The 4 best hiking trails for beginners on Oahu

Hawaii Aloha Travel > Blog > The 4 best hiking trails for beginners on Oahu

Even if you are not an avid hiker, I think that most people who come to Hawaii will enjoy trying at least one hike. But what if you have never hiked before? Don’t worry! Out of all of the islands, I think that Oahu is the perfect island to begin hiking on. Many state-maintained trails are ideal for beginners. Some of them can even accommodate strollers!

Now, why should you attempt a hike at all when you are on vacation in Hawaii? Isn’t it time to relax? First of all, some of the easiest, best hikes for beginners are also the shortest. That means that you can do them in a short period. They won’t take up your entire day, so you will have plenty of time to go to the beach or go sightseeing when you finish.

Although there are many of gorgeous lookout points on Oahu that you can drive right up to, hiking enables you to experience views that you just cannot get otherwise.

I also think that hiking in Oahu is worth the effort because it’s a ver rewarding activity. Depending on which hike you do and when you go, you might be able to have a slice of paradise all of yourself for a few minutes. You will get to see views that are not possible to see without hiking. And, there is an incredible feeling of accomplishment that comes with finishing a hike. You can bring a snack and relax at the top.

Even if you have hiked before, you may be in for a surprise when you get to Hawaii. Many of the hikes here in Hawaii are unlike the ones you may be used to. So, take a look at the best hikes for beginners and decide which one(s) you want to attempt while on vacation here. Afterwards, grab a Mai Tai and relax on the beach — you earned it!

  1. Aiea Loop Trail

    Aiea Loop Trail is probably the least popular hike on this list, but it is a great trail for beginners who want to get out of the touristy areas and into the woods. It’s about 5 miles, clearly marked, and moderately trafficked, meaning, you will see people on this hike, but it is not super crowded. It’s a loop trail, meaning that there is no place where you end and then turn around and go back. Instead, you do a big circle and end up back at the parking lot.

    The foliage is beautiful, and it’s mostly flat, with a few uphill spots. I rate this hike as good for beginners because there is no rock climbing, no stairs, and because it’s pretty flat. There are also lots of trees, giving you a lot of shade. That shade makes a huge difference in Hawaii, so this trail is a lot cooler than some of the other hikes on my list.

    While you won’t get panoramic ocean views like you will with the other trails, you will get a pretty incredible view of the H3 – something you just don’t see every day. It’s also a great chance to see some different trees, including lemon eucalyptus, Norfolk pine, and native trees including koa and ʻōhiʻa.

    Since it’s a loop, you will get to experience changing scenery throughout your hike. Usually, when a hike has a set endpoint, you just turn around and head back the same way you came. I like loop hikes because I never get bored and never know what’s around the corner.

    This trail is located in the Keaīwa Heiau State Recreation Area. There is plenty of parking along with restrooms. Look for the easy-to-find sign that makes the beginning of the Aiea Loop Trail. If you don’t, you might find the 4-mile Kalauao Trail, which is much harder and takes you to a waterfall instead (not recommended for beginners!)

  2. Diamond Head

    Unlike the Aiea Loop Trail, almost everyone coming to Oahu has heard of Diamond Head. I hate to say it, but some things are “touristy” for a reason. Oahu’s most popular hike is probably so popular because it’s perfect for beginners.

    Diamond Head is 1.6 miles round trip.  A slow incline combined with stairs to get you to the top, where you will see panoramic views.  You will be standing inside a crater that was created over 300,000 years ago, looking out at the ocean and Honolulu city. It’s a breathtaking sight

    Diamond Head starts out paved. It quickly becomes rough terrain, but there are handrails to help you along the way. There is a little bit of shade, but it is mostly sunny. There are also many lookout points along the way where you can stop, catch your breath, and get a taste of what’s to come. As you get to the top, there is a set of stairs that leads you through a tunnel. After that set of stairs, you have the choice to go on another, longer, and steeper set of stairs. Or, you can go the long way that isn’t as difficult of an incline.

    Not only is this hike relatively quick, but it also rewards you with unique views of the entire island. You get to see the city of Honolulu as well as gorgeous views of the ocean.

    Now, just because it’s relatively easy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare for this hike. What most visitors to Oahu might not know is that Diamond Head gets super crowded, and it gets hot. There is no shade on this hike, and it does get difficult at points. To combat all of this, go as soon as Diamond Head opens – 6:00 am! There is a small parking lot that fills up quick, so don’t say I didn’t warn you!

  3. Makapuu Lighthouse Trail

    Out of all of the hikes on my list, the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail (33805) has my favorite views. This trail is ideal for beginners for a few reasons. Fist, although this trail does go uphill, it’s entirely paved. You could easily bring a stroller, making this a great family-friendly hike. You will also see many locals bringing their dogs on this trail.

    This trail is also ideal for beginners because you get to see these gorgeous views the entire way up, giving you the motivation to keep on going. Sometimes novice hikers can get frustrated if all they are looking at is trees for miles and miles before reaching the view at the end. This hike spoils you with stunning views the entire way up.

    This trail is different from the others because it is located on the most southeastern point of the island.  This trail offers views of the Kaiwi Scenic Shoreline, Oahu’s southeastern coastline including Koko Head, and, the lighthouse (you can’t go to the lighthouse, but it’s really cool to see it from the trail).

    However, this hike can be challenging if you are not prepared. This trail offers absolutely no shade, so it is essential to go as early in the morning as possible. There is a lot of parking here, but it does fill up quickly. Note that there are no restrooms here.

    If you decide to hike the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail, during whale season (November-May), be sure to keep your eyes peeled for whales. You will see them off the coast!

    After hiking the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail, reward yourself with a beer at Kona Brewing Company, just 10 miles away. Enjoy views along the world-famous Kalanianaole Highway, including Makapu’u Lookout, Halona Blowhole Lookout, and Lanai Lookout.

  4. Waimea Falls

    I think that Waimea Falls is the easiest hike on this list. It is a great option for beginners and those with strollers and small children. There are plenty of accommodations, including restrooms, a small cafe, and a gift shop.

    The view at the end is stunning – a 45-food waterfall you can swim in! And as a bonus, are always lifeguards present who will make you wear lifejackets (the water is freezing cold, but it’s totally worth it to go swimming in a waterfall!).

    I also think that Waimea Falls is the best hike to do with kids on the entire island. As you walk on the relatively flat, completely paved, trail, you are also walking through an arboretum. There are many different flora and flowers to look at along the way. There are many tropical plans that you will not see in many other places, including flora from Guam, Hawaiian plants, food plants, a medicinal garden, and a huge banyan tree.

    Also, there are interactive exhibits along the way that will engage children and teach them about Hawaiian traditions, crafts, and culture. This is a unique experience that you don’t get in many