25 Best Hikes In Oahu Hawaii: Top Oahu Hikes & Hiking Trails

It’s hard to come up with a list of the best hikes in Oahu Hawaii, because there are so many good ones!

Oahu may be the busiest and most populated Hawaiian island, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great Oahu hikes and nature trails to get away from the bustle and see some spectacular mountains, beaches, and waterfalls.

I’ve spent many months exploring Hawaii over the years, and especially the island of Oahu, and I think hitting up the hiking trails is definitely one of the best things to do in Oahu Hawaii.

A few of these trails are difficult or technical, but there are also quite a few easy hikes on Oahu for the families and older folks, including some Honolulu hikes that you can reach easily from the city.

Without further ado, this is my guide to the top Oahu hikes and hiking trails! In my opinion, these are some of the very best hikes in Oahu Hawaii.


Where To Stay In Oahu

 

Best Hikes In Oahu Hawaii

 

1. Stairway To Heaven (Haiku Stairs)

This hike is epic and dangerous. Still interested? The ‘Stairway to Heaven’ takes you to the top of the Ko’olau mountains via 3,922 metal stairs of pure adrenaline and doom. At some points, the stairway is almost vertical, clinging to the side of the steep mountain.

There’s an old World War II radio station at the top of the mountain, but the stairway has been closed since the 1980s, and fines of up to $1,000 have been given out to people caught climbing it. The area is even patrolled by security guards around the clock.

Still, thousands of people make the climb every year, and for good reason — it’s one of the most spectacular hikes on Earth!

Even after traveling in dozens of countries now, this is still my favorite hike in the world. It may never be topped!

Difficulty: Hard

Best Hikes In Oahu Hawaii Top Oahu Hiking Trails Stairway To Heaven
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Stairway To Heaven Hawaii
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Stairway To Heaven Hawaii
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2. Moanalua Valley Trail

If you want to see the ‘Stairway To Heaven’ legally, with virtually no chance of fines, you can hike up the Moanalua Valley Trail on the back side of the same mountain. This is known as the back way for the Stairway To Heaven.

The Moanalua Valley Trail takes you up a steep, strenuous dirt path with ropes and no stairs, but you can reach the ‘Stairway To Heaven’ at the top and go back down in either direction when you’re done.

Keep in mind, to stay 100% legal on this hike you will have to go back the same way you came. If you hike up the Moanalua trail and then down the stairs, you’re still risking a fine, because the stairway is not legal.

However, it’s possible to take some great pictures on the stairs and then leave via Moanalua without hiking the entire stairway from top to bottom, that way you get to experience two epic hikes in one.

The Moanalua trail can be muddy after rain, so check the conditions before you go. You definitely want good weather for this hike. Wind and rain can make it much harder and more risky.

Ironically, the general consensus is that the stairs are actually a safer and easier route to the top of the mountain. The main reason to take the back way is to stay legal and rule out any possible fines.

Difficulty: Hard

Moanalua Valley Trail Legal Back Way
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Moanalua Valley Trail Legal Back Way
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Moanalua Valley Trail Legal Back Way
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Moanalua Valley Trail — the ‘back way’ for the Stairway To Heaven

 

3. Crouching Lion Hike

Crouching Lion is one of my favorite Oahu hikes. It’s a short but epic trail that ends with a panoramic view of the mountains and jungle at Kahana Bay, in northeast Oahu.

You can stop at this hill after an easy hike, or keep going up the mountain and the trail will eventually merge with Pu’u Manamana, one of the scariest and most dangerous cliff trails in Hawaii.

All in all, Crouching Lion is definitely one of the best hikes in Oahu!

Difficulty: Easy / Moderate

Read More: Crouching Lion Hike

Best Hikes In Oahu Hawaii Top Oahu Hiking Trails Crouching Lion
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Crouching Lion Hike
Best Hikes In Oahu Hawaii Top Oahu Hiking Trails Crouching Lion
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Crouching Lion Hike

4. Lanikai Pillbox Hike

The Lanikai pillbox is one of the easiest Oahu hikes and also one of the most popular spots on the windward side of the island.

This hike takes you to a couple of World War II-era concrete bunkers above Lanikai Beach, and the 360 degree views that you get on top of the bunkers are amazing.

It’s a very short hike (you could probably do it in 15 minutes if you rushed), but it’s all uphill and a bit strenuous, so it still feels plenty challenging.

