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​Ten spectacular hikes across the Hawaiian Islands

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Two climbers at the top of the mountains at sunrise

Blue skies, sea breezes, nature all around you – why wouldn’t you take a few hikes while you are in Hawaiʻi on holidays. Here are 10 great hikes that will get your heart pumping and the wind on your face. 

Before you go

Why not pack a few of your favourite things so you are ready to tackle the trails. Whilst we don’t suggest you do hikes that are not in your comfort zone, we do suggest you take some familiar things, to make it more enjoyable. 

Remember to pack your hiking shoes and socks you are familiar with, your favourite water bottle and electrolytes, but best of all, I always take my pillow spray to ensure a good night’s sleep after any activity. If you are used to certain snacks for a protein boost, perhaps take these with you, or head to your closest ABC Store when you arrive to see what local brands are available. They are also great to buy any last-minute sunscreens, sunglasses or that hat you may have forgotten. 

Planning

Now, where to first? Shrublands, sand dunes, rainforests or high alpine trails – yes, you read right, high alpine trails! A great place to start, is head to the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources website, so you can get familiar with local customs, guidelines and up-to-date alerts. Weather is a vital part of planning any hike, as changes in the weather brings changes to every trail. Ensure you have all your National and State Park permits, as a lot are required to be purchased in advance and can be done online. 

Kaua‘i

Kalalau Trail 

The one hike that most people would know about is the Kalalau Trail. Located along the Napali Coast, this hike offers some of the best views in the world. Located in Ha’ena State Park, an advanced purchased permit to enter the park is required for all hikers and campers – similar to the National Parks in Australia. 

  • Difficulty: Strenuous 9/10 
  • Park Pass: Reservations may be made up to 30 days in advance, and no later than the day before your visit. 
  • Length: 22 miles / 35.4 km 
  • Time: Round trip approx. 13 hours 
  • Best Time: Summer months (May – Oct) starting early in the morning 

Waimea Canyon  

Another great hike that offers rainforest and the scenic rim views of Waimea Canyon is Koke’e State Park. Offering native plants, bird watching, fruit picking and trout fishing, this State Park offers more than a good hike. 

  • Difficulty: Easy 
  • Park Pass: Reservations may be made up to 30 days in advance, and no later than the day before your visit. 
  • Length: 3.4 miles / 5.5 km 
  • Time: Round trip approx. 3 hours 
  • Best Time: Summer months (May – Oct) 

Island of Hawai‘i

Halema’ama’u Trail 

Halema’uma’u Trail descends through the rainforest to the crater floor, but remember you need to hike the 130m back up to the top, but it will be worth it. 

  • Difficulty: Moderately challenging 
  • Park Pass: National Park Pass is required and can be purchased at the visitor centre 
  • Length: 3.2 miles / 5.1 km 
  • Time: Round trip approx. 2 – 2.5 hours 
  • Best Time: Year round 

Pololū Trail and Awini Lookout 

At the very top of the island of Hawaiʻi there are a couple of great hikes around Kohala. A stop in the beautiful, charming town of Hawi is a must. Here you can grab your snacks and water, but be warned, this town will keep you longer than you think. 

  • Enjoy views of the ocean and mountains which cascade the coast. 
  • Difficulty: Moderate 
  • Park Pass: Free 
  • Length: 5.7 miles / 9.3 km 
  • Time: Round trip approx. 2 hours

O‘ahu

Lēʻahi (nicknamed Diamond Head) Summit Trail 

If you have been to Honolulu before, there is a good chance that you started your day with a hike up to the Diamond Head State Monument. As of May 2022, all out-of-state visitors must have an advanced reservation to enter.  If it’s your first time… then it’s a must do walk to start your day. It will probably be the busiest hike that you do, so take care. The park opens at 6.00am with the last time to access the park is 4.00pm. 

  • Difficulty: Moderate 
  • Park Pass: Advanced reservations is required 
  • Length: 1.6 miles / 2.5 km 
  • Time: Return Trip will take approx. 2 hours  

ʻAiea Bay 

For a different look at Pearl Harbour, then the bike trail from ʻAiea Bay State recreational park to Waipahu offers 30 km of trails to explore. I know hiking and biking are different, but we share some of the same paths. A walk or a bike instead of a hike could be a nice rest day activity. 

  • Difficulty: Moderately challenging 
  • Park Pass: Free 
  • Length: 4.9 miles / 7.8 km 
  • Time: Loop will take approx. 3 hours 

Maui

Haleakalā 

The Sliding Sands Trail is probably the best Haleakalā hike to explore this famous volcanic crater to the fullest. Like every hike, preparation is key, especially if you are hiking the Haleakalā Crater.  Sunrise is spectacular and a great way to start your adventure. 

  • Difficulty: Strenuous 
  • Park Pass: Reservations are required for sunrise viewing. 
  • Length: 11.6 miles / 18.6 km 
  • Time: Return trip approx. 6.5 hours 

Kapalau Coastal Trail 

A great way to end your day is a walk along this popular trail. Once you have finished, a glass of champagne in the historic Cliff House on the grounds of the Montage Resort would be the perfect way to watch the sunset. Bookings are a must. 

  • Difficulty: Easy 
  • Pass: Free 
  • Length: 2.4 miles / 4 km 
  • Time: Return trip approx. 1 hour 

Moloka‘i

Wailau Trail 

A popular hike for bird watching with spectacular views. Looking for some peace and quiet, then this trail ticks the box. 

  • Difficulty: Moderately challenging 
  • Pass: Free 
  • Length: 5.5 miles / 9 km 
  • Time: Return trip approx. 4 – 4.5 hours 

Moloka‘i Forest Reserve to Sandalwood Measuring Pit 

Looking for a full day adventure, then this hike will give you all that and more. Be prepared for mud and some amazing views. Trade winds gather up clouds in the afternoon, so it you want clear views, make sure you start early. A great tip is to wear bright clothes, as part of the trail is shared with 4WD. 

  • Difficulty: Moderately challenging 
  • Pass: Free 
  • Length: 25.6 miles / 41.2 km 
  • Time: Return trip approx. 13 hours 

NB:  Camping is available in the Forest Reserve, however there is no drinking water available. There are picnic facilities and restrooms along with extraordinary view of Waikolu Valley. Max. 2 night stay and permits are required for camping. 

We hope you enjoy exploring and discovering some of the amazing trails throughout Hawaiʻi by taking memories home and leaving only footprints behind. Most of all, enjoy your hiking on one of the many islands that are Hawaii. 

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