Best Day Trip Hikes From Waikiki


Whether you live in Hawaii or you are just visiting, you’ll find access to some of the best that nature has to offer! Island foliage, sandy beaches, and incredible ocean views. As long as you’re there, you certainly don’t want to miss out on taking advantage of what this tropical paradise has to offer. And a hike is a superb way to do that. Here we’ll give you the most pertinent, vital information on the best day trip hikes from Waikiki, complete with insider tips and information.

When considering the best day trip hikes from Waikiki, the options are almost endless! From the waterfalls of Manoa to the famous views on top of Diamond Head Crater, you’ll find the best that Oahu island has to offer. From novice to expert, these hiking trips are sure to please.

Hiking can be a fun adventure, but you’ll want to do your homework first to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. Locations of the trail heads, length of the hikes, parking options, fee information and much more is all right here. You’ll find everything you need to know to make your day trip hike from Waikiki a success. So, get ready to don your hiking shoes, grab your sunscreen and your camera, and head out the door on your Hawaii hiking adventure.

Waikiki Day Trip Hikes

Listed in order of difficulty, the hikes at the beginning are for beginners and novices (or families with older children). Moving further down the list will bring you to more difficult and challenging hikes—but they will all be absolutely worth the effort.

Manoa Falls TrailOpens in a new tab.

Experience lush greenery and incredible waterfall views during your hike along the Manoa Falls Trail. Clamber over a small footbridge, and cross a small stream through groves of Eucalyptus trees before coming to the falls. Plan to spend around 1 ½ hours on your hike in and out of the Manoa.

Open from sunup to sundown, the Manoa Falls Trail is recommended to begin before 5:30 pm in order to finish with enough time before dark. Don’t forget the bug spray on this tropical trek!

At certain times of year, hunting may be in progress and dogs may be off-leash, so be aware of this if you or someone in your party is not particularly fond of dogs. At any other time dogs must be kept on their leashes.

Location: 3739 Manoa Rd, Honolulu HI 96822

Length: 1.6 miles round trip

Difficulty: Easy

Parking: Free along Manoa Road (less than ½ mile from the trailhead) or pay $5 for parking right along the trail

Fee: None

Insider Tip: For the best waterfall experience, plan your hike for the day after a rainfall. But do remember that the trail will be damp and muddier. However, the park will be closed if rain causes flash floods.

Waimea Valley and CanyonOpens in a new tab.

Verdant green valleys and canyons so far removed from urban life that you’ll think you’ve stepped into paradise! Hike through jungles overflowing with wildlife or snatch some breathtaking views from along the canyon ridges. The 45-foot Waimea Waterfall, reached in about 20-30 minutes of walking, offers a particularly unique opportunity to take a dip in the pool (lifeguards and life jackets are readily available).

Part of the goal of this former amusement-park-turned-cultural-center is to preserve the Hawaiian culture and community in the area. The option for your hike here is more like a one-mile stroll, with time to meander through the beautiful flora and stop in at the botanical garden on site as well.

You can certainly take a hike all on your own, but admission fees do include complimentary walking tours featuring history experts, plant specialists, musical instruments, stories, games and more.  The admission fee is higher than most, but the park offers a myriad of amenities for families.

Waimea Valley park is open 7 days a week from 9am-5pm, with summer hours extended to 5:30 pm. Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Sunscreen, bug spray, a hat and comfy shoes are all recommend—and available at the gift shop if you happen to forget something.

Location: Waimea Valley Road, Haleiwa, HI 96712

Length:  1-mile round trip

Difficulty: Easy

Parking: Free for paid guests

Entry Fee: $16.95 adult; $12.95 seniors, students and military; $8.95 child (group rates available)

Insider Tip: Shuttle transportation is available for those who want the beauty but are less physically able to hike. Shuttle transport is $8 one way or $12 round trip.

Makiki Valley TrailsOpens in a new tab.

Located at the Hawaii Nature Center, lush foliage and calming streams abound on the Makiki Valley Loop trail. The restoration nature preserve provides views of Diamond Head as well as Honolulu, taking you up approximately 1000 feet in elevation. The trail offers loop with three different sections, including:

  • Kanealole Trail: More family friendly stroll with a bubbling brook and maze of rocks and knotted trees.
  • Maunalaha Trail: Steeper inclines at the end of the hike mean that if you don’t do this part first, then you’re going downhill instead of uphill.
  • Makiki Valley Trail: Where the other two trails converge and connect.

If you’re just looking for a short hike, start at Kanealole Trail and turn around before the other trails converge. For a greater challenge, work Maunalaha Trail in at the end for a steep incline.

