24 Best Hiking Trails In Oahu, Hawaii (By Difficulty)
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The island of Oahu is known for its stunning beaches, vibrant culture, and beautiful hikes. Hiking is a popular activity on the island and there are numerous trails that offer breathtaking views and diverse landscapes.
However, with so many options to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide which hiking trail to embark on, especially if you’re looking for a specific difficulty level.
That’s why in this post I’ll be sharing some of the best hiking trails in Oahu, categorised by difficulty level, to help you plan your next adventure on the island. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, there’s a trail for you to explore and enjoy in Oahu.
Below are the trails categorised as easy which means the terrain is relatively stable, and the incline is often moderate over a long distance. All of these hikes are also less than 5km.
1. Kapena Falls Trail
🥾 Distance: 0.5 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Easy
Kapena Falls Trail is in our opinion the easiest hike in Oahu.
Situated in Honolulu, the location, the end result (waterfall) and the duration of the trail make it one of the most popular on the island.
Great for those looking for a quick Oahu waterfall experience, but not so great for those looking for a relaxing one.
This isn’t the largest or most impressive waterfall in Oahu.
However, there is a large swimming hole at the base (which can get muddy if it’s been raining) and a platform for cliff-jumping. As always, please check the water levels and jump with caution.
2. Pali Twin Falls (Waipuilani Falls)
🥾 Distance: 1.9 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Easy
The Pali Twin Falls hike is one of the most beautiful hikes in Oahu. This moderately easy trail takes you on a journey through a beautiful tropical landscape to two magnificent waterfalls.
Located in the town of Pali, just a short drive from Honolulu, the trailhead can be a bit tricky to find, so be sure to use a GPS or follow the signs closely.
Note that this hike can be closed (access gate locked) due to dangerous conditions. As such it’s important to plan accordingly.
As you make your way along the trail, you’ll be treated to stunning views of towering bamboo forests and towering trees. However, the last part of the trail (100 yards or so) is a bit of a scramble on rocky terrain so be sure to watch your footing.
There are two waterfalls here, the first is a small, yet picturesque cascade waterfall however, the second is the main attraction. This 40-foot waterfall is surrounded by lush greenery and a tranquil pool that’s perfect for swimming in on a hot day.
3. Diamond Head Summit Trail
🥾 Distance: 2.9 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Easy
The Diamond Head State Monument is a short and incredibly popular hike. So popular in fact that you need to reserve a time and space in advance to go on both the hike and park in the parking lot.
Reservations and payments for the hike can be completed on the Hawaii government website.
The Diamond Head hike is easy for those at a reasonable level of fitness. We completed the hike with Oliver (strapped to our backs) and therefore chose to hike during sunrise for lower heat and humidity.
Note that you will not see the sunrise or set on the Diamond Head trail due to the positioning of the trail and summit.
If you do choose to do the hike early morning as we did then we recommend bringing along either a flashlight or a phone with a flashlight, as there is no lighting and only a small paved path at the beginning.
4. Waimea Valley Trail
🥾 Distance: 3.1 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Easy
While the Waimea Valley Trail is slightly longer than the Manoa Falls Trail, it’s also easier which makes it a great choice for beginner hikers looking to explore a waterfall when visiting Oahu.
Located on the North Shore of Oahu in Waimea Falls Park & Botanical Gardens, this waterfall can be accessed through a beautiful, scenic trail.
This hike is in an area which is managed by Hi’ipaka, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the conservation of Hawaiian nature and culture.
As such it’s one of the only waterfall hikes on the island to require paid entry;
- Adults: $25
- Students & Seniors: $18
- Children: $14
This isn’t ideal for those visiting Oahu on a budget but means that the area is well-maintained and has a number of facilities that you otherwise wouldn’t find at most other waterfalls on the island.
This includes free life jackets which are required to be worn by those looking to swim in the pool beneath the 45-foot waterfall.
5. Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
🥾 Distance: 4 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Easy
The Makapu’u Pillbox Hike is one of the most popular hikes in Oahu given both its distance and difficulty.
The trail is paved all the way to Makapuu Lighthouse and has a reasonably spread 154m incline which makes it an easy hike compared to some of the others on the island.
On the observation deck near the lighthouse, you will find the perfect spot for taking in breathtaking views.
This is a great place to visit in the winter with a chance of seeing migrating humpback whales – However, sadly during our most recent trip (January), we didn’t see any.
From the lighthouse, it’s just a short distance up a dirt path to the left of the paved trail to the pillboxes above.
Given the higher elevation of the pillboxes relative to the lighthouse, you’ll find significantly better ocean views.
