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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Go Chasing Waterfalls
1. Likeke Falls
Length: 4 miles round trip
Spice up your next jog on Old Pali Road by taking an old cobblestone path up through a nearby valley to the falls. Be persistent: The sound of running water makes the falls seem closer than they are. At the end is a moderate-sized cascade with plenty of foliage and tree branches around, making it a great spot to hang out—literally.
THE TRAIL TO THE FALLS IS ACCESSIBLE FROM THE OLD PALI ROAD, WHICH IN TURN CAN BE REACHED FROM THE PALI LOOKOUT (SEE DIRECTIONS AND PARKING FOR PALI PUKA). CONTINUE ON OLD PALI ROAD UNTIL YOU REACH A CONCRETE BARRIER AND A SET OF STAIRS. BY THIS POINT, YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO HEAR THE RUNNING WATER.
2. Lā‘ie Falls
Length: 7 miles round trip
Yup, there’s a waterfall up there! Grab a permit from Hawai‘i Reserves at the Lā‘ie Shopping Center and head up a quiet country road to find the trailhead. From grasslands to dense forests, this hike features a variety of biomes on the way to the main attraction. This isn’t the largest waterfall, so aim to go after a good rain, when the pool and cascade should be most impressive.
HEADING NORTH ON HIGHWAY 83 TOWARD Lā‘ie, PASS THE POLYNESIAN CULTURAL CENTER AND TURN INTO Lā‘ie SHOPPING CENTER ON THE LEFT. LOOK FOR THE HAWAII RESERVES OFFICE (OPEN 9 A.M. TO 5 P.M. MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY) WHICH GRANTS THE PERMIT REQUIRED FOR THIS HIKE. FROM THE CENTER, CONTINUE NORTH ON HIGHWAY 83 AND TURN LEFT INTO NANILOA LOOP. ONCE IN THE ROUNDABOUT, TAKE THE POOHAILI STREET EXIT AND PROCEED TO THE PARKING LOT NEXT TO LĀ‘IE PARK. FROM THERE, YOU WILL NEED TO PROCEED ALONG THE ROAD BY FOOT TO REACH THE TRAILHEAD.
3. Maunawili Falls
Photo: Cory Yap
Length: 2.6 miles round trip
The trail itself may be muddy and uneven, but “the pool and falls are spectacular,” says Ball. Indeed, many take advantage of the swimming hole by diving from the top of the falls or from a ridge even higher up. This windward trail is crowded with locals and tourists at midday and on weekends, so plan to go very early or late and on a weekday. Don’t miss the great Ko‘olau views on the way up. A word of caution: If you’re leery of leptospirosis, this might be one to skip.
HEADING NORTH ON THE PALI HIGHWAY, PROCEED TO THE INTERSECTION WITH KALANIANA‘OLE HIGHWAY, AULOA ROAD AND KAMEHAMEHA HIGHWAY. TURN RIGHT ONTO AULOA ROAD, THEN RIGHT ON LUNAAI STREET, LEFT ON LUNAHELU STREET, AND FINALLY RIGHT ONTO MAUNAWILI ROAD. PROCEED ON MAUNAWILI UNTIL YOU REACH ITS INTERSECTION WITH KELEWINA STREET. THE TRAILHEAD IS LOCATED AT THIS POINT. PARKING IS SCARCE AT THE TRAILHEAD, SO LOOK FOR A SPOT CLOSER TO THE INTERSECTION OF MAUNAWILI AND ALOHA OLE DRIVE.
4. Lulumahu Falls
Length: 2.5 miles round trip
The old ruins, bamboo forest, and 50-foot waterfall make you feel like you’ve leaped right into one of the Indiana Jones movies. Look for the trailhead near where Nu‘uanu Pali Drive reconnects with the Pali Highway, and be sure to follow the trail. If you’ve lost your way, just head upstream. The ruins are the remnants of King Kamehameha III’s summer palace, known formally as Kaniakapupu.
TRAVELING NORTH ON THE PALI HIGHWAY FROM HONOLULU, CONTINUING PAST THE FIRST INTERSECTION WITH NU‘UANU PALI DRIVE. IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE SECOND INTERSECTION WITH NU‘UANU PALI, WHICH IS PRECEDED BY A YELLOW DIAMOND-SHAPED SIGN MARKING THE END OF THE RIGHTMOST LANE OF THE HIGHWAY, PULL OFF OF THE HIGHWAY AND ONTO THE GRAVEL PARKING AREA. THE TRAILHEAD IS THROUGH THE BREAK IN THE FENCE.
5. Koloa Gulch
Photo: Cory Yap
Length: 8 miles round trip
Stuart Ball calls this one “somewhat more rugged and wild than other waterfall [hikes].” He’s probably right, judging from the stony stream crossings and the aquatic life around them. Enjoy the verdant valley walls and smaller cascades as you head further into the gulch, eventually reaching the 80-foot-tall Kalo Falls and pool. Pick up a hiking permit from Hawai‘i Reserves at the Lā‘ie Shopping Center but be ready for difficult, tricky going.
HEADING NORTH ON HIGHWAY 83 TOWARD LĀ‘IE, PASS THE POLYNESIAN CULTURAL CENTER AND TURN INTO LĀ‘IE SHOPPING CENTER ON THE LEFT. LOOK FOR THE HAWAII RESERVES OFFICE (OPEN 9 AM TO 5 PM MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY) WHICH GRANTS THE PERMIT REQUIRED FOR THIS HIKE. FROM THE CENTER, HEAD NORTH ON THE HIGHWAY AND PARK IN THE LOT FOR LĀ‘IE BEACH PARK. WALK SOUTH ON THE HIGHWAY UNTIL YOU REACH A NARROW PAVED ROAD ON THE RIGHT, ACROSS FROM A LARGE WHITE MANSION AND JUST BEFORE THE 20-MILE MARKER. THE TRAIL BEGINS BEYOND A CHAINED PORTION OF THE ROAD.