Just an archipelagic speck in the middle of the Pacific, Hawai'i is a green gem in an otherwise endless stretch of blue. It may come as a surprise, then, that this small island chain in the middle of the ocean has a variety of day hikes to enjoy. Its roughly 6,000 square miles encompass several active volcanoes whose summits puncture the clouds, rugged ridgelines, dense jungles, and a canyon they call the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Some visitors are drawn to the beach and the lifestyle it supports, others are called by the intimate culture of the locals; whatever draws you to the islands of Hawaii, make sure you carve out some of your time to explore the islands on foot. Here are some suggestions to get you going.
- Pu’u Ma’eli’eli Trail: Less often visited than others on the most populous Hawaiian island, this is a mild hike to World War II pillboxes with a stunning overlook of the Pacific.
- Kulana’ahane Trail: One of many overlooks of the Pacific, this trail crosses the Moanalua Stream 28 times—not normally a positive, but in this case it offers swimming holes along the way. The end of the trail is a scramble.
- Kuli'ou'ou Ridge: A moderate 5-mile hike through forest of invasive evergreens to an overlook of the town of Waimanalo.
- Konahuanui Summit via the Pu’u Ohia Trail: O‘ahu’s K2 is far less intimidating than the world’s most dangerous peak. The trail to its summit climbs about 1,600 feet over 6 miles, including an off-trail portion to the summit. Panoramic views abound.
- Pu’u Manamana Turnover Trail: One of the most dangerous trails in O'ahu. Not long, with little elevation gain, it follows a ridgeline just feet across in places where the drop-offs are deadly on both sides. Not for the faint of heart.
- Diamond Head Crater Hike: An average day may see thousands of hikers ascend this volcanic cone, but that shouldn't stop you from enjoying the incredible views of the city from the top.
- Makapu‘u Point + Lighthouse: A short, paved path leads to the lighthouse and beautiful views of the Pacific. Come here from October to March for a great chance to see migrating humpback whales.
- Pali Puka: A short but thrilling hike, this route leads up a ridge and past cliffs where O'ahu soldiers made an unsuccessful last stand against King Kamehameha's army. Bring plenty of water and a tolerance for heights.
- Koko Head Stairs: Crowds of visitors attempt the 1,048 stairs here every day, whether for a cardio challenge or to catch a memorable sunset at the top. Whatever your motivation, take the climb seriously; bring plenty of water, patience, and enjoy yourself.
- Koko Crater Rim Trail: If the crowds on the stairs aren't your thing, this ridge hike offers an alternate route to the same splendid views. Depending on the time of day, you may want to pair this with the stairs to create a loop.
- Lanikai Pillbox Trail: Start at the southeastern end of Lanikai to avoid the crowds. The climb begins early, but the views throughout this hike are worth it.
- Maunawili Falls Hike: A waterfall, jungle foliage, birdsong, and a pool to swim in...why wouldn't you?
- Mount Olympus/Awawaloa: From the summit you'll enjoy views of the Ko‘olau Mountains, Manoa Valley, and downtown Honolulu.
- Olomana Three Peaks Hike: Another hike that is not for the squeamish, the Olomana Three Peaks hike involves frequently muddy trails, intense exposure, rope and rock climbing, and some unforgettable views. Always check the conditions before heading out on this one.
- Waihe‘e Ridge: Hike through a variety of ecosystems and enjoy the lush vegetation en route to an ideal picnic spot.
- Hoapili Trail / King's Highway: There's no better choice for views of the Ahihi Kina‘u Natural Reserve. Be sure to wear sturdy footwear along with sun protection.
- Pīpīwai Trail: Trace the Pīpīwai Stream up toward Waimoku Falls, and enjoy a robust bamboo forest along the way.
- Ka‘Eleku Cave: A lava tube along the Road to Hana that shouldn't be missed...just be sure to bring your headlamp.
- Twin Falls Hike: Come for the falls, which are varied, beautiful and shaded, and stay for the food at the farm stand near the trailhead.
- Ka Lu‘u O Ka o‘o Cinder Cone: A fantastic introduction to the views and geology of Haleakalā National Park. The trail is sandy and a little uneven, so sturdy footwear and a walking stick are recommended.
- Olomana Three Peaks hike involves frequently muddy trails, intense exposure, rope and rock climbing, and some unforgettable views. Always check the conditions before heading out on this one.
- The Kalalau Trail: A backpacker’s classic. Hike a portion of the Kalalau or hike the whole thing and spend a few nights on a remote beach on one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. Complete with stream crossings, some of which lead to spectacular, remote waterfalls and feral kittens.
- Nounou Mountain: The Sleeping Giant offers views over Kapaa and Kauai’s jungle flora. Go before sunrise to experience a trail overrun with frogs.
- Alakai Swamp: The world’s highest swamp is a novelty, but the trail also features beautiful views to Hanalei Bay.
- Kīlauea Iki Trail: One of the more popular hikes in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, a short 4-mile loop traverses the Kīlauea Iki Crater, once the site of a lava fountain. Imagine the fire hose that erupted in January on a monumental scale—two Eiffel Towers tall. Fascinating geology coincides.
- Lava Flow Hike: This hike is monotonous, unshaded, hot, and 10 miles long round trip—but sacrifices must be made to the lava goddess in order to see an active lava flow.
- Awini Trail: Noticeably absent from the average visitor’s hiking list, Awini boasts prototypical Hawaiian ocean views and black sand beaches.
- Devastation Trail: Another of the popular trails in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, hike the edge of the blast zone from Kilauea Iki’s violent 1959 eruption.