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The Hawaii 100 Highest Peaks Challenge

Updated: May 12

Which are the 100 highest peaks in Hawaii? Are there 100 mountain peaks In Hawaii?

Those were the questions that put me up to this challenge.

google earth map showing hawaii 100 highest peaks
Map of Hawaii's 100 Highest Peaks

How did it start?

One day I got an email from a person named Tom Lopez, that he needed my help to get to the top of Mt Ka'ala. He said he climbed several mountain peaks before but now that he got older, he would prefer to have a guide helping him. I answered that no problem I will help him climb Oahu's tallest peak, Mt. Ka'ala.

After I picked him up from his Kaneohe hotel, we started chatting. I knew after 5 minutes that it would be a fun day out hiking with a lot of climbing, and hiking stories.

It turned out that he climbed over 3000 mountain peaks worldwide, which is a huge accomplishment. He wrote one of the first climbing books from Idaho, named "Idaho: a climbing guide" and he runs his website where you can find all the information you need to climb and hike in Idaho.

While we were hiking up Mt Ka'ala he asked me if I knew about this website called Lists of John or Peakbagger. I heard about the Peakbagger website before but never about the other. He told me that there are not many peak baggers in Hawaii so if I joined these websites, I could start my peak bagging journey. These sites let you make a log of your climb, this way you'll have all your peaks recorded and shared with other members.

Thanks to that day with Tom, I started logging my ascents in Hawaii, I started learning more about the mountains, and peak names, and all in all, I learned more about the geography of Hawaii.

First I was just logging these peaks, trying to climb as much as I could on O'ahu. Then one day I had the idea to start a YouTube channel. Because I wanted to offer something different to my viewers, not the typical touristy hikes, I thought to start climbing Hawaii's 100 Highest Peaks and film some of these adventures. That's how everything started!

The Peaks

I found LoJ ( a very well-built website with a lot of good information. I would say is the most comprehensive mountain peak data website. They always update their website, they always work to give you the best data you can have.

What are the criteria for being a high peak or even being on the list of the 100 highest peaks?

There are two important factors to determine which peak can or can not be entered into the list. First of all the height of the mountain, is logical, but the second most important is the prominence. A peak has to have a minimum of 300 feet of prominence to be a ranked peak. Combining that data with the elevation, we can have our list of the 100 highest peaks.

What is prominence?

Prominence is a term in topography that refers to the elevation of a summit relative to its surrounding terrain. This is different from its overall elevation, which measures the height of the summit above sea level. (official USGS website)

Prominence characterizes the height of a mountain by the vertical distance between it and the lowest contour line encircling it but containing no higher summit within it. It might seem complicated but in reality, prominence is the least vertical drop to be covered to get from the summit to any other higher terrain. (official peak visor website)

prominenece vs elevation diagram

Prominence VS Elevation

Now that we clarified things around elevation and prominence, we can learn about the 100 highest mountain peaks in Hawaii.

Let's break it down to islands (North to South)

  • Kauai 17

  • O'ahu 31

  • Molokai 4

  • Lanai 1

  • Maui 18

  • Big Island 29

Here is the list of all the 100 peaks

list of hawaii mountains

list of hawaii mountains

list of hawaii mountains

Climbing Difficulty/Logistics

Climbing hiking in Hawaii is very different from hiking in other parts of the US or Europe. The trails are not as well marked and not as well defined either. Due to very thick vegetation, it is very hard to take care of these trails. I am not getting into how could Hawaii improve maintaining these trails, but I want to say a Big Mahalo to all the volunteers who help clear the trails on the islands.

Many of the high peaks have good trails leading to the top of them. Most likely you will encounter a lot of mud on the wetter side of the islands or a lot of dry lava rocks on the dry side of the islands. You better not expect switchbacks on the mountains because there are not many (thankfully, I hate switchbacks). Some of the peaks require a lot of scrambling and climbing with the aid of ropes. There is a lot of rain in Hawaii, a thick jungle, and a lot of loose rocks which makes climbing mountains more difficult.

However, the main obstacles to hiking and climbing in Hawaii are private properties, state lands, and military areas.

A lot of these peaks require you to go through some not fun logistics, like asking military permission to climb a mountain, trying to reach a private land owner to let you in his land (good luck with that), or just simply trespassing and wishing for the best (I really discourage you from doing that).

After my research, I found out that more than 40 peaks in the list have had no documented ascent. Of course, old Hawaiians might get to the top of those mountains, but in their culture, the big peaks were only for the Ali'i (chiefs) to reach.

Now, besides all the logistics, you have those unclimbed peaks which you know nothing about. Sounds like an exciting challenge, right?

My progress

Let's just say that the progress is slow...

I was super happy when I finished climbing all the high peaks on O'ahu. I think from all these peak baggers, I am the only one who did all the peaks...for now. It was not easy. Some peaks required a lot of bushwhacking, and some peaks required some tricky logistics (don't ask me...), but finally, in 2020, I was done with all of them.

A lot of people just trying to climb all the high peaks on each island which are the following:

  1. Mauna Kea 13,804' | Big Island (Watch my YouTube video)

  2. Red Hill (Haleakala) 10,023' | Maui (Watch my YouTube video)

  3. Kawaikini 5304' | Kauai (Watch my YouTube video)

  4. Kamakou 4960' | Molokai

  5. Mt Ka'ala 4025' | O'ahu (Watch my YouTube video)

  6. Lāna'ihale 3395'| Lanai (Watch my YouTube video)

Yes, there is another island you can have access to (only as a volunteer) Kaho'olawe. Still, the high point is only 1492', Pu'u 'O Moa'ula Nui which is not part of the 100 highest list and I don't think it is very accessible for people anyway. Thankfully Ni'ihau "The Forbidden Island" doesn't have any high peaks, otherwise, it would definitely add to the challenge.

I still have two high peaks waiting for me to climb, Lāna'ihale and Kamakou. Hopefully this year I can get on top of them.

I think that's about it for now. I wanted to tell you guys about this "made-up" challenge I got myself into. Who knows, maybe some of you will start working on this list too one day...


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