Filled with some amazing sceneries and breathtaking landscapes, Hawaii is not just about the beautiful beaches. Hawaii offers some of the best volcanic scenery making it one of the more popular destinations for hikers from around the world. On these treks, you get to experience these islands’ true beauty and everything Hawaii has to offer. The natural landscape is unique to the islands and how often do you actually get to climb the terrain of a volcanic landscape?
Known to be the land of the beaches, you may find yourself spending too much time on the beach and not exploring everything these islands have to offer. In fact, these hikes are some of the best features of the state, with a chance to have a glimpse at the natural beauty of the island from trails that span through beautiful valleys, stunning lava tubes and very much active crater floors. There is a great mix of trails that offer something for everyone. You could find yourself torching in the scorching heat of the Mars-like landscape or simply choose a cooler trailer through the lush rainforests.
If you have the motivation to leave the beach for a day and go on one of these hikes, and we think you would, you would find the experience rewarding and something cherished. Sure to provide you with a memorable experience, simply pack your backpack with enough water and snacks for your hike, remember to put on some sunscreen and off you go on a trek that is sure to leave you saying, ‘I’m so glad I did this!’
From all the various trails that Hawaii has to offer, (over 500) we have done the work for you by picking out the 15 best hiking trails in Hawaii. This way, you should be able to get a brief idea of what you would see and experience on each of these hikes, giving you the guidance that you need to pick the hiking trail that is sure to make your trip to Hawaii, a trek better.
Hence without further adieu, here is our list of the 15 best hiking trails in Hawaii. Don’t worry, we’ll break down the difficulty of each trail so you can figure out which trails works best for you.
1. The Halemaumau Crater
When you consider all the trails the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has, the Halemaumau Crater trail is probably the most rewarding hike. The trail gives you the opportunity to experience the wonders of a live volcano. It doesn’t really get more exciting than that! Probably a once in a lifetime opportunity that you don’t want to miss if you are planning on visiting Hawaii.
If you do visit Hawaii, you should take the opportunity to get up close and personal with a volcano; this trail provides just that. At a length of 1.3 miles, you start from the Crater Rim and make your way to the top of Byron Ledge. There are longer treks you can venture into from this point to Kilauea Iki and Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube). The trail is great for beginners with an easy to moderate level of difficulty. It should take you about an hour or two to complete.
With actual lava flow, the active volcanic crater is sure to leave you experiencing something beyond the ordinary. No this isn’t a trail up and down ordinary hills, this is a trek through the crater of an actual volcano.
2. The Lanikai Pillbox Hike
The trail is located in Oahu, Hawaii and ventures along the Kaiwa Ridge. You are sure to get a spectacular view of Lanikai Beach and the Mokulua Islands. The trail has various pillboxes along its course, which is where the name of the trail comes from.
What’s great about this trail is, you can choose the length that you want to hike, which makes it perfect for beginners. You can choose to trek to the first pillbox or venture further to complete the whole trail. If you’re a beginner and are only looking to trek to the first pillbox, it should take you about an hour to complete. Otherwise, this 1.8-mile trail is of moderate difficulty requiring just over two hours to complete.
You are sure to see some spectacular panoramic views of the crystal-blue waters of Lanikai Beach which makes for some breathtaking pictures.
3. Hi’ilawe Falls
Also known as the Valley of the Kings, the trail is located on the Big Island of Hawaii. The Waipio Valley, where the trail is located in a remote part of the island is a great trek for those who are looking for seclusion and isolation.
This jungle trail in Waipio Valley leads to Hi’ilawe Falls which is about 1,500 feet tall and collects into a beautiful pool of water amidst the lush jungle backdrop. The roundtrip on this trail is 3-miles long which means it is suited for the moderate level hiker but is also one that even a beginner can do. Though it is on a moderate level of difficulty, it can be tackled by beginners who are ready to physically exert themselves a little.
The Waipio Valley is considered a sacred spot in Hawaiian culture hence it is important to ensure that you are respectful on your hike and not litter along the way; obviously we don’t have to tell you not to litter Mother Earth, but here is a strict no-no.
4. Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea is the highest mountain in Hawaii which rises to nearly 14,000 feet. Interesting fact, if measured from the base of the ocean floor, this mountain would be the tallest mountain in the world.
The trail to the summit of Mauna Kea is 6 miles in length. Though this doesn’t sound like too long of a hike you should be warned that it is mostly climbing, which makes the trek much tougher. You will climb an altitude of 1,400 metres and break the cloud line. Though the trek is hard, the views of the spectacular sunsets are truly something that makes it all worthwhile. On a level of difficulty, this is for certain for experienced hikers at a hard level of trail difficulty.
Considered one of the hardest yet most rewarding hiking trails in Hawaii, you have a chance to climb to the summit of this sacred mountain, which in itself is a blessing.