Location: 213 Makiki Heights Dr, Honolulu, HI 96822

Length: 2.5-mile loop

Difficulty: Fairly Easy

Parking: Hawaii Nature Center Parking (Closes at 6pm)

Fee: None

Insider Tip: Pack a light picnic and enjoy it at the top of the trail where a bench sits for resting. For an added challenge, take the Ualakaa Trail at the top that leads to another maze of trails!

Aihualama Trail

Piggybacking on the Manoa Falls Trail (listed above) is the Aihualama Trail that can be found to the left of the final waterfall. This one will add more interest for not-so-novice hikers, providing switchbacks up the ridge, through bamboo groves, and eventually rewarding hikers with incredible views of the Manoa Valley and Honolulu.

While this section of trail is relatively short, it has a steep climb with an overall gain of 800 feet in elevation. Once you’ve followed the trail up, you’ll find it connects to the Pauoa Flats Lookout on the Ko’olau summit with views of the Nu’uanu Valley below.

If you’re looking for a more private section of trail, this is one that tourists are less likely to frequent so you may have it mostly to yourself. With that in mind, less experienced hikers may not want to attempt this one alone.

Location: Begin at Manoa Falls, 3739 Manoa Rd, Honolulu HI 96822

Length: 1.3 miles round trip (+ 1.6 miles for Manoa Falls Trail)

Difficulty: Moderate

Parking: Free along Manoa Road (less than ½ mile from the trailhead) or pay $5 for parking right along the trail

Fee: None

Insider Tip: Scratchy roots on this trail call for wearing long pants to protect the legs.

Makapu’u Point Lighthouse TrailOpens in a new tab.

A stunning shoreline along the southeastern coast of the island offers perfect views atop this lighthouse trail. The trail to Makapu’u Point begins at the end of the Kaiwi parking lot where you can follow a paved path around the hill and up to the top. Two different lighthouses loom at the top of the 500 ft elevation hill.

Unfortunately, lighthouses are not available for public access inside, but do make for interesting views and great photo opportunities. Sit for a while (if the weather is clear) and attempt  some whale watching while taking a look at Lana’i, Maui, and Moloka’i, the neighboring islands. This moderately easy trail is an excellent trek for the whole family to enjoy.

Gate is open sunrise to sunset.

Location: 8751-9057 Kalanianaole Hwy, Honolulu, HI 96825

Length: 2 miles round trip

Difficulty: Moderate

Parking: Ka’iwi Scenic Shoreline State Park Free

Entry Fee: None

Insider Tip: Bring your binoculars and/or camera to get the best views of the surrounding areas, as well as catching a glimpse of the migrating humpback whales.

Lanikai Pillbox Hike – Kaiwa Ridge TrailOpens in a new tab.

One of the most pleasant and picturesque hiking trails on the island of Oahu, the Lanikai Pillbox hike rises just above the blue water and white sands of Lanikai Beach. With a steadily steep incline, this hike is ranked as intermediate as it carries you up to views of Kailua Beach, Mokulua Islands, Kaneohe Bay, and even Makapu’u Lighthouse in the distance (on a clear day).

The hike can be a bit rocky, so be careful of twisted ankles. However, the beautiful wildflowers that present themselves throughout most of the year on this trail are always an enjoyable find.

Taking between 1 ½ and 2 hours round trip, this hike is great for people who aren’t sure how much time or energy they want to spend on their hike. The beginning of the hike is the most difficult, so don’t get intimidated because it will level out a bit.

The first old military bunker sits at about the 25-minute point, which is a sufficient place to turn around if you don’t feel like going further up. Add another 10 minutes to reach the second pillbox at the top of the ridge. This is usually the halfway point where many hikers turn around.

If you’re feeling especially energetic, you can keep going 30 minutes longer along the Kaiwa Ridge Trail. You’ll wander further along the coast and eventually follow the trail back down into a residential neighborhood on A’alapapa Street. From here, you can walk just ½ mile or so back to where you began on Ka’elepulu Drive.

Location: 265 Ka’elepulu Drive, Kailua, HI 96734

Length: 1.2 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Parking: Parking at the trailhead is not available. Find a spot on the street nearby, or at Lanikai Beach, and then walk to the trailhead.

Entry Fee:  None

Insider Tip: Beat the rush (get parked early!) and head to Lanikai Beach to watch the sunrise before heading up the hiking trail.

Ehukai Pillbox Hike

Located on Oahu’s North Shore, this hike is a local secret that will help you to avoid tourists! Sometimes known as the Sunset Pillbox Hike, this trail offers amazing views of Ehukai Beach (Banzai Pipeline) and the coastline of the North Shore.

