If you’re taking a trip to Hawaii for some island hopping, you might be going for the incredible weather and pristine beaches – or you may be going for the hike of your lifetime.
Because of Hawaii’s volcanic activity, the terrain is extremely varied, mountainous, and beautiful. If you can go hiking anywhere in the world, you might choose one of these Hawaiian hikes for the views alone.
From Oahu to Kauai, there are incredible hikes on every island. And you don’t need to search far and wide to find them. All you need is a reliable Jeep (and it helps if the ac filter works), and you’re ready for an epic road trip!
Here are some of the best hikes to take in Hawaii:
1. Lanikai Pillbox Hike
- Difficulty: Easy/Medium
- Duration: About 90 minutes in total. 30 minutes to hike the first pillbox.
- Island: Oahu
If you’ve ever been to Lanikai, you know it’s one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. This is a short hike that will give you amazing views of Mokula Islands, the Chinaman’s Hat, Kaneohe Bay, and Kailua Beach.
One of the best things about this hike is that you can complete it in under two hours and spend the rest of the day at the beach.
You should know that this may seem like an easy hike, but it’s far from it. You’ll begin thinking that you’re too advanced for this hike. But before long, you’ll come upon an incline that’s so intense that you’ll need a rope to help yourself along.
Take caution if has recently rained because this hike can get very slippery. But hang in there. To get the best views, you’ll need to reach the highest pillbox.
Tip: Don’t park on residential streets because the residents get rather peeved. You’ll find public parking in the area, so be sure to park there.
2. Koko Crater Railway Trail
- Difficulty: Hard
- Duration: About an hour to the summit
- Island: Oahu
Koko Head is one of the most famous hikes on the island of Oahu, but it’s also one of the most challenging and rewarding.
You’ll start by climbing about 1,050 steps, so be sure you’re up for the challenge. These steps were part of a railroad track that was used to run supplies and military personnel to the Air Force Station at Puu Mai in WWII.
Begin this challenging hike before the sun comes up, or you might risk getting overheated. This means starting out around 5:30 am. It may be cool, but you’ll be glad for the jump on the day later. When you get to the summit, you’ll probably catch the sunrise, which is an amazing experience. Not only will you get the sunrise, but you can also experience views of Koko Marina, Sandy Beach, and Hanauma Bay.
When it’s time for the descent, you might be looking forward to an easy downhill journey. This might be a little disappointing, but the entire hike is worthwhile.
Tip: Bring a flashlight or wear a headlamp if you set out before the sun comes up.
3. Iao Valley State Park
- Difficulty: Easy
- Duration: About 15 minutes to 1 hour
- Island: Maui
This is a popular hike because it’s a short one that can make a great day trip for anyone visiting Maui. You’ll find the Iao Needle in the historic state park that’s home to the battle site of the Battle of Kepaniwai of 1790.
The state park itself spans 10 miles and 4,000 acres where you can enjoy mellow hiking trails, swimming holes, and waterfalls. So if you decide to take any of the hikes at Iao Valley State Park, you can have time to spend the rest of the day exploring the beautiful scenery.
This state park is open between 7 am and, and it’s only $1 per person to enter ($5 for parking). For the best experience, arrive as early in the day as possible. This way, you can get a great view of the Iao Needle before the afternoon clouds start looming over the mountain valley.
This is the perfect hike for families as it’s easy and is located in a park where you could easily spend a memorable Maui day.
4. Haleakala – Sliding Sands Trail
- Difficulty: Medium/Difficult
- Duration: 5 to 7 hours
- Island: Maui
You’ll find this hike within the Haleakala National Park at the summit of the Crater. Haleakala Visitors Center is at the 10,000-foot mark, and the trail spans 6 miles through the base of the Crater.
When you pass the Kapalaoa Cabin, you’ll get a little reprieve as the trail mellows out, the elevation begins to decrease, and you’ll encounter flat grassy areas. Phew! You’ll continue along the trail for another 4miles until you reach the Paliku Cabin. At this point, hikers can access the Kaupo Gap and take the descent down to 300 feet above sea level.
As you end your hike, stop in for a cold one at the Kaupo Store.
This hike is not recommended for children, seniors, or anyone with limited physical activity.
5. Mahaulepu Beach Trail
- Difficulty: Easy/Medium
- Duration: About 1 hour
- Island: Kauai
What could be better than hiking along the beach? You’ll agree that the answer is nothing, especially after you complete the Mahaulepu Beach Trail.
This coastal trail is part of Kauai History Heritage sight. Why is this important? Well, this is the last stretch of coastline you can access on the south shore that’s not yet developed.
In great contrast to some of the commonly trafficked beaches, this is an untouched paradise. And you can hike along with it.
You’ll travel from the southeast corner of Shipwreck Beach Keonela Bay. Traveling along sand dune cliffs, limestone formations, Kiawe trees, and rocky inlets, you’ll likely encounter marine friends like sea turtles or Monk seals. Remote and rugged are two words that best describe this hike, so if you’re looking for an intensely natural and grounding experience, this is it.
As you’re here, be sure to respect the natural area and leave nothing but your footsteps behind.
Are you traveling to Hawaii soon? Which hike are you most excited about?
With so many hikes to choose from, you really can’t go wrong while hiking in Hawaii. Just be sure to choose a hike for your skill level, and you’ll have an experience of a lifetime.