Off the Beaten Path: Hiking around Honolulu
Get off the beaten path and check out some of the stunning hiking trails just outside Honolulu. Mere minutes from the city you can enjoy refreshing mountain hikes through the Koolau Mountains or the romance of the surf from a shoreline path. Oahu hosts numerous off-the-beaten-path hikes, where the scents of eucalyptus and plumeria are as intoxicating as the tropical landscapes and the beautiful views of Honolulu.
Hahaione St, Honolulu, HI, USA
Escape the hubbub of Honolulu and stretch your legs on this 4.4-mile, moderate, out-and-back path. Somewhat steep, this serious glute workout attracts a lot of trail runners, especially on the weekends. The hike begins among rocks and small shrubs, then snakes among massive tree roots, before the dirt stairs near the top. The ridge unfurls gorgeous views of Waimanalo and the Nā Mokulua Islands, as well as Rabbit Island and Koko Crater. Note: drivers have to park in a residential neighborhood, then walk up an access road. Start early to avoid the heat and crowds, and make sure to bring plenty of water.
2801-N2 Lā-'ī Rd, Honolulu, HI 96816, USA
Waikiki and the North Shore get most of the attention on the island of Oahu, and for good reason. Oahu is the surfing capital of the world and has something to offer every skill level, but hiking on the island of Oahu is one of its best-kept secrets! One of my favorite hikes is the Lanipo Trail. It is a a strenuous 7.5 mile (12 km) hike that can take 4 to 6 hours depending on conditions (I would not recommend doing this hike when it’s wet), but the scenery and experience offered by this hike is definitely worth the effort! The hike along the Mauna Lani Heights ridge, above the neighborhood of Kaimuki, offers breathtaking views of the island and Honolulu. The terrain is diverse, and at times you are hiking on steep boulders, and others navigating thick jungle. There is one section of the trail that carves through tall bamboo that clank together when the wind blows—like a natural wind chime. You will not be disappointed with the summit and the sense of accomplishment that you feel when you get there!
Ka‘Iwa Ridge, Kailua, HI 96734, USA
Starting a day with a hike on the Lanikai Pillbox Trail is a popular way to get out of Honolulu for a magnificent morning sight. Although the view is beautiful any time of day, most people prefer to visit the pillboxes (bunkers constructed during World War II) in time for sunrise to take in the stunning morning light over Lanikai Beach and the Mokes (or Na Mokulua Islands).
Makapuu Lighthouse Rd, Hawaii Kai, HI, USA
For some reason (beyond jetlag), I wake up very early in Hawaii. Perhaps it’s the promise of early morning view like this one, after a pretty simple hike.
770 Auloa Road
Visible from anywhere in Kailua-Kaneohe are the three peaks of Mount Olomana. The majestic peaks are named after a mythical Hawaiian warrior and offers more than spectacular views from all angles. To reach your destination from Honolulu you take the Pali through the Kalanionaole Highway and look out for the Luana Hills Country Club. You can park right outside of the club as the entrance to the hike is just a quarter mile from the entrance. The peaks are challenging, with steep drop-offs and some rock climbing, and are only for experienced hikers. The first peak offers the highest views and the third is the most dangerous of all the peaks. Make sure you do your research and talk to locals about likely conditions. That said, it’s been my favorite hike on Oahu so far and it offers unforgettable views of the city. Bring some snack and water with you to sit atop one of the peaks and have a quick picnic.
Honolulu, HI 96744, USA
This used to be the old highway to get from the leeward to the windward side of the island. It was literally built into the side of a mountain and was barely hanging on. It’s now been replaced with a proper 4 lane highway complete with a tunnel, but parts of the old highway are still there to hike on. To get there you have to go through tourists. They are there for the lookout and the spectacular view – but you can go much deeper than that! From the lookout, go down to the right and go past the ‘closed’ sign, away from the tourists at the lookout snapping photos. Take the old Pali Highway through dense jungle growing along the side of this lush mountain. We also picked fresh guava off the trees and snacked on them along the way down. We hiked about 45 minutes down and then slowly turned around and came back up. You can hike all the way through to the end though.
Maunawili, HI 96734, USA
Eons of running water are responsible for Hawaii’s escarpments and canyons. After a rainfall, innocuous streams, pools, and waterfalls can swell to impressive sizes. For an easy hike, walk along the Maunawili Falls trail on Oahu to glimpse the 20-foot cascade. There’s a lovely swimming hole, and you can scramble to a rocky overhang to dive into the pool below. On Maui, hike to the Makahiku Falls and climb to the overlook above to view two very different representations of water: the thundering 181-foot cataract below and the vast panorama of ocean beyond. Kauai, “The Garden Island,” is known for its spectacular waterfalls. The beautiful double streams of the Wailua Falls are easily seen from a roadside viewing point.
Waialua, HI 96791, USA
Ancient Hawaiians believed their souls would leap into the spirit world from this lava shoreline on the western tip of Oahu. These days, people jump off here in gliders instead, soaking up views of the Waiʻanae coast to the south, Mokuleʻia to the north—and the glorious, denim-blue Pacific stretching from here to eternity. Take a 5.4-mile round-trip hike and check out the albatross sanctuary on Kaʻena’s wild coastal acreage (free to visit). Keep an eye out for monk seals, one of the world’s most endangered species, found only in Hawaii. Watch for their silvery-gray sausage shapes as they lounge on the beach, but give them space. Always retreat if a seal awakes, vocalizes, shies away, or tries to shield a pup.