11 of the Best Hikes in Hawaii
Hiking is practically a way of life in San Diego, so why not hit the trails on your Hawaiian vacation
Waihee Ridge Trail, overlooking Kahului and Haleakala, Maui. | Photo: MNStudio / Shutterstock
Beautiful beaches, lush forests, and access to active volcanoes truly set Hawaii’s hiking trails apart. Hikes vary in length and range from easy and family-friendly to strenuous all-day treks so there’s surely something for everyone. Here’s some of the best on each island, according to Na Ala Hele, the state of Hawaii’s Trail and Access Program.
Ala Kahakai Trail
This easy, relatively flat 7.7-mile hike along the coast follows historic roads and fishermen’s trails. There’s also access to beaches and resorts along the way, and to the Malama Trail, which leads to the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve where ancient Hawaiians carved symbols and images into lava rocks. Also, check out the unique anchialine ponds near the shoreline.
Manuka Nature Trail
The Manuka Nature Trail’s 2.1-mile hike begins above the Manuka State Wayside Park and heads uphill through the Manuka Natural Area Reserve. This easy hike takes visitors past lava flows, a pit crater, cultural sites, and various native and non-native plants and animals before it loops back to the north side of the park.
This moderate 6.5-mile trek takes hikers through lava fields and a dry forest. It’s recommended hikers be dropped off at the top of the trail and head down to a coastal jeep road a few miles south of Manuka Bay, where they can be picked up.
Waihee Ridge Trail
The Waihee Ridge Trail takes hikers through 2.5 miles of guava thickets, trees, and a native scrub forest on the slope of Maui. Sweeping views of Wailuku and central Maui, the Kahakuloa slopes, and Mount Eke can be seen from the 2,563-foot peak.
Ohai Loop Trail and Overlook
This moderate, 1.2-mile ADA-accessible hike takes visitors over rolling hills where Maui’s North Shore and the East end of Molokai can be seen.
Hulopoe-Huawai Fishing Trail
The Hulopoe-Huawai Fishing Trail crosses several gulches and heads up steep cliffs before leading to various fishing spots along the coast. Visitors to this 1.75-mile trail can also view historical sites and spinner dolphins.
Maunahui Forest Reserve Road
The nearly 10-mile Maunahui Forest Reserve Road travels through pastures and into the Molokai Forest Reserve. Once inside the reserve, hikers can head to the historic Lua Moku Iliahi sandalwood measuring pit and the Waikolu Lookout and Picnic Area on the southwest rim of Waikolu Canyon. This tough trek features gorgeous views of sea cliffs, waterfalls, and offshore islands.
This half-mile hike loops through a thick forest canopy in Pu'u 'Ualaka'a State Park and ends at a four-trail intersection with Makiki Valley, Moleka, and Maunalaha Trails, with a map so hikers can choose where to head next. The 'Ualaka'a Trail is family-friendly and the park has restrooms, drinking water, and trashcans.
Kalawahine Trail offers great views of Pauoa Valley and the northern end of Honolulu over its 1.5-mile course. Hikers have the option to continue onto Pauoa Flats Trail, then to Nu’uanu Trail, Aihualama Trail, or a lookout over Nu’uanu Valley.
This 3.1-mile hike through the Na Pali-Kona Forest Reserve features spectacular views of the cliffs overlooking the ocean from its 2,500-foot peak. There’s also a grassy area at the end of the trail that’s a great place for a post-hike picnic. Those not faint-of-heart can access Awaawapuhi Trail via the 3.8-mile Nualolo Trail, which begins near the Kokee State Park Headquarters and heads through the Kuia Natural Area Reserve before reaching the Nualolo Cliff Trail, which then leads to the Awaawapuhi Trail.
Waimea Canyon Trail
The 7-mile Waimea Canyon Trail crosses the Waimea River several times while traversing the Puu Ka Pele Forest Reserve. The trail can be accesses from either Menehune Road in Waimea or from the bottom of the scenic 2.5-mile Kukui Trail.