Hawaii has so many astonishing things to offer those visiting the state, whether it’s hula dancing, surfing, or the amazing spirit and soul you’ll find at each and every one of it’s many islands.
Chief among the myriad things that Hawaii has to offer it’s visitors though is the amazing scenery, and if you’re into hiking, then get ready for some adventures around some truly astonishing locations.
As perhaps the most scenic US state of all, you’ll find no end of amazing landscapes just begging to be visited during your trip, and since you unfortunately won’t be able to see them all, we’ve compiled what we believe to be the top 8 hikes in all of Hawaii, and you certainly won’t want to miss out on any of them.
As soon as you reach the western-most point of Oahu, you’ll soon start to notice the spiritual reverence Hawaiian folklore has historically had for the place. As the story goes, this is where the newly deceased souls go once they die, before talking a leap from the Kaena Point into the afterlife.
The hike itself is a nice and easy one, around three miles in total. Once you reach the end of the trail you’ll come to the delightful lighthouse, which is definitely worth checking out. You’ll also find the beautiful beach, and maybe you’ll even be able to spot a monk seal or two.
Once you get to the end of your hike you may understandably be feeling pretty peckish, and wouldn’t you know the best restaurant in all of Oahu (with an award to prove it), Konos, is right here. There’s no better way of relaxing after a long day taking one of the best hikes in all of Hawaii.
The Kaena Point hike is 2.7 miles (4.3 kilometres) in total, and will take about one hour in each direction to complete.
Kalaupapa Peninsula Hike
Among all of Hawaii’s many islands, Molokai is the most isolated, and among all of Molokai, the Kalaupapa Peninsula is perhaps the most isolated part.
You’ll find an incredible natural beauty all over the Kalaupapa Peninsula, which drastically contrasts the area’s controversial past as the location of a leper colony. Between 1866 and 1969, the area was designated as a quarantine area in which to force those suffering with the disease. It wasn’t until a cure was discovered that those placed in the area were free to leave, although many ultimately chose to stay.
Thankfully this is all in the past now, and today there aren’t much more than a dozen people living in Kalaupapa National Historical Park. Since this is no ordinary park however, anyone visiting must first obtain a special permit, costing somewhere in the region of £45 – £50 (which on the plus side does include a guided tour).
The Kalaupapa Peninsula hike itself involves a descent of some 1,664 feet down from the topside, over 1,400 steps and 26 switchbacks, although those less excited about the idea of walking could alternatively find it more preferable to take a mule. There are a number of amazing key sites you’ll take in as you discover the story of Kalaupapa, no matter how you decide to travel, and you’ll definitely love the amazing views of Molokai’s Pali Coast.
The Kalaupapa Peninsula hike is 7 miles (11.3 kilometres) in total, and will take around 60 minutes to go down and another 90 to go back up (plus an additional 4 to 5 hours for the tour).
Diamond Head Crater
Of all of the landmarks in Hawaii, Diamond Head Crater is perhaps the most recognisable one. As the official symbol of Oahu, Diamond Head Crater looks out over Waikiki Beach, after having been formed when an underwater volcanic eruption covered the area in coral, ash and various other forms of debris hundreds of thousands of years ago. The Diamond Head name was later given to the area by European explorers, mistakenly believing they’d discovered diamonds in the area. As it would turn out, these were in fact calcite crystals.
Some time later a number of artillery firing stations were set up on the summit and the slopes of the crater to create a coastal defence system for the island, and taking a hike up to the summit is an absolute must for anyone in the area. While the trail is certainly a popular one, and you’ll be contending with hundreds of other budding hikers with the exact same idea as you, it’s unquestionably worth it when you get to the top and are able to look out over the unobstructed views of Waikiki Beach.
The Diamond Head Crater is one of the absolute must see top spots that all of Hawaii has to offer, and one can only imagine what the landscape must’ve looked like before the volcanic eruption all those hundreds of thousands of years ago.
The Diamond Head Crater trail is 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometres) in total, and should take around 2 hours to complete.
— Dirtbag Hiker (@DirtbagHikerBlg) June 24, 2020
Koko Crater Trail
If for whatever reason you’re unable to make it to the Diamond Head Crater trail, then Koko Crater is definitely the next best alternative, although that’s not to say you shouldn’t be visiting both if you can.
Koko Crater offers stunning views of the east of Honolulu, and since parts of this very trail were used during the Second World War as an old railway with which to shift supplies and personnel to the Air Force station located at the top of Puu Mai, you’ll find lots of amazing history to sink your teeth into too while following the trail.
The climb itself is relatively steep, and once you reach the top of its more than 1,000 steps, you’ll be over 1,200 feet above sea level. As you can imagine, the views up here are truly breathtaking, stretching out over Diamond Head, Makapuu Head, Honolulu and Hanauma Bay.
Bird watchers and nature lovers in general will love the Koko Crater Trail, and since it’s open to the public all year round, you should definitely consider giving it a look at when you make your trip to Hawaii.
