Listed below are easy to moderate trails often mentioned as favorites by hikers on Oʻahu. They include iconic trails popular with visitors, as well as some lesser known but favored treks all over the island.
Please be prepared before you go on any hike, whether it is a pleasant family stroll or something more challenging. Even flat, easy trails can become hazardous if you do not have enough water or necessary supplies. You can be caught in a sudden downpour, cross paths with hunters or mountain bikers, become injured, get confused by trail cutoffs and get lost, or other conditions.
Before we get to the list of trails, we offer information for planning and preparing for a hike and staying safe on the trail. We want to make sure that any nature walk you take is just another day in paradise and doesn’t turn into a some kind of disaster movie.
It is your responsibility to leave as little impact as possible on the natural areas you visit. Be sure you understand and obey all regulations. Always hike in a manner that respects the environment, do not trespass, and be sure to pack out anything you bring in.
In Hawai’i, this responsibility is known as mālama ʻāina, which means to take care of the land. Many natural areas in the Hawaiian Islands are threatened by people as well as other causes. Please kokua (cooperate) and do your part.
Ua mau ke ea o ka ʻāina i ka pono – State of Hawai’i motto*
*The life of the land is preserved in righteousness.
Planning your hike
It’s best do your own research to determine if a trail is right for your skills. Find out basic information about the trail you intend to take, including distance, elevation gain, trailhead location, and parking information.
Your best source of planning for walks and hikes in Hawai’i is the statewide Nā Ala Hele (NAH) Trail & Access Program managed by the Department of Land & Natural Resources (DLNR).
The NAH program was established in 1988 in response to public concerns about threats to and the loss of public access to historic trails. Get more information below about how to access NAH hiking information and tools.
Do not plan hikes on trails that are closed, despite information you may find on social media, in hiking groups, on travel blogs, or other online or print resources.
Please kokua and mālama ʻāina.
Nā Ala Hele (NAH) Trail & Access Program
Nā Ala Hele – Hawai’i Trail & Access Program was established in 1988 to manage trails in Hawai’i while balancing the often conflicting historic and environmental concerns with public access and commercial activities. Itʻs a tough job.
For users of hiking trails, NAH provides trail information, including online and printable maps. NAH is also engaged in trail maintenance.
NAH online trail search
Search for a trail online at Nā Ala Hele Trail Information & Maps. You can search by island and other features such as views or waterfalls, amenities such as parking and restrooms, whether dogs are allowed, or activities such as hunting or mountain biking, and other trail characteristics you may wish to specify.
NAH GPS location feature “I AM HERE!”
Some NAH online trail maps have a GPS feature you can use while you are on the trail. Turn on your smartphone GPS and find your location on the NAH map. To find the GPS feature, select a trail and find the “I AM HERE!” link. For example, the ‘Ualaka‘a Trail on O’ahu in Manoa Valley offers GPS location via the “I AM HERE!” link. (Note: last time we checked “I AM HERE!” is only available on the Honolulu Mauka Trail System–see NAH printable maps below–but over time will be offered on all trails in the system.)
NAH printable maps and trail detail
Listed below are links to printable maps and information for the NAH trails on O‘ahu. Each link takes you to a regional map, followed by helpful details for each of the hikes, including directions to the trailhead, where to park, and basic trail route information.
- Honolulu Mauka Trail System
- Hauula Trail System
- Pupukea Area
- East Honolulu-Kuliouou Area
- Kuaokala-Mokuleia Area
- Manana-Waimano Area
- Maunawili-Koolaupoko Trail Complex
It is important to note that while these maps are a good reference, you will find that many trails are poorly marked, not well-maintained, and/or contain hazards such as exposed tree roots.
The NAH program has a limited budget that cannot currently keep up with maintenance due to heavy use of Hawai’i trails. Therefore, please do your part and plan to pick up and pack out any trash you find along the way.
NAH welcomes volunteers who wish to join them in trail maintenance. Find current volunteer opportunites at the following links:
- Hawai’i State Parks | Volunteer (hawaii.gov)
- Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources Volunteer (hawaii.gov)
AllTrails website and app
Another planning resource is AllTrails, which is available on desktop for planning and as a smartphone app to use on the trail. One of the key benefits are reviews and photos from hikers who have recently taken the route.
- To use AllTRails, you must sign up. A basic account is free and lets you find and filter trails by difficulty, distance, elevation gain, and other features.
