15 Best Oahu Hikes: Easy, Intermediate, And Difficult

Ready to take in the best views Oahu has to offer? Let’s explore fifteen of the best hikes on the island with an adventure to suit every ambition and fitness level.

15 Best Oahu Hikes: Easy, Intermediate, And Difficult

Easy Hikes Oahu

We’d define an easy hike as one that’s not too technically challenging and can be done by all the family. You won’t have to swing on ropes, wade through bogs, or climb uneven terrain.

It’s simply a smooth, mellow meander that’ll reward you with beautiful views during your hike and after.

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden Trail

2 Miles
1 Hour Completion Time

This trail will take you roughly an hour to complete. It’s easy, smooth, and quiet, and it’s a great spot for those who love all things bird and fish-related!

The ho’omaluhia botanical garden trail is open all year round, so you can visit this beautiful spot any time you like.

The ho’omaluhia botanical garden trail is sprawling with the best views Oahu has to offer.

From picturesque lakes and walking spots to wide meadows and clear blue shorelines, this hike offers some of the most awe-inspiring views of the island.

If you want a simple, easy-going hike that’ll allow you to move slowly and freely while taking in the sights, the ho’omaluhia botanical garden trail should be at the top of your list.

Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

2.5 Miles
1 Hour Completion Time

Next up, we have the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail. This 2.5-mile hike will again take you just over an hour to complete, and it boasts some of the best views of Oahu’s southeastern coastline.

The lighthouse itself was built in 1909, and it looks almost ethereal when set against the clear seas below.

The trail boasts a selection of offshore islets which are home to some of the island’s best-loved animals, including Hawaiian seabirds such as the frigate bird.

If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the humpback whales while you’re here, this trail is the ultimate vantage point, too!

Expect to see plenty of mountainous landforms, sandy terrain, and blue waters.

Manoa Falls Trail

1.7 Miles
1 Hour Completion Time

The Manoa Falls trail is another easy-going hike that’ll take you on an exquisite, mellow journey through the rainforests of the Koolau mountains.

With minimal inclines and relatively smooth terrain, the Manoa falls trails can be completed by the whole family, and it’s definitely on the ‘walking’ end of the hiking spectrum.

Expect to see plenty of bamboo groves and an awe-inspiring green valley that’s reminiscent of something out of a film.

The setting of the Manoa falls trail is beautifully mystical and an adventure for both the body and the soul.

However, this is a rainforest trail, so expect some muddy and unpaved terrain.

There’s a slight detour mid-trail that takes you through a bamboo trail – although the ground is predominantly smooth, things can get a little slippy – so make sure you’re wearing appropriate footwear!

Dead Man’s Catwalk Hike

1.42 Miles
40 Min Completion Hike

Dead Man’s Catwalk Hike is one of the most famous hikes in Oahu. We promise this isn’t as intimidating as it sounds, despite what the name might suggest.

This hike sits on private property on the island of Oahu – however, this hike IS illegal, and if you’re caught, you will be fined. You’ve been warned.

However, this is one of the most infamous hikes in Oahu, so we can’t not include it on our list.

It may sound perilous, but the dead man’s catwalk hike offers more mellowed scenery and fresh mountain air than danger.

This hike has no narrow ridge lines, and the terrain is relatively smooth.

However, there is an absolutely INCREDIBLE viewpoint near the edge (with a pretty terrifying view down), but you don’t need to get there to complete the hike.

If you’re afraid of heights, we’d advise NOT looking over the edge.

Once you reach the catwalk, expect expansive coastal views. However, you won’t be high enough to feel like your head is in the clouds. If you want postcard-worthy views without the effort of a long hike, this is the perfect trail.

In just a short ascent, you’ll see some of the best of what Oahu has to offer.

The Ehukai Pillbox Hike

The Ehukai Pillbox Hike

2.3 Miles
1 Hour to 90mins Completion Time

The Ehukai Pillbox Hike also called the Sunset Pillbox Hike, offers some truly unique views of the Ehukai Beach, specifically Oahu’s north shore and the Seven Mile Miracle.

Although there’s a bit of a steep climb up, this hike is relatively easy to complete. It doesn’t take too long, and it’s not too elevated – however, if you have small children, you might want to skip this one.

It’ll take you around 30 minutes to reach the top of the ridge, but remember to stay on the trails and obey all posted signs to make your venture up as easy as possible.

As you move along the trail, you’ll find plenty more trees and undergrowth to work your way through, and once you reach the midpoint, you’ll have a picnic bench waiting for you to take a short break.

Feel free to take a minute to enjoy the view – it’s a good one!

Intermediate Hikes Oahu

Looking for more of a challenge? Intermediate hikes may have slightly steeper inclines, more rugged terrain, and longer completion times.