The Koko Crater Trail is about 0.7 miles (1.13 kilometres) in total, and will take you about an hour to complete.
Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail
Stretching almost two miles in each direction, the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail boasts some of the most amazing views in all of Hawaii. If the distance seems a bit too long for you then don’t worry, there are plenty of places to stop off on the way, including the amazing Crater Rock. If you’re lucky, you might even get the chance to spot the islands of Lanai and Moloka’i out in the distance too, if the weather is clear enough.
Located within the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline, the trail itself ascends some 500 feet high, taking you along the western ridge to the remarkable Makapu’u Lighthouse, from which the trail gets its name.
Any budding bird watchers will be able to get their fill of exotic Hawaiian seabirds, and if you’re visiting during migration season, you might be lucky enough to spot some humpback whales out in the distance too, or even some dolphins.
Makapu’u Point Lighthouse trail is around 3.5 miles (5.5 kilometres) in total, and takes around an hour and a half to two hours to complete.
Mauna Kea Hike
At a towering 13,800 feet, it won’t come as much of a surprise to learn that Mauna Kea is the highest peak there is in all of Hawaii. In fact, it would be the highest in the world if mountains were measured from the ocean floor.
The peak is also a sacred spot to those native to Hawaii, and it’s not hard to see why. You may start to feel less fondly towards it though as you’re struggling with the uphill battle that the hike has become renowned for, and even though you’ll be contending with cold conditions, shortness of breath, and certainly some leg pain, we promise you it’ll all be worth it the second you reach the top and get to experience the pure serenity of Mauna Kea’s peak. In fact, many are keen to make note of how Mars-like the peak seems, often with nothing but otherworldly rocky orange and red terrain as far as the eye can see.
On your way to the summit you’ll come across all manner of amazing sights. Lake Wai’au, the third largest lake in the whole of the United States is located amongst the desert-like terrain, and if that didn’t make you feel small enough just wait until you reach all the telescopes at the top. Since the peak at Mauna Kea is so high, and the air is so clean and without any light pollution, Mauna Kea has the honour of being host to the largest collection of high-powered telescopes in the whole world.
For an extra special experience, take in the sunset or some stargazing. There’s absolutely no way you’ll regret it, especially if you’re looking for a spectacular and out of this world experience.
The Mauna Kea hike is 16 miles (26 kilometres) in total, and will take around 8 to 10 hours to complete. Be wary that this is definitely one for the more seasoned hikers out there, as it can be incredibly challenging.
Lanikai Pillbox Trail
The Lanikai Pillbox Trail, also known as the Kaiwa Ridge Trail, is a popular trail found close to Kailua in Oahu. Full of all sorts of amazing wild flowers along it’s 1.8 miles, you’ll typically find plenty of runners, dog walkers or other hikers on the moderate trail, as it’s the perfect location for nature trips all year round.
The hike itself is simply stunning, taking in the Kaiwa Ridge and the amazing Lanikai Beach and it’s crystal-blue waters, along with the Mokulua Islands in the distance, and it’s perfect for those looking to enjoy simple to moderate hikes.
Those looking for something quick and easy can take a half hour walk to the first pillbox (the trail gets its name from the several pillboxes found around many of the trail’s various intervals), and those who want something more moderate can spend a good hour and a half to two hours to complete the trail.
Out of all of Hawaii’s amazing hikes, The Lanikai Pillbox Trail is one of the best for those looking for something that can be adapted tot their ability.
The Lanikai Pillbox trail is 1.8 miles (2.9 kilometres) in total, and will take an hour and a half to two hours to complete.
We’ve definitely saved the best for last, and this is one you really won’t want to miss.
The Kalalau trail sits nicely on the uninhabited and pristine Na Pali Coast on the island of Kauai, where you’ll find remote beaches, high cliffs, lush valleys and some steep inclines on this 22-mile trek. Since it’s such a large endeavour, you’d best be prepared to find some overnight accommodation if you’re going to complete the hike in its entirety.
If on the other hand you don’t feel like embarking on such a long adventure, you could alternatively take a day hike along the Kalalau Trail’s first section and take in all of the amazing views of the Na Pali coast.
Any advanced hiker looking for a challenge will love the full length Kalalau Trail. There’s all sorts going on, and hikers can expect a range of conditions taking in just about every type possible. The trail’s footpaths can get pretty narrow at times, and with the mouth of the Hanakāpī’ai and Kalalau Rivers you’ll find some pretty strong currents that you should definitely avoid if you were to feel like taking a dip.
As a result of these challenging conditions, Kalalau has built up something of a reputation for itself as one of the toughest hikes in Hawaii, but don’t let this put you off. Without question this only makes it the most rewarding, and this stunning hike is not only frequently cited as the best in all of Hawaii, but the best in all the United States, too.
The Kalalau Trail is 22 miles (35 kilometres) in total, and will take 5+ hours to complete.
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