With so much beauty to explore on the island, figuring out how to see it all can be a daunting task. From the beautiful beaches and sparkling blue waters to the lush mountains and valleys filled with exotic and fascinating wildlife, Oahu is overflowing with natural beauty. One of the best ways to experience all the island has to offer is to engage directly with it, explore each of these landscapes through hikes that put all of these stunning sights on display. Whether you’re a beginner looking for a leisurely stroll or an advanced hiker looking for an intense work out, this list outlines the best hikes for every level to help you get the most out of your time on Oahu.
Easy Hikes on Oahu
Koko Crater Arch
If you’re interested in an easier yet adventurous route, this hike is for you. A fifteen-minute walk from the parking lot will put you face to face with the Koko Crater Arch, a fascinating land formation on the windward facing side of Koko Crater, a popular hiking destination in itself. While there is no real trail to follow, the way to the arch is fairly clear and once you reach it, you can either walk under it or take on the challenge of scaling over it. If you’re looking to climb over it, be sure to come prepared with hiking shoes, as the surface of the arch is covered in loose gravel. At the top, you’ll find the effort was worthwhile as the arch overlooks the water, making for a beautiful place to sit and enjoy the view, as well as a perfect photo opportunity.
Waimano Falls and Pools
After a few days of rain and the hot sun finally comes out, you’ll be itching to take a swim, and what better place than the beautiful Waimano Falls. The short hike option (about three miles) takes you in just over an hour to two pools you can swim in via the Manana Trail. The majority of the trail weaves through the forest, keeping you cool and protected from the sun as you hike from the ridge down to the falls. Made up of three cascading waterfalls, the Waimano Falls flow into the pools, with the last one being deep enough to jump into and cool off. If you’re in the mood for a shorter hike with a group of friends, or just looking to get some exercise and go for a dip, this is the hike for you!
Located on the north shore of Oahu, this trail isn’t difficult but is lengthy and has a steady incline throughout, which will have you feeling the burn by the time you reach the beautiful view of Makua Valley. You’ll start at the Kealia Trail, which will take you up a series of switchbacks that scale the cliffside and lead to the Kuaokala Access Road. Here is where it gets a little tricky; according to the Honolulu Hiking Examiner, to reach the valley lookout, turn right at the first junction then at the next, turn left to stay on the main road. You will then reach a T-junction where you’ll turn left and then keep right at the next four-way junction. After a decent uphill climb, you’ll reach Makua Valley, an amazingly lush and beautiful area secluded from the rest of the bustling island. The whole hike should take you between 3-4 hours.
Despite its shorter length, this hike is not one for amateurs. Not well ribboned yet well worth the adventure, this hike requires a good sense of direction to reach the top of the Crouching Lion, a rock formation overlooking the magnificent waters of Oahu. Located near the small town of Kaaawa, you can access the trailhead along Trout Farm Road. The general goal is to keep going up; once you reach the top, you’ll know it as you’ll be met with an incredibly refreshing breeze and a view of Kahana Bay. If you’re looking for a longer, more challenging hike, there’s an opportunity to meet up with the Pu’u Manamana Trail at the top. Even though it only takes about 45 minutes to reach the Crouching Lion, you may find yourself wanting to stay to take in the incredible views and maybe even enjoy a picnic to refuel before continuing on or returning down the mountain. Surrounded by views of the jungle, the water, and the town of Kaaawa, you will truly feel on top of the world.
Known as one of the most remarkable hikes on the west side of the island, Keaau Ridge is truly a ridge hiker’s dream. With a variety of ways to explore the area, this trail also takes some hiker’s intuition, but once the summit comes into view, you’ll be motivated to reach it no matter which route you take. While the views of the mountains and incredibly lush greenery are simply stunning, be sure to turn around periodically throughout your hike to catch excellent views of the ocean and as a reminder of how high up you truly are. The higher you climb, the more amazing you’ll find the views to be, both of the ridge and of the ocean. Depending on your skill and energy level, you can continue all along the Pu’u Keaau ridge, but be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, and even a lunch as you’ll be starving by the time you finish!