14 Incredible Sunrise Hikes Oahu, Hawaii (2023)

Oahu is renowned for its beautiful beaches, rich culture and fantastic hikes, making it a must-visit destination for adventurers.

While hiking during the day can be an amazing experience, there’s something particularly special about witnessing a sunset from a scenic trail. With so many options, it can be tricky to choose the perfect sunset hike that matches your desired level of difficulty.

1. Lanikai Pillbox Hike

🛣 Difficulty: Moderate 
Est Duration: 1 Hour (roundtrip)

Lanikai Pillbox Hike is a great hike that starts out on a small street by the Mid-Pacific Country Club in Oahu, about 40 minutes from Honolulu by car. The hike got its name because there are two old military pillbox bunkers that you will pass on the way up.

This hike is considered to be moderately challenging due to some steep sections and parts of the trail with loose gravel, but overall this is a hike that many people can accomplish. It’s also a very popular hike, so you may find that the trail is crowded even at sunrise.

There isn’t much shade along this trail, so it’s a good idea to wear sunscreen and a hat for your hike. Be cautious coming down, as the trail can get slippery.

From the top point, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of the Mokulua Islands and Lanikai Beach. This is one of the most spectacular places in Oahu to watch the sunrise, so it’s definitely worth the early wake-up call to hike here early in the morning.

2. Kaiwa Ridge Trail

🛣 Difficulty: Moderate 
Est Duration: 2 Hours (roundtrip)

Kaiwa Ridge Trail is the longer extended version of the Lanikai Pillbox Hike if you are looking for something more challenging.

This hike starts exactly the same way as the Lanikai Pillbox Hike, and you will reach the same viewpoint where you can see Mokulua Islands and Lanikai Beach at the second pillbox. However, the trail then continues along Kaiwa Ridge.

This is one of the most popular pillbox hikes in Oahu, however, people turn around after the second pillbox on the Lanikai Pillbox Hike, so by continuing on you can enjoy similar views along the ridge with fewer crowds. The ridge offers beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding beaches and islands.

You can either descend via Lanikai Beach or Kamahele Street depending on which direction you take the trail. If you’re looking for a longer hike that offers amazing sunrise views in Oahu, the Kaiwa Ridge Trail is one of the best ones to do.

3. Diamond Head State Monument

🛣 Difficulty: Moderate 
Est Duration: 1 Hour (roundtrip)

Diamond Head State Monument is one of the best places to see the sunrise near Waikiki Beach on Oahu. This hike might appear challenging because sections of it are very steep, but it’s a short hike overall and the views from the top are extremely rewarding.

Entrance to Diamond Head State Monument is $5 for non-Hawaiian residents and includes parking in the parking lot. The hike starts on an even, paved path but that gives way to a steep, uneven switchback trail. There are also stairs that you will need to climb on this hike.

But as long as you’re in decent physical condition, this is not too challenging of a hike to complete. Diamond Head State Monument is one of the best sunrise hikes in Oahu because once you reach the top of Diamond Head, you’ll be treated to 360-degree panoramic views of the island and the surrounding beaches. 

This is a very popular trail, so be prepared for crowds if you are hiking during the high season. However, there’s a reason this hike is so popular and the views are worth it.

4. Tom Tom Trail

🛣 Difficulty: Challenging
⏲ Est Duration: 4 Hours (roundtrip)

Tom Tom Trail is a great spot to see the sunrise, but keep in mind that this trail is technically off-limits to the public so you should proceed at your own risk.

The hike begins at the Makapu’u Lookout parking lot, about 25 minutes from Honolulu on the eastern side of the island. Since it’s a fairly long hike (4 hours roundtrip) you will want to get an early start if you plan to see the sunrise from the Tom Tom Trail.

This trail winds its way up along ​​the Ko’olau Mountain Range, offering great views of Makapu’u Beach, Rabbit Island, and the ocean. It’s not as crowded as other Oahu sunrise hikes, so you will be able to enjoy the views all on your own.

There’s also a very scenic “puka” on this trail, which is a large hole in a natural rock formation that frames a picturesque view of the beach. It’s a very popular spot for taking photos along this hike.

5. Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

🛣 Difficulty: Easy 
Est Duration: 1 Hour (roundtrip)

Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail is an easy hike with spectacular views of the sunrise. Located at the southeasternmost point of Oahu, this trail is about a 25-minute drive from Honolulu.