Last, but not least, the Lanikai pillbox is one of the best sunrise and sunset spots on the whole island!

Difficulty: Easy

Read More: Lanikai Pillbox Hike

Best Hikes In Oahu Hawaii Top Oahu Hiking Trails Lanikai Pillbox
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Lanikai Pillbox Hike
Best Hikes In Oahu Hawaii Top Oahu Hiking Trails Lanikai Pillbox Sunrise
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Lanikai Pillbox Sunrise Hike

5. Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

This one’s not really a hike per se, but it’s more like an easy stroll on a path around a lake.

Even so, it’s one of the most stunning places on the island of Oahu, and it’s free to visit, so you can’t miss it.

The Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden has more than 400 acres of Jurassic Park-esque tropical scenery, making it perfect for a morning walk or jog.

Difficulty: Easy

Best Hikes In Oahu Hawaii Top Oahu Hiking Trails Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden
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Best Hikes In Oahu Hawaii Top Oahu Hiking Trails Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden
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Best Hikes In Oahu Hawaii Top Oahu Hiking Trails Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden
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Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

 

6. Chinaman’s Hat (Mokolii Island)

The Chinaman’s Hat island, also called Mokolii island, is a neat little mini island that got its name from the unique shape that looks kind of like a traditional Asian rice farming hat.

This is a little island located on the windward side of Oahu, and the best way to reach it is by kayak, or sometimes it’s also possible to wade to it when the tide is low.

You may not see this one very often on lists of the best Oahu hiking trails, but the climb to the top of the ‘hat’ is a good, rocky scramble and you’re rewarded with some amazing views of the Ko’olau mountain range!

Difficulty: Moderate

Read More: Chinamans Hat Hike

Chinaman's Hat Island (Mokolii Island) Chinamans Hat Kayak Hike Oahu Hawaii Drone
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Kayak Chinamans Hat island and bring a drone to capture views like this!

 

7. Diamond Head Lookout

This is a paved hike with railings most of the way, and it takes you to the top of the old Diamond Head volcano crater.

From the top, you can look out over Waikiki and the whole Honolulu cityscape, and you also get to see the remains of some World War II pillboxes.

This trail can be pretty busy with tourists sometimes, but I still think it’s worthwhile for the city views from the summit.

Difficulty: Easy

Read More: Diamond Head Crater Hike

Diamond Head Lookout Hike
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Diamond Head Lookout

8. Pink Pillbox Hike

This is a ridge hike that takes you to some small World War II bunkers on the west side of Oahu, including a pink painted bunker at the top of the ridge.

You can walk inside any of these concrete bunkers or climb on top of them, and you get some great views of the Waianae neighborhoods in the distance.

It’s still an underrated hike, so you may have the trail mostly to yourself!

Difficulty: Easy

Pink Pillbox Maili Waianae
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Maili / Pink Pillbox Hike

Pink Pillbox Maili Waianae Drone
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Amazing views of the Waianae coast

 

9. Ka’ena Point Trail

The Ka’ena Point hike takes you to the remote western tip of Oahu island.

This is a pretty quiet part of the island, so it’s a great place to see Hawaiian monk seals, whales, and other wildlife! In one hike, I counted 5 seals lounging on the rocks at Ka’ena Point.

It’s a 5 mile round trip hike, but the trail is flat all the way to Ka’ena Point, making it pretty easy overall. This is also one of the best sunset spots on the whole island.

Difficulty: Easy

Read More: Ka’ena Point Hike

Best Hikes In Oahu Hawaii Top Oahu Hiking Trails Ka'ena Point
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Ka’ena Point Hike
Hawaiian Monk Seal
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Hawaiian monk seal lounging on the beach
Ka'ena Point Sunset
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Sunset at Ka’ena Point

10. Pu’u Ma’eli’eli Trail

This is one of the less known Oahu hikes, and it’s pretty easy.

It’s another short pillbox hike that gives you views of Kaneohe Bay and the entire windward side of the island. You can even sit and watch the U.S. Marine Corps planes flying in and out of the base at MCBH.

The other bonus is that it’s a barely known hike, so it’s never crowded. We were the only people on the trail!

Difficulty: Easy

Pu'u Ma'eli'eli Trail
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Pu’u Ma’eli’eli Trail

 

11. Upper Makua Cave

The short but steep hike to Upper Makua Cave is not recommended if you have a fear of heights. This one is a guaranteed adrenaline rush.