- The Pro version is modestly priced and provides additional features such as offline maps, more detailed route instructions, a notification feature, and more.
AllTrails is a worldwide resource and includes dozens of hiking trails on O’ahu.
- AllTrails app: Best trails in Hawaiʻi on Oʻahu. Note: When the AllTrails information for a trail differs from that provided by the NAH Trail System maps and information, it is recommended that you defer to the NAH instructions as the most authoritative and up-to-date resource.
While AllTrails does contain updated information for Hawai’i hikes, the NAH maps and info (see previous section) always contains the most up-to-date information. In recent years, many hikes have been closed and Nā Ala Hele is the best source to find available hikes, including many that are not commonly known, as well as correcting out-of-date information from other sources.
Do not hike on trails that are closed to the public. When you arrive at a trailhead and find it gated or signage stating the trail is off-limits, do not walk past “No Trespassing” signs or try to find another route into the trail. The status of many previously open trails has changed.
Trails can be closed for many reasons: ownership (or owners’ preferences) may have changed, the trail is on private property, the trail may require a permit, recent weather events may have made the trail dangerous due to down trees or erosion or landslides, and/or the trail may be undergoing maintenance.
Pleases kokua. Ua mau ke ea o ka ʻāina i ka pono.
Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. You can also use a tracking app that notifies contacts if you don’t return on time, which is a good idea if you are planning to hike in remote locations or difficult terrain.
Always bring a fully charged cellphone. It can be a lifesaver if you are injured or lost. For all day or longer hikes, bring a backup battery.
At a minimum, bring water and a first aid kit. Experienced hikers always carry other essential items: REI blog: 10 Essentials Every Hiker Should Always Carry (rei.com)
Always plan to do some trail maintenance. Bring a trash bag and thick gloves (such as for gardening) or pickup tool (such as a pick-up stick, grappler, or tongs) to pick up any trail trash that you see along the way. Pack it out with you and dispose of it properly.
If the trail allows dogs, a leash is usually required. Even if itʻs not, itʻs safer for everyone (including your dog) to keep your pup leashed at all times. Also, bring bags to pick up and pack out their waste.
Carry adequate water for the hike. Itʻs recommended to drink at least one pint (½ liter) of water every hour or every 3 miles. Drink more if itʻs hot or humid, which is basically everywhere in Hawai’i—youʻre either exposed to the sun with no shade, or in a forest where humidity is high.
Wear footwear suited to the hike. Shorter, relatively flat walking trails are suitable for athletic shoes, tennis shoes, and maybe sandals or “slippahs” (thongs or flip-flops). If the terrain is steep and dry, or muddy and slippery, you need proper shoes, such as hiking sandals, trail running shoes, or hiking boots.
- If you will be hiking in muddy conditions, pack a second pair of shoes or slippahs in a disposable bag. Do not scrape mud off your shoes at park entrances or on residential sidewalks. If there are not public beach showers available to rinse shoes, put on the second pair of shoes and place the muddy shoes in the bag to clean off at home or another appropriate location.
On the day of the hike, check weather reports for the area you are going. In Hawaiʻi, many trails become dangerous during rain due to flash floods and remain very slippery for several days after. Cloud cover at higher elevations can disorient you during a hike or make for an oppressively humid hike. If necessary, choose another day or another trail.
Plan to bring all necessary gear dictated by the hike, such as a hat and other sun protection, mosquito repellent (especially on forested trails), footwear appropriate for the terrain, long pants for shrubby areas, rain gear, water, food, etc.
Carry a small backpack or fanny pack with a first aid kit, water, and other necessary supplies and gear necessary for your trip (cellphone, trash bag, clothing, food, etc.). Do not underestimate your need for water and supplies.
Before starting out, make sure you have eaten and are well-hydrated.
7 “Leave No Trace” Principles
Leave No Trace is a national organization whose mission is to protect our natural lands by educating people to enjoy the outdoors responsibly.
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Please learn and apply the Leave No Trace Principles whenever you are on a hike in Hawai’i or any other natural area.
Tips for hiking safely & responsibly
Know your limits. Do not attempt to hike beyond your capabilities for distance, elevation gain, and any other factors outside your comfort level. Hiking in Hawaii’s warm, humid climate and steep terrain can make easy and moderate hikes difficult or dangerous if it rains, you are not prepared, or you have over-estimate your skills.
