15 Best Hikes on Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu’s trails invite you on unforgettable journeys through tropical landscapes, historic sites, and along rugged coastlines, perfect for every type of adventurer.

If you’re looking for some seriously surreal hikes with jaw-dropping views through lush jungles, then Oahu is beckoning. Part of the chain of islands that make up Hawaii, Oahu boasts some of the best hikes in Hawaii.

On any of these Oahu hikes, you’ll get the chance to explore Oahu at your own pace, soaking up the wild nature and stunning scenery.

Even if you’re not an avid hiker, there are some easier and less-intimidating Oahu hiking trails. From the leisurely climb up the Manoa Falls Trail to the hair-raising sheer drops of the Seven Falls Trail, Oahu hiking trails have something for everyone—all surrounded by indigenous plants and wildlife native to Hawaii.

So if you’re hungry for an adventure and eager to explore the hikes and incredible dense wilderness of Oahu island, then let’s chat.

The Best Hikes on Oahu, Hawaii

The best Oahu hikes are the kind of hikes that you’re going to remember forever, and I’m here to help you get started.

Best Hikes on Oahu Difficulty Length Location
1. Diamond Head Hike Moderate 1.5 miles Kapahulu
2. Manoa Falls Trail Easy 1.6 miles Honolulu
3. Seven Falls Hike Oahu Moderate-Hard 2.1 miles Honolulu
4. Ehukai Pillbox Hike Moderate 2.1 miles Haleiwa
5. Crouching Lion Moderate 0.4 miles Koolauloa
6. Pali Notches Hard 0.7 miles Kailua
7. Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail Moderate 4.5 miles Honolulu
8. Pink Pillbox Hike Moderate 1.2 miles Nānākuli
9. Ka’au Crater Hike Hard 5 miles Honolulu
10. Koko Crater Trail Hard 1.8 miles Honolulu
11. Three Peaks/Olomana Trail Hard 4.5 miles Kailua
12. Tom Tom Trail Hard 6.6 miles Honolulu
13. Haiku Stairs (Stairway to Heaven) Hard 2.4 miles Honolulu
14. Maunawili Falls Trail Moderate 2.5 miles Maunawili Valley
15. Lanikai Pillbox Hike Intermediate 1.8 miles Kailua

Diamond Head Hike

Diamond Head Oahu aerial shot
Diamond Head from above

Since it’s close to Waikiki—the most famous of all Oahu beaches—it makes sense that Diamond Head is one of the most well-known Oahu hiking trails. It’s got stunning views and you don’t even need to work hard to get there.

But fair warning: That means that it’s touristy, too.

Originally named by ancient Hawaiians as Le’ahi (which translates to “tuna ridge”), this old volcanic crater on Oahu is a beauty and is actually pretty easy for all levels of hikers. It’s the kind of trek that looks like it’ll take you days with a guide and a donkey train to navigate, but the reality is thankfully far less daunting.

The Diamond Head Trail hike time is only 40 to 70 minutes, which gets you up to around 760 feet above sea level. That’s where there’s a beautiful 360-degree vista; you can see the skyline of Waikiki, look down into the volcano’s caldera, then stare right into the blue oblivion of the never-ending horizon. No wonder it’s so popular and considered one of the best hiking trails in Oahu, right?.

Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 1.5 miles

Manoa Falls Trail

Another top hike on Oahu that is fairly close to Waikiki, the Manoa trail is more about a nice walk rather than a big, sweaty slog. It might be a little busier than other Oahu trails due to its ease (it’s only a mile and a half!), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your time.

The trailhead starts at the Paradise Park building at the top of Manoa Road, just outside the main city on the island of Oahu—Honolulu—where you can catch a bus. It’s actually a very well-maintained route, and the path gently winds its way through the lush rainforest under the shade of the twisting trees.

You’ll have stunning views of Oahu en route, and the eventual sight of the gushing, 150-feet-tall waterfall will reward you for your efforts.

Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to swim in the pool beneath the falls. It’s forbidden (and ill-advised, rule-breakers!) due to the water-borne bacteria that lurk in the stagnant lower pool. In other words: You can get really sick if you take a dip in there so use some common sense. Rather hit the beach in Waikiki for a safe swim after your hike.

 Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1.6
Location: Honolulu

Seven Falls Hike

This hike is truly for the hardcore hikers out there, but is one of the top hikes on Oahu. Located in Honolulu, the Seven Falls hike will get your heart pumping. Be ready for Oahu’s dense jungle and rocky terrain. Don’t expect to see anyone out and about on the trail—few people know it. However, it’s the lack of other people that makes this trail of the best Oahu hiking trails.

The main part of the Oahu trail runs along the bottom of the valley. It isn’t sign-posted it very well, but, as long as you follow the valley, you should be fine. It might take a couple of hours until you reach the first waterfall. But, once you’re there, go for a splash in the water and cool off.

Continue further along the valley and you’ll find bigger and scarier falls to climb!

There are ropes people have put in place so that it’s easier to scramble over the rocks. But, they’re wet, so I advise a lot of caution. And don’t forget that you’ll have to come back down the falls to get home so take extra care on your way back!

This Oahu hike really is like a crazy Indiana Jones-style adventure, so I recommend this trail for adventurers with a higher skill level. Wear sensible footwear, bring plenty of water and don’t do anything that you don’t think you can do. Know your limits.

Difficulty: Moderate-Hard
Length: 2.1 miles

Ehukai Pillbox Hike

Ehukai Pillbox
Ehukai Pillbox Hike. Photo: Jeremy Scott Foster

I love a trail with a weird name, and the Ehukai Pillbox Hike does get you wondering about where the hell you’re going (though a lot of the names on Oahu seem to follow these guidelines). This hike is a little like a hidden gem, known mainly to the Oahu locals who often enjoy climbing up for sunset views.

Starting at the Sunset Elementary School (why didn’t my school have such a cool name?), the trail winds uphill pretty steeply over the roots of trees and big rocks.

The hike itself only takes around half an hour in total, but it’s an arduous climb. The trail gets so steep after a little while that ropes have been tied on the side of the hill to make it easier to climb up.

Once you reach the top, there are two pillboxes here. The lower block has nice views of the North Shore Coastline of Oahu. But, if you make it to the second pillbox higher up, you’ll be more than pleased with yourself. And the views across the island are even more spectacular, too.

Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 2.1 miles

Crouching Lion

Hiking Crouching Lion in Oahu
These views are worth it!

Possibly the coolest-named Oahu hikes, Crouching Lion—near the community of Kaawa, Kaneohe and the magnificent Kahana Valley—offers up some panoramic delights. But that’s only after a steep and fairly challenging climb up the “Crouching Lion” itself. I mean, it’s going to be a steep hike if you can reach views this astounding after only 30 to 45 minutes of trekking.

When I say trekking, it’s more like…yeah, climbing. Portions of this hike involve relying on ropes, but that’s only in the more slippery patches for balance. So your life is literally in the hands of a stranger’s rope-tying skills. Some of the ropes are a little sketchy, which might be the reason why Crouching Lion isn’t officially open.

However, that doesn’t deter a lot of intrepid travelers, backpackers and outdoors lovers from making the strenuous scramble up to the top of Crouching Lion for its breathtaking views of the surrounding jagged scenery and turquoise water of the island. This Oahu hike is a real adventure!

Tip: Hiking boots or trail runners with good traction would make this hike less difficult, for sure.

Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 0.4 miles

Pali Notches

Oahu's Pali Notches view
Pali Notches—An amazing hike on Oahu but also quite demanding.

The Pali Notches is one of those Oahu hikes that got a bit of a name for itself as being (more than) quite dangerous, so I wouldn’t try it out unless you’re a confident hiker.

This hike heads steeply upwards, where amazing views of the Pali Highway to your left and Kaneohe to your right will greet you. The path does actually get dangerous in parts; there are sheer drops and strong gusts of winds that can blow you off at certain points. Really. Some spots also have an anchored rope to hold onto that will prove the difference between life and death.

There are also some parts of the Oahu trail that require you to climb up a vertical rock, but as long as you’ve got good hiking boots with traction and grip, and someone to hike with, you should survive.

