A Guide to Hawaii Hiking Books

Most hiking books give the same standard information—location length, elevation, time—so how do you distinguish between the options? We took a look to figure it out for you.

Photo: David Croxford

» The Hikers Guide to Oahu, by Stuart M. Ball, Jr.

This is by far the best Hawaii hiking book, but it’s only appropriate for the avid hiker. Don’t be misled, hikes labeled intermediate and even beginner will exhaust and maybe even scare all those who aren’t pros. If you’re motivated, start by testing out hikes from the other three books and find out which suits your needs best. When ready—after testing and perfecting hard hikes from other guides—get this one. University of Hawaii Press, $19.95.

» Oahu Trails: Walks, Strolls and Treks on the Capital Isle, by Kathy Morey

This one is obviously aimed at tourists, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still enjoyable. The first 50 pages are devoted to explaining Oahu’s contradictions, such as urban and rural, cliffs on the Windward Side and endless beaches seaward, winter on the North Shore and summer on the south shore, as well as a brief guide to spoken Hawaiian.  Most of the hikes are fairly easy. Wilderness Press, $ 16.95.

» Day Hikes on Oahu, by Robert Stone

This one is for the ohana who wants to enjoy fantastic forests or take tame beach walks. The guide features easy routes, such as a stroll through Lyon Arboretum or a walk circumscribing Ala Moana Beach Park and Magic Island. All of the hikes are for the beginner to intermediate hiker. Day Hikes Book Inc., $11.95

» Oahu Trailblazer, by Jerry and Janine Sprout

This one is a little different, organized as a series of trailheads. Most descriptions offer a snorkeling or surfing activity nearby. It features hikes for all abilities with a “be aware” section, listing such cautions as, “One 70-step section about midway is a bridge span that may give acrophobics a twinge.” There’s also material aimed at tourists, such as safety tips and what to pack. There is also “A Trailblazer Kids” section for family attractions, picnic spots, swimming beaches, and outings. Diamond Valley Co. $15.95

Click here, for a chart comparing more on these books.

Photo: Istock

KOKO HEAD has always been a site of controversy, with ambivalence about how to properly maintain it and a vocal community advocating that it be left alone. In 1968 E.K Fernandez schemed to build a hanging gondola ride atop the crater; in 1998, it was proposed it be turned into a prison; in 2004, city councilman Rod Tam suggested it be used as a landfill; this year Steve Klein, owner of Alt-E Ventures, proposed building a zipline. All of these attempts have been unsuccessful. We took a look at what advice these hiking books had for treks around Koko Crater.

The Hikers Guide to Oahu suggests hiking the ungraded ridge, which means that the hike sticks to the crest of the ridge with all of its ups and downs. It’s a two-mile loop hike with an elevation of 1,200 feet . It suggests, “Take this hike during winter when temperatures are cooler and the sun less intense.”

Day Hikes on Oahu recommends a 2.5-mile loop through the Koko Crater Botanical Garden. This hike goes through the garden around the perimeter of the crater basin. The elevation is only 100 feet, but it is filled with the botanical’s splendid offerings: plumeria, bougainvillea and flora and fauna from the Americas, Africa and Madagascar. 

Oahu Trails also suggests heading to the Koko Crater Botanical Garden, but recommends strolling through it for 10 minutes, about a third of a mile, and describes in detail the grove dedicated to different types of plumeria.

Oahu Trailblazer recommends Koko Crater stairs, which is the quintessential Koko hike, with a length of 1.25 miles and a steep elevation of 1,200 feet.