5. The Pearl Harbour Historic Trail
If you are a bit of a history bug, then this trail has to be the pick for you. Considered a walk with a tremendous amount of historical significance, the trail covers a stretch of land which offers the sighting into the Peral Harbour bombing from 1941. Considered the beginning of America’s involvement in the Second World War, this trail is sure to excite the history lover.
The trail is good for the moderate level hiker, however can be completed by beginners too. At a length of 6 miles, you will have to exert yourself a little and obviously, you should expect to sweat. At a moderate level of difficulty, the trail is sure to keep you interested, especially if you are looking to gather practical first-hand experience into the historic Pearl Harbour.
The trail takes you through the Pacific National Monument and the Pacific Aviation Museum. It is sure to raise your curiosity, offering great insight into the Pearl Harbour bombing of 1941.
6. The Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail
Offering some of the best views in Hawaii, the Makapuu Point Lighthouse trail has various stopping points along the way with some spectacular views. For instance, you should be able to have a glimpse at the majestic Crater Rock. You could even have the chance to see Molokai in the distance, however, it can only be spotted on a clear day.
The Makapuu Point Lighthouse was built over a hundred years ago. Though the lighthouse is off-limits, you can most certain marvel at the beautiful structure from a distance. Though rare, you can even spot dolphins and whales in the distant waters.
Located in Waimanalo in Oahu of Hawaii, the trail is a 4-mile round trip, which is of moderate level difficulty. Though recommended for the moderate hiker, the trail can be completed by beginners who are motivated and ready to take the trail head-on.
7. The Manoa Falls Trail
If you are after wildlife, then this has to be the trail for you. Found in the depths of lush tropical vegetation, the trail is great for wildlife photographers who are looking to capture wildlife. The trail leads to Manoa Falls, which is 150 feet tall; if you are lucky, you may be able to catch a rainbow on the surface of the falls.
The trail is prone to flash flooding during the rainy season, hence be sure to check beforehand, especially if you are visiting during the rainy season. The trail is 1.6 miles in length, which is rather easy if you consider it. Hence the trail is great for beginners. However, do be warned that the terrain can become difficult to trek. By difficult, we mean muddy and slippery. That being the case, trekking on difficult terrain is part of the fun of hiking. The trail is great for beginners and offers a rewarding experience.
Not only do you have the chance to spot some beautiful tropical birds and wildlife, but natural greenery is also bountiful on this trail, which makes it a perfect match for nature lovers.
8. The Haiku Stairs
NOT RECOMMENDED, ONLY LISTED
This trail is a long and dangerous one. At a length of 10.5 miles, the trail has been officially closed for the safety of hikers.
Though the trail is now officially closed due to the dangers involved, this popular hike has been done by people who have opted to climb up the stairs as opposed to the previous climbing down. However, we do not recommend that you do either.
The trail is popularly knowns as the Stairway to Heaven. Located on the island of Oahu, the trail leads through a series of steep stairs, which is why it is considered so dangerous. However, this trail is probably the most popular trail in Hawaii. Though it was officially shut down due to damage in 2015, hikers keep longing for the trail to be open once again. The trail was closed for the safety of the hikers, due to the unstable nature of the stairs and narrow path on this trail. Though it is on this list, for the list of the best hiking trails in Hawaii would not be complete without it, we do not recommend that you go on this hike. It is far too dangerous and it is for your own safety we are recommending as such.
If you do find yourself on this trail, you would not only be breaking the law, you would be landing yourself in danger. The hefty fine is nothing compared to the dangers you would be putting yourself in.
Hence again, it is not recommended but only listed as 15 of the best hiking trails in Hawaii.
9. The Koko Crater Trail
Considered one of the best hiking trails in all of Hawaii, the trail is composed of a set of steep stairs that requires a degree of fitness. 1,000 steps or more to be precise, this trail is 1.6 miles, which should take you about an hour to two to complete. Depending on your pace, you could finish the trail much faster.
Though the trail is steep, it can be completed by beginners who are prepared to climb the 1,000 or more steps. Though the climb may be tough, you are rewarded at the top with some spectacular panoramic views of the Diamond Head and the lava rocked beaches.
It can get really hot on this trail, so make sure you carry plenty of water with you; be prepared to sweat!
10. The Diamond Head Trail
Named after Oahu’s most widely known landmark, Diamond Head, the trail follows through this massive chunk of volcanic rock which covers an area of 450 acres.
The trail is 1.6 miles, which makes it great for beginners who are ready to scale the hot and dry slopes. Considered well suited to moderate level hikers, the climb can become rather strenuous due to the incredibly steep terrain.
Though the beginner might find it difficult to climb the steep terrain, once at the top you will be rewarded with some of the most spectacular views of the Hawaiian coast. All in all, this trail can be well worth it, not to mention fun, when you consider trekking on the steep rock surface to the summit.
11. Kaena Point
It is told in Hawaiian folklore that this is the place where the souls of the dead go, to leap into the other world. Hence there is a sense of spiritual attachment and the reputation of the location serves as such.
