Easy hikes on Oahu Hawaii that include waterfalls, beaches, and migrating whales
Hiking on Oahu is beautiful. A short drive from the city and you can find migrating whales, waterfalls and secluded beaches. Enjoying island life, for us, meant finding kid friendly hikes that the entire family could enjoy. So here are 8 of our favorite hikes on Oahu hikes and how to get there.
8 Easy Oahu Hikes and How to Get There
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Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail
The lighthouse trail is a wide, paved trail that will give you views of both the southeast side and windward side of the island. Its about two miles round trip with no shade to cover you.
The first thing you notice while viewing this trail from the road is that it’s a switch back path. It is pretty steep starting off which made me question my decision of bringing the jogging stroller.
Between December and May you have a good chance of seeing whales pass by. Close to the top you’ll see the red roof of the lighthouse. You are not able to go down to the lighthouse but they have lookouts just beyond where you can see it along with the windward coast.
Most people think this is the top, but it really isn’t. The rest of the trail is not paved but you can make your way to the top by using the dirt path over to the left. Of course we weren’t able to do that with the stroller but the next couple of times we began to explore even more.
The path that leads to a Beach
Back at the beginning of the trail there is a path just off to the right. Its not paved but it takes you down to a little beach area. This beach is more of a cove that protects you from the strong waves. It has a couple of different tide pool areas where you can see colorful fish swimming by your feet.
Over to the left of this beach you can find a path that takes you to a plank! A 2×4 stuck between the rocks where people jump off into the clear water below.
The path that leads to Tide Pools
Back on the paved path, up around the corner, you’ll see a sign telling you about the lighthouse and the migrating whales. Just off to the left of this sign is a path you can take down to the tide pools. This path is steep and rocky and I do not suggest it with small children.
Easy- Bring sunscreen and water. Hang on tight to the stroller.
Parking- They have a parking lot that fills up quickly but you can park along the road that leads to the trailhead.
Koko Head Crater
Koko head trail consists of old railway ties that lead straight up the crater. The ties are spaced far enough apart that it feels like taking one and a half regular steps up at a time. Of course that depends on how tall you are.
It took me longer than it should have to take on this trail. Driving by it you see large numbers of people hiking up and down the same railway ties in the hot mid day sun. I would wave and wish them luck while on the way to the beach.
It was finally time to take this beast on. A couple of my friends and I decided to head out at 5am so we could see the sunrise at the top. We started off in complete darkness but were prepared with flashlights and water.
The second we started I was glad we couldn’t see more than a few steps ahead of us. By the time we were halfway up it was about dawn. Instead of a daunting stairway looking down on us I could see how far we had come!
We made it at the top just in time for sunrise. It was beautiful. A few wispy clouds over the water and 30 other people to enjoy that peaceful moment with.
Moderate to Hard- Go early even if you don’t start as early as we did. No shade, bring sunscreen and lots of water.
Diamond head is a state park that was once a military lookout in the early 1900s. You enter the park by driving through a tunnel that takes you to the parking area inside the crater.
It starts off as a paved path but quickly turns to dirt switchbacks. There is no shade so be sure to remember sunscreen. About ¾ of the way up you enter a narrow tunnel that has a guard rail and a few dim lights. Once you exit the tunnel you’re met with a little less than 100 steep steps that take you to a spiral staircase inside the bunker.
The views of Honolulu are gorgeous with its stunning blue water and buildings just below.
Once you take plenty of pictures you’ll go around the other side and exit down a different set of stairs. These are a little easier and not as steep as the ones you just came up.
After the first set of steps you reach a spot where you can turn right and go to an overlook where you can see the Diamond Head lighthouse that was built in 1917.
Easy to Moderate- Almost 2 miles round trip. No shade, bring sunscreen and water.
Parking-Yes, 5$ per vehicle Cash only
Manoa Falls Trail
Manoa Falls is a popular trail located in the valley of Manoa. Its proximity to the city makes this an easy trail to visit without having to travel far from downtown Honolulu. Its also been a filming location for movies Jurassic Park and catching Fire.
The trailhead starts off flat and open but once you head in a little further it takes you into a humid tropical forest. It tends to be very muddy so be prepared with proper footwear. The trail is 1.6 miles round trip with a 150 foot waterfall at the top.
How to get there
From downtown take Panahou st up towards the Manoa Valley. Panuhou st turns into Manoa Rd. At the fork in the road bare left and continue up Manoa Rd. Once close to your destination you can either park in the residential neighborhood and walk up or you can drive to the parking area just below the trailhead for $5.
Judd Trail/ Jackass Ginger Pools
Judd trail is a loop trail located just off the Pali highway. Parking along the residential road you go down the trailhead and are met with a stream. You’ll have to skip over the rocks to the other side to continue alone the path.
Turning right you follow the stream for a bit until you reach what might look like a spilt. Following the stream takes you eventually to the ginger pools but that was a little more rocky than we wanted to do.