Difficulty: Hard
Length: 7 miles

Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail

This Oahu trail is a great four-and-a-half-mile out-and-back hike that heads right up to the top of a mountain…and then down again. It’s one of my favorite Oahu hiking trails because, when you get towards the top, you end up walking through the cloud. That’s a pretty surreal experience.

All you have to do is head east out of Waikiki on the Kalanianaole Highway. Then turn left onto Laukahi Street and carry on towards the mountain. You have to check in with security at some point. Then you go left again on Okoa Street and the parking lot is at the end. There, you’ll find the trailhead and set off on one of the best Oahu hiking trails on the island!

You’ll then find a lightly challenging combo of climbing stairs and low-key climbing rocks. Although there aren’t any cliffs involved, so mortal peril remains pretty low on this trail. It can get pretty muddy on this hike, though, so be careful of slipping.

Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 4.5 miles

Pink Pillbox Hike

This hike to a, uh, pink pillbox, is short. But it’s also a little risky. Located on the west side of Oahu, the start of the hike is along Kaukama Road, where you’ll find plenty of parking.

It’s actually one of the more versatile hikes on Oahu since it’s got two difficulty modes in the form of two different routes: The first is a little easier but longer, while the second is much more challenging and also shorter in length.

Essentially a ridge hike along what’s known as Pu’u O Hulu, the easier trail winds around the ridge itself. On the other hand, the more difficult version of the Pink Pillbox is a hard climb up steps that have been formed in the rocks over many, many, many years.

Depending on whichever of the two trails you take, incredible views of the Maili coastline will greet you from the pink pillbox at the top of what’s considered to be one of the top hikes on Oahu.

Though exploring the pillboxes up here is fun, there’s a poignant reason behind the bright pink box; it represents breast cancer awareness and is a dedication to “the survivors, the fighters and to those who have lost their battle to cancer.”

So here’s a chance to sit and ruminate on life, high above the powerful scenery of the island of Oahu below.

Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 1.2 miles

Ka'au Crater Hike

Fans of feeling like they’re trekking through a rainforest in survival mode will love the Ka’au Crater Hike in Oahu. Literally about five minutes after you embark on this hike, you’re in a world of tall trees, vines and muddy trails, which makes this feel like a real adventure in a tropical island wilderness.

It’s not only jungle trekking that you’ve gotta be able to handle though; there’s some rope climbing and rock scrambling to be done on this Oahu hike, too. They make it quite the challenge. For this hike, I’d recommend a good level of fitness. The uneven terrain and the length of the hike (five miles in about five hours) make it a pretty strenuous journey.

It’s not all challenging though; there are some amazing parts to this hike. For instance, you get to pass three gushing waterfalls, do some ridge hiking in Oahu, marvel at the rainforest. Just make sure your shoes are sturdy and have good grip. And don’t forget lunch. You don’t want to get hangry on a tricky hike, do you?

Definitely, a favorite Oahu hike of mine that promises an unforgettable experience.

Difficulty: Hard
Length: 5 miles

Koko Head Crater Trail

Aerial shot of Koko Head Oahu
Koko Head

If you feel like you need a good workout, the Koko Head Stairs is the hike for you. While walking up to the tops of hills, ridges, mountains and cliffs on the island to get amazing views of Hanauma Bay below is a pretty cool thing to do in and of itself. Doing it along a trail or path that’s got a bit of originality to it always makes the trip a little more fun. That’s what makes the trail up to Koko Head on Oahu so unique: It’s along an abandoned railway!

As with many of the hikes on Oahu, the Koko Head Trail runs through and up the side of a volcanic crater known as Koko Crater. The plus side is that the old railway track acts as stairs on the climb up to see the dramatic island views this hike offers. The downside is that, well, they’re stairs. There are 1,048 railroad steps to the end of the railway, and then about another 30 feet of walking to get to the lookout points over Oahu.

Though this is a short-ish hike in length, it still takes between 30 minutes and one hour to reach the summit. Then you’ve got time to relax, admire the view and drink some water (stay hydrated, people!) before you even contemplate the way down. Locals who are used to this walk actually run up this Oahu trail—even though it’s also locally known as the “Stairmaster from Hell.”

