July 19, 2024

Happy Travel & Tour

Specialists Travel & Tours

15 Best Places to Go Hiking in Hawaii

15 Best Places to Go Hiking in Hawaii

Hawaii has long been considered the perfect vacation destination. Just a five- or six-hour flight from the West Coast, with no passport requirements, the Hawaiian Islands offer an ideal tropical vacation that comes with all the simplicity of domestic travel.

Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Hawaii Island (often called “The Big Island”), Molokai, and Lana’i are the perfect place for a romantic, family, or solo getaway anytime of year. Whether you’re tempted by one of the luxurious resorts on Lana’i, the up-and-coming North Shore of Oahu, the volcanoes of Hawaii Island, the laidback vibes of Molokai and Kauai, or the ever-romantic Maui escape, now is the perfect time to book your trip.

And while Hawaii is known for its idyllic beaches, you’ll also want to plan your itinerary around the state’s exceptional hiking trails. The best hikes in Hawaii provide a glimpse into the natural wilds of the islands, from trails that criss-cross stunning valleys and traverse ridgelines to those that drop into still-steaming crater floors and ancient lava tubes. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to escape the heat or want to soak up the sun, there are hikes that meander past lush rainforests and cut through arid, Mars-like landscapes — some Hawaii hikes even offer both.

Once you’ve booked your trip, refer to this curated list of the best hikes in Hawaii for all skill levels. All you need to do is slather on some sunscreen, pack a bag with plenty of water and snacks, and get motivated. We promise, these hikes are well worth the effort.

Pu’u Pia Trail, Oahu

The Pu’u Pia Trail starts from the Manoa neighborhood of Honolulu, making it an easy and accessible option for a last-minute jaunt. The nearly two-mile, out-and-back trail provides plenty of shade on hot days and beautiful flowers and lush growth throughout. From the top, expect views over Honolulu and out to the sea.

Sliding Sands Trail, Maui

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To experience a completely different side of Maui, head to Haleakalā National Park and take on the 13-mile out-and-back Sliding Sands Trail from the Keonehe’ehe’e Trailhead. This moderate-to-difficult hike may start with a descent, but make sure you’re aware of the climb that’s required to get back out. While the trail’s Mars-like landscape doesn’t offer much shade, you’ll be rewarded with once-in-a-lifetime views of the volcano.

Kaumana Caves Trail, Hawaii Island

For an easy adventure near Hilo, head to Kaumana Caves State Park, where you’ll find the extremely short — half-mile round-trip — Kaumana Caves trail. The mini-excursion takes travelers into a lava tube that was created by Mauna Loa in 1881. Just make sure to bring sturdy shoes and a flashlight, as the trail leads visitors down a metal ladder and into a dark lava tube.

Kalalau Trail, Kauai

The Kalalau Trail may be long, clocking in at 11 miles one-way, but it’s the only way to access this part of Kauai’s rugged Nāpali Coast by land, making it well worth the effort. Note that you must reserve a day use permit ahead of time if you wish to enter Hā’ena State Park, as only the first two miles of the hike from Ke’e Beach to Hanakāpīʻai Beach can be accessed without one. Along the way, you’ll traverse five valleys before ending at Kalalau Beach, which, depending on the day, you might have all to yourself. It’s worth noting that this route is for experienced hikers, so check trail and weather conditions before heading out. For those interested in overnight stays, a camping permit is required.

Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail, Oahu

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This easy two-mile round-trip trail is located within the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline and provides hikers with amazing views of the island’s southeastern coast, including Koko Head and Koko Crater. Along the way, you’ll spot the historic Makapu’u Lighthouse and might be able to see the neighboring islands of Lanai and Molokai if the weather is clear.

Kuilau Ridge Trail, Kauai

This easy-to-moderate trail can be found on the eastern side of Kauai and provides that Hawaiian jungle-like feel throughout the course of its 3.6-mile out-and-back journey. Along the way, you’ll see a waterfall and gorgeous views toward Mount Waiʻaleʻale.

Waihe’e Ridge Trail, Maui

The Waihe’e Ridge Trail, located in the West Maui Forest Reserve, starts out steep, leading hikers up the spine of Waihe’e Valley. But once you reach the top, the stunning views — especially on a clear day — make the 4.2-mile out-and-back excursion well worth the effort.

