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The 5 most popular trails on Oahu, Hawaii

Updated: May 18, 2023

A lot of people ask me "Nandor, so if we are 1st time in Hawaii and want to do some short hikes, which are the best hikes to do?"

Hawaii is known for its beautiful natural scenery and diverse range of hiking trails, making it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. If you decide to visit Oahu for the first time but you don't have time or energy for a more challenging, more "off the beaten path hike" you can still do some shorter, popular hikes.

Some of the most popular hiking trails on Oahu include:

  • Diamond Head State Monument: A relatively short hike that leads to the top of Diamond Head Crater (Le'ahi), offering panoramic views of Waikiki and the Pacific Ocean.

Tip: Try to avoid this trail in the middle of the day when the sun is high up in the skies. Most of the rescues happen on this trail because of heat exhaustion.

Distance: 1.8 miles

Route Type: Out and back

Elevation gain: 400+ feet

Level: Beginner

Diamond Head Crater from a helicopter
Aerial shot of Diamond Head Crater

  • Manoa Falls: A popular trail that leads to a 150-foot waterfall in the lush Manoa Valley. If you want one short, easy hike to give you that "Jurassic Park" feeling, look no further. This trail leads you through the jungle between huge trees and ferns to the beautiful Manoa Falls.

Tip: Try to go early morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowds. If you can hike this trail after a big rain it's even better because the waterfall will have a much bigger flow.

Distance: 1.7 miles

Route Type: Out and back

Elevation gain: 600+ feet

Level: Beginner

Manoa falls after rain
Manoa falls after heavy rain

  • Koko Crater Stairs: A challenging hike that takes you up the side of Koko Crater Tramway, offering stunning views of the surrounding area. This short but very steep trail can give you a hard time. It is a favorite workout place for locals so if you decide to climb these stairs you will most likely encounter a lot of people.

Tip: Try to hike this trail early morning or late afternoon, otherwise it can be very hot, making the climb much more difficult.

Distance: 1.6 miles

Route Type: Out and back

Elevation gain: 1000 feet

Level: Intermediate

Koko Crater stairs at sunset
Koko Crater

  • Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail: A scenic trail that leads to a historic lighthouse and offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the eastern coast of Oahu. This is the only paved, wheelchair-accessible trail on O'ahu. It is a great sunrise hike or a perfect place in winter to see humpback whales playing in the ocean.

Distance: 2.5 miles

Route Type: Out and back

Elevation gain: 500 feet

Level: Beginner

sunrise over Makapuu lighthouse
Makapu'u at sunrise

  • Lanikai Pillboxes (Kai'wa Ridge): A challenging hike that takes you to two concrete military bunkers (pillboxes), offering stunning views of the Lanikai Beach and the Mokulua Islands. This is a great hike to enjoy the sunrise on the Windward side of O'ahu. This short but steep trail offers 360 views of the surrounding areas. It is a very popular sunrise hike so if you want solitude this place is not for you.

Tip: If you want to avoid the crowds try to go and hike this trail for sunset.

Distance: 1.7 miles

Route Type: Out and back

Elevation gain: 600+ feet

Level: Beginner/Intermediate

Lanikai pillbox and Aiwa ridge line
Pillbox on Kai'wa Ridge

If you are looking for a less crowded, more challenging hike to do, you can always check the tour on my website.

These tours are more "off the beaten path" showing you the real Hawaii.


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