10 Best Hiking Trails Around Honolulu

People hiking on Oahu

Surrounded by lush tropical landscapes and stunning Pacific views, Honolulu is a hiker’s dream with its diverse range of hiking trails. From serene strolls to adrenaline-pumping treks, there’s something for everyone here. Let’s explore the top 10 hiking trails in and around Honolulu.

1. Diamond Head

Steep stairs on Diamon Head hike in honolulu

Situated just east of Waikiki, Diamond Head, known for its stunning coastal views, is one of Oahu’s most iconic landmarks. The hiking trail winds its way to the summit, offering panoramic views of the coastline and the Honolulu skyline. The hike is considered moderately challenging, with some steep sections and a series of stairs, but it’s manageable for most fitness levels. 

This is one of Honolulu’s most popular trails and can be crowded any time of day, so pack your patience – but the views are worth it! Due to the popularity, reservations are required and desirable timeslots can sell out quickly. You can expect to spend 1-2 hours to reach the summit and back, and remember to bring water and sunscreen, as there’s minimal shade along the trail.

Koko Crate Trail in Honolulu

2. Koko Crater Railway Trail

Do you enjoy stairs? Then Koko Crater Railway Trail is for you! Also known as the “Stairway to Heaven”, the hike involves climbing over1,000 steps made of railroad ties, originally used by the military during World War II. Once at the summit, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the island’s southeastern coastline. 

Be sure to bring sturdy shoes and plenty of water, since the Koko Head area is known to be very humid. This trail typically takes 1-2 hours to complete and is not recommended for young children or those with mobility issues. For an interesting stop after your hike, check out the nearby Koko Crater Botanical Gardens.

3. Aiea Loop Trail

Located in the lush Aiea Heights neighborhood, the Aiea Loop Trail offers a scenic escape from the urban jungle of Honolulu. The well-maintained path winds through a forested ridge, providing glimpses of native plants and animals along the way. The remnants of a WWII plane crash can also be spotted alongside the trail.

This trail loop typically takes 2-3 hours to complete and is suitable for all levels. It can get muddy in spots during the winter and spring, and you shouldn’t forget bug spray. Watch for native birds such as the Hawaiian honeycreeper and the ‘apapane.

4. Makiki Valley Trail

Makiki Valley Trail in Honolulu

Conveniently located near downtown Honolulu, the Makiki Valley Loop Trail offers a tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. The well-marked trail winds through a lush forest, providing opportunities to spot native wildlife and listen to the soothing sounds of tropical birds. Along the way, you’ll encounter bamboo groves, tranquil streams, and picturesque viewpoints overlooking the valley below. 

This 3.4-mile loop typically takes 2 hours to complete, and can be muddy in spots. To fully enjoy this trek into the forest canopy, be sure to bring shoes with good traction, as well as bug spray.

5. Manoa Falls Trail

Just a short drive from Honolulu, this family-friendly trail leads to the picturesque Manoa Falls. The 1.7-mile path meanders through a lush rainforest, passing by bamboo groves and exotic tropical plants. The highlight of the hike is the 150-foot waterfall at the end, creating a picturesque rainforest oasis.

The trail can become very muddy, so be sure to wear shoes with good traction. This popular trail will usually take an hour to complete, and it can become crowded at times. Swimming in the falls is not recommended due to slippery rocks, strong currents and falling debris.

6. Waimano Falls TrailWaimano Falls near Honolulu

If you’re looking for a challenging jungle hike, the Waimano Falls Trail offers a refreshing escape into nature. Beginning in a residential neighborhood on the outskirts of Honolulu, this moderate hike leads hikers along a scenic path through the forest canopy, alongside tranquil streams. As you make your way deeper into Waimano Valley, you’ll encounter picturesque waterfalls and natural swimming holes, perfect for cooling off on a hot day. 

The trail is relatively well-maintained, but due to some rocky and muddy sections to navigate, it is not recommended for small children or those with mobility restrictions. Reserve a few hours to enjoy this trail and be sure to wear sturdy hiking shoes and bring plenty of water.

7. Lanikai Pillbox Hike

Offering postcard-perfect views of Lanikai Beach and the Mokulua Islands, the Lanikai Pillbox Hike is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. Located 40 minutes from Honolulu in Kailua, the trail leads to historic World War II pillboxes, which served as lookout points for the military. 

While the hike is relatively short, the uneven terrain and steep sections require sturdy footwear, and hikers should exercise caution. Visitors are encouraged to park in the Kailua Beach boat ramp parking lot and walk to the trailhead to avoid parking tickets.

8. Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

Offering breathtaking views of Oahu’s southeastern coastline, the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail is a must-do for visitors to Honolulu. On clear days, panoramic vistas of the ocean and neighboring islands of Molokai and Lanai can be seen from the summit. Visitors can also get up close to the lighthouse via a side path.

The trail is considered easy to moderate, with gradual climbs on a relatively flat paved path, making it a popular choice for casual hikers and families. You can expect to spend around 2 hours on the trail, and should bring water and sun protection since there is little shade. Keep an eye out for humpback whales during the winter months, as the trail provides excellent vantage points to view migrating whales.

9. Kuliʻouʻou Ridge Trail

kuliouou trail in Honolulu

On the southeastern side of Oahu, the Kuliʻouʻou Ridge Trail offers an invigorating adventure through breathtaking landscapes. Starting from a residential neighborhood, this trail offers convenient access to the lush beauty of Oahu’s interior. Norfolk pine trees and fragrant eucalyptus line the 4.4-mile trail, providing a peaceful backdrop as you make your way upward to stunning views of Oahu’s coastline.

The trail is challenging, with steep inclines and muddy terrain, and hikers should come prepared with plenty of water and sturdy hiking shoes. Plan to arrive early to secure a parking spot and expect to spend 2-3 hours completing this trail.

10. Ka’ena Point Trail

For a taste of Hawaii’s rugged coastline, head to Ka’ena Point State Park on Oahu’s western tip. The coastal trail offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the opportunity to spot Hawaiian monk seals and whales. The coastal dune habitat is home to a variety of seabirds and native plants as well.

This hike typically takes 2 hours and is considered moderately challenging due to rocky terrain. Sturdy shoes and sun protection are recommended. Visitors are encouraged to stay on the designated path to protect fragile coastal ecosystems and respect the area’s cultural significance.

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker seeking a challenge or a family looking for a leisurely adventure, Honolulu has it all when it comes to fun hiking trails. So book your Waikiki vacation rental, lace up your books, and explore some of Oahu’s trails!