5 Hikes in Oʻahu for Beginners
O‘ahu is blessed with incredible scenic strolls that will bring families and even the pickiest hikers some joy. The geology of the island lends itself nicely to easier hikes that have gentle inclines. Every hiker is different of course, so use your best judgement when deciding what you are capable of. Read on for a list of hikes in O‘ahu for beginners that are accessible to all and don’t require more than a pair of comfortable footwear.
All trails are currently open. Due to COVID-19, trails and parks mentioned may close at any time. We recommend checking City and County of Honolulu or State of Hawai‘i mandates and individual attractions for operating hours, updates, and social distancing measures before your hike. Please travel responsibly by treating Hawai‘i’s trails, creatures, sacred sites, residents, and areas of ecological restoration with respect. Refer to Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources website for additional hiking etiquette and safety preparedness information.
The shaded loop traverses gulches and groves of ironwood and Cook pines for a peaceful walk with views of the Kaipapa‘u Valley, Hau‘ula, and the windward coast. Begin the hike by crossing Hanaimoa Stream and ascending long switchbacks before picking up the loop. Hikers recommend walking the loop in a clockwise direction. Notice the native plant species like lama, alahe‘e, ‘ohi‘a, hoawa, akia and a‘ali‘i and listen for the white-rumped shama, a native bird of Malaysia that often mimics other birds.
Park along Hau‘ula Homestead Road before the cable gate. The trailhead begins at the right side of the access road, just past the hiker check-in station. Time: 1 - 2 hours; Distance: 2.5 miles; Elevation change: 700 feet
Beginning in Pu‘u ‘Ualaka‘a State Park, this short loop winds through a dense forest canopy. The short, family-friendly adventure is all about the trees, breeze, and views overlooking Waikiki. Macadamia nut trees lie nearby, as banyan trees create a natural arbor over parts of the trail. You’ll reach the end of ‘Ualaka‘a Trail at a 4-way junction, where you can either turn around or turn right on Makiki Valley Trail and follow it back to Round Top Drive.
Enter the Pu‘u ‘Ualaka‘a State Park and look for the trailhead sign at the end of the first curve of the road. Continue to the parking area before walking back down to the trail. The park has restrooms, water, and trash cans. Time: 30 minutes; Distance: 1 mile; Elevation change: 400 feet
The short, lush hike in East Honolulu crosses the Kuli‘ou‘ou Stream and several gullies before ascending a slight rocky incline to reach a waterfall chute with a small pool. The gullies are lined with kukui trees, which early Polynesian voyagers used to make gunwales and seats for outrigger canoes. Although the route doesn’t offer the stunning views like other hikes on this list, the ambience of the tree canopy is tranquil. The out-and-back trail ends near the head of the valley and is marked by a sign.
Begin at the Kuli‘ou‘ou Ridge trailhead near the hiker check-in station, just past the Board of Water Supply cable gate. The valley trail will reach a junction with the ridge trail about 0.1 miles in. Continue on the valley trail. Time: 1 hour; Distance: 3 miles (roundtrip); Elevation change: 300 feet
Although the trail is a long distance if you decide to make the entire out-and-back trek, visitors can attest that it is a family-friendly hike. While hiking the base of the Ko‘olau Mountain Range on O‘ahu’s windward side, the Maunawili Trail provides spectacular views of the Ko‘olau cliffs, peaks of Olomana, and the Ko‘olaupoko watershed. The trail descends into a deep ravine and wanders through gullies, gulches, and rocky streambeds lined with mountain apple, hau, ironwood, kukui, and koa trees.
Heading towards Kailua on the Pali Highway, you’ll find the trailhead just after the hairpin turn directly north of the tunnels. From the lookout point’s parking area, the trailhead is to the right. Time: 4 - 5 hours; Distance: 10 miles (one way); Elevation change: 500 feet
The hike through the verdant forest of Kamananui Valley crosses a stream several times via ornate stone bridges, many with its original cobblestones. Landowner Douglas Damon built his luxurious mountain house on the historic road in the early twentieth century. You’ll find the remnants of his home on your journey. Look for the large, sacred boulder (known as the Pohaku Kaluahine Stone), which is covered with interesting petroglyphs, at the seventh crossing. The trail ends at a vehicle turnaround.
Find parking outside the Moanalua Valley Neighborhood Park (parking in the lot is for park users only, you will get ticketed if you park here to use the trail). The trailhead is the one-lane dirt track at the back of the parking lot. Time: 3 - 4 hours; Distance: 8 miles (roundtrip); Elevation change: 600 feet
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