Always hike with a buddy. If you choose to hike alone, be sure to tell someone your plans and/or use a GPS tracking app, such as the one that comes with AllTrails Pro.
When parking is full at the trailhead, choose another destination and come back to this hike another time. Illegally parked cars will be ticketed and may be towed.
In a residential areas, respect the neighborhood. Donʻt block driveways when parking, make noise to and from the trailhead, leave trash behind, or scrape mud from your shoes.
When parking, leave nothing in your vehicle. Many trailheads are known to be frequented by car prowlers.
Do not hike on trails that are closed, gated, or have signage stating the trail is off-limits to the public. It may be on private property, may require a permit, or may have become dangerous, such as after storms. Choose another hike.
Follow a trail map. Use a printed or online map, such as NAH or AllTrails (both described above).
Stay on designated trails. Veering off into the wilderness can damage natural resources, may lead you to trespass on private property, or to dangers such as hazardous terrain, steep drop-offs, or becoming lost.
Heed any warnings signs, such as end of trail or hazards, flash floods, and cliffs.
Donʻt wait until you are thirsty to drink water. Itʻs recommended to consume at least one pint (½ liter) of water every hour or every 3 miles. Drink more if itʻs hot or humid, which is almost everywhere in Hawai’i, or if the hike is steep. Under extreme conditions, 1 liter every hour or more may be needed.
Never, ever, ever, never cross a fast-moving waterway. During heavy rains, stream crossings can become very dangerous due to the possibility of flash floods. People have been swept away and never seen again.
Before attempting a steep ascent (or descent), consider how you will return and whether the climb is well within your capabilities.
Pay attention to how you are feeling. If a hike becomes challenging, turn back right away if you feel unsure.
If you become injured, stay put. Rescue teams can find you more quickly and you donʻt run the risk of getting into further trouble.
If you get lost or injured, ask for help right away. Don’t try to tough it out.
Before hiking in Hawai’i, read these safety tips from NAH: Nā Ala Hele Trail sytem – Hiking Safely in Hawai’i (PDF)
Now on to the hikes! We’ve chosen 17 trails from across O’ahu that many people find are easy to moderate hikes. They include short hikes, long hikes, flat trails, and steep climbs. They are favorite destinations for many residents and visitors. We include links to some nearby trails, so if you complete all of these hikes, there are plenty more.
Have fun. Stay safe. Mālama ʻāina.
Easy O’ahu hikes
Most hikers rate the following trails as easy. These O’ahu hikes are listed in order of distance. Many are considered family-friendly. However, other factors such as elevation gain, trail conditions, weather, and your skill level will affect how easy or challenging the trail is for you.
We offer a very brief description of the hike. Follow the link to get more details such as a map, directions, and parking information. Do your research before deciding whether the trail will be easy for you.
‘Ualaka‘a Trail is a 1-mile loop trail with 400-feet elevation gain in Pu‘u ‘Ualaka‘a State Wayside close to downtown Honolulu. ‘Ualaka’a is in the Honolulu Mauka Trail System (PDF) and ntersects with several other trails. Find a system trail map at the intersection and extend your walk by continuing on the Makiki Valley Trail, Moleka Trail, or Maunalaha Trail.
Kapa‘ele‘ele Trail is a 1.2-mile loop trail with 130-feet elevation gain along the slope of the Kahana Vallery on Windward O’ahu. The trail offers much historical interest and stunning views of Kahana Bay and the ancient Huilua Fishpond site. Most of the trail is shaded by many intresting trees. Find more information in these informative brochures: Kapaʻeleʻele Koʻa & Keaniani Kilo Trail (PDF) and Huilua Fishpond (PDF)
Kaiwi Shoreline Trail is 1.2-miles total out-and-back with 130-feet elevation gain on the southeast coast of O’ahu. Access the trail from Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse Trailhead going right instead of left and follow the unpaved shoreline trail past Peleʻs Chair to Kaho‘ohaihai Inlet, a cove also known as Alan Davis Beach. Most people play here and return, but you can continue along the trail all the way to Wawamalu Beach Park (Sandy Beach). Donʻt forget you will need to backtrack to your car at the Makapu’u parking lot, unless are catching TheBus—then you can make it a one-way trip.
