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Take it Easy: 5 Great (Relatively) Easygoing Oahu Hiking Trails

Posted on September 11, 2015

Story by Derek Paiva

Let’s paint a situational picture.

You’re on Oahu. You want to squeeze in a great nature hike away from the urbanity of metro Honolulu. But you don’t want to take on anything too difficult, too dangerous or too, um, illegal.

In other words, you want an easy hiking trail. You know, one where you can leisurely choose the pace at which you’ll enjoy your morning or afternoon in nature. A trail where you can either spend a lengthy amount of time really soaking in its wonders, or breeze in and out within an hour or two. Your choice. Away from the city.

We’ve got you covered.

For a 597-square-mile island with a resident population just shy of a million, Oahu boasts a surprising number of great trails allowing hikers to truly lose themselves in nature. Here are five easy-to-do Oahu trails for beginning and novice hikers, offering a whole lot of nature without a whole lot of exertion.

View of Oahu’s Windward Coast at the end of the Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)/Tor Johnson.

Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail
Length: 2 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 500 feet
The Big Payoff: Breathtaking sea-cliff views of Oahu’s Windward Coast
The Lowdown: Ease and stunning vistas are two of the most obvious reasons for this trail’s substantial daily visitor count. The ease? The trail is almost entirely asphalt-paved. The vistas? Perched high on the island’s easternmost sea cliffs, the trail offers panoramic views of miles of southeast and windward coastline, offshore bird sanctuary islets and century-old Makapuu Lighthouse.

Click here for trailhead location.

Manoa Falls Trail
Length: 1.6 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 800 feet
The Big Payoff: The 150-foot namesake waterfall at trail’s end.
The Lowdown: Easygoing? With an 800-foot elevation gain? Believe it. First-time hikers on this trail are often way too occupied taking in the stunning peaks of the surrounding Koolau mountain range, listening to the rustle of rainforest trees and bamboo groves, and picking out individual birdsongs, to realize they’re actually getting a substantial, if gentle, uphill workout.


The Diamond Head Summit Trail begins on the floor of the iconic volcanic tuff cone and ascends to this view from the summit overlook. Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Japan (HTJ).

Diamond Head Summit Trail
Length: 1.6 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 560 feet
The Big Payoff: Commanding views of Waikiki, metro Honolulu and Oahu’s south shore.
The Lowdown: Though easy enough for even infrequent hikers, this trek is no pushover. You’ll switchback a steep section of the iconic volcanic tuff cone’s interior wall and ascend a couple of steep stairways to earn your view of the manmade and natural breadth of Oahu’s south shore, from sister volcanic tuff cone Koko Head to the east, to the Waianae mountains to the west. But, oh, what a view it is!

Click here for trailhead location.

Manoa Cliff Trail
Length: 4.6 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 500 feet
The Big Payoff: Sweeping views of Manoa Valley and its waterfalls.
The Lowdown: Once you’ve seen Manoa Valley from the ground level on the Manoa Falls Trail, take in a macro view of the rain-kissed urban Honolulu valley from this trek winding along its west ridge. Midway, you’ll be treated to sweeping high-up views of the valley’s three main waterfalls and the remarkably unblemished natural beauty of its Koolau mountain range back end. Vistas get even more stunning the further you hike.

Click here for trailhead location.

Aiea Loop Trail
Length: 4.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 900 feet
The Big Payoff: 100 percent mountain forest and ridgeline
The Lowdown: There are a couple of lovely scenic vistas on this relatively easy, if lengthy, mountain ridge hike—a distant Pearl Harbor, a macro view of verdant Halawa Valley and the H-3 Freeway running through it. But the Aiea Loop Trail is true nirvana for folks who love a great forest hike. With the trail’s full length primarily beneath the canopies of introduced and native trees, and other flora, you can move swiftly through its natural charms or take some time for native bird watching or quiet contemplation.

Click here for trailhead location.

One final note before you head out into nature. A few of the trails mentioned here are very popular with resident and visitor hikers for their ease and natural beauty. Expect lots of company on the Manoa Falls Trail, Diamond Head Summit Trail and Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail.

Happy trails!

About Derek Paiva: Derek Paiva is an editor and writer on the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau account team at Anthology Marketing Group. A lifelong Hawaii resident, Derek has enjoyed careers in magazine and newspaper journalism, and was editor-in-chief of Hawaii Magazine from 2010 through 2015. He has traveled extensively throughout the Hawaiian Islands, written about them exhaustively, and is always looking forward to exploring and learning new things about his home islands. He can be contacted at derek.paiva@anthologygroup.com.

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