Top 10 Hikes in Hawaii


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Top 10 Hikes in Hawaii

A visit to Hawaii is a popular bucket list entry for many people.

It’s easy to see why.

This stunning group of islands are home to many different landscapes, all of which are waiting to be explored.

From volcanic craters, to beautiful beaches and tropical forests; Hawaii has something for everyone The very best way to enjoy all that’s on offer is to plan a hike.

The mix of terrain on this US State in the Pacific Ocean means there is a trail for every ability.

But just because a hiking trail is easy, doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy breath-taking views and discover unexpected points of interest along the way.

For many visitors to Hawaii, it’s a trip of a lifetime that might not be repeated.

That means they want to make the most of it and see as much of the islands as they possibly can!

Hiking is definitely an activity to add into your trip that will help you see as much of the area as possible, ensuring unforgettable memories of this truly gorgeous place.

Hawaii is home to many trails and unless you move there, you’ll never be able to enjoy them all.

To help you choose the best hike or hikes for your visit, we’ve picked out ten that we consider as must-see trails around Hawaii.

Manoa Falls

  • Island: Oahu
  • Distance: 1.6 miles
  • Difficulty rating: 2/5

This is a well-known hiking trail on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu, which is also home to the state capital of Honolulu. It’s a short trail that can get muddy in a downpour.

If you are planning to hike this trail when there’s been some rain, rather than cancelling your plans, just take extra care.

It’s well worth going because that extra rain will make your view of the falls even more spectacular!

The Manoa Falls are around 150 feet high and as well as being beautiful to look at and be close to, you might also experience the treat of seeing small rainbows and colour prisms that can occur at that spot.

The 150 feet high Manoa Falls

If you’re feeling a little jaded after your flight to Hawaii but want to get out and experience some of the many gorgeous areas and hikes, then this is a good option.

As with all walks and trails you shouldn’t get complacent because it seems easy, just take appropriate care while you walk and take the time to enjoy to glorious views and scenery you’re surrounded by on this fabulous Hawaiian hike!

Mauna Kea Summit

  • Island: Big Island
  • Distance: 16 miles
  • Difficulty rating: 4/5

Hiking up to the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii’s highest peak, is definitely no walk in the park, but the rewards for your efforts are many, making this trail a popular one among the more experienced hikers who visit Hawaii.

This is a full day’s hike, around 8-10 hours and it’s probably worth scheduling a quieter day, the day after you make this climb.

Stop at the Visitor Information Station (VIS) at 9,200 ft to receive a current weather update, safety information, and to adjust to the change in altitude.

Maunakea is one of the only places in the world where you can drive from sea level to 14,000 feet in about 2 hours, so altitude sickness is a possibility.

It’s an uphill hike from the get-go and while that’s part of why this is a challenging trail, it means you get spectacular views from pretty early on.

The terrain as you hike up Mauna Kea, is often described as what Mars might look like if you landed on it.

Mauna Kea summit

That’s not the only details about Mauna Kea that is interesting; if it was measured from the base of the Ocean floor, this Hawaiian peak would actually be the tallest in the world!

With that in mind, it’s no wonder the hike starts off at such a steep incline.

The hike is pretty varied with a change in weather likely in the 8-10 hours you ascend the summit and return to your starting point. Some parts of the hike are also well-marked trails, while others will be a real hike and possibly a bit of a scramble.

As you experience all of this, you’ll also get to see jaw-dropping scenery and views of Hawaii and the surrounding ocean and smaller islands.

Mauna Kea Observatories

You’ll even get to see Lake Wai-au, the third largest lake in the US and when you reach the Mauna Kea Summit, you can take it all in from the viewing platform.

The giant telescopes of the Mauna Kea Observatories (MKO) may make you feel particularly small.

Kalalau Trail

  • Island: Kauai
  • Distance: 22 miles
  • Difficulty Rating:  5/5

If you want to hike one of the most well-known and spectacular trails across all of Hawaii’s islands, then the Kalalau Trail is a must!

To complete the hike in its entirety you need to secure a permit that allows you access to all of the idyllic beaches you’ll visit on your round trip.

For those of you who prefer a shorter hike with a beautiful beach at the end of it, then a smaller section of this epic and unforgettable hike – the Ke’e Beach to Hanakapi`ai Beach first section, is probably for you.