It’s a hidden gem on the west side of the island, and there were only a couple of other people on the trail when I went.

The view from inside the cave looks like a picture frame of the west coast! It’s a very unique view.

Difficulty: Easy

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12. Hanauma Bay Ridge Trail

This is a short, paved hike that gives you sweeping views of the beautiful Hanauma Bay, which is one of Oahu’s most famous snorkeling spots. The hike can be as long (or short) as you make it.

Most people will only follow this trail to the top of the ridge and then turn around, but if you continue south along the bay you can find a natural rock bridge by the sea and other interesting sights.

Morning is the best time to do the Hanauma Bay Ridge Trail since it’s better for photos and not quite so hot. The trail starts from a locked gate right by the entrance to Hanauma Bay.

Difficulty: Easy

Best Hikes In Oahu Hawaii Top Oahu Hiking Trails Hanauma Bay Ridge Trail
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Hanauma Bay Ridge Trail

 

13. Mauna Lahilahi

Mauna Lahilahi is a small, rocky mountain on the Makaha coast, with beautiful beaches on both sides.

This hike is a bit of a hidden gem on the west side of Oahu. You can reach the top in only 15 minutes, but it requires some short rock scrambling that could be unnerving for inexperienced hikers. Proceed with caution.

At the top, you get amazing 360 degree views of the Makaha coastline, with Papaoneone Beach and the Hawaiian Princess Resort dominating the landscape.

Difficulty: Easy / Moderate

Best Hikes In Oahu Hawaii Top Oahu Hiking Trails Mauna Lahilahi Makaha
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Mauna Lahilahi panorama

Best Hikes In Oahu Hawaii Top Oahu Hiking Trails Mauna Lahilahi Makaha
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Beach views from the top of Mauna Lahilahi

 

14. Koko Head Stairs

The hike to the top of this old volcano crater is a huge workout, hence the nickname ‘Stairs of Doom.’ It’s like Hawaii’s version of the famously challenging Manitou Incline in Colorado.

The elevation on this hike isn’t as bad as the Manitou Incline, but Hawaii’s midday heat can still make it pretty tough.

I hated this hike the first time I did it, but now I’ve really grown to enjoy it. It easily belongs in a list of the best hikes in Oahu!

The good news is that this is also one of the best places to watch the sunset on the whole island of Oahu. I’ve climbed Koko Head almost a dozen times now, and the sunset view at the top is always spectacular.

Difficulty: Moderate / Hard

Best Hikes In Oahu Hawaii Top Oahu Hiking Trails Koko Head Crater Volcano Stairs
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Koko Head

Best Hikes In Oahu Hawaii Top Oahu Hiking Trails Koko Head Sunset
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Koko Head is one of the best Oahu hikes, and it’s also a great place to see the sunset!

 

15. Koko Crater Rim

Have you ever wanted to walk along the rim of an extinct volcano crater? Here’s your chance! The Koko Crater Rim trail loops in a circle along the top of the Koko Crater.

The north rim of this crater is difficult and potentially dangerous, but the south rim (the side nearest the ocean) is quite a bit tamer and safer. If you only hike the south rim, I’d describe it as moderate.

Part of the fun of the Koko Crater Rim hike is that there are many ways to do it. You can start from the Koko Crater Botanical Garden and loop around the entire crater rim in a circle, or just hike up the south rim of the crater and go down the Koko Stairs.

There’s even a path on the south rim that intersects with the Koko Arch hike (below), that way you can do three hikes in one!

Difficulty: Moderate / Hard

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Koko Crater

Koko Crater Rim
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Climbing the south rim of the Koko Crater

 

16. Koko Arch

This is a short, easy hike that leads to a natural rock arch on the south slope of the Koko Head crater.

The arch is giant, and it’s supposed to be a good spot for sunrise too. The main trailhead starts by the road at the Halona Beach Lookout, and it’s only 1/2 mile to the arch, so you can reach it in under 10 minutes.

If you want to turn this into a much longer, more difficult hike, you can climb up the arch and hike along the south Koko Crater rim to the top of Koko Head, and then go down the Koko Stairs (or do the same thing in the opposite direction)!

Difficulty: Easy

Koko Arch
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Koko Arch

 

17. Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

This is a nice family-friendly hike where you can see a lighthouse, a few World War II pillboxes, and (if you’re lucky) humpback whales! The best time to see whales here is between the months of November and May.

The Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail is located on the southeastern corner of Oahu, and it’s one of the only places on the island where you can see such a picturesque lighthouse, which is why I think it’s one of the best Oahu hikes.

Even though the trail is entirely paved, it’s a bit of an uphill trudge and the path is entirely exposed to the sun, so you’ll want to bring a hat and some sunscreen for this one.

Difficulty: Easy / Moderate

Best Hikes In Oahu Hawaii Top Oahu Hiking Trails Makapuu Lighthouse Trail
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Makapuu Lighthouse

Best Hikes In Oahu Hawaii Top Oahu Hiking Trails Makapuu Lighthouse Trail Drone
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Aerial view of the Makapuu Lighthouse

 

18. Lulumahu Falls

This is a nice 50-foot waterfall near the Pali Highway that you can reach in about 45 minutes of hiking. It’s doable for all ages, although you’ll have to contend with some mud, slippery rocks, and mosquitoes. Shoes and bug spray are a good idea.

Lulumahu Falls is a nice waterfall hike, and if you have time you can see a second waterfall and some Hawaiian ruins in this same area. Take a detour through the bamboo forest to find Luakaha Falls and the Kaniakapupu Ruins (King Kamehameha III’s summer home).

Technically a permit is required for any part of this hike, although it doesn’t seem to be enforced. Most people skip the permit, but it’s very cheap and you can buy permits online here if you want the peace of mind.

Difficulty: Easy

Best Hikes In Oahu Hawaii Top Oahu Hiking Trails Lulumahu Falls Waterfall
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Lulumahu Falls

19. Manoa Falls

This is a 150-foot waterfall that can be reached on a short, easy trail through the jungle. Combine it with the nearby Lyon Arboretum for even more tropical scenery!

Manoa Falls is located near Honolulu and it’s suitable for all ages, although the path is a bit rocky and it can get muddy after rain, so you’ll want to wear shoes.

Keep in mind this waterfall is on the leeward side of Oahu, so it tends to be more seasonal and dries up easily. Check conditions before you go.

The best time to visit Manoa Falls is after a big rain, or during the wetter months (November to March), otherwise it may be a disappointing trickle.

Difficulty: Easy
 

20. Likeke Falls

This is one of the shortest and easiest Oahu hiking trails. If you keep a good pace, you can reach the waterfall in only 15 minutes!

Likeke Falls is on the windward side of the island, and along the trail you can see exotic plants and mountain views. The strange yellow flowers on this hike are Rattlesnake Gingers.

The waterfall itself is not particularly amazing, but I think it’s well worth such an easy trek.

Difficulty: Easy

Likeke Falls Waterfall Hike
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Likeke Falls Rattlesnake Ginger
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21. Pali Puka

This is a short but intense little hike that starts from the Pali Lookout, ending at a ‘puka’ (window in the rock) that gives you views of the whole windward side of Oahu.

It’s a fun hike, but I’d rate it as moderate because the whole thing is an uphill trudge with slippery tree roots and occasionally steep drop-offs. It’s not a very dangerous hike since you can mostly avoid the cliff sections by cutting through the forest, although I still wouldn’t recommend it for people with mobility issues or a fear of heights.

Like many hiking trails in Oahu, this one is unsanctioned. The hike starts from the bus parking lot at the Pali Lookout, but the entrance can be a bit hard to see at first if there are a lot of tour buses parked there. Just look for a small clearing in the jungle with a caution sign.

Difficulty: Moderate

Best Hikes In Oahu Hawaii Top Oahu Hiking Trails Pali Puka Hike
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Pali Puka
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Pali Puka Hike
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Pali Puka
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22. Maunawili Falls

If I had to pick a favorite waterfall hike in Oahu, it would probably be Maunawili Falls. It may not be a huge waterfall, but there’s a great swimming hole below, and you can climb up and jump from the rocks.

I’d rate this one as easy or moderate. The hike to the waterfall doesn’t take too long, but it involves stream crossings, muddy patches, and mosquitoes. Along the way, you pass through some beautiful jungle scenery.

The main trailhead for Maunawili Falls is sadly closed until summer 2023, but it’s still possible to reach the waterfall via the alternate trail from the Pali Highway, which is longer and harder.

Difficulty: Easy / Moderate
 

23. Olomana (Three Peaks)

The Three Peaks hike (also known as Olomana) is one of the most difficult hikes in Oahu, Hawaii. It might also be the most dangerous mainstream hike Oahu has to offer.