Manoa Falls Trail is 1.6-miles total out-and-back trail with 800-feet elevation gain in Honoluluʻs Manoa Valley. The trail meanders uphill through a rainforest crossing footbridges along Waihi Stream to the waterfall viewing area—which can either be a trickle in dry seasons or a more impressive rush after rains. Interpretive signs along the way provide interesting nature and history about the area. The popular trail can see as many as 4,000 visitors on a busy day. Manoa Trail re-opened in June 2021 after extensive renovation to widen and stabilize the trail bed with rocks and gravel, which is slippery and muddy during and after rainy periods. It is not stroller-friendly. Swimming is not allowed in the pool and tends to carry Leptospirosis bacteria that will cause unpleasant illness. There is a fee to park, last time we checked it was $5.
Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail is 2-miles total out-and-back with 500-feet elevation gain on the southeast coastline of Oʻahu along the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline. The seacliff trail features outstanding ocean views and interpretive signs. The pathway offers no shade and can be windy, but is paved and stroller-friendly. Note that the lighthouse is not open to visitors.
Kalawahine Trail is a 3-mile loop trail with 200-feet elevation gain. The trail winds in and out of gulches in the Pauoa Valley (behind Punchbowl Crater) and offers interesting vegetation, wildflowers, and views of northern Honolulu. Kalawahine is a good introduction to the Honolulu Mauka Trail System (PDF). Itʻs easy to access and intersects with other trails in the system, including the Manoa Cliff Trail and Pauoa Flats Trail. Pauoa Flats can take you to a lookout over Nu‘uanu Valley, or to less easy treks: Nu‘uanu Trail or the Aihualama Trail.
Ka‘ena Point Trail is 5-miles total out-and-back with less than 100-feet elevation gain on the northwest tip of O’ahu. There is no shade along the coastline trail, which can also be very windy. The trail ends at the Ka‘ena Point Natural Area Reserve, the westernmost point on Oahu and one of the last intact dune ecosystems in the Hawaiian Islands. The area is a nesting ground for monk seals and large colonies of seabirds. You can reach Ka‘ena Point from either of two routes on different sides of the island: from the southeast at Keawaula Beach in Kaena Point State Park on Farrington Highway 93, or from the North Shore past Mokulēʻia Beach on Farrington Highway 930.
Maunawili Trail is 20-miles total out-and-back with 500-feet elevation gain. The trail stretches from Pali above Honolulu to Windward O’ahu. Of course, you can shorten your trip by turning back at any point to return the way you came. There are several access points: from Honolulu via Pali Highway (61) at the Pali Lookout (before tunnel) or Pali Scenic Overlook (after tunnel) or via Kalanianaole Highway in Waimanalo. Itʻs a well-used family friendly trail. The Maunawili meanders along the foot of the Ko‘olau Mountains and offers lush vegetation and spectacular views of windward Oahu and Olomana Mountain (aka Three Peaks),. Your trek can include the Maunawili Falls, which is the focal point for many trekkers. Hereʻs more info:
- Maunawili Falls is part of the Maunawili Trail. Access to the falls from the Pali Lookout or Scenic overlook is 6.3-miles total out-and-back trail with 500-feet elevation gain. From the Waimanalo side, the distance is around 13 miles. The trail can be muddy and requires traversing streams near the falls. The falls can be over-crowded but most say the scenic walk is well worth the trip.
For more easy hikes and walks, check out: Free places to go holoholo on Oʻahu
Moderate O’ahu hikes
The following trails are usually rated moderate, but not difficult. They can be challenging for novice hikers. Some are family-friendly, especially for those who have already done easier hikes with keiki in tow. Do your research before heading out; know your limits
Kuliouou Valley Trail is 1.4 miles total out-out-back with 538-feet elevation gain in the Hawai’i Kai area East Honolulu. The nature trail ambles through a forest and features a variety of birds. It follows a (dry) stream bed. If the weather has been rainy, you may see a waterfall. It is good for all skill levels and kid-friendly. Exercise caution since this trail traverses a public hunting area; hikers should wear bright colored clothing and stay on the trail. About 0.1-0.2 miles after the start, the right fork takes you to Kuliouou Ridge Trail (5 miles, 2,000-feet elevation gain), which leads to the summit of the Ko’olau Range—a strenuous out-and-back trail that is only occasionally maintained and rated difficult for inexperienced hikers. More info: East Honolulu Trails: Wiliwilinu, Hawai’iloa, Kuli’ou’ou
Diamond Head Crater Summit Trail is a 1.6-mile loop trail with 560-feet elevation gain. The Waikīkī landmark is known as Le’ahi by Hawaiians, meaning “brow of the tuna”, which it clearly resembles. The trail begins paved, but is mostly natural turf, unshaded, and includes staircases and a 225-foot lighted tunnel. The trail is considered kid-friendly, but not stroller accessible. Pre-K children usually need to be carried most of the way. The stunning view from the top includes the entire south coast of O’ahu from Koko Head in the east to Wai‘anae in the west. Whale sightings are possible in winter. For a self-guided tour, download the Le’ahi brochure. There is a concession stand and restrooms at the entrance. As one of O’ahu’s most popular attractions, the trail (and parking lot) gets crowded by 8 or 9 AM. Diamond Head park is open six days a week (closed Wednesdays) and has entrance and parking fees.