The entire Kalalau Trail leads you over the Na Pali Coast and affords 180 degrees of views as you trek through five different valleys.

Coastal part of the Kalalau Trail

Due to the difficulty of the hike, not to mention the gorgeous views you experience, many hikers go equipped with a tent and camp along the way.

This means you can make the most of the trail and enjoy your favourite spots – believe us, you’ll have more than one – without rushing, particularly on the more challenging parts of the trail, such as the Crawler’s Ledge.

The end point of the Kalalau Trail is Kalalau Beach, which is only accessible via the 11-mile trail. A camp site behind this magical beach is available for permit holders.

There is also an additional 2-mile hike for visitors to explore and discover wondrous waterfalls and serene streams. Not an easy hike, but if you’re up to the challenge, you’ll see views and sights that not everyone will ever set their eyes on!

Diamond Head Trail

  • Island: Oahu
  • Distance: 1.5 miles
  • Difficulty Rating: 2/5

The Diamond Head Trail is close to Waikiki Beach and through a tunnel which brings you to the middle of an old volcanic crater.

From there you begin your hike upwards and while its steep, it’s also pretty short with plenty of way points to have a rest and enjoy the views on your way to the summit.

Diamond Head

It’s a busy, popular hike but don’t let that put you off.

Once you reach the peak, after walking a mixture of steep stairways and paved and unpaved trails, you will get uninterrupted views of Waikiki.

That’s not all, if you climb on top of the bunkers, you’ll also have a 360-degree view of Oahu and sparkling Pacific Ocean.

Great views of the Pacific Ocean

At the summit of the Diamond Head Trail, so named because British Sailors thought the glittering volcanic cliffs contained diamonds, you can also see the entire 450 acres of the Diamond Head State Monument.

You can also spend time relaxing from your hike up and take in a glorious sunset or the mesmerizing vision of the horizon over the Pacific.

Pipiwai Trail

  • Island: Maui
  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Difficulty Rating: 3/5

While the actual hike is a 4 mile one there and back, even the drive to the Pipiwai Trail in Haleakala National Park, on the Hawaiian island of Maui is breath-taking and a real treat to enjoy.

The trail begins with a short climb through some captivating Guava and Banyan trees before bringing you into a glorious bamboo forest.

Pipiwai Trail through the Bamboo Forest

At this point you’re hiking on a boardwalk which you must stick to because if you get lost in the forest, you’ll struggle to find your way out again due to the sheer density of the bamboo.

As you walk amid the bamboo, you’ll enjoy so many different hues and colours along with the sound of the bamboo swaying and moving gently all around you. It’s eerily beautiful and an experience you’ll always remember.

Then, when you leave the bamboo behind you’ve arrived at Waimoku Falls, which is 400 feet high and very impressive!

Waimoku isn’t the only waterfall you have the pleasure of seeing on this hike, but it is the most impressive as you watch the water crash down to the base in the pool below.

It’s then back the way you came for the return journey and even though you’ll pass through the same terrain, the different position of the sun and your different perspective will make the 2 miles back out just as enjoyable as the two miles in.

Halemaumau Crater

  • Island: Big Island
  • Distance: 1.6 miles
  • Difficulty Rating: 2/5

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is another must visit for those who travel to Hawaii

If you want to narrow it down even further, the Halemaumau Crater within that National Park is a spot you simply have to see!

The crater is part of an active volcano on Hawaii and at times there’s even a lava lake at the bottom of it.

The active volcano in Halemaumau Crater

The active volcano in Halemaumau Crater

The walk to the crater is almost as exciting as being that close to an active volcano; gorgeous vegetation and flora and fauna that capture the eye and the imagination along with steam vents as you hike around the edge of the Kilau Caldera floor that surrounds the Halemaumau Crater.

It’s worth pointing out that due to high levels of sulphur dioxide gas, visitors are currently not permitted to hike all the way to the actual crater, right now.

Even though safety reasons mean you can’t get as close to the crater as you might want to, it remains an amazing experience and one that is filled with views you won’t find many other places, if any, on earth.

Maunawili Trail

  • Island: Oahu
  • Distance: 10 miles
  • Difficulty Rating: 3/5

The Maunawili Trail is a longer hike along a mountain range on Oahu that allows you to enjoy more of a jungle trek, interspersed with spectacular viewing points.

