Let me take you on a hiking journey in Oahu! A true paradise island – one of few! A very expensive one (at least from my perspective), but still a paradise. I fell in love with that place from the very first moment and that feeling remains strong! I hope after what you’ll see, you agree with me and share a desire to see it yourself. I highly recommend (and yes, you can do it on a budget!).
As a nature lover and adventure seeker I found in Hawaii everything I search for while travelling. Stunning nature, greenery, perfect weather (in Hawaii you don’t even mind when it’s raining!), lots of activities to choose from, great food, AMAZING COFFEE and plenty more. In this post I want to focus on being active and admiring nature though. I’m sure when you see what I have seen (shame pictures don’t give a full experience) you will understand my excitement and you’ll wanna experience it all yourself!
- Diamond Head
- Koko Crater Hike / Koko Crater Arch Trail
- Kuliouou Ridge Trail
- Lanikai Pillboxes Hike
- Pali Notches Ridge Hike
1. Lets start with Diamond Head. Not really a hiking experience, it’s a touristy spot with quite easy access, but with some ‘picnic’ equipment/supplies it’s worth visiting. That was the first place I visited after arriving to Oahu. My very first sunset in Hawaii. Maybe that’s why I remember it so well.
Great view over Waikiki…
2. Another amazing spot in Oahu I got to see and hike up to is Koko Crater. In most cases you will find people climbing an old military railway tracks that goes straight up the face of the crater. It’s more of a workout then a hike though. A Koko Crater Railway Trail is a total of 1048 steps from the bottom to the top of the ridge!
I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t choose an alternative, not so popular and more challenging route. Therefore, I reached the top hiking Koko Crater Arch Trail…
There’s an arch on the windward facing side of Koko Crater. There’s no real trail to follow though, but the way up is fairly obvious. If you look up at Koko Crater you can see the arch. You might have to look closely as it sort of blends in.
Once you reach the arch you can walk over it or under it. Underneath the dirt is all loose gravel so you’ll want to be wearing shoes with good grip. If you’re going to go up the top of the arch you definitely want to be wearing some proper shoes. The top is very steep and slippery!
After the arch you can hike all the way up the rim of Koko Crater and then up to the top of the stairs. You need to be prepared for a proper ridge hike and some heights, so If you’re scared of them I wouldn’t recommend that trail. The views are breathtaking and the hike itself so much fun!
3. From all the ridge hikes I have done while in Hawaii, there is one that I liked the best, mostly because of the view from the summit, the Kuliouou Ridge Trail.
The Kuliouou Ridge Trail starts at the end of Kalaau Road. Make sure you pay attention to the signs as there are two trails and u may end up on the valley trail, not the ridge trail. Going at an easy pace the entire hike will take about 4 hours. The trail is a series of switchbacks that zigzag up to the ridgeline through the woods.
The higher you get nature starts helping you a bit with climbing. There are some inclines where tree roots form sort of natural steps.
Towards the top of the ridge the environment changes a bit. Being that this trail gets maintained by Hawaii’s Na Ala Hele program and the Sierra Club, there are steps placed at some points of the trail. They help slow erosion and make for safer hiking. The final push to the summit involves hiking up last set of steep stairs. The view will be so much worth burning those calories!
At the top, if you turn around, you’ll see a nice panorama of Hawaii Kai.
If that hike wasn’t enough for you, from the top you can continue along the ridge. The challenge starts here. You will have to climb a bit, may need to use help of ropes that have been placed there. What else could I say? Challenge accepted!
Views from the top are stunning. Look right to see the southeast tip of the Koolau summit, Rabbit Island and Koko Head Crater.
When u look straight ahead you’ll see Waimanalo. When you look closely, you’ll be able to see the Mokuluas of Kailua (Moku Nui Island on the left and Moku Iki Island on the right) right behind and Lanikai Pillboxes Hike (that’s where we are going next!)
4. The Lanikai Pillboxes trail overlooks the Lanikai neighborhood and my favourite Lanikai Beach!
The Lanikai Pillboxes Hike is well known for being one of the easiest hikes on the island and one of the most scenic. That’s a rare combination. You can complete the hike in an hour or less if you wanted to. But once you see the sweeping views of Kailua and Lanikai from the ridge, you may want to spend more time on the trail.
For the best views come at dawn or dusk! I chose a sunrise! Did the rest of the hike afterwards and finished a visit with a swim in the ocean! (and it was only 9am, perfect time to chill in one of many amazing breakfast spots and perfect way to start a day).
5. Pali Notches Hike has a bad reputation and I only found out about it after the hike! (I guess my friend judged my hiking skills being good enough and decided not to scare me).
Notches are man-made. They were created by warriors of ancient Oahu to house cannons when defending attacks from Nu’uanu Valley. It’s known as one of the most dangerous trails on the island because of the descent down the second notch. It’s a vertical down-climb!
The Pali Notches trailhead is unmarked. You make your way up a steep slope through the forest and through a mesh of tangled hau trees from the Pali Lookout parking lot. You gain elevation fast and get an awesome view.
The ridge gets narrow at parts, so you need to be very careful at all times, not only when climbing. Unfortunately, it was super windy on a day when I did the hike, so after reaching the second notch I decided it’s better not to risk further climb. It was already hard to keep your balance even while standing …
It is indeed a very dangerous hike, you need to know what you are doing, have basic climbing skills and be prepared. It is up to you to know your limits, abilities and level of expertise before attempting this hike, I’m just trying to showcase the beauty of that place.
And definitely, don’t try this … !!!