Sadly there is no shade along this route, as such we highly recommend sensible clothing, sunscreen, and plenty of water.
Below are the moderate hikes available in Oahu. These hikes are often classed as moderate not due to their distance but instead as a result of steep grade inclines and dense forest surroundings.
6. Waipuhia Falls Trail (Private Property)
🥾 Distance: 1.0 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Moderate
Waipuhia Falls Trail is on private property, owned by the Board of Water Supply. As such unlike other private property hikes on this list, permits can not be obtained and access to the public is forbidden.
Of course, this doesn’t stop some intrepid hikers from going to Waipuhai Falls.
The trail itself is unmarked and overgrown, and you may be stopped for trespassing. We recommend driving down Pali Highway to see the waterfall instead.
Waipuhia Falls is one of the most unique waterfalls in Hawaii due to the “reverse waterfall” phenomenon.
This is caused by the wind occasionally making it look as though the water is flowing up instead of down.
Seeing this phenomenon in action is rare, so personally, we don’t think it’s worth going out of your way to attempt to visit this waterfall unless you happen to be driving around the area.
7. Lanikai Pillbox Hike (Kaiwa Ridge / The Pillbox Hike)
🥾 Distance: 1.1 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Moderate
The Lanikai Pillbox Hike (also known as Kaiwa Ridge Trail and The Pillbox Hike) is one of the best hikes in Oahu.
The trail is short at 1.1km out and back, taking around 30 minutes in total – depending on your fitness level.
Despite the distance, hiking to the Lanikai Pillboxes is still moderately challenging which in our opinion makes it unsuitable for younger children given the lack of shade combined with the steep and rocky terrain in certain parts.
Given the Hawaii heat and humidity, we recommend going out on this hike early morning to watch the sunrise.
The elevation gain on this hike is around 70m and once you reach the top you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Lanikai Beach and the North Pacific Ocean.
8. Likeke Falls Trail
🥾 Distance: 1.3 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Moderate
The Likeke Falls Trail is one of the shortest in Oahu which makes it an incredibly popular choice for families with children and beginner hikers looking to visit a waterfall.
There are two parking locations to choose from when visiting this waterfall;
- Ko’olau Golf Club: Park on the road before the gate, but use caution as tickets are regularly issued for vehicles not parked correctly.
- Pali Lookout along Pali Highway (Route 61): The route from here to the waterfall is slightly longer and has more adaptations for those looking to extend their hike further.
The waterfall itself is 20 feet tall and swimming is permitted.
Keep in mind that given how short the hike from the Ko’olau Golf Club is this waterfall can be incredibly popular which can make the swimming pool crowded during the summer months.
9. Judd Trail
🥾 Distance: 1.6 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Moderate
The Judd Trail is located right in Honolulu in the neighbourhood of Nu’uanu. This fantastic location combined with the distance of the trail means that it can get crowded during the summer season.
However, it’s still one of our personal favourites.
On the trail, you’ll encounter diverse flora and fauna ranging from a bamboo forest to tall pine trees before reaching the Jackass Ginger Pool waterfall.
This small waterfall stands at just 10 feet high, but there’s a large swimming hole beneath it.
This waterfall boasts a number of rope swings hanging from the trees as well as a natural rock slide leading into the pool.
10. Aihualama Falls
🥾 Distance: 1.9 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Moderate
Aihualama Falls is located near the popular Manoa Falls, and as such you can use part of the same Manoa Falls Trail to get to Auhualama Falls, making it ideal for those looking for a longer trek.
However, in our opinion, Aihualama Falls isn’t as impressive as Manoa Falls, so if you’re only looking to pick one waterfall to visit, we’d recommend skipping this one.
Situated just a 20-minute drive from Honolulu, this trail was used during the filming of the popular TV show LOST and takes you through a lush forest with tropical foliage and flowers.
Visiting the waterfall requires a reservation Lyon Arboretum, which is part of the University of Hawaii. However, entrance is still free.
11. Aihualama Falls Trail
🥾 Distance: 1.9 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Moderate
Situated in Manoa Valley, just a short drive from Honolulu, Aihualama Falls Trail is one of the best hikes in Oahu and easily accessible for hikers of all skill levels.
The trail is well-maintained and clearly marked, taking you through a diverse landscape of tropical foliage, bamboo groves, and stream crossings.
This waterfall is subject to seasonal closures depending on the weather. More information can be found on the Hawaii government website.
As you make your way along the trail, you’ll encounter several small waterfalls, however, the highlight of the hike is Aihualama Falls.