Quite a few tourists and locals have died on the second and third peaks, including one as recently as 2022. I don’t want to scare you out of doing Olomana if you’re capable, but it’s important to know the risks. This hike is no joke.

If you want to make this hike safer and easier, you can just go to the first or second peak and then turn back. The general consensus is that the most scenic views are from the first and second peaks anyway.

However, even if you only plan to go to the first peak, be aware there is a rock climbing section near the end that’s a bit scary, so I still wouldn’t recommend it for people who aren’t comfortable with heights.

Olomana Three Peaks Hike
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The ominous third peak of Olomana

The third peak of Olomana is where the main danger lies. There are times where you’ll be climbing vertically with your hands on exposed terrain (or with ropes) where a fall would be long and fatal.

Bring water and a friend. Weather is also an important factor for this hike. It would be especially dangerous if it’s wet or raining, so remember to keep an eye on the current weather conditions before you go.

If you only go to the first peak, you can finish the hike in about 3 hours roundtrip. If you go to the third peak and back, plan on taking longer.

Difficulty: Hard
 

24. Waimea Falls

This is a family friendly North Shore hike that features a nice swimming waterfall and botanical garden. Hiking Oahu has never been easier than a stroll through the Waimea Valley.

Most of the hike is flat, and along the way you get to walk through a quiet jungle valley with all kinds of rare plants and a handful of Hawaiian cultural sites.

I’ve rated this as one of the best Oahu hikes because it’s relatively easy and you get to see a lot of nice scenery for such a short hike. It’s definitely one of the best North Shore hikes!

Difficulty: Easy

Waimea Falls Waterfall Hike
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Waimea Valley Flower
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25. Ehukai Pillbox Hike

Also known as the ‘peace pillbox’ hike, this is a nice trail on the North Shore with views of Ehukai and the coast from above.

There are two concrete World War II pillboxes on this hike. The view at the first one is blocked by trees, but it’s still fun to walk inside the bunker. From here, you continue past some boulders and down the hill until you reach the second pillbox, which has stunning views of the North Shore.

Overall, it’s a family friendly hike with a fair amount of elevation gain, similar to the Lanikai pillbox trail, although this one has a lot more shade since you’re walking through a forest for most of the hike.

The trailhead for the Ehukai pillbox hike is clearly marked and it starts from the parking lot of Sunset Beach Elementary School, which is right next to Ehukai Beach Park.

Difficulty: Easy
 

Map Of Oahu Hikes

You can use this map of Oahu hikes to plan your trip. Keep in mind some of the locations on this map are approximate.

For more information on how to find the exact trailheads for some of these hikes on Oahu, please check out my individual travel guides for each hike.

As always, please remember to keep the trail clean, be considerate of other hikers, and leave no trace. Thanks and happy travels!
 

 

Honolulu Hikes: Best Hikes In Honolulu Hawaii

If you’re mainly interested in Honolulu hikes that you can reach easily from the city, here are a few recommendations.

These are some of the best hikes in Honolulu and the nearby area:

  • Diamond Head Lookout (Easy / Moderate)
  • Ka’au Crater Trail (Hard)
  • Koko Head Stairs (Moderate / Hard)
  • Kuliouou Ridge Trail (Moderate)
  • Manoa Falls (Easy)
  • Mount Olympus (Hard)
  • Wiliwilinui Trail (Moderate)
Pink Pillbox Maili Waianae
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The pink pillbox hike in Waianae is one of the best easy hikes on Oahu.

Best Easy Hikes On Oahu

Oahu has quite a few easy hikes that are manageable for families with kids, as well as older folks.

These are some of the best easy hikes on Oahu Hawaii:

  • Lanikai Pillbox Hike (Kailua)
  • Diamond Head Lookout (Honolulu)
  • Manoa Falls (Honolulu)
  • Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden (Kaneohe)
  • Likeke Falls (Kaneohe)
  • Pu’u Ma’eli’eli Trail (Kaneohe)
  • Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail (Hawaii Kai)
  • Waimea Falls (North Shore)
  • Ehukai Pillbox Hike (North Shore)
  • Ka’ena Point (North Shore)
  • Pink Pillbox Hike (Waianae)

 

Best Oahu Tours

 

Oahu Hotels

 

More Hawaii Travel Tips

I hope you enjoyed this list of the best hikes in Oahu.

Don’t forget to check out my complete list of the best things to do in Oahu Hawaii!