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Oahu is the third largest and most populous island in Hawaii. It’s home to the state capital of Honolulu, the beautiful North Shore, and the vibrant neighborhood of Waikiki. Oahu has a great mix of activities. There are restaurants, shops, museums, andphenomenal beaches. However, if you wish to escape the city, a hike is the perfect way to get some exercise while immersing yourself in nature. Discover magnificent views, waterfalls, and ancient ruins. Continue reading for beautiful and easy hikes in Oahu.
Best Time to Go to Oahu
Oahu can be visited year-round but there are some months that are better than others. Oahu is on the edge of a tropical zone so it only sees two seasons. The dry season and the rainy season. The dry season is from April to October and the rainy season is from November to March. Both are generally warm but you’ll see more gray skies and storms during the rainy season.
The high season, when Oahu sees the most visitors, is from December to March. During this time prices for airfare, accommodation, and rental cars will be at their highest. The off-season is from mid-April to mid-June and September to mid-December. These months are generally the best time to visit. During this time you’ll find far fewer crowds and better rates.
How to Get Around Oahu
The easiest way to get around Oahu is by car. It will give you the freedom to explore the island and is the quickest way to reach your destination. However, parking can be a challenge in certain areas, especially Waikiki. Make sure your hotel has parking available and don’t forget to factor parking fees into your costs. You will likely spend some days relaxing and other days exploring. You may not need a car the whole time. Instead of renting one on arrival, you may wish to wait and rent one in Waikiki.
The most affordable way of getting around Oahu is by bus. The bus has 93 routes around the island and is easy to use but it can be slow. It’s best for short distances around Waikiki and downtown areas. A shuttle is a great way to get from the airport to your hotel and rideshare apps can be used to get around the island. There are also guided tours from Waikiki to many of the locations listed below.
Beautiful & Easy Hikes in Oahu:
1. Makapuu Point Lighthouse Hike
The Makapuu Point Lighthouse was built in 1909 on a 600 ft (183 m) cliff overlooking Makapuu Beach. It’s located off Kalanianaole Highway (Hwy 72) near Waimea at the southeasternmost point of Oahu. The hike is 2.5 mi (4 km) roundtrip and is fairly easy. You can expect it to take about an hour to complete. The trail is short and paved; however, the elevation gain is about 500 ft (152 m) and there is little shade. You’ll want to bring a hat and water.
The Makapuu Lighthouse trail leads to an observation deck with fantastic views. A short dirt path provides direct access to the lighthouse. From the deck, you’ll be able to see Oahu’s southeastern coastline, including Koko Head and Koko Crater. Hawaiian seabirds can also be seen and if you’re visiting during whale season (November – May), you may have the chance to see a humpback whale. I suggest bringing binoculars.
2. Lanikai Pillbox Trail
The Lanikai Pillbox Hike, also known as the Kaiwa Ridge Trail is one of the best on this list of easy hikes in Oahu. The hike takes you high above Lanikai Beach for incredible panoramic views. Throughout the climb, you’ll see the Mokulua Islands and Kailua Bay. The trail was nicknamed the Pillbox Trail after the two pillboxes located along its cliffside. The pillboxes are metal bunkers that were used as lookout points during WWII.
The heavily trafficked trail is just 1.8 mi (2.9 km) roundtrip but is rated as moderate since it is somewhat steep. It takes about one hour to 90 min to complete. The first bunker can be reached in about 30 min and the second in an additional 10 min. Most people turn around once they reach the second bunker. The Pillbox Hike is the perfect sunrise hike. It’s definitely one worth getting up early for. I would start the hike about 30-40 min before sunrise so you have enough time to reach the pillbox and watch the sun come up over the ocean. If visiting on a weekday morning, make sure you take traffic into account.
The Lanikai Pillbox Trail is located on the east side of the island about 30 min from Honolulu. The trail can be accessed through two public entrances that are found in residential neighborhoods. One entrance is located inEnchanted Lakes at Kamahele Street and the other is on Kaelepulu Drive near Lanikai Beach. The trailhead onKaelepulu Drive is the more popular. It’s located across from Mid-Pacific Country Club and next to a private driveway. Don’t stray from the trail, the surrounding land is private property and you will put yourself at risk for trespassing. Parking is street only and is much easier to find in the early morning hours.