This 50-foot waterfall is set on a beautiful rock face and surrounded by lush vegetation, making for a serene and tranquil atmosphere.
12. Pu’u Ma’eli’eli Trail (Pink Pillbox Hike)
🥾 Distance: 2.5 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Moderate
Pu’u Ma’eli’eli (also known as the Pink Pillbox Hike), is found on the west side of Oahu just north of Waikiki.
This is one of the most popular pillbox hikes on Oahu given its iconic design, location and distance.
However, it’s still moderately difficult given the 207m elevation. As such we recommend going either early morning or late evening when the heat and humidity are lower.
There are three pillboxes along this trail, however, the second one which has been painted pink is the most iconic.
The pink colour was incepted in October 2015 as a dedication to Breast Cancer Awareness and on a clear day boasts views all the way out to Kaena Point.
It takes around 45 minutes to reach the top of the ridge, where you are rewarded with incredible views of the island and ocean below.
13. Lulumahu Falls Trail
🥾 Distance: 2.6 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Moderate
Lulumahu Falls Trail is one of the more difficult waterfall hikes in Oahu.
The out-and-back 2.6km trail has limited markings and passes through a dense bamboo forest. This combined with muddy and treacherous terrain after heavy rainfall can make this hike difficult for some.
This difficulty does however have a benefit as it leads to the waterfall typically being less popular and subsequently quieter than some of the other options on this list.
Vechile break-ins are notorious here. Please proceed with caution!
The hike is located on private property and subsequently requires a permit from the Hawaii Reserves to visit. This costs $2.50 and is easy to obtain online.
Meanwhile, the waterfall itself is stunning, more than 50 feet tall with a pool at the bottom for swimming in. As such it’s well worth the expedition if you’re able.
14. Manoa Falls Trail
🥾 Distance: 2.7 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Moderate
The Manoa Falls Trail is one of the most popular and busy waterfall hiking trails on the island of Oahu.
This is predominantly due to the location of the waterfall which is just a 20-minute drive from Honolulu, and how relatively short this hike is.
What makes this hike moderately difficult is the elevation gain and the rocky terrain towards the end.
While this is manageable during the summer, it can be increasingly muddy and subsequently difficult if the area has experienced heavy rainfall.
The waterfall itself is 150 feet and is set against a backdrop of lush vegetation which makes it well worth the effort to get here.
15. Ehukai Pillbox Hike (Peace Sign Pillbox)
🥾 Distance: 3.7 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
The Peace Sign Pillbox is one of the only pillboxes which can be hiked to on the north shore of Oahu which makes it popular with tourists visiting this region of the island.
This 3.7-km loop trail starts in a residential neighborhood with plenty of parking available and is generally considered suitable for families with children.
However, be sure to watch out for the mud as the nature of the terrain here can mean that it gets incredibly muddy and slippy after heavy rain.
You’ll find a number of walking sticks at beginning of the trail which have been left by previous hikers.
At around the halfway point of this hike, you’ll find a picnic table, and from there it’s just a ten-minute or so stretch further to the first pillbox.
While there is a second pillbox on this trail, it’s situated on private property and therefore visiting is not recommended.
16. Hamama Falls Trail (Private Property)
🥾 Distance: 5.0 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Moderate
Hamama Falls Trail has been closed to the public since 2021.
The waterfall is on land owned by the Board of Water Supply and it’s currently unknown whether or not this trail will reopen to the public.
Trespassing on this land could result in fines or even prosecution so attempts to visit this waterfall should be done at your own risk.
While Hamama Falls is a beautiful waterfall, there are in our opinion many other beautiful waterfalls in Oahu that don’t come with the risk of a fine or prosecution.
17. Kaena Point Pillbox Hike
🥾 Distance: 9.5 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Moderate
If you’re looking for a less popular trail in Oahu, consider hiking 9.5km to the Kaena Point Pillbox.
This moderate hike takes you along the rugged coastline and a stunning natural landscape providing some of the best views in all of Oahu.
Expect this hike to take around two and a half hours, with some steep elevation gain and rough ground in some areas.
There is great potential to see some fantastic wildlife and marine life on this trail, including many different birds, and if you are lucky, you may spot some Hawain monk seals basking in the sun.
18. Maunawili Falls via Old Pali Highway
🥾 Distance: 10.1 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Moderate
If you’re looking for a challenging yet rewarding waterfall hike on Oahu, the Maunawili Falls via Old Pali Highway trail is a must-visit.
This 10.1km out-and-back hike takes you through lush forests, along picturesque streams, and finally culminates at the stunning Maunawili Falls.