Kīlauea Iki Trail, Hawaii Island

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If the idea of hiking across a solid lava lake piques your interest, head to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where the Kīlauea Iki Trail takes off. The three-mile loop starts on the crater’s rim, then drops through the rain forest toward the steaming crater floor. At the bottom, you’ll pass the smoking vent on the floor of the crater before heading back up to the rim.

Pipiwai Trail and Waimoku Falls, Maui

If driving the Road to Hana is on your Maui to-do list, start early so you have enough time to integrate this 3.8-mile round-trip hike into your itinerary. Along this moderate trek, you’ll pass through a dense bamboo forest and spot several waterfalls before reaching the stunning Waimoku Falls.

Maunawili Trail, Oahu

If you’re looking for a challenge, take on the Maunawili Trail from Waimānalo near Kailua. The 8.8-mile point-to-point trail is difficult — and long, for those who decide to do the full thing — but you can easily turn around at any point. Along the way, you’ll be treated to stream crossings, views over lush valleys, and plenty of flowers. Note that the portion of this trail that goes to Maunawili Falls is currently closed for nature rehabilitation but is expected to reopen in summer 2023.

Mauna Kea Summit Hike, Hawaii Island

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Mauna Kea–Humu`ula Trail, also known as the Mauna Kea Summit Hike, offers visitors a challenging 13.4-mile out-and-back journey to the top of the highest mountain in the Hawaiian Islands, at 13,803 feet tall. Despite its steep 4,986-foot elevation gain, the trail is especially popular among birders and is best visited between the months of March and December. Dress warm, as the summit is known to be the only place in Hawaii with snow, with the wind-chill factor at the top making temperatures already hovering around 32 degrees Fahrenheit feel even colder.

Pu’u Pehe (Sweetheart Rock), Lanai

A popular hike for those day tripping from the neighboring island of Maui or staying at any of Lanai’s luxury resorts, the trail to Pu’u Pehe, also called Sweetheart Rock, offers an easy 0.9-mile out-and-back walk to one of the most beautiful views in Hawaii. According to local legend, a Hawaiian warrior fell in love with a beautiful woman named Pehe, hid her in one of the many sea caves along the coastline between Mānele and Hulopoʻe Bay, and dove into the sea from the rock’s 80-foot summit upon returning to find she had drowned during a bad storm (his beloved is said to be buried at the top of the steep rock island). Nowadays, it’s just a 20-minute hike from the Four Seasons Resort Lanai and a particularly romantic spot at sunset.

Cliff and Canyon Trails in Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai

Famously nicknamed by Mark Twain as “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon State Park on the island of Kauai is home to many trails that range in intensity. The Waimea Canyon trail starts just past the Pu’u Ka Pele lookout and is a roughly three-hour round-trip moderate hike offering views of the canyon and offshoots to other trails to the top of Waipo’o Falls as well as the beginner-friendly Cliff Trail, which runs along the ridge, showcasing incredible views of the canyon’s interior.

Papakōlea Green Sand Beach Hike, Hawaii Island

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Due to the presence of olivine, a mineral found in lava left behind by past volcanic eruptions, the sands of Papakōlea Beach, located along the southern tip of Hawaii Island, are surprisingly green in color. You’ll find the 5.6-mile out-and-back trail to this popular green-sand beach between mile markers 69 and 70 along Highway 11 at South Point Road. From the parking lot, head south along a paved road, then a dirt path for about two more miles as you work your way toward the ocean. The hike around the eroded cinder cone can be quite steep in places, but just stick to the well-worn trail and after you’ve taken enough photos, head back the same way.

Koko Head Crater Trail, Oahu

Lovingly referred to as “The Koko Head Stairs” by local residents and visitors alike, the Koko Head Crater Trail along Oahu’s southeast coast is exactly that — roughly 1,048 steps, made from former railway tracks, that run up the side of the 1,208-foot-tall rock formation. Though it’s only 1.6-miles in length, the trail consists of a steep, uneven, and dusty 885-foot climb that takes most people about 90 minutes to complete. Take your time, go at your own pace, and enjoy views of east Honolulu, Hanauma Bay, and parts of the neighboring island of Molokai on a clear day once you reach the top — you’ve earned it!