Many people seek adventure during their vacations. It’s as if some internal heartstring tugs at us to get up and explore, as if built into the human DNA. We feel encouraged to discover new terrain, new trails, new territory. Whether this translates into traveling to a foreign country to you, or simply exploring a new hiking trail, the desire for adventure seems intrinsic for many people. Hawaii is a wonderful place to find it.

For those of you looking for a safe yet adventurous excursion during your vacation in the Islands, here are my top 5 picks for cliffs you want to climb. Please note I am not encouraging that you jump from these cliffs (although I will note which ones are safe). I’m merely recommending these cliffs to climb. All 5 mentions are moderate to easy climbs, but as always, use caution when enjoying the outdoors and keep your wits about you.

Shipwrecks, Kauai (Poipu). When facing the ocean, you’ll notice a large cliff that looms roughly 30 feet above the water on the left-hand side of the beach. This is known as Shipwrecks cliff, and is a popular plunge for thrill seekers. While I have done it a handful of times myself, I really don’t recommend it to inexperienced swimmers or outdoor extroverts. 30 feet is a long way to free fall and I’ve actually bruised my wrists from slapping the water with such force. But the climb to the top is easy and the reward is breath taking. Standing at the top of Shipwrecks cliff, you have a panoramic view of the south side beaches, including Mahaulepu. The cliff face is covered in ironwood trees, rocks and shrubs and while there is a semi-distinct trail to follow, it’s pretty easy to blaze your own as well. The climb up takes about five to ten minutes.

Waimea Bay, Oahu (Haleiwa). There is a large rock that sits in the water and sand on the west side of Waimea Bay. Ideal for cliff jumping, many visitors and locals congregate atop the ledge, waiting for a moment of courage to jump into the waters below. This cliff is half the length of Shipwrecks, and takes only about 30 seconds to two minutes to climb to the top. It’s an incredible view from above, with a gorgeous vantage point of the sparkling blue waters of the Bay and the valley ridges of Waimea. The top of the cliff does get crowded however, so if you want a slice of solitude to take in the views, I recommend getting there early in the morning or staying till the sun sets and climbing during those lesser crowded hours.

Black Rock, Maui (Kaanapali). Similar to Waimea’s rock, Black Rock is located at the far north end of Kaanapali beach in front of the Sheraton Resort. This cliff is best to climb from the water, which means yes, you have to swim to it. When the waters are calm here however, they are stunningly clear and very beautiful, enticing adventurers to jump from Black Rock into the turquoise depths below. The Sheraton even has a nightly cliff jumping ceremony, where a local man lights the tiki torches along the cliff and then dives into the water from the rock above. Climbing up is pretty easy, just be cautious of your footing, as the rock can be slippery. The climb takes about two to five minutes, depending on your agility. There are also plenty of places to hang out on the lower cliff if you don’t want to trek it to the top.

South Point, Big Island (Ka Lae). This is the highest cliff of all 5 mentions, so I’m not recommending you jump off it. South Point is the southernmost point in the United States and is a beautiful way to take in the unique views of the Big Island. While the ‘climb’ is mostly referring to the trek down to Green Sand Beach or Kaalualu Bay, rather than the cliffs at South Point, it definitely still qualifies as a cliff and hence is on my favorite’s list. One thing I will say about jumping off South Point is that there are ladders to help you back up the cliff. However, this is a dangerous place to swim when conditions are rough and I think you’re better off just enjoying the views instead. 40 feet is a loooooooong way down.

China Walls, Oahu (Portlock). Similar to South Point in the sense that there is no cliff climbing to physically get here, China Walls is an overhanging cliff that is an incredibly unique place to visit. Navigating to this location can be tricky, since the Portlock neighborhood is a bit of a maze, but once you walk down the public access trail you’ll immediately know China Walls by the landscape. It’s all rock. Flat rock too, that people post up on in lounge chairs and beach blankets. The reason why I mention China Walls as a cliff is because when conditions are right, you can jump off the cliffs at various points along the wall and climb back up. Just be careful of urchin hiding in the crevices on your climb back up! On a clear day, the ocean here is insane and the views of the southeast side of Oahu are quite spectacular.


  1. Great article. Hawaii is stunningly beautiful. Thanks for the awesome pics and excellent information on Hawaiian outdoor activities.

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