20 Great Oahu Hikes
Here are 20 great adventures that offer beautiful vistas and waterfalls, steep climbs and relics of the past.
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Five Ridges to Tackle
1. Kuli‘ou‘ou Ridge Trail
PHOTO: DAVID CHATSUTHIPHAN
Length: 5 miles round trip
“The easiest of the ridge hikes,” notes hiking guru and author Stuart Ball. This mild trek may not be as bad as its Ko‘olau cousins, but you may have a Koko Crater moment when you reach the stairs at the end. Plant lovers, feast your eyes on the variety of flora, which range from alien ironwoods to uluhe ferns. Reach the summit, and get the same clear east side views, less the Lanipō struggle.
HEADING EAST ON KALANIANA‘OLE HIGHWAY TOWARD HAWAI‘I KAI, TURN LEFT ONTO KULI‘OU‘OU ROAD. PROCEED UNTIL THE ROAD ENDS IN A CUL-DE-SAC WITH A NARROW PAVED PATH AT ITS END—THIS IS THE WAY TO THE TRAILHEAD. NOTE THAT PARKING IS PROHIBITED BY SIGNS IN THE CUL-DE-SAC ITSELF, SO IT’S BEST TO LOOK FOR PARKING ALONG KULI‘OU‘OU STREET.
2. Makapu‘u Ridge
Length: 5 miles one way
Forget the Makapu‘u lighthouse—if you want a real hiking expedition, take this coarser path from the lookout all the way to Waimānalo. It starts out steep and gets pretty narrow, but glimpses of Hawai‘i Kai and the Windward Coast await you along the way. Keep an eye out for the Cold War-era missile pad, and don’t forget to get a ride back to the lookout lot—this is a one-way hike.
HEADING NORTH ON KALANIANA‘OLE HIGHWAY FROM HAWAI‘I KAI, PASS THE TURNOFF FOR THE LIGHTHOUSE AND TURN RIGHT INTO THE MAKAPU‘U LOOKOUT PARKING LOT. THE TRAILHEAD IS LOCATED ACROSS THE HIGHWAY FROM THE LOT EXIT.
3. Waimano Ridge
Length: 15 miles round trip
Yes, it is really that long, but fear not: This is one of the best maintained hikes around. It’s got a wide, level pathway that was originally created by the 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps. What’s more, says Ball, “there’s something for everyone,” from explorable plantation-era drainage tunnels to tasty mountain apples and strawberry guava off the trees. Just don’t get too distracted and miss the view of Kahalu‘u at the ridge summit!
TRAVELING WEST ON THE H-1, TAKE EXIT 10 (PEARL CITY/WAIMALU) ONTO MOANALUA ROAD. PROCEED UNTIL MOANALUA ENDS AND TURN RIGHT ONTO WAIMANO HOME ROAD. CONTINUE ON WAIMANO UNTIL YOU REACH THE PARKING AREA ON THE LEFT AND A GUARD SHACK ON THE RIGHT. FOLLOW THE CHAIN LINK FENCE TO THE TRAIL HEAD.
Length: 7.5 miles round trip
Friends may tell you that this one is a walk in the park. Don’t believe them. Once you set out from the trailhead at Maunalani Circle, you’ll have to follow the ridge up, then down, then up, and … well, you get the picture. Don’t count on the elements to give you a break, either. The (narrow) path is muddy after rain and blistering in the sun. The payoff? Stunning views from Waikīkī to Waimānalo with the Ko‘olau range in between.
HEADING EAST ON WAI‘ALAE AVENUE, TAKE A LEFT ONTO WILHELMINA RISE, CONTINUING ALL THE WAY UP THE RIDGE UNTIL THE STREET INTERSECTS SIERRA DRIVE. TURN RIGHT ONTO SIERRA, THEN RIGHT AGAIN WHERE IT INTERSECTS MAUNALANI CIRCLE. CONTINUE ON MAUNALANI—THE ROAD WILL CURVE TO THE LEFT—UNTIL YOU REACH THE MARKED PATH TO THE TRAILHEAD JUST AFTER A DRIVEWAY WITH A SURFBOARD MAILBOX STAND. SIGNS PROHIBIT PARKING ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE STREET, BUT NONE ARE POSTED ON THE SIDE YOU ENTER ON.
5. Mānana Trail
Photo: Cory Yap
Length: 11.6 miles round trip
Build your own adventure by going only as far as you want. Whether you’ve got the gusto to make it to the summit or feel fatigued at the picnic rest site, this route above Pacific Palisades offers some of the best ridge hiking on the entire Ko‘olau range. The most important rule? Stick to the main trail—follow a tributary path, and you may wind up in Waimano Valley.
TRAVELING WEST ON THE H-1, TAKE EXIT 10 (PEARL CITY/WAIMALU) ONTO MOANALUA ROAD. PROCEED UNTIL MOANALUA ENDS AND TURN RIGHT ONTO WAIMANO HOME ROAD. TURN LEFT ON KOMO MAI DRIVE AND FOLLOW THE ROAD UNTIL IT ENDS. THE TRAILHEAD IS REACHABLE THROUGH THE METAL GATE AT THE END OF THE CUL-DE-SAC. HERE TOO, PARKING IS NOT PERMITTED IN THE CUL-DE-SAC, SO BACKTRACK TO THE STREET FOR A SPACE.