Our Family Guide: 5 Kid-Friendly Hiking and Running Trails on O‘ahu
Find waterfalls, ocean lookouts and a chance to splash in the mud at these hikes for kids and parents.
Updated September 2020. Check hawaiitrails.hawaii.gov for the latest trail closures.
Trail running, the quicker cardio cousin of hiking, isn’t just fun for adults. Jogging among trees, racing up mountains and just getting thoroughly dirty keeps kids going. Here are five kid-friendly trails, from the easiest to the most challenging.
While paved, the trail up to Makapu‘u Lighthouse is challenging—and fun—as a run or walk, as long as you take breaks when the hill gets too steep. There are built-in pit stops: The first overlook gives you views of Allen Davis and Sandy beaches; the second is near the humpback whale information signs looking out toward Moloka‘i and the tide pools; and finally, the lookout above the lighthouse itself. Be sure to take walk breaks on the way down, too, to give little legs a break from the pounding, which could leave kids sore the next day. At 2.5 miles round trip, this trail has a solid 600-plus-foot climb, so everyone gets a workout.
Gates to the park open at 7 a.m. and close at 6:45 p.m. from Labor Day to March 31, then close at 7: 45 p.m. from April 1 until Labor Day. Located along the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline near Makapu‘u Beach. Parking lot is available. dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp/hiking.
Old Pali Road: Kids love the adventure of Old Pali Road. The 3.1-mile course starts at the Ko‘olau Golf Club. Park in the upper lot. There is a short trail to Likeke Falls, then you can jump onto Old Pali Road, which is beautifully mossy and feels like the heart of the rainforest. Much of it is runnable, though steeper parts will slow the little ones down. You’ll quickly reach stunning views of the mountains and Windward Side. Take care to avoid the moss on the way down, as it can be slick.
Maunalaha, Makiki Valley and Kanealole Trails
Also known as the Makiki Valley Loop Trail
This 3.8-mile trail is a trail-runners paradise, which is why it’s a part of the local trail race series (put on by the Hawai‘i Ultra Running Team, aka HURT). There’s plenty of parking at the Hawai‘i Nature Center, as well as water and restrooms. Take a short walk down to the river, which is a model of our natural aquifer system. Take the trail up to the left and come down Maunalaha, also known as Hogsback. This is a great place for learning the more technical part of trail running, as the many roots will make everyone slow down and look carefully.
‘Aiea Loop Trail
Work your way up to this 4.8-mile trail with stunning views looking over the Ko‘olau Mountains and H-3. The trail undulates, so you get a good mix of climbing and descending as you run or hike the loop. Expect some mud to slow you down, especially after heavy rains. Keep watch for a B-24 Liberator that crashed in 1944 near the trail. The wreckage has apparently slidden away from the trail recently, making it hard to find if you don’t know where to look. If you start at the top and go clockwise, start looking about three-quarters of the way down. There is a parking lot, restrooms and picnic areas at the beginning of the trail.
Gates open 7 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Located at the end of ‘Aiea Heights Drive. dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp/hiking.
Mānoa Falls Trail
Mānoa Falls Trail: At just over 3 miles round trip, and with a tall waterfall at the turn around, Mānoa Falls Trail is just the right distance for a beginner trail-running adventure. An easy pace will likely still take less than an hour; the trail, which is well-maintained, easy to get to and easy to run, includes a small amount of climbing. Start early to avoid the crowds of tourists that pack in from midmorning until about 5 p.m.