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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Editor’s Note: Check out our updated list from 2018, 24 O‘ahu Hikes We Really Like.
The Paths Less Traveled
1. Pali Puka
Photo: DAVID CHATSUTHIPHAN
Length: 1 mile round trip
Want the most gawk for your walk? Instead of heading straight to the Pali Lookout, find the trailhead that begins with a gap in the stone wall in the parking lot. Twenty minutes later, you’ll be rewarded with a view of the Windward Coast framed by the puka itself. Be careful, though—the trail is often just feet from a sheer cliff drop, and there are no guard rails here to keep you safe.
TRAVELING NORTHEAST OUT OF HONOLULU ON THE PALI HIGHWAY, FOLLOW THE SIGNS FOR NU‘UANU PALI STATE PARK (COLLOQUIALLY PALI LOOKOUT). EXIT THE HIGHWAY BY FOLLOWING THE SIGNS JUST BEFORE THE WILSON TUNNEL. AT THE LOOKOUT PARKING LOT, SCAN THE ROCK WALL FRONTING THE BUS STALLS FOR A CRUMBLING DIP WITH SOME BAMBOO ON THE OTHER SIDE. THIS IS THE TRAILHEAD.
2. Mokulē‘ia & Kuaokalā Firebreak Roads
Length: 10.8 miles one way
The Wai‘anae Range gets hiked less often than its sister mountains. That means more room for sprinting on this wide dirt road. See Wai‘anae on one side and Mokulē‘ia’s shore on the other, or come early for a stunning sunrise. Where to enter? That’s up to you: Intersections with the Keālia Trail and Mokulē‘ia Forest Reserve Access Road mean you can approach from either side of the mountains.
HEADING WEST FROM HALE‘IWA ON FARRINGTON HIGHWAY, PROCEED UNTIL YOU REACH A GREEN METAL GATE ON THE LEFT THAT MARKS MOKULē‘IA FOREST RESERVE ACCESS ROAD WITH A GROVE OF COCONUT PALMS JUST OFF OF THE HIGHWAY. THE ROAD IS NOT MARKED BY A STREET SIGN—THE LAST CLEARLY NAMED STREET WILL BE MAHINAAI STREET ON THE RIGHT. THE ACCESS ROAD LEADS TO THE TRAILHEAD, BUT IS ONLY ACCESSIBLE BY BICYCLE OR ON FOOT. AVOID LEAVING VALUABLES IN THE CAR IF YOU PARK ALONG THE HIGHWAY, AS VEHICLE BREAK-INS ARE COMMON.
Difficulty | **
Length | 5 miles round trip
Wet/Dry | Dry
Tired of windward views? Try this Wai‘anae ridge for something new. It ends at the same point as Keālia, but the gain is more gradual and (relieved sigh) switchback free. Don’t hold out for the best views until the end—glimpses of both sides of the range are best on the way up. Forks abound, but if you always hang a left, you will survive. The top two necessities for this hike: a four-wheel drive vehicle for getting to the trailhead at Ka‘ena Point Tracking Station and a permit from the state.
TRAVELING WEST ON FARRINGTON HIGHWAY, PASS WAI‘ANAE AND PROCEED UNTIL YOU REACH YOKOHAMA BAY ON THE LEFT AND SATELLITE TRACKING STATION ROAD ON THE RIGHT. CHECK IN WITH YOUR STATE-ISSUED PERMIT AT THE GUARD STATION. CONTINUE ON THE ROAD AND TAKE A RIGHT AT THE STOP SIGN. AFTER PASSING THE SATELLITE STATION, YOU WILL REACH ANOTHER INTERSECTION WITH A DIRT LOT NEARBY. PARK HERE, AND LOOK FOR THE TRAILHEAD NEXT TO AN UNPAVED DIRT ROAD THAT DESCENDS DOWN INTO THE GULCH.
4. Pu‘u Manamana Mini Hike
Photo: david chatsuthiphan
Length: 1-2 miles round trip
The mountain’s nickname is “Crouching Lion,” but the hidden beauty of this trail is the short 45 or so minutes you’ll need to reach the top—and don’t worry, there’s no need to continue on to the deadly ridge. Look closely to find the trailhead near Trout Farm Road, just off the pavement on Kamehameha Highway. Make it through the steamy jungle path, and the sweeping ocean views near the top of the big cat are yours to take in.
FROM KA‘A‘AWA, HEAD WEST ON KAMEHAMEHA HIGHWAY TOWARD KAHANA BAY BEACH PARK. TURN LEFT ONTO TROUT FARM ROAD AND FIND PARKING (SPACE OFF OF THE HIGHWAY NEAR THE TRAILHEAD IS LIMITED). WALKING BACK TO THE HIGHWAY, TURN RIGHT AND WALK BACK TOWARDS KA‘A‘AWA UNTIL YOU REACH A “DO NOT PASS” SIGN. THE TRAILHEAD IS BETWEEN THIS MARKER AND THE NEXT TELEPHONE POLE.