You won’t need to be an expert hiker to complete an intermediate hike, but expect to need more breaks (and more robust footwear).

Three Peaks/Olomana Trail

2-3 Hours Completion Time
4.4 Miles

Our first intermediate hike in Oahu is the Three Peaks/Olomana Trail.

This trail can be found on the windward side of Oahu.

If you can make it to the top, the views at the summit are second to none but be warned; this is a tough one!

The first peak is about 1.5 miles into the hike. It has a high fall consequence, with steep drop-offs on either side.

If you want to go right to the top, expect to do some rock climbing!

However, if you reach the top of this peak, you’ll get some breathtaking 360 views of the terrain around you.

You’ll be pleased to know that the second peak isn’t as tough to reach as the first, and it still gives you an excellent view of your surroundings.

However, the third peak can be a bit more technical to reach (this is where the rope hand lines and rock scrambling come into play).

Expect slippery mud and heated canopies (with some intermittent shade in the forest) on your way to the first peak.

There’s also plenty of undergrowth, acacia trees, and incredible views of the northeast coast of the island, all the way to the Kaneohe and Kualoa. This hike is second to none, but be prepared to get your body moving!

Diamond Head

Diamond Head

1.6 Miles
2 Hours Completion Time

Diamond head is one of the most famous hikes on Oahu.

At Diamond Head, looks are deceiving – it may look like a tough all-day climb, but it can be completed in as little as two hours.

However, this doesn’t mean it’s easy – and some parts are definitely harder than others.

As you work your way through the hike, you’ll reach several lookouts which provide unparalleled ocean views and awe-inspiring scenes of miles of trees.

The second section of Diamond Head requires a walk through long, narrow stairs into a 225ft tunnel (not for the claustrophobic).

As you carry on making your way up to diamond head, you’ll encounter hundreds of steps (literally), a military bunker, and more lookouts.

This isn’t an easy hike, but the views over the Koko crater are worth every second.

Mount Olympus Hike

5.9 Miles
4 Hour Completion Time

If you fancy a challenge, try out this 5.9 mile up Mount Olympus Awaawaloa. This hike begins at the Wa’ahila State Recreation Park, which can be found on the Wa’ahila Trail.

You’ll start off following the signs, but after around an hour, you’ll see the ‘end of trail’ notice.

This doesn’t mean the hike is over, though. In fact, this is where it gets tougher.

Expect plenty of greenery, mountain fog, coastal views, and sights of the urban jungle below you.

If you have children, we wouldn’t recommend bringing them on this hike. If you do attempt this one, keep yourself well hydrated, pace yourself, and wear appropriate footwear.

We’d recommend taking this hike just in time for sunset – the views from the top are awe-inspiring, and with a view of the sunset from the summit, you’ll have an adventure to remember!

Maunawili Falls

Maunawili Falls

3.5 Miles
2-3 Hours Completion Time

This unique hike weaves through a waterfall, a grove of mountain apple trees, and uneven terrain.

Though you should expect to get a little muddy and out of breath, it’s worth it!

This hiking trail is fun and demanding and will require plenty of walking and hopping over rocks and streams.

There are plenty of muddy areas and tree roots to test your dexterity, and expect plenty of steep hillside climbs and rock boulders along the way, too.

When you start to follow the stream, you’ll notice your climb will start to even out.

However, you’ll still be getting your shoes wet, and you may have to make a few leaps between stepping stones!

At the top, take the trail that leads downwards to continue your journey through the jungle, and back to the start.

You’ll have several raised bars to assist you on your walk if you need them. Take care on your descent – some steps can be tricky to scale down, so you’ll need to pay attention.

Unfortunately, the Maunawili Falls trail is closed until 2023 for maintenance. However, when it opens back up, we have no doubt it’ll be just as beautiful as ever.

Waimano Falls

2.9 Miles
1 Hour 45 Min Completion Time

Waimano Falls is filled with dramatic cascades, rocky pools, and taxing forest trails.

It’s one of the most popular waterfall hikes on the island, and though it’s challenging in places, it may be one of the most beautiful sights you’ll ever witness.

Your hike to Waimano Falls begins at a tucked-away cul-de-sac. The gate entrance is usually closed, but don’t worry.

The hiking trail is always accessible. This gate is there purely to prevent vehicles from entering.

As you begin your journey, the start of your trail will start off intermittently shaded and on flat terrain.

This hike gets progressively more challenging, so the smooth start is appreciated!

As you continue up the flat, paved path, you’ll slowly start entering the forest. This is where the roots part of the trail begins.

Things get more challenging here, and you can expect to be descending for the majority of this part of the hike.

However, this descent requires careful movement through old tree trunks and uneven ground, with plenty of loose gravel.

You’ll need to use your hands, and probably your butt, too.