Difficulty: Hard
Length: 1.8 miles

Three Peaks/Olomana Trail

Girls on a windy in Oahu
Those post hike feels

Looking for good, old-fashioned hard Oahu hiking? Then you should try out the Three Peaks Trail, also known as the Olomana Trail. Of course, a trail by this name was never going to be an easy hike, and this one totally isn’t. But if its adventure you want, then its adventure you’ll get!

Starting near Kailua, the first of the peaks is actually pretty simple. Surrounded by wildflowers, it’s also super scenic. There are some parts where you have to climb over rocks, but it’s nothing too difficult.

It’s when you have to ascend the second peak that things start getting a lot harder. There are some tree roots and ropes along the trail to help you out. And, as you make your way along the path, things start to get a lot more narrow and, well, terrifying.

The third and final peak might put you off the hike altogether. You’re going to need some good upper body strength to haul yourself up there. But just think of the satisfaction and the immense views across the treetops of Oahu when you do. Fit, confident hikers only on this four-and-a-half-hour, four-and-a-half-mile hike.

Difficulty: Hard
Length: 4.5 miles
Location: Kailua

Tom Tom Trail

The Tom Tom Trail might not be one of the most well-known hikes on Oahu, but it’s one of the most spectacular. And, without a doubt, one of the best hikes Honolulu has to offer. Beginning at the Makapu’u lookout, the path runs along a fence where you can come across for fairly amazing views of Oahu.

The good thing about this hike is that, because there are so many pretty vantage points so early on in the trail, if you don’t feel like walking the whole way, you don’t need to.

But it is very steep from the start. It may make you wonder why you didn’t decide to have a day on the beach instead of doing a crazy hard hike. But the climb doesn’t last long. And panoramic views over Makapu’u Lighthouse, the beaches of Oahu, and the deep blue ocean below are an absolute treat.

Difficulty: Hard
Length: 6.6 miles

Haiku Stairs (Stairway to Heaven)

Haiku Stairs view
Haiku Stairs view

Like Diamond Head, the Haiku Stairs—aka the Stairway to Heaven—is one of the most famous of all Oahu hikes. Or maybe the word should be infamous. There are two ways to the Insta-famous viewpoint at the top: one totally legal, and the other totally illegal.

You can try to ascend from the front, but there are security guards on duty 24/7 who will call the Oahu police if they catch you. Upon return, the cops will be waiting for you with a hefty fine of $1,000 USD.

If you’d rather not run the risk of a run-in with the police, there’s a back way.

The stairs themselves lead to a US Navy Radio Station antenna and were initially built as a backup means to access the antenna should other forms of access—like helicopter—not be possible.

Used officially until the 1950s, the 3,992 steps to the top were closed to the public in 1987. Now, “No Trespassing” signs are everywhere, though they’re often ignored.

The radio antenna at the top of the famous Stairway to Heaven hike in Oahu.
The radio antenna at the top of the famous Stairway to Heaven hike in Oahu.

But about the back way…It’s a harder hike, it’s longer (9.3 miles of longer), but you don’t run the risk of running into law enforcement. Plus, isn’t it better to be rewarded for a tough hike?

So get yourself on the Moanalua Valley Trail. Steep, muddy, and with near-vertical sections to haul yourself up, this isn’t for the casual stroller—but it will get you the same ocean views. If you need a guide—which I highly recommend for the back way—contact @mike.karas on Instagram who lives on Oahu and runs tours to the top every Saturday. Tell him Jeremy sent you!

You'll catch views like this on the back way to the top
You’ll catch views like this on the back way to the top

Once you get to the summit, you can walk partway down the forbidden steps themselves since they aren’t patrolled. Only the area around the bottom near the gate is guarded by security.

Though technically, once you step foot on the stairs, you’re trespassing, but let’s just pretend we didn’t know. Cool?

Difficulty: Hard
Length: 2.4 miles
Location: Honolulu

Maunawili Falls Trail

This is a moderate hike with an amazing reward at the end – a refreshing dip in a beautiful pool below the Maunawilli Falls. The 2.5-mile loop trail is accessible year-round and is fairly busy. You can take your pooch along, but on a leash, and its a great adventure for the kids.

The Oahu trail begins in a residential area, so be mindful of residents. It winds around the base of the Koolau Mountain Range and has spectacular views of the windward side of Oahu, Olomana, and the Koolaupoko watershed.