Find the trail head behind the Sunset Elementary School (across the street from the school parking lot). When getting started, an Oahu Trail sign and pink ribbons up the hillside may help you stay on the trail.

The trail begins in a flat area through some closely-knit trees which you’ll weave through for the first 100 yards or so. After that, you’ll find a progressively steep include that takes about 30 minutes to climb to the top.

A few man-made stairs have been dug into certain parts of the trail, with tree roots in between, which may make your climb a bit easier. In certain places, ropes have been tied off between trees to help with your climb and keep your footing.

About midway up you’ll come across a plateau resting area, with a picnic table dedicated by the students of the Sunset (Pupakea) Elementary School down below. From here, the first Pillbox is just a few minutes away. But the second bunker is really where the magical views await you. Feeling more adventurous? Continue on the trail for another, lesser known, pillbox.

Location: 59-360 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa, HI 96172

Length: 1.5 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Parking: Park at Ehukai Beach Park or on the street near the school

Entry Fee: None

Insider Tip: A sunset hike on this trail can be beautiful, but maybe not until you have hiked it once in the daylight. Be sure to stay well equipped with a flashlight and inform someone of your whereabouts.

Diamond Head CraterOpens in a new tab.

Recognizable almost instantly, this dormant volcano is an iconic destination for hiking whether you’re a visitor or a local. This 300,000-year-old crater lies at the south part of Waikiki, providing impressive views of the surrounding area. This trail was originally built for the use of Oahu’s coastal defense system in 1908, but has been made available to the public for many years. It has become a bit touristy, but that’s because it’s worth seeing!

Hike this 560-foot summit to the edge of the crater in about 45 minutes to reach the top (depending on crowds), then allow yourself some time to enjoy the views. Diamond Head Crater is an excellent spot to share a picnic, so throw some sandwiches in your backpack and enjoy the breathtaking views over lunch.

Before heading up the trail, stop in at the state park’s visitor center kiosk to learn more about the saucer-shaped crater. Enhance the educational aspects of the experience through a self-guided audio tour ($4) that includes information about plants, animals, history and scenery. On your way back, you can stop in the gift shop to pick up a souvenir of your Waikiki Diamond Head Crater experience.

Prepare yourself for this hike with sunscreen, hat, plenty of drinking water and comfortable hiking shoes or boots. Food, concessions, restrooms and water fountains are available at the Visitor Center toward the beginning of the trail. ADA accessible.

Location: Diamond Head Road, Honolulu, HI 96815

Length: 1.6 miles round trip                          

Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging

Parking: Cars $5; Vans $20; Buses $40 (includes entry fee)

Entry Fee: $1 for pedestrians (included in parking fee for those in vehicles)

Insider Tip: Gates are open from 6am-6pm daily. The trail entrance closes at 4:30pm but arriving earlier is better.

Koko Head Crater Stairs TrailOpens in a new tab.

Utilizing an old set of military train tracks to create 1,048 steps, the Koko Head hike up to 990-foot elevation is worth every step. (Forget that stair-master work out!) Steep but well-traveled, this trail  takes about an hour to get to the top.

While the last 100 or so steps are the most difficult, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking, panoramic views of Hanauma Bay, as well as the rest of the coastline of east Oahu. A perfect place to take a breather at the 1,200-foot elevation point on top of this extinct cinder cone volcano.

Approximately a 20-minute drive from Waikiki, the beginning of the trail can be found at the Koko Head District Park, near the baseball field. The trail head is approximately 100 yards away from the parking lot. The park is open sunrise to sunset every day except Christmas and New Year’s Day.

No shade is available on this trail, so be sure to pack your sunscreen and a hat, and wear appropriate footwear (absolutely no flip flops!) Plan your trek for either early morning or late afternoon in order to avoid the hottest parts of the day. Grab a flashlight and go super early in the morning to catch amazing views of the sunrise! If you go in the afternoon, allow yourself about three hours before sunset in order to avoid trying to navigate down those stairs in the dark. Pack plenty of water and a snack or picnic, and take your time because it’s a long haul.

Location: 7602 Koko Head Park Road, Honolulu, HI 96825

Length: 1.8 miles round trip

Difficulty: Challenging

Parking: $1 for private vehicles

Entry Fee: None

Insider Tip: Make a stop in the first parking lot in order to use the restrooms (last option before the climb!) and then drive to the next parking lot so you’ll be closer in to the trail head.

Kuliouou Ridge TrailOpens in a new tab.

