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Known for its rugged landscape of coastal cliffs, volcanic craters, and lush, tropical forests, Hawaii beckons to hiking enthusiasts. And while paths can be found nearly everywhere across the islands, these 10 trails are worth the trek.
One of the most famous trails in all of Hawaii, the Kalalau Trail traverses through five valleys and across towering seaside cliffs before dropping to sea level at its end point. Especially renowned for its panoramic views of the wildly rugged Na Pali Coast, this 11-mile (17.7-kilometer) trail provides the only land access to Kalalau Beach. A permit is required for those hiking past Hanakapiai Falls, or for camping at Hanakoa and Kalalau.
Due to damage caused by a storm in 2015, the Haiku Stairs are not open to the public. But according to locals, experienced hikers still make the trek. The stairs are said to remain in stable condition aside from the damaged lower third portion. A challenging climb accompanied by steep drop-offs on either side, the Stairs offer unparalleled panoramic views of the Oahu coast.
Haiku Stairs, John A. Burns Fwy, Kaneohe, HI, USA, +1 808 464 0840
Diamond Head may be Oahu’s most recognized landmark, nestled along the edge of the Waikiki Coast. Encompassing over 475 acres, the paramount crater – created over 300,000 years ago by a volcanic eruption – offers stunning coastal views along its historic hiking trail, built in 1908 as part of the military coastal defense system. The hike is steep and strenuous – there is a 560-foot (170.6-meter) elevation gain over 0.8 miles (1.3 kilometers) – and usually takes 1.5–2 hours round-trip.
Diamond Head State Monument, Honolulu, HI, USA, +1 808 587 0300
The Koko Head Crater Trail – an alternative to the more popular Diamond Head – offers spectacular views of east Honolulu. Portions of the trail were once an old railway used to transport military personnel and supplies during World War II to the Air Force station at the top of Puu Mai. The steep climb ascends over 1,000 steps before reaching the summit; at 1,208 feet (368 meters) above sea level, the unobstructed panoramic views look across Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Honolulu, and Makapuu Head. The trail is great for nature lovers and bird watchers and is accessible year-round.
The Olomana Trail, located in Kailua, is defined by its three peaks. The first peak, which lies about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) in, is a strenuous trek with steep drop-offs on both sides, while the second is less challenging but offers stunning views. As for the third one, only experienced mountaineers should tackle it. The trail, which totals to over four miles (6.3 kilometers) there and back, is also a popular site for rock climbing and mountain biking.
Olomana Three Peaks Hiking Trail, 915 Maunawili Rd, Kailua, HI, USA, +1 808 464 0840
Located within the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline, the Makapuu Point Trail provides access to stunning views of Oahu’s coastline, including Koko Head and Koko Crater – even Molokai and Lanai are visible on a clear day. The two-mile (3.2-kilometer) trail begins at Makapuu Head, ascending 500 feet (152.4 meters) along the western ridge, past the historic 1909 Makapuu Lighthouse, and north to the summit. Expect to see many species of Hawaiian seabirds, or migrating humpback whales during migration season November through May. Pro tip: there is little protection from the sun, so be sure to bring a hat, sunscreen, and plenty of water.
The Waahila Ridge Trail is ideal for panoramic views, bird watching, and discovering native Hawaiian plants. The trail traverses along the ridge between the Manoa and Palolo Valleys and through the surrounding ironwood and guava forest for nearly 2.5 miles (four kilometers) before ending at its intersection with the Kolowalu Trail. Hikers can expect views of the Koolau Range and Honolulu at the summit, and while it’s not permitted to pass the Kolowalu-Waahila Junction, trail seekers can head down the Kolowalu Trail into the back of Manoa Valley.
Rising nearly 1,800 feet (548.6 meters) at its peak along the spine of the Koolau Ridge, the Kuliouou Ridge Trail is a steep but popular trail for runners. A moderate route that totals 4.4 miles (7.1 kilometers) round-trip, the scenery includes wildflower-lined trails. Pro tip: the trail is dog-friendly, so feel free to bring your furry friend.
The Lanikai Pillbox Hike is known for its remarkable views of Oahu. The trail – also known as the Kaiwa Ridge Trail – rises above Lanikai Beach with views of the Mokulua Islands, Kailua Beach, Kaneohe Bay, Chinaman’s Hat, Waimanalo Bay, and Makapuu Lighthouse. The route takes about an hour and 90 minutes to complete, but for a quick hike, the first pillbox is reachable in less than 30 minutes. The second pillbox is just 10 minutes further up the trail.
The Kaena Point Trail is a rather longer trek – 2.7 miles (4.3 kilometers) one-way – but it is relatively easy and passes a number of attractions such as natural tide pools and stone arches. There are also stops along the way to picnic, fish, surf and swim (Keawaula Bay), and dolphin watch. The route travels along the volcanic coastline with stunning views of the Makua shores. There is little shade, so hikers should plan ahead with water and supplies.