The trail can get muddy, especially after the rains, and you’ll have to cross the river a few times along the way, so waterproof hiking boots are highly recommended.

The trail eventually stops at the Maunawilli Falls, a beautiful waterfall that cascades into a swimming hole below. The water is clear and cool and a dip after your Oahu hike is must!

Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 2.8 miles
Location: Maunawili Valley

Lanikai Pillbox Hike

Also known as the Kaiwa Ridge Trail, this hike is one of the best hikes on Oahu for spectacular scenery. It is ranked as an intermediate ridge hike due to the steady, steep grade of the uphill climb, but the breathtaking views of Oahu’s windward side you will experience along the way are well worth the effort.

The trail is unmarked but begins on a paved, private driveway along Kaelepulu Drive opposite the Mid Pacific Country Club & Golf Course. The first part of the trail is very steep and slippery, so take your time.

It takes about 30 minutes to reach the second pillbox, and a further 10 minutes to reach the trail’s highest point, which is marked by a small concrete platform with broken surveyor’s pole or geodetic marker.

Along the way you’ll have stunning views of Oahu, Kailua and Lanikai Beaches, the Mokulua Islands, and Kaneohe Bay in the distance. You can even see the Makapu’u Lighthouse on a clear day.

The trail is a popular one and is quite heavily trafficked. Special care needs to be taken as there are no guard rails on the trail. Leashed dogs are allowed on the trail, but due to the steepness of the climb, it’s probably best to leave Fido at home.

Difficulty: Intermediate
Length: 1.8 miles

What to Pack for Oahu Hiking Trails

  • Hiking Daypack – a comfortable daypack is important to carry your essentials such as water, snacks, mobile phone, and a small first aid kit. The Osprey Talon 33 is ideal for your day hikes on Oahu and for lightweight overnight trips. It’s comfortable and stable with a BioStretch harness and continuous wrap hip belt, and has a capacity of 33 liters for all your gear.
  • Hiking Boots – These are probably the most important piece of equipment for hiking as ill-fitting and uncomfortable boots can really put a dampener on any hike, particularly if you are hiking in the tropical climate on Oahu. Forsake make a range of outstanding waterproof sneaker boots that are rugged and versatile and can be worn from peak to pavement.
  • Water Bottle – another hugely important piece of equipment to take when hiking. Hydration packs are great as they fit into your backpack and you can sip while you hike without having to take your backpack off. If you prefer a solid water bottle, then try the Grayl Geopress which removes pathogens and pollutants, as well as filters out things like pesticides and heavy metals.
  • Rain Shell – it’s always a good idea to carry a rain shell with you on your Oahu hikes even if the weather is great as it can turn within a few minutes. The Arc’teryx Zeta SL is a great choice for a jacket as it’s lightweight, waterproof and packable so won’t take up too much space in your daypack. Oahu has a tropical climate so rain is inevitable – make sure you have a good jacket.
  • Portable Power Bank – carrying a portable power bank with you is always a good idea in case your phone battery runs out. Despite its small size, the Anker Portable Charger is one of the most powerful and reliable power banks out there. It’ll give your phone three charges with just one charge.
  • Bug Spray – you’re out in the wild, and there’s gonna be bugs and insects, so carry a small can of bug spray with you to keep the critters at bay. Try Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent, or Repel 100 DEET Bug Spray. Many repellents like that last one contain the controversial chemical known as DEET, but there are plenty of natural bug repellents on the market that do a great job warding off bugs while being environmentally friendly (this one from Repel is a personal favorite). If you are going to go natural, keep an eye out for ingredients like OLE (oil of lemon eucalyptus), lemongrass, citronella, grapefruit, peppermint, and clove oil.
  • Sunscreen – a must when you are hiking! Even if the weather is inclement, you can still get sunburned, so always take sunscreen with you when hiking. And since you’re in Hawaii, make sure it’s reef-friendly. Raw Elements is certified natural, but keep in mind the cream takes awhile to rub in!
  • Small First Aid Kit – this should be an important part of your hiking kit as anything can happen and it is best to be prepared. A small first aid kit will have the basics to take care of minor injuries like scratches, cuts, minor sprains, etc. The MyMedic Solo is the perfect size for day hikes and has everything you might need for a potential first aid emergency.
  • Whistle – carrying a whistle with you is a good idea as you can use it to call out your location if you get lost or into trouble. It’s lightweight, doesn’t take up any space, and may just be invaluable one day, so throw one in! If you have a My Medic kit, a whistle will be included. Otherwise pick up an inexpensive one from Whistles For LIFE.

