you join the Stairway to Heaven viewpoint, you are considered to be on the illegal trail.
Trailhead: Moanalua Valley TrailheadDistance: 9.3 milesDifficulty: DifficultElevation Gain: 5030ft
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the easiest hike in Oahu?
There are over 200 hikes to choose from in Oahu. Many reach great heights and go deep into the dense island jungle. However, there are a few easy hikes that will be the perfect brief excursion to break up your vacation.
The Lanikai Pillbox hike along with the Waimea and Manoa Falls are excellent examples of short, simple hikes that still provide walkers with views and memorable highlights.
What are the hiking trails like in Oahu?
Hiking on Oahu brings amazing variety, where you can complete a crater hike in the morning and finish with a jungle trek to a beautiful sunset viewpoint.
Two distinct shield volcanoes played a large role in creating Oahu’s dramatic landscape. Mountains here soar out of the valley at stark angles so most of the hiking on the island features steep climbs. Although the dense forest helps to keep the ground solid, many trails still face issues of erosion and trails can be slippery and muddy.
For these reasons, it is best to prepare for these hikes with sturdy footwear and accept that you’ll often get dirty.
For tips on hiking all around Hawaii, check out our article on the best hikes in Hawaii.
Final Thoughts on Oahu Hikes
Hiking in Oahu is exciting for people of all skill levels. The simple, easy access hikes bring you close to the island’s beautiful scenery without strenuous effort. On the other hand, the range of challenging hikes will put a smile on the face of experienced hikers who want to go that extra mile for an unforgettable view.
Whether you are coming to Hawaii to enjoy the sun, surf, and cocktails with the odd day hike or planning to do nothing but trek the endless trails, you will find what you’re looking for on this list of the ultimate 15 hikes in Oahu.
Once your time in Oahu is up, why not journey to Big Island? Explore the best things to do on Big Island.