Plant lovers can have a feast for their eyes on the variety of flora located throughout this hike, ranging from uluhe ferns to alien ironwoods, from Christmas berry to guava . Plus, the almost complete 360-degree views of the entire island of Oahu will take your breath away. And after an elevation change of 2,000 feet, you certainly deserve amazing views! You won’t be disappointed.

The Kuliouou Ridge Trail begins on a cement road for a short while before moving on to the right over a dirt path. Trudging over tree roots and boulders, past thin trees and tall grasses, the area is filled with the beauty of nature throughout its series of switchbacks up the side of the mountain. Toward the top, climbers now have the luxury of the use of stairs (rather than the dirt and mud of several years ago), before finally reaching the summit where clear windward views of East Oahu stretch along the Kailua coastline and out to the Kaneohe peninsula.

Because the trail is not well-traveled, and is only maintained occasionally, this trail may be best saved for experienced hikers. Try hiking it with a buddy for safety assurance.

Location: Kuli’ou’ou Road

Length: 5 miles round trip

Difficulty: Challenging

Parking: Prohibited directly at the trail head, but street parking along Kuli’ou’ou Road or Kala’au Place may be found.

Entry Fee: None

Insider Tip: A covered bench sits about 2/3 of the way up—take advantage of resting in this area because the remainder of the climb is tough!

Day Trip Hikes from Waikiki: What You Need to Know

A hiking trip in Hawaii can be exciting, adventurous and even good for you! But it can also be dangerous and you need to take care when preparing for a executing a hike in Hawaii. When you’re planning a day trip hike from Waikiki, it’s good to have an idea of the rules as well as what you need to pack to take along with you.

Gear

Some hikes are something that you can do without much gear at all. In fact, they’re more like a casual walk. But most hikes in Oahu involve tackling elevation without the benefit of much shade along the way. Here’s a rundown of what you might need for your Waikiki day trip hike:

  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Sunscreen or sunblock (apply before you go and reapply later
  • Light jacket in early morning or later in the evening
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Camera

Weather

Before heading out, it’s a good idea to check the upcoming weather conditions for the day. Even if the sky looks clear for now, that can change fairly quickly in Hawaii. Torrential rain can cause trails to get slippery and even washed out, so avoid hiking during heavy rains or flash flood warnings. High winds can also cause problems with keeping your footing or flying debris if you’re hiking in an exposed area so be readily aware.

Nightfall

Hawaii’s location close to the equator means that dark falls very quickly when the sun sets. Sunset is around 6 pm in the winter and 7:15 or so in the summer. For the safest results, plan to finish your hike before the sun sets in order to avoid trips, falls, twisted ankles and more dangers present in the dark.

Rockfalls

If you’re hiking under steep rock faces or near a water fall, be on the lookout for falling rocks. Although these are most likely to occur during or following heavy rains, it can really happen any time and hikers should always be aware of the terrain around them.

Overheating and Sunburn

Hikes in Hawaii can be strenuous and often don’t provide much shade cover. Dressing in light colors, slathering on the sunscreen, and wearing a lightweight hat and sunglasses may help to reduce the sun damage done to your body by the heat and sun. Also, avoid hiking at the hottest part of the afternoon.

Illness

Trips and falls are not the only reason hikers might need to visit a doctor. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that comes from drinking contaminated water. This is why it is critical to bring your own clean drinking water with you. Never drink any water from a stream, lake, or other source while you are out on a hike. Even swimming in streams and lakes in Hawaii may cause contamination if you have scratches on the skin or if you get the water into your mouth.

General Hiking Rules

Alcohol, smoking, open fire, littering, and other behaviors that could be dangerous to hikers and the preservation of nature are strictly prohibited in most areas. Certain hiking trails may have specific rules about dogs so pay attention to these rules.

Related Questions

Quick answers to other questions you might have related to day trip hikes from Waikiki:

Can you drive up Diamond Head Hawaii?

Although hiking is the preferred method of getting the most out of the Diamond Head experience, for those who are unable or don’t have time, it is possible to drive. You can drive through the tunnel and into the crater. And if you turn around before the pay station, it’s free!

What are the best tourist attractions in Waikiki?

You’ll never have a shortage of things to do in the Honolulu area! In addition to enjoying hikes or lying on the beach, you’ll find the Honolulu Zoo, lush gardens in Kapiolani Park, Atlantis submarine tours, Waikiki Aquarium, and the International Marketplace filled with open-air shops.

What is the best time to travel to Waikiki Beach in Hawaii?

Because the weather is beautiful year-round, you can travel to Waikiki almost any time! However, if you want to avoid tourists, you may want to skip the summer school holidays. Instead, choose to visit from mid-April to early June, or between September and the middle of December.

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