5 Honolulu hikes that will make you see the world differently
By Theo Panagopoulos, Jul 2020
A city of natural wonders, Honolulu brims with breathtaking landscapes. Get ready for an adventure in Hawaii's capital city with these five Honolulu hikes, which reveal the island's diverse scenery and give you glimpses of Oahu's magical surroundings from new vantage points.
One quick note before you lace up your boots: Make sure you stick to the parts of the trail that are open to the public. No matter which of the many Honolulu hikes on offer you choose, follow the area guidelines to keep yourself and the native flora and fauna safe.
1. Diamond Head
Diamond Head State Monument is one of Hawaii's most popular landmarks and its summit is easily accessible via a moderate hiking trail, making it the ideal kick-off hike on your island adventure. Called Le'ahi by Native Hawaiians (it loosely translates to "brow of the tuna"), the 762-foot volcanic crater got its English name from 19th-century British sailors, who mistakenly thought they'd discovered diamonds on a nearby beach.
When you summit Diamond Head, you'll be greeted with extraordinary views of Waikiki and the south shore of Oahu. The hike takes around two hours and the trail includes two sets of stairs, underground tunnels and old military bunkers.
Hike through the rainforest to a 150-foot high waterfall at the end of the Manoa Falls Trail.
2. Manoa Falls Trail
About 30 minutes from Honolulu's bustling city center lies a paradise on earth: the spectacular Manoa Falls, where parts of "Jurassic Park" were filmed. As it's one of the easiest and shortest Honolulu hikes (it's about 1.6 miles round trip), the Manoa Falls Trail is a popular tourist destination.
The scent of eucalyptus trees and tropical flowers welcomes you at the start of your journey through one of Oahu's rainforests. Even though the trail is considered easy, you'll need closed-toe hiking shoes to navigate the gooey mud puddles along the way. At the end of your swampy slog, you'll be rewarded with a view of the 150-foot high waterfall.
3. Makapuu Point
Perched on a 600-foot sea cliff at the easternmost tip of Oahu, the Makapuu Point Lighthouse offers a spectacular view of the Windward Coast. The scenery is mesmerizing: Makapuu Beach stretches beneath your feet, and the Moloka'i Channel runs right past the lighthouse, which was built in 1909. On a clear day, you can see Manana, Kaohikaipu and Moloka'i in the distance; during whale-watching season, you can spot the cetaceans using the on-site telescopes or, if you brought them, binoculars.
The 2-mile paved trail offers a moderately easy hike and is dotted with lookout points that offer photo-worthy views of the ocean landscape. The entrance opens at 7 a.m., and, because it gets hot, it's recommended that you embark on your hike as early as possible.
Take in the impressive views along the Kuliouou Ridge Trail outside Honolulu.
4. Kuliouou Ridge Trail
Level up your hiking adventures at Kuliouou Ridge Trail. This steep 4.4-mile path takes you through a lush pine forest, thick bushes and rocky areas before ending at a clearing that reveals the surrounding summits: the Na Mokulua to your left, and Rabbit Island and Koko Head to your right.
Depending on your fitness level and experience, it'll take between two and four hours to complete the Kuliouou Ridge Trail. The trail is a 20-minute drive from Honolulu, and you'll have to walk along a paved road before entering the path.
5. Olomana Trail
Spanning approximately 4.5 miles and with an elevation gain of 1,643 feet, the Olomana Trail is one of the most challenging Honolulu hikes. (We really only recommend it if you're an experienced hiker.) Olomana comprises three imposing peaks; it takes about two hours to reach the top of the first and up to seven hours to complete the entire route.
Most of the trail is challenging, with steep drop-offs and several sections that require significant rock climbing, so make sure to wear high-quality hiking boots. The views from the first peak are as impressive as they are from any point afterward, so newcomers usually end their hike there. Bring water and some snacks, and you can enjoy a quick meal while soaking in panoramic views of the island.
The scenery and difficulty of these five Honolulu hikes vary, but each offers an incredible opportunity to get a new perspective (literally) on Oahu's distinctive landscapes.
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