As the descent gets tougher, you’ll see guide ropes to help you. As you continue, you’ll see plenty more rooty areas to test your balance.

If you continue to follow the trail markers, you should eventually see the Waimano Falls.

Your view at the end of the hike is remote, cool, and peaceful, the perfect way to cool off after a challenging climb!

To see Waimano Falls at its best, we’d recommend visiting after a period of heavy rainfall.

Remember though, that this will make your journey more perilous, so be prepared to take longer to reach the falls. The wet ground will require more concentration and care.

Difficult Hikes Oahu

If you really want to put yourself through your paces, let us walk you through some of Oahu’s most challenging hikes.

These hikes are best suited to those with plenty of previous hiking experience and good fitness levels.

Ka’au Crater Hike

5-6 Miles
4-5 Hour Completion Time

The Ka’au Crater Hike is long and rewarding, and it involves climbing UP a waterfall!

This hike also features two more waterfalls, a remote crater, and a pretty perilous peak. This is one of Oahu’s best-loved hikes but be warned, it isn’t easy.

This hike involves plenty of mud, ropes, inclines, and getting wet – so it’s far more adventurous than many of the other hikes we’ve discussed.

There’s no easing into this trail, either – you’ll be thrown straight into the middle of the jungle, with dangling vines and canopies above you.

As you progress through the hike, things get muddy, so prepare to slip and fall a few times. However, the views from each waterfall are worth every second!

Koko Head Stairs

Koko Head Stairs

7 Miles
90 Mins Completion Time

Koko Head Stairs is no small feat. It’s steep with no shade, and it’s intense on the legs. In fact, you’ll be climbing around 1000 steps to the top!

Once you reach the summit, though, you’ll be almost 1,200 feet above Kawaii Kai with views of Hanauma Bay – what could be better?

Sure, this hike is technically just stairs, but the incline is rapid, and you’ll really put yourself through your paces.

Don’t be deceived – this is one of the most physically challenging hikes you may ever do. We would recommend tackling this one in the early morning to avoid the heat, there’s no shade here!

Seven Falls Hike

Miles Unknown
8-10 Hours Completion Time

This is by far the most challenging hike on our list. This hike involves seven cascading waterfalls, plenty of rope, slippery terrain, rock hopping, and lots of heights.

This hike should NOT be attempted by inexperienced hikers and climbers. This journey also comes with some significant fall risks, so please, don’t take this hike on alone.

If you’re up to the challenge, though, the seven-falls hike is an experience of a lifetime.

Expect to see lush green jungles, narrow valleys, and waterfalls. This can take as long as ten hours, so plan accordingly.

Wailupe Loop Trail

5.3 Miles
4 Hours Completion Time

This hike is packed full of steep ascents, muddy, slippery, uneven terrain, and plenty of overgrowth.

In other words, it’s not easy. The loops connect two ridges of the Ko’olau Mountain Range, so this isn’t a hike for those that hate heights.

Your hike will probably begin under a canopy in the Wailupe valley.

A vast expanse of greenery sprawls out before you, and at this point, the ground is relatively easy to walk on.

However, plenty of rocks and tree roots soon take over the path, so you’ll need a good grip to keep steady.

As you go deeper into the forest, expect streams, plenty of shaded areas, and uphill climbs.

Once you start walking along the ridge, you’ll see some ethereal views of the brushy forest below and beyond. At the peak, you can expect a strong breeze and clear views for miles.

The ocean looks incredible from here, as does the rest of Oahu!

Pride Rock to Pu’u Ohulehule Hike

3.8 Miles
5-7 Hours Completion Time

No, this has nothing to do with the Lion King. However, Pride Rock is one of the best sunrise viewpoints in Oahu, so you may just feel like you’re there!

If you want an easier hike, you can simply climb to the top of pride rock, which takes roughly 30 minutes.

However, if you’re doing the Pu’u Ohulehule Hike, you can expect this to take between 5-7 hours – it’s pretty damn grueling.

The journey to the top of pride rock is steep in itself, and it does require a few short rope sections. However, the rest of the hike is much more complex.

There are steep ascents and descents, large rockfalls, more rope climbs, and not many paths.

Much of this journey is overgrown and on technical terrain, too, so we wouldn’t recommend trying this if you’re not an experienced climber.

If you do get to the summit, though, expect plenty of tropical views, miles of clear coast, and a view down into Kualoa Ranch and beyond.

We’d recommend stopping just before the summit to get the best view, as dense tree covering blocks most of it from the summit.

Final Thoughts

Oahu has so much to offer. From bustling city life to breathtaking wildlife, the island has it all.

If you want to see the best of Oahu, pack your bags and get ready to hike – whether you’re a beginner or an experienced climber, our list has something for everyone.

Richard Ennis