The Great Outdoors: Hiking Routes in Hawaii
We’re always coming up with new reasons to visit the glorious archipelago of Hawaii; fantastic food and weather, a rich history, and the numerous TV and film locations that can be found across the islands. However, one reason to visit Hawaii that remains a permanent fixture at the top of our list, is the great outdoors.
Hawaii is perhaps the epitome of natural beauty, offering everything from wide, sweeping rainforest valleys to volcanoes, beaches and rushing waterfalls. This beauty surrounds you wherever you go in Hawaii, and there are some awesome ways to take in the views by car, such as the famous ‘Road to Hana’ drive in Maui, or Kauai’s Route 560.
Nevertheless, the best way to explore Hawaii’s great outdoors is inarguably by getting outdoors yourself! We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite hiking routes in the Hawaiian Islands that will take you off the beaten track and show you some of the most incredible scenery that these islands have to offer.
"The Gathering Place"
The Manoa Falls Trail
Let us begin with this relatively easy hike, located just outside of Honolulu, which passes through canopies of guava, bamboo and eucalyptus, ending amongst the ethereal beauty of the Manoa Falls, where you can spot rainbows passing through the cascading water.
This family-friendly hike should take between 30 minutes and an hour each way, depending on weather conditions and your fitness. The terrain is not too steep or challenging, except for the final 100 yards, which can be rocky and slippery, but nonetheless manageable, even for most children!
The Diamond Head Trail Summit
If you’re looking for something a little more difficult, turn to one of the most popular and well-known hikes in the whole of Hawaii, the hike to the summit of the Diamond Head Crater.
You’ll find the trailhead by passing through a tunnel that takes you right into the middle of the crater, where you’ll make your way to the summit from the inside using a trail built by the US army over a hundred years ago! Due to the panoramic views on offer at the top of the crater, Diamond Head was an optimal army base for the coastal defense of Oahu.
This steep, winding trail takes you through narrow stairways, dark tunnels, bunkers and fantastic lookout points, offering continuous reminders of the crater’s military past.
This is a challenging hike, but the summit of the Diamond Head Trail Summit rewards you with a sweeping view of Honolulu and Waikiki Bay.
"The Big Island"
Tucked away in a remote corner of the Big Island, this hike will have you reminiscing of the old Jurassic Park movies or the hit TV series Lost as you embark on an adventure through the lush, tropical jungle.
You’ll start with the exceptional views at the Waipio Valley tourist lookout, before your descent into the valley itself. The main trail takes you across large boulders, and wading through natural streams and cold, fresh water ponds, all in the heart of the gorgeous Waipio Valley, aptly nicknamed ‘Valley of the Kings’.
You’ll understand the royal connotations of this area of the island when you arrive at the foot of the Hi’ilawe Falls, which stand at a total impressive height of 1,450 feet, flowing down a sheer, mossy wall that towers above you. Don’t forget your camera!
"The Valley Isle"
Haleakalā National Park
The burnt-orange and red hues of this enormous, rugged National Park will make you feel like you’re setting foot onto another planet; and with over 30 miles of hiking trails, there is plenty to explore here!
It’s impossible to conquer all of these beautiful trails in a short space of time, but we do recommend taking a drive around the park, because it really is magnificent. A trip to Maui, however, would not be complete without a visit to the Haleakalā summit.
We suggest timing your hike so that you can reach the summit to watch either the sunrise or sunset, for an unforgettable view. The National Park is super driveable, so you’ll make most of the journey in a car, parking at the Haleakalā Visitors Center, and then hiking up a little further from there to get to the summit.
Once you’ve reached the top, make yourself comfortable, and wait for the sunrise (or sunset) to flood over the cloud layer below you. You’ll never see anything else like it!
"The Friendly Isle"
The Halawa Valley
Immerse yourself in the rich culture of Hawaii as you enter Molokai’s Halawa Valley on a guided tour with Anakala Pilipo Solatario.
This three-mile hike will begin with a traditional Hawaiian ritual before you set off on your journey, which will take you on a trail through the valley, led by a guide who was born and raised here. Along the way, you’ll learn about various cultural landmarks and rock features, rain shrines, taro terraces, and local species.
After crossing through rivers, trees, and worship sites, you’ll reach the delightful Mo’oula Falls, where you’ll stop for a light packed lunch and a refreshing swim! This hike is truly amazing, as it merges a culture and history tour with a classic, outdoorsy hike. Enjoy!
"The Pineapple Isle"
The Koloiki Trail
The majority of this gorgeous Lanai hike is pretty flat, making it accessible for all ages and abilities, but is a total of five miles round-trip, so bring plenty of water and snacks! You’ll find the trailhead right by The Four Seasons Lodge at Keole – park by the clubhouse building and follow the small red signs to the start of the Koloiki Trail!
This hike takes you through an ever-changing Hawaiian landscape, from narrow jungle paths to peaceful, misty rainforests, to wide open spaces with rich red earth.
The Koloiki Trail ends at a jaw-dropping natural lookout point, plush with verdant plant-life with deep gulches falling away at either side. In the distance, you can spot some of the other Hawaiian Islands, Maui and Molokai.
Stop for a while to enjoy your refreshments, rest and take pictures while you admire the astounding views.
"The Garden Isle"
The Kalalau Trail
No Hawaiian hiking guide would be complete without a mention of The Kalalau Trail, one of the most famous hikes in the world! Renowned for its rugged, untouched beauty, this 11-mile trail stretches across five vast valleys on the famous Nā Pali coast, complete with dramatic mountains, secluded waterfalls and remote beaches.
This trial is not for the faint-hearted though; while anyone would be tempted to enter this isolated paradise, it should only be tackled by more experienced hikers, as conditions can often be wet and slippery, and the terrain can be challenging, with the full hike often requiring at least two days to complete, meaning you’ll have to pitch a tent for the night!
Hiking is the only way to enjoy this little slice of heaven – the Nā Pali coastline is only accessible on foot or by sea, so you’ll truly become at one with nature as you embark on this journey of a lifetime!
We hope we’ve inspired you to get up and go explore the great outdoors of these majestic islands; whether you’re on a family holiday looking for an easy trail, or a veteran hiker in search of your next thrill, Hawaii has no shortage of impressive hikes on offer!