Where to Stay on Oahu

When it comes to finding a place to stay on Oahu, there are plenty of accommodation options from hotels and resorts to guesthouses and vacation homes. If you want a tranquil spot away from the crowds that’s close to the most beautiful scenery and best hikes on Oahu, then Booking.com has over 1,000 listings for you to choose from.

Oahu has an excellent selection of accommodations that are comfortable and convenient for your stay.

Honolulu (South Coast of Oahu)

  • Luxury: A modern retreat close to the beach, with a giant pool? Check out Queen Kapiolani Hotel
  • Mid-Range: Book a contemporary hotel downtown with both ocean and city skyline views at Ala Moana Hotel
  • Budget: Soak up the backpacking culture at the Polynesian Hotel Beach Club for low dorm room prices (privates are available too)

Koolaupoko (Windward Coast of Oahu)

  • Luxury: Paradise Bay Resort is like a jungle retreat on the water, and there’s an outdoor pool and hot tub
  • Mid-Range: Turtle Cottage is a full comfortable one-bedroom apartment near the Maunawili trailhead
  • Budget: Budget options are limited here, but if you’re traveling with others, Waimanalo Beach Cottages is a great spot within walking distance to the beach

Waialua (North Shore of Oahu)

Waihiawa (Central Oahu)

  • Mid-Range: There aren’t a whole lot of accommodations options in Central Oahu as many people just hang out near the coast, but the 2BD/1 BA HIDDEN GEM holiday home is a perfect, quiet getaway close to snorkelling and hiking options

Waianae (Leeward Coast of Oahu)

  • Luxury: Located in Waianae, WaikikiLux is right on the beach and has a giant swimming pool to lounge around
  • Mid-Range: Enjoy your morning coffee on the enormous deck of this Pokai Bay Penthouse Studio
  • Budget: You’ll pay less than $100 for a room here at Makaha Studio with both mountain and ocean views, and your own balcony

Final Words on the Best Hikes on Oahu

Hiking on Oahu island offers some spectacular encounters with Hawaii’s striking natural landscapes and diverse wildlife. The island is home to so many fantastic trails, but the ones discussed above are the best of the best on Oahu. I hope this guide has proved useful and that these hikes treat you well.

Which of these Oahu hikes are you most looking forward to? Which do you think is the best hike in Oahu? Let us know in the comments!


Oahu Hikes FAQs

Is Koko Head harder than Diamond Head?

Koko Head is a much harder hike than Diamond Head.

What are the best waterfall hikes on Oahu?

Manoa Falls Trail and the Seven Falls are two of the best waterfall hikes on Oahu.

Is Pali notches illegal in Oahu?

There are no legal hikes starting from the Pali lookout.

How hard is the Mānoa Falls Trail?

The Mānoa Falls Trail is an easy to moderate hike.

Is Diamond Head worth doing?

I definitely think Diamond Head is worth it on a trip to Hawaii.

About the Author

Jeremy Scott Foster

Jeremy Scott Foster is an adventure-junkie, gear expert and travel photographer based in Southern California. Previously nomadic, he’s been to ~50 countries and loves spending time outdoors. You can usually find him on the trail, on the road, jumping from bridges or hustling on his laptop working to produce the best travel and outdoors content today.
  1. such a nice article and beautiful place i really loved it thanks for sharing your experience keep posting.

  2. Please stop promoting illegal hikes. This list mentions the Tom Tom trail as one of the best but doesn’t mention the fact that it is 100% illegal. A hiker died back in 2015 falling 500 feet. It is illegal for a reason, it is dangerous. Even if you think you’re an experienced enough hiker do not attempt the Tom Tom trail. Police sit at the bottom and issue out citations daily to hikers. Its not worth the trouble!

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