The trail is located within the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline and is named for a small lighthouse on a rocky outcropping, as you probably guessed from its name. This short hike is on a completely paved trail, making it accessible to hikers of all fitness levels.

It’s also only two miles round trip, and although some of the trail is fairly steep going uphill, this is not a challenging hike. When you reach the top, you’ll be greeted with scenic views of the Pacific Ocean and the lighthouse from the observation deck.

One thing to note about this trail is there’s no shade, so it’s a good idea to wear lots of sunscreen and a hat. It’s also recommended to bring a pair of binoculars because you can often see whales from the lookout point at Makapu’u Lighthouse!

6. Top Of Koko Head Crater

🛣 Difficulty: Challenging
⏲ Est Duration: 2 Hours (roundtrip)

The Koko Head Crater hike is known for being the “Stairmaster of Oahu” because it’s a steep hike with many steps. But if you don’t mind the strenuous early-morning workout, it’s one of the best places for sunrise views in Oahu.

This steep climb consists of more than 1,000 stairs and has an elevation gain of over 275 metres (900 feet) so it’s a challenging hike. But when you get to the top, you’ll be treated to stunning views of Hanauma Bay down below.

The trail that you’ll be following is actually an old railway track that forms more than 1,000 steps going uphill. The railway track was originally built during World War II, but it is now only used for this popular hike. There’s one section of the trail where the tracks turn into a bridge passing over a ravine, but you can go around this section (and most hikers do!)

Other than that, the danger of Koko Head Crater is simply how steep it is. There’s also very little shade, so come prepared with sunscreen, a hat, and more water than you think you’ll need to enjoy the sunrise at this impressive viewpoint. 

7. Manoa Falls Trail

🛣 Difficulty: Easy
Est Duration: 1 Hour (roundtrip)

Manoa Falls Trail is a popular hike that is located right near downtown Honolulu. While this trail can get extremely crowded during the late morning and early afternoon, especially on weekends, you’ll find that it’s a quiet and peaceful place if you go earlier.

This is considered to be an easy hike that is appropriate for all skill levels. But one important thing to note is that the trail is often muddy, especially if it has been raining a lot lately. So it’s important to come prepared for this hike with the proper footwear.

It costs $5 to park in the Manoa Fall Trail parking lot. If you are coming early in the morning before sunrise, it’s a good idea to also bring a flashlight with you. Once you hike the mile from the trailhead to the waterfall, you’ll enjoy a beautiful tropical jungle-like view.

8. Mau’umae Trail

🛣 Difficulty: Challenging
⏲ Est Duration: 5 Hours (roundtrip)

The Mau’umae Trail, also known as the Pu’u Lanipo Trail, is one of the most challenging on this list of the best hikes in Oahu to see the sunrise, but it’s also one of the most rewarding.

This trail begins close to Diamond Head in Waikiki Beach. You’ll need to get a really early start if you want to make it in time for sunrise since it’s a long hike. While the trail itself is easy to follow, be aware that many sections are very narrow and have a steep incline, and some segments are so steep that they require some basic rope climbing.

The challenging nature of this hike is what makes it recommended for experienced hikers only, but if you’re able to do it, you’ll enjoy amazing views with no one else around.

One thing to note about this hike is that proper attire is a must. The trail can be very narrow with a thick brush all around, so you’ll want to wear long pants and long sleeves to protect your skin as much as possible.

9. Tantalus Lookout

🛣 Difficulty: Easy
Est Duration: 10 Minutes (roundtrip)

Tantalus Lookout is one of the best places to see the sunrise in the Honolulu area. Located just a few miles from Waikiki Beach, this scenic lookout in Puu Ualakaa State Park is one of the most accessible sunrise spots on the island.

That’s because you can drive all the way up to the top, and walk just five minutes from the parking area to reach the lookout. This is a great place to see views over downtown Honolulu, the Diamond Head area, and Waikiki Beach.

If you don’t want to wake up early and hike a lot, or if you aren’t able to complete a challenging hike, this is the perfect alternative. There are also several family-friendly hiking trails in the state park if you do want to do a bit of walking.

10. Ehukai Pillbox Hike

🛣 Difficulty: Moderate
Est Duration: 1.5 Hours (roundtrip)

Located on the North Shore of Oahu, the Ehukai Pillbox Hike is a great sunrise hike with expansive views all around. Similar to the Lanikai Pillbox Hike, this hike got its name because of the World War II-era military “pillbox” bunkers you’ll see.