The trailhead begins just off the Old Pali Highway and is easily accessible from Honolulu or the Windward side of the island.
Parking here is free for residents and military or otherwise paid. As such it may be worth getting someone to drop you off where possible.
Maunawili Falls is a 20-foot waterfall which is surrounded by incredible foliage. Swimming beneath the waterfall is permitted and the perfect way to refresh after your hike.
Below are the hiking trails on the island of Oahu that are defined as being difficult. This again not due to the distance of the hike but instead is a result of a steep climb or a muddy trail.
19. Waiakeakua Falls via Pu’u’pia Trail
🥾 Distance: 3.9 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Hard
In our opinion, Waiakeakua Falls isn’t the best waterfall on the island of Oahu. However, this trail may still be ideal for those looking to experience a short, challenging hike.
The hike begins on the Pu’u Pia Trail on Alani Drive and descends into Manoa Valley.
Once in the valley, you will cross a stream several times and trek your way through the (likely) muddy forest before arriving at the falls.
Given that this waterfall is also located in the Manoa Valley it’s possible to combine this hike with hike(s) to other waterfalls in the area; Manoa Falls and Aihualama Falls.
20. Waimano Falls Trail
🥾 Distance: 4.7 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Hard
Waimano Falls Trail is located in Pearl City and takes roughly half an hour to complete each way depending on your pace.
This hike is considered by many to be hard given the steep decline into the valley and how muddy gets, so be sure to bring a change of clothes for the drive home.
The cascading waterfall itself is one of the most beautiful on the island with two natural pools, rope swings and cliff-jumping areas (marked with white spray paint).
21. Ka’au Crater Trail (Private Property)
🥾 Distance: 7.2 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Hard
The Ka’au Crater Trail is situated on Restricted Watershed managed by the Board of Water Supply and is therefore not open to the public.
However, this doesn’t stop all adventurous hikers from taking on this challenge. If you are found to be on the hike you may be stopped for trespassing, fined and or prosecuted. So please only do so at your own risk.
The hike itself is both rough and technical. There are several stream crossings, slippery roots and a lot of mud. Even in the height of summer expect to get muddy.
With that being said the highlight of the hike is the 3-tiered waterfall at the end of the trail, which stands at an impressive 35 feet tall.
22. Koloa Gulch
🥾 Distance: 11.1 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Hard
Koloa Gulch is one of the best hidden waterfalls in Oahu. Situated on the North Shore, this 11.1km out-and-back trail is incredibly difficult and therefore only recommended for experienced hikers.
To begin this day hike, you will need to sign a waiver with Hawaii Reserves. You can park at Kokololio Beach Park, and then walk down Aakahi Gulch Road to the trailhead.
The trail to Koloa Gulch is difficult but rewarding. You’ll need to be prepared to cross streams and scramble over rocks in order to reach the waterfall.
At Koloa Gulch, you’ll actually encounter three waterfalls. Two side-by-side falls, and the larger Koloa Falls. There’s a natural swimming pool at the base of the falls which is perfect for cooling off.
23. Laie Falls Trail
🥾 Distance: 12.7 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Hard
Situated a short distance from the town of Laie on the North Shore of Oahu is the Laie Falls Trail.
This is a challenging day hike with an incredible waterfall at the end. In order to access the trail you’ll need to park at Laie Park roughly 0.5 miles away and then walk along Poohaili Street.
This hike takes you up a ridge with an elevation gain of 1,400 feet. As such given the duration and difficulty of this hike, it’s only recommended for experienced hikers.
Much like the Lulumahu Falls Trail, this waterfall is also located on private property and subsequently requires a $2.50 permit from Hawaii Reserves in order to access it.
The waterfall itself is located at the top of the ridge, and also boasts an impressive vantage point which provides a view of the ocean out in the distance.
24. Manana Trail
🥾 Distance: 15.8 km 🏔️ Difficulty: Hard
The Manana Trail is one of the most intense waterfall trails in Oahu.
This 15.8km hike takes roughly 6 to 8 hours and should only be attempted by experienced hikers due to its difficulty.
The start of the hike is relatively fun and relaxing, it’s heavily marked and the underbrush provides a reasonable challenge.
However, after a couple of miles, the path begins to narrow and the underbrush thickens. As such it’s highly recommended you wear pants to protect your legs.
We highly recommend starting this hike at sunrise, bringing plenty of water, snacks, electro lights and multiple pairs of socks.
Due to its difficulty, we would only attempt to complete this hike on dry days.
The waterfall itself is impressive, but on a hike this long and difficult it’s really more about the hike itself than it is the reward at the peak.
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