The hike is a 3-mile trail that leads to a lighthouse at the end of the trail. The beach is beautiful and the stillness of the air is serene. If lucky, you may even get a glimpse of monk seals that dwell in the waters.
The hike is not overly difficult, which makes it perfect for the beginner. You could see yourself finishing off the trail in a few hours and even enjoy a nice picnic on the beach on your trail.
12. The Kalalau Trail
Known for the beautiful views of the Na Pall coast, this Kalalau trail is probably the most famous hike in Hawaii. The trail is the only means to access the secluded Kalalau Beach. This is why this trail is so famous.
The trail is a whopping 22 miles hike which is most certainly the longest trail on this list. You would probably need to camp a night on this trail, which makes the hike even more rewarding. You can get a camping permit for the Kalalau trail at the Kalalau Valley, which allows you to camp for one night at Hanakoa. There are only two authorised camping sites on this trail, Hanakoa and Kalalau. Hanakoa is about 6 miles away from the trailhead.
Considering the amount of hiking that you would have to do, you would have to be a really motivated beginner to attempt this hike. At a hard level of difficulty, this trail is better suited to the moderate and experienced hiker.
The beach is beautifully turquoise blue and the sands are pristine white. Though the rewards of this trail are world-renowned, the trek is rather treacherous. The narrow trails can get flooded during the rainy season with falling rocks making it unsafe for hikers. Hence if you are visiting during the rainy season, you should check to see whether you can partake in this hike.
13. Sleeping Giant Trail
The local legend speaks of a giant who ate so much during a party that was made in his honour and then laid down for a nap and never woke up. That is where this trail gets its name from. The mountain actually resembles that of a sleeping giant, and you can notice this when spotting the sight from the town of Kapa.
You have the chance to experience some of the exotic Kuaui plant life and bird population. This makes it a great trail if you are after birdwatching opportunities or simply soak up the sun. The trail ends on the ‘chest’ of the sleeping giant, where you can enjoy some panoramic views of the ocean coastline and Mount Waialeale.
The trail is 3.2 miles long and is rated on a moderate level of difficulty. For those beginners who are looking to break the barrier and challenge themselves a little, this could be a good hike to start with. The trail is accessible year-round and with a wide array of wildflowers, has some great spots for a picnic.
14. Waihe’s Ridge Trail
Located near Wailuku in Maui of Hawaii, the trail features a waterfall and is accessible year-round. You are offered some dramatic sceneries of the Maui mountains filled with lush greenery. There are some amazing valley views, which is great if you are after some breathtaking landscapes.
You can expect a moderate amount of sun exposure on this trail, hence be sure to have your sunscreen with you. It can get quite hot during the trek, so a good supply of water is again good to have at hand. That being the case, since the trail is located on the windward side of the Hawaiian islands, you could expect wet weather and obviously, this means muddy terrain.
The trail is 3.9 miles long and is considered of moderate difficulty. However, if you are a beginner and are looking to challenge yourself, this could be a good trek to start with. You will see various waterfalls on this trek and the green vegetation and cool air are sure to revitalise and rejuvenate your senses.
15. Maunawili Falls Trail
Located in Waimanalo Forest Reserve, the trail obviously showcases the beautiful Maunawili waterfall and is accessible year-round. The trail is ideal for hiking and nature trips and is a pleasant hike through the jungle.
Leading to a spectacular view of Kailua and Maunawili Falls, the trail leads you to a swimming hole where if you are adventurous enough, you could go cliff diving.
Winding through the base of Koolau Mountain Range, the trail begins at Pali Highway and ends at Waimanalo. The vegetation along the trail is lush and you could spot mountain apple trees, rose apple trees and lobelia, all providing a great atmosphere to enjoy a hike through.
The Maunawili Falls are 40 feet high and offer cliff diving opportunities that can be attempted at your own risk. The trail to and from the falls is often muddy and is 3.5 miles long. This makes it stand on a moderate level of difficulty, which is still suited for the beginner who is motivated enough to trek the entire length of the hike. The lush jungle vegetation and the spectacular views of Kailua and Maunawili Falls make this trek a memorable hike; one that you won’t forget easily.
Hiking in Hawaii
When you consider the Hawaiian islands, there is so much to see and so much to experience. Though as mentioned at the beginning of this article, you may be inclined to spending all your time on the beach, as you may have noted, Hawaii has some amazing hiking opportunities. Hence we do hope that you venture out and explore everything these islands have to offer.
Whether it is a volcanic crater trail or a lush jungle trail, you are sure to find something on this list that suits you as a hiker. Certainly, the Stairway to Heaven hike is beyond limits, however, the rest of the hikes on this list are well recommended and should definitely be something that you include on your trip to Hawaii. You are sure to come back with a heart full of memories and some amazing experiences of the trek in Hawaii.
We hope reading this word to word has helped you get some good insight into the best hiking trails in Hawaii and has helped you find your pick to make your trip to Hawaii more rewarding.