We backtracked to go up the rocks following the trail. At the top we went to the right where the trail was lined with tall pine trees. At one point you can see the ginger pools below. You can hike down but it’s a bit steep so we continued along the loop trail.
Despite being so close to the Honolulu, this path is quiet and peaceful.
Towards the end of our hike we felt a little lost but stuck to it and came down a little ridge to finish our walk.
This trail does have others that merge with it. Make sure to pay attention to where you are.
The Ginger Pools
Back at the road we found an easier way to get to the ginger pools. Looking at the trailhead walk down the road to the right. A little ways down is an opening and the trail takes you down to the ginger pools where you can jump off the rocks along the side or go across the stream at the top and slide down a slopped rock area.
How to get there
From Honolulu take the Pali highway. Turn right onto Nuuanu Pali Dr. The trail is a little ways down on the right hand side. If you miss the right turn off Pail Highway don’t worry. Take the next right and you’re at the top of Nauuanu Pali Dr.
Follow this and you’ll see a clearing on the right. The trail is located a little ways down on the left side of the road. It’s a fun easy trail to explore close to the city. Wear the proper shoes since this trail can get quite muddy in places.
Easy- About a mile and a half
Parking- Off street
Lulumahu falls is located off the Pali highway on the same road as Judd trail. Its on government property and considered trespassing. On this unofficial trail you’ll go through a bamboo forest, up some rock steps towards the reservoir, past a huge concrete graffiti wall and follow the stream up to the Lulumahu Falls.
Parking just off the Pali highway on Nuuanu Pali Dr, you’ll find the trailhead. There is one that takes you through the bamboo forest or another that takes you through a fence as you pass government property signs.
Following this trail you’ll come to a large opening where you can see the mountains all around you and some steps leading up a bank where you can view the reservoir.
Walk the path to the right a bit and you’ll come around a corner and find a huge graffiti wall.
Opposite this wall are steps leading you to another area. For whatever reason there is a large pit in the ground with a fence around it. Go straight across (avoiding the obvious hole) and you’ll find another path up to the stream.
Along this path you’ll start to hear water flowing. You’ll come to a narrow wall you walk on top and you’ve found the stream to the waterfall. After the wall we went to the right following up stream on the bank then we almost immediately went back over to the left and found a path.
The path sticks close to the water but you’ll come away and even cross it again before you reach the top. As you get closer you’ll climb up a couple of big boulders and the waterfall is just ahead. It’s a little over 2 miles round trip.
Easy- The rocks can get slippery as you follow the path. Good shoes are a must and I probably wouldn’t bring grandma.
Parking- There is parking but this is not a parking lot. Its next to the Pali highway under some trees with some uneven ground.
Hawaii Nature Center/ Makaki Valley Loop Trail
This 2.5 mile loop trail starts at the Hawaii nature center. You’ll find a parking area to the left and walk the paved road up to the nature center. At the nature center crossing over the bridge and you’ll start your journey.
We decided to do this trail clockwise. It starts off with an easy incline with a stream on the right side of you.
As the trail gets a little more difficult, you find yourself surround by beautiful trees with vines growing all around them.
About halfway through you’ll go over another bridge and then up another incline. The trail gets a little narrow here with a bit of a steep bank down. You’ll meet up with another couple of trails but we stayed on the loop trail and made our way down the other side.
At this point you’ll be coming down some large tree roots that kind of form steps with a few large rocks to your right. It descends pretty quickly and before you know it you’re back at the nature center.
How to get there
From Honolulu take Punahou St. Just before it turns into Manoa Rd take a left onto Nehoa St. Take your second right onto Makiki Street and your first left onto Makiki Heights dr. As you start to come around a bend in the road there is a road to the right that takes you up towards the nature center.
Easy to Moderate- Shaded
Parking- To the left before you get to the nature center.
On this short steep hike you’re met with amazing view of the windward coast. Going early you can watch the sunrise over the ocean and beat the heat of the day. There is no shade along this hike and even though it’s not a very long hike it starts off at a steep incline.
At the top there are two military bunkers where you can sit and enjoy the view. Most people turn around at this point but the trail does continue if you’re looking for a longer hike.
The trailhead is located in Kailua across from the Mid-Pacific Country Club. It is off street parking in a residential neighborhood. Make sure you pay attention to street parking signs and be respectful of people’s driveways.
Moderate- Steep with no shade. Start early to beat the heat. Good shoes are a must along with plenty of water and sunscreen.
Parking- off street in the residential neighborhood. Pay attention to the street parking signs and remember to be respectful of where you park and your noise level.
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Hiking in Hawaii can be dangerous and conditions can change at any time. Always be prepared and understand your limits and skill level. The content on this website is for entertainment and informational purposes only. The trail and driving information is to give a better understanding of what to expect while hiking. This information is not intended to give advice or directions on any trail. This website, and person writing this post, is not responsible for any accidents, inconvenience, injuries, rescues, or loss of life by anyone attempting any of the hikes. Hike at your own risk.