There’s almost nothing comparable in the U.S. to the islands of Hawaii. And while Hawaii is best known for its beaches, it’s also full of some of the most breath-taking hiking trails in the Pacific. The best hikes in Hawaii are full of some of the most spectacular and magnificent natural wonders you could ever behold.
And it’s not as if you won’t get your fill of sand beaches and ocean views either. Although some of the more iconic trails such as the Haiku Stairs, the famous “Stairway to Heaven,” and the Maunawili Trail in Kailua are closed, there are many other great hikes that will allow you to experience nature in a way you never would anywhere else in the U.S. So grab your hiking boots and check out all that Hawaii has to offer!
Best Hikes in Hawaii: 12 Trails You’ll Never Find Anywhere Else
1. Diamond Head Summit Trail
This popular trail is located near Honolulu in Oahu. Accessible all year round, it features beautiful wildflowers along its 1.8-mile path and is one of Hawaii’s most iconic landmarks. Hikers will follow the trail around the Diamond Head volcanic crater to intake the most incredible panoramic views. It starts on a paved path and follows several steep switchbacks, leading to a set of steep stairs. Then it leads through a tunnel and another set of stairs before reaching the top of the bunkers.
2. Kalalau Trail
Located along the Na Pali Coast of the island of Kauai, this trail runs 11 miles long from the island’s north shore of Ke’e Beach to the Kalalau Beach. It’s known as one of the most beautiful, but also one of the most dangerous hikes in the entire United States because of how narrow, steep, and rocky it is and how many natural hazards hikers have to overcome along their way, including strong water currents, falling rocks, and steep dropoffs.
3. Waihe’e Ridge Trail
In the West Maui Forest reserve, you’ll find great views of lush scenery along this ridge-line hike. The well-groomed trail goes up the west Maui mountains, overlooking the Waihe’e Valley through clean switchbacks and stairs, spaced by spots of flat terrain. Along the way you’ll see gorgeous waterfalls and lush, green vegetation, but you can expect the journey to be difficult.
4. Kaumana Caves Trail
Kaumana Caves State Park offers a path into a lava tube by descending a metal ladder into a skylighht. It was created by lava flow from the Mauna Loa Volcano that erupted in 1881, but it follows underneath private property so it cannot be explored. However, if you start from the trailhead in Hilo, you can hike the 0.5-mile path until you hit the private property. You’ll be able to explore the cave entrances, which is just as exciting.
5. Sliding Sands Trail
This challenging trail is located in Haleakala National Park, which requires a fee to enter. Following 11 miles, this hike features beautiful wildflowers amongst its rocky terrain, and many reference the area to what they feel like the planet Mars would look like. The trail goes across the valley floor and ends at Halemau’u, going through Pele’s Paint Pot and Kawilinau.
6. Kilauea Iki Trail
A perfect day hike, this trail goes through a lush rainforest to a solidified lava lake on the crater floor of Kilauea Iki. Hikers will take on the moderately difficult journey to check out Uealoha (Byron Ledge), the Kilauea Iki Loop, and the Nahuku Lava Tube, all within the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. You’re encouraged to begin hiking at the Kilauea Visitor Center, the Devastation Trailhead, or the Pu’upua’i Parking Lot.
7. Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail
This 2.5-mile popular hike is great for all skill levels, and follows along sea cliffs to an observation deck and lighthouse. The entire trail is paved, but also has no shade, so it’s recommended that you bring plenty of water. You’ll be able to see incredible views of Oahu’s southeastern coastline, including Koko Head and Koko Crater. On a clear day, you’ll also be able to see the islands of Molokai and Lanai.
8. Pipiwai Trail and Waimoku Falls
This trail is a unique and special waterfall hike located within Haleakala National Park in Maui. If you choose to drive, take the famous Road to Hana, which goes through 620 curves and 59 bridges. If you choose to hike, you’ll find several great waterfalls along the way before reaching Waimoku Falls, following a boardwalk through a dense, dark bamboo forest.
9. Manoa Falls Trail
This short hike takes you to the base of Manoa Falls in the Manoa Valley in Honolulu. It winds through a lush Hawaiian tropical rainforest which features movie scene locations from the iconic movie Jurassic Park and hit TV show Lost. Swimming is not allowed in the pool of the waterfall, but the views are worth it.
10. Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea is described as the highest mountain in the Pacific Rim and the tallest sea mountain in the world. Made for experienced hikers, the hike runs 12 miles round trip while climbing 4,500 feet in elevation gain. Along the way, hikers reach the Manua Kea Ice Age Natural Area Reserve, Lake Waiau, and the Pu’u Waiau cinder cone. Lake Waiau is the highest in the Pacific Basin and the Big Island, the largest island in the U.S. Hawaiian archipelago in the Central Pacific.
11. The Lanikai Pillbox Hike
Although it’s short, the trail is steep, but takes about 30 minutes or less to hike to the pillbox which overlooks Lanikai and Kailua. After another 10 minutes of hiking, you’ll reach the ridge’s highest point marked by a small concrete platform with a broken surveyor’s pole. Beware of the lack of guardrails, as this can be dangerous to bring young children along.
?12. Koko Crater Trail
This popular trail follows a steep hike up an abandoned railroad track on Koko Crater to the Koko Head. This 1.6-mile path is heavily trafficked and is pretty difficult because of its climb. However, it includes incredible panoramic views of the east Honolulu shoreline, Hanauma Bay, and parts of the Big Island.
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