It’s a relatively short but steep hike, which makes it moderately challenging. The entrance to this hike is located behind Sunset Elementary School on the North Shore. 

Once you reach the top of the ridge, you’ll be able to take in the beautiful views of the surrounding North Shore coastline. If you arrive early in time for sunrise, you’ll be able to see it as you look to the east.

11. Kaena Point

🛣 Difficulty: Moderate
Est Duration: 2.5 Hours (roundtrip)

Kaena Point Trail is located in Kaena Point State Park, about a 50-minute drive from Honolulu. This hike is a beautiful and remote one along the coastline where you can enjoy the sunrise colours on the ocean waves.

This hike is relatively flat, making it not too strenuous of a hike. The trail can get muddy if it has been raining a lot lately, but other than that, the conditions are good making this a moderate hike option that many hikers can complete.

One important thing to note is that there’s very little shade along this trail, so you’ll want to wear a hat and apply plenty of sunscreen. 

If you’re lucky, you may spot monk seals and sea turtles along the coastline, so keep an eye out as you are walking.

12. Pu’u ‘Ualaka’a State Park

🛣 Difficulty: Easy
Est Duration: 40 Minutes (roundtrip)

Pu’u ‘Ualaka’a State Park in downtown Honolulu is home to the ‘Ualaka’a Loop Trail, an easy one-mile loop trail that is a great option for all skill levels.

If you’re looking for one of the easiest hikes near Honolulu with spectacular views, this is a perfect choice and a great place for the whole family because the views from this lookout point cannot be beaten.

From the viewpoint of Pu’u ‘Ualaka’a State Park, you’ll be able to see from the Diamond Head area over to Pearl Harbor and take in beautiful views of the ocean.

13. China Walls

🛣 Difficulty: Easy
Est Duration: 10 Minutes (roundtrip)

China Walls is one of the best spots in Oahu to watch the sunrise. Located in the Hawaii Kai neighbourhood of Oahu about 20 minutes from Honolulu, the official name of this place is Koko Kai Mini Beach Park.

From the park, it’s just a short walk to reach China Walls, a sea cliff that is a popular spot for jumping or diving into the ocean. It’s a drop of about 3 to 4.5 metres (10 to 15 feet) so you’ll want to be careful and only jump if you’re a strong swimmer.

Even if you don’t want to jump, sitting on the cliff watching the sunrise is very relaxing. This spot can get crowded later in the day, but if you go at sunrise you may have it all to yourself.

14. Hanauma Bay Ridge

🛣 Difficulty: Easy
⏲ Est Duration: 1.5 Hours (roundtrip)

Finally, one of the best Oahu hikes to see a spectacular sunrise is the Hanauma Bay Ridge hike. Hanauma Bay is one of the most popular spots for snorkelling and swimming in Oahu, but the best way to see the bay is actually from above.

The Hanauma Bay Ridge hike is an easy but somewhat long uphill hike. However, it’s entirely on a smooth, paved path so this is a hike that most people can enjoy. There isn’t much shade on the path, so you’ll want to be sure to remember sunscreen and a hat.

Once you reach the top of the trail, you will be rewarded with some of the most beautiful views in Oahu. You’ll see Hanauma Bay from a great angle with Koko Head rising up behind it, making this one of the best sunrise hikes on the island.

For more adventurous hikers, there’s an extension you can take that will add two to three hours to your total hiking time, but that will take you to the Hanauma Bay Rock Bridge, a stunning natural formation over the ocean.

Oahu Travel Planning Guide

🏥 Should I Buy Travel Insurance for a Trip to Oahu?

Yes, you should definitely buy travel insurance for any vacation to Oahu. Basic travel insurance coverage with Safety Wing averages between $5 – $10 per day and offers peace of mind.

🚘 Do I Need to Rent a Car for a Trip to Oahu?

I would recommend hiring a car for a trip to Oahu. Even if it’s only for a couple of days of your vacation. I personally use Discover Cars to find the best car rental deals.

However, if you are on a tight budget or you don’t plan to explore much of the island then you, then you may want to consider comparing the cost and convenience of Uber and rental cars in Oahu instead.

🏨 Where to Stay in Oahu?

The vast majority of accommodation in Oahu is located in Waikiki. If you enjoy shopping, then you may want to stay further north by the Ala Moana Shopping Mall.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to spend your vacation at the beach, then consider staying as close to Waikiki Beach as possible.

When booking accommodation in Oahu, I use either Booking.com or Hotels.com. However, for large families and groups, VRBO is my number one choice.

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