Hiking Oahu, Hawaii’s third largest island, lets you see a tropical paradise that offers treks that bring you through volcanic craters, dense jungles, and panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.
Dramatic landscapes define the lush, tropical island of Oahu. From breathtaking volcanic craters to turquoise beaches and waterfalls, this place offers countless adventures for hikers of any skill level.
Even better, getting here is easy. Most international airlines fly direct since the island is also home to the state capital of Honolulu. Here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, hiking Oahu gives everyone an opportunity to find their own version of paradise.
Recommended Hikes: Top 3
Choosing where to hike on Oahu can get difficult with two separate volcanic ranges covering 44 miles from coast to coast. Whether in downtown Honolulu on the southeastern tip or in the quiet western mountains, you are never far from a scenic adventure. However, if you are looking for a real hike, and even a swim, then check out our top three recommendations.
For the Adventurous: Ka’Au Crater Hike:
This difficult 4.7-mile loop located near Honolulu will take you about five hours. As you trek past the trail’s three waterfalls, barren crater, and panoramic views of Honolulu and surrounding peaks, you will see an elevation change of two and a half thousand feet.
To get to the base of the hike, you need to drive up 10th Ave in Palolo Valley until you hit Waiamao Road, and take a right. Follow the road until you pass a small Korean temple, and park your car once you reach a ‘No Trespassing’ sign. Walk past the first sign that says no trespassing and stay left once the roads splits.
You will see two houses, and if the residents greet you ask permission to hike the trail, as you cannot do it without their consent. If they do not greet you, hike up and around the first fence and start your hike!
While the distance is not far, the elevation and terrain makes for a difficult climb. Right from the start, this trail brings you into a mystical jungle laden with muddy paths crisscrossing a stream. The path soon steepens and, next thing you know, you are walking up slipper rocks and using ropes to pull yourself up the sides of the trail’s three waterfalls.
At the top of the third waterfall, you can either loop back down or continue up a steep, yet supremely gratifying path to the top of the Ka’Au Crater.
From the top of this perilous perch, you can look out over the lush crater and the east coast of Oahu in its entirety. The trail is certainly trying, but completely worth it in the end. And, of course, be sure to take breaks and bring water and snacks!
For Thrill-Seekers: Stairway to Heaven
Also known as the Haiku Ladder, Stairway to Heaven is by far the greatest attraction on the island. The total 3,922 steps climb the steep ridge of Oahu’s Ko’olau mountain range, and only handrails protect you from falling to either side of the 18-inch wide platform. The steps go on for nearly a mile and reach a height of over 2000 feet.
Built in 1942 as part of a secret U.S. Navy operation for transmitting radio signals to ships in the Pacific, the stairs still remain with some sections a bit mangled but not too dangerous.
Along the way you will find small cabins, including the one at the summit, which provide spectacular views of the surrounding area. Be sure to pack an extra shirt and jacket for the strong winds that frequent the ridge.
The trail was officially closed in 2012, but many brazen hikers still find a way to climb the fence in the dead of night and evade the entrance guard. If you do not mind taking a calculated risk, this might be the most thrilling hike of all.
A Must-Do: Diamond Head State Monument
Of our three choices, this is the most touristy, but also one of the easiest and most rewarding hikes on Oahu. Located near Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Diamond Head crater is one of the most recognized icons of Hawaii, and people all over the world travel thousands of miles to get a glimpse of its vastness. The climb to the summit is only 760 feet, but a look to the opposite side of this extinct volcano 3,500 feet away is truly mesmerizing.
In order to avoid crowds, it is best to start the trek in the early morning or late afternoon. It takes nearly an hour or more to reach the summit, and half that to come back down. The last 99-set staircase is the steepest, but once you reach the top you will see not only the massive crater but also the beautiful coast below.
Hiking Oahu: A Once In a Lifetime Experience
Hiking Oahu is a truly incredible opportunity. With so many great places to explore, you won’t want to leave.