Waimano Falls with hiker in foreground
: Hiking
Text By
Travis Hancock
Images By
Ryan Moss & John Hook

Hiking in Hawai‘i

Take a trip around O‘ahu and blaze trails that ascend mountains and curve along oceans.
3 people walking along the coastline, with mountains in background

Every hiker seeks a high that goes beyond the altitude gained through climbing. For many, it’s an itch to escape the city; for others, it’s a summit’s commanding vantage; and for some, it’s purging toxins through sweat. What follows is a brief introduction to a range of state-sanctioned hikes on the island of O‘ahu. While finding your maximum elevation, malama ka ‘aina—“care for the land”—to help keep it intact for the next generation.

Aerial view of Kaena Trail
Ka‘ena Trail
Farrington Highway leads to O‘ahu’s westernmost tip from both the west and north, terminating on either side of Ka‘ena Point State Park just a few miles from the furthest point. Where they end, flat trails pick up the route. These hikes are long (six or seven miles round-trip) and sometimes muddy walks that parallel the ocean, with plenty to see along the way. The area is known for its protected albatross nesting areas, and the endangered monk seals and green sea turtles that often come ashore. Look back from the tip to see the island’s north and west sides at the same time. Hawaiians believed the place was a jumping-off point where souls left one world for the next, following the setting sun. If you plan to stay for the spectacular sunset, be sure to pack a flashlight.
Waimano Falls with hiker in foreground
Manana Trail to Waimano Falls
Starting from a residential area in central O‘ahu known as Pacific Palisades, this mixed-terrain, moderate hike, shown above (three miles round-trip), is one of the quicker ways to see waterfalls and enjoy freshwater swimming holes. Getting it on a day with optimal conditions requires a compromise: Waimano Falls needs a lot of rain to really gush, and that means mud. For advanced hikers, there’s a marked offshoot path onto Manana Ridge Trail that takes a seven-mile (each way) ridgeline all the way to the summit of the Ko‘olau Range, from which you can see unparalleled views of Kaneohe Bay.
Mānoa Falls
Mānoa Falls
Though this beginner-level hike measures just under a mile, there are many other adventures to be had along the Mānoa Falls Trail. Starting from the old Paradise Park (parking is $5 and opens at 8 a.m.), hikers will journey into a flourishing tropical forest, trek through a sprawling bamboo forest, and end at a breathtaking 100-foot waterfall.
View looking down from Kuli‘ou‘ou Ridge Trail with woman hiker wearing pink and blue in foreground
Kuli‘ou‘ou Ridge Trail
If you’re closer to Honolulu and want a hike with a bit of fight in it, Kuli‘ou‘ou Ridge Trail is for you. Though it’s somewhat steep at times, and, of course, muddy (embrace it already!), this 4.5-mile round-trip trek is one of the shortest of any routes to reach a Ko‘olau mountain range summit. Due to its proximity to the city, the trail can get busy—but it’s always been: Hawaiian bones found in area caves date back about a thousand years.
You May Also Like