You’ll Be Challenged and Inspired by Hawaii’s Trails

These hiking locations are life changing

Although a vacation in Hawaii can be a bit pricey, there’s one way you can experience the beauty of Hawaii and not spend a penny – and that is hiking! These trails offer panoramic views of the beautiful islands of Hawaii. Experience both the rugged and the peaceful parts of Hawaii’s terrain by exploring one of the islands via these hikes. Below you’ll find suggestions for beautiful hikes on Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island.

Awa`awapuhi trail from Koke’e State Park to Na Pali coast in Kauai, Hawaii / BackyardProductions / Bigstock

Awaawapuhi Nualolo Trail – Kauai

Located in the Kokee State Park, this hike leads you through rain forest as well as desert as you look out on the Napali Coast. It is a downhill hike from the trailhead to the end. After the first 1.5 miles of the hike, you’ll notice that the forest begins to thin out and the coast will come into view. At 3 miles, there will be a junction with the Nualolo Cliff Trail, giving you the option of taking a new trail on your way out. At the end of this hike is the Awaawapuhi Nualolo Lookout complete with a picnic area. On your way back, if you do choose to take the Nualolo Cliff Trail – so as not to repeat the same views on the way in – you will be adding 5 miles to your trip and you will have to walk the road back to your car. If you’d rather not, just turn around and backtrack the way you came to end up back where you parked.

Diamond Head Hike / hawaiistateparks.org

Diamond Head Crater Summit Trail – Oahu

This hike on the island of Oahu, just outside of Honolulu, attracts over 1.3 million hikers annually. Advanced hikers may think a 1.6-mile trail could be boring, but the incline allows it to become a sufficient workout while also being a beautifully scenic hike. This hike is inside of an extinct crater that resulted from an eruption about 200,000 years ago. You will end the hike at a summit that looks over Oahu’s south shore from Koko Head Crater to the Waianae Mountains.

Sliding Sands Trail in Haleakala National Park / Eric Titcombe / Flickr

Haleakala Sliding Sands Trail – Maui

The Haleakala Sliding Sands Trail is inside the Haleakala National Park at the summit of the crater. The trail is 6 miles long, traveling through the south base of the crater leading to the Kapalua Cabin. After the cabin, the trail turns from loose cinder into grassy terrain. If you walk a bit further along the trail, you’ll come across the Kaupo Store where you can enjoy an ice cold drink. This trail is not recommended for children or beginners, but it’s a great adventure for hikers who are up for it.

Kaena Point / jongela19 / Flickr

Kaena Point – Oahu

At the western-most tip of Oahu, the hike to Kaena Point is a trail significant to Hawaiian folklore. According to Hawaiian legend, the western-most point of the island is where souls go after death to leap into the otherworld. That’s where this hike is. Hawaiian legend aside, this hike is peaceful and beautiful. It is a 3-mile walk to a lighthouse at a beach. The beach feels remote, and you might get to meet some monk seals during your visit there. Nearby is the restaurant “Konos” which has won the award for Best Restaurant in Oahu in recent years.

The Kalalau Trail / calamity_sal / Flickr

Kalalau Trail – Kauai

This is one of the most challenging hikes on the island of Kauai. It is an 11 mile stretch of coast that was once used by Hawaiians who lived in Kalalau Valley. The first two miles of the hike end at Hanakapi’ai Beach. If you’d like to go beyond the beach, you’ll need a permit and it is advised for experienced hikers only. From Hanakapi’ai to Hanako, the trail becomes strenuous and steep. It traverses the reserve in hanging valleys. The hike in its entirety is about 8+ hours, making it a full day trip. This hike requires planning and conditioning ahead of time. If you are not in good physical ship, it would not be wise to make this hike. If you’re able to do the hike, the views are unbelievable.

Kilauea Iki Trail / Joseph Kranak / Flickr

Kilauea Iki Trail – Big Island

In Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the Kilauea Iki Trail is along one of the most active volcanoes on earth. It is a 4-mile loop trail through the crater created by an eruption in 1959. Start at Crater Rim Drive near the Thurston Lava Tube and descend 400 feet through rainforests filled with birds, streams, sulfur vents, and a lava lake. You’ll definitely want sunscreen as well as rain gear because of the high level of exposure within the terrain.

Koko Head Crater Trail / Leonard S Jacobs / Flickr

Koko Crater Trail – Oahu

This trail is made up of stairs – over 1,000 of them. This is a great hike if you are in good shape. It’ll take you about 30 minutes to an hour to get to the top, depending on how fast you are. Once you reach the top, you’ll enjoy a sprawling view of Diamond Head and the beaches of lava rock below.

The hike to Mahaulepu Beach / poipubeach.org

Mahaulepu Beach Trail – Kauai

This trail goes along the last stretch of accessible coastline on the south shore of Kauai that hasn’t been developed. You will start at the southeast corner of Shipwreck Beach Keonela Bay, journey through sand dune cliffs, trees, limestone, and inlets to get to Mahaulepu Beach. You might encounter sea turtles and monk seals during your hike here.

Manoa Falls Trail / penjelly / Flickr

Manoa Falls Trail – Oahu

The Koolau mountain range serves as the backdrop to this hike. Hike up the Manoa Valley to the Manoa Waterfall on a nearly mile-long trail. It passes through rainforests and bamboo groves, leading you to a forested view of a beautiful waterfall. This is an easy and simple hike, but worth the trip if you’re in Honolulu as it’s only 5 miles outside of the city.

Pipiwai Trail / Max Delaquis / Flickr

Pipiwai Trail – Maui

This 4-mile roundtrip hike leads to Waimoku Falls – the largest waterfall on Maui, standing at 400 feet tall. It is not an easy trail to get to but the reward is worth it. The entire hike is adorned with beautiful views, and the drive leading up to it is beautiful as well. Drive the Hana Highway to Haleakala National Park’s Kipahulu Visitor Center. The trail begins there with a trek up Oheo Gulch. You will encounter bamboo forests and the Pipiwai Stream on your way up as well as the 185-foot Makahiku Falls. The hike takes between 2.5 to 5 hours.

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