3. Diamond Head Summit Trail
Diamond Head is one of Hawaii’s most iconic landmarks and the hike to its summit continues to be one of the most popular easy hikes on Oahu. The crater was formed about 300,000 years ago during a single, explosive eruption. The now-dormant volcano is situated near Waikiki’s coastline and the coastal views from the top are nothing short of amazing. Go on a self-guided hike or join a tour.
The hike is 1.6 mi (2.6 km) roundtrip and climbs 560 vertical ft. (171 m). It’s not a long trail but due to its elevation gain, it’s more of a moderate hike. I would allow 1.5 to 2 hours to complete the hike. There are plenty of rest points along the way. The best time to hike Diamond Head is either early morning upon opening or late in the afternoon. Make sure to bring lots of water, comfortable shoes, and sunscreen.
Currently, Diamond Head State Monument is open daily with the exception of Wednesdays. The last entrance to hike the trail is at 4:00 pm and the gates are locked at 6:00 pm. There are entrance and parking fees for non-residents. Admission is $5 USD per person and parking is $10 USD per vehicle.
4. Waimea Falls Park
Waimea Falls is one of Oahu’s more accessible waterfalls. It’s located within Waimea Valley,a cultural and archeological site. The trail is an easy stroll through beautiful botanical gardens. The walk is 3.5 mi (2.2 km) round trip on paved, mostly flat pathways and it takes about 20-30 min to reach the falls. For those that have mobility issues, there is a shuttle that runs to the falls from the park entrance.
Waimea Falls is 45 ft (13.7 m) tall and its waters flow from the Kamanui Stream. Swimming is allowed at the falls and it’s the perfect way to cool down on your hike. There are restrooms available for changing and lifeguards on-site. The water is checked regularly for bacteria, but as always, it is probably best to avoid freshwater if you have any open cuts.
The entrance to Waimea Valley can be found off of Kamehameha Highway near the North Shore. The price of admission is $20 USD and includes a complimentary tour. Park hours are season-dependent so make sure to check the schedule in advance. The park is closed on Mondays during the winter.
5. Kaniakapupu Ruins
Kaniakapupu, also called the King Kamehameha III Summer Home, was built on Oahu in 1845 as a palace for King Kamehameha III and Queen Kalamato. The secluded palace allowed them to escape Western influence and served as a place to entertain Hawaiians in the form of luaus and other celebrations. It’s most famous for hosting a luau in 1847 that brought over 10,000 guests to the palace. The palace was short-lived though and was already designated as ruins in 1874.
Kaniakapupu Ruins are located in the Nu’uanu Valley on private property. The trail isn’t monitored but you are risking a trespassing citation. The site is frequently visited and if you do decide to go, please keep in mind that the ruins are considered sacred. Be respectful and don’t walk on any structures or remove anything from the area. The trail isn’t so much a hike as it is a light trek through a bamboo forest. There are no designated parking areas or signage leading to the trailhead. The trail starts at an opening in the bamboo, located across from the water tower.
You’ll find two pathways. Continue going straight to get to the ruins or take the pathway to the right to Luakaha Waterfall. The waterfall is on a separate piece of privately owned land, so please enjoy it from afar. At the time of my visit, the pathway to the ruins was marked with orange tape tied to the bamboo stalks. It was fairly easy to follow. You’ll eventually see a stream and not long after that a rock wall, marking the beginning of the ruins.
Where to Stay in Oahu
The Royal Hawaiian is by far Oahu’s most beautiful hotel. The hotel was built in 1927 and has become an iconic luxury resort. The property is located on Waikiki Beach and has its own private beachfront cabanas. Rooms have views of Diamond Head and the Pacific Ocean. The hotel has two pools, multiple restaurants, a bar, and a spa.
Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa is located across from the beach in Waikiki. It’s less than a block from Kuhio Beach Park and just 2.5 mi (4 km) from Diamond Head Crater Park. The two modern high-rise towers offer incredible views. The property has 5 restaurants, 2 pools, a gym, and a spa.
Moana Surfrider is a beautiful hotel that’s located just steps from Waikiki Beach. The colonial-style property was built in 1901 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has a freshwater pool, a private beach area, a gym, a spa, and a variety of dining options.
Have you visited Hawaii? What are your favorite easy hikes in Oahu?If you’ve enjoyed this post, please leave a comment or share using the social media buttons below. Looking for more tropical vacation ideas? Continue to my post, “Six Fun Things to Do in Exuma, Bahamas“.