The 10 miles is a point-to-point distance of the trail, although you can of course walk 20 miles there and back, or hike a portion of it before turning back, if you’re unable to organise the transport required for a point-to-point hike.

The trail is well marked out although be careful you don’t veer of course as there are a few points along the hike to allow for others to join it en route.

The forest section of the Maunawili Trail

The lack of a steep slope means you might not notice the level of elevation you eventually gain, although when you reach the Pali Lookout you’ll be rewarded with awesome views of the Pali Highway and Koolau Mountain Range cliffs.

Numerous boardwalks have been erected along the trail which help keep your feet mud free and also to keep you on course.

There’s also an old Water Tower on the Maunawili Trail and from this vantage point you get a spectacular view of Kailua, the Windward Coast city.

This longer hike is a great day out and while you’ll get to see the different ferns and vegetation on offer, Waimanalo Beach is beautiful and a welcome spot to refresh your feet and body after your hike.

Sliding Sands Trail

  • Island: Maui
  • Distance: 13 miles
  • Difficulty Rating: 4/5

Located in Haeakala National Park on Maui, the Sliding Sands, or Keonehe’ehe’e Trail is a challenging one that includes steep inclines and declines as well as various weather over the course of a single day.

It’s a full-day’s hike but one that will reward you with views unlike those you’ll see anywhere else.

You begin near the summit of the Haleakala Volcano and then hike down into the vast crater of the dormant volcano.

You then hike across and around the crater, through a moonlike landscape, before hiking back up again on this round-trip hike.

Moonlike landscape in Haleakala Volcano

Kawilinau, or the bottomless pit is among the wondrous sites you’ll see on this epic hike.

Another is Pele’s Paint Pot which is actually lava that’s dried and set in a variety of colours. It’s possible to stay the night on the valley floor in one of the log cabins, although even if you apply for a spot, there’s no guarantee you’ll get one.

Overall, this is a challenging hike but one that will yet again give you unrivalled views of scenery you’ll never want to forget.

Pearl Harbour Historic Trail

  • Island: Oahu
  • Distance: 6 miles
  • Difficulty Rating: 1/5

The Pearl Harbour Historic Trail is a multi-use trail for visitors and locals alike.

It’s currently an out-and-back hike near Pearl City, that takes in sites of historic significance for Pearl Harbour.

It’s an easy, accessible trail that’s also good for wheelchair users and pushchairs.

It isn’t just designed to remind users of the history of Pearl Harbour, there are stunning views along the route that help encourage its popularity among walkers, runner and visitors to the Hawaiian island.

Aerial view of Pearl Harbour

A walk along the Pearl Harbour Historic Trail is both memorable and emotional and plans remain in place to extend the route to around 18 miles and to include other areas of historical significance.

It’s not a physical challenge to hike this trail but you’re sure to enjoy it even if some of the sites you’ll visit and learn about will make you stop, think and remember.

Hi’ilawe Falls

  • Island: Big Island
  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Difficulty Rating: 3/5

Hi’iilawe Falls is located in Waipi’o or the Valley of the Kings.

It’s a truly stunning waterfall and at almost 1,500 feet high, is the tallest waterfall on Hawaii’s Big Island.

The unforgettable sight of Hi’iilawe Falls

The hike is through sacred land and also some private land too. This means you must take care to tread carefully and only go trekking where you’re permitted.

The falls themselves are no longer as powerful as they were, however, the long drop of the falls means it is an amazing site to behold and a worthy reward for your hike down a steep decline and through thick, albeit lush vegetation.

Due to the number of streams in the valley, the Hi’ilawe Falls aren’t always accessible as parts of the trail are prone to flooding.

This means you should plan your hike in the part of the Waipi’o Valley with care and if you want to visit after a day or two of rain, the hike will be more difficult but the view of the waterfall will be more spectacular.

Hawaii is a truly beautiful part of the world with a rugged landscape that is still lush and seemingly untouched in places and picking out just 10 awesome hikes to enjoy was a tough job!

The Islands of Hawaii have a lot to offer everyone who visits.

From shorter and easier hikes, to longer more challenging options, you can see the many different aspects of the islands in a way that satisfies your abilities and expectations.

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