Koko Crater Railway Trail aka Koko Crater Stairs is 1.6-miles out-and-back (more like straight up and down) with 885-feet elevation gain in East Honolulu. The “stairs” are an old tramway track, which you climb like stairs. It’s often mistakenly called Koko Head stairs. However, you are climbing Koko Crater. Koko Head is the land that juts out on the east side of Maunalua Bay. It is the remnants of an ancient tuff cone comprised mostly of three old vents, the largest of which is Hanauma Bay.
- Note: In 2021, Koko Crater Railway Trail is undergoing renovation. Every person associated with the restoration is volunteering their time and sweat to rebuild the Koko Crater Stairs. (To which we say Mahalo Nui Loa! – Thank you very much!) Feel free to join the crew and help out weekeday mornings; sign up on their website. You can also help out as part of your climb by offering to carry some gravel up the hill, or helping remove the large number of disintegrated rail ties cast to the sides of the trail. Just ask any Koko volunteer there how you can help right on the spot (most are in bright yellow volunteer shirts). If you want to sign up for a work shift, head to: http://kokonutkoalition.org/volunteer
Ehukai Pillbox aka Sunset Pillbox is a 2.3-mile loop trail with 638-feet elevation gain on the north shore of O’ahu. At the top, youʻll be greeted with beautiful views of the O’ahu shoreline, including Ehukai Beach, more commonly known as the Banzai Pipeline. As the name indicates, it is a popular hike at sunset (note: this means you descend the trail in the dark). Part of the hike is very steep, wihch is the moderate part, but the rest is considered easy. Much of the trail is quite rugged (and very slippery if muddy) but has some shade in addition to the fabulous views. There are two pillboxes (i.e. old concrete observation platforms used by military), so be sure to continue to the next one after you reach the first. The path to the second one can be hard to find—it is left of the first pillbox and downhill for several minutes; when you get to a fork in the path, go right. Do not wander onto adjacent private property.
Pu’u o Hulu Trail aka Mā’ili Pillbox or Pink Pillbox is a 2.3-mile loop trail with 679-feet elevation gain on the west coast of O’ahu near the town of Mā’ili. Ascend the narrow ridge to find several bunkers, including one painted hot pink. (Now you know what all the names mean.) Enjoy the views of the Waiʻanae coastline. On a clear day, you’ll see Mount Ka’ala, the island’s tallest peak at 4,025 feet in the Waiʻanae Mountain Range.
Aihualama Trail is 2.5 miles total out-and-back with 1200-feet elevation gain through bamboo forests up the west side of Honoluluʻs Manoa Valley with great views of the city and Diamond Head crater. Access the trail from the cutoff on the Manoa Falls Trail. Aihualama also intersects with other trails in the Honolulu Mauka Trail System (PDF)
Ma‘akua Ridge – Papali Trail and Hau‘ula Loop Trail are adjacent but different 5-mile loop trails with 700-800 feet elevation gain. Each trail traverses two ridges overlooking the Windward Coast. Expect to see forests, a variety of vegetation, wildflowers, and birds. Great hikes any time of year. Hikers seem to split opinions on which is the better trail. So we’ll let you decide for yourself. Which you should do anyway.
Wiliwilinui Access Road and Ridge Trail is 6-miles out-and-back with 1600-feet elevation gain. The trail begins in East Honolulu on a rugged dirt road through a forest and then climbs the ridge to the Ko’olau summit with views of the leeward (western) coast and Waimanalo on the windward (eastern) side of O’ahu. Abide by all rules of the Wiliwilinui Community Association, whose private propety you must traverse. Access can be limited on busy days. Stay on designated trails. More info: East Honolulu Trails: Wiliwilinu, Hawai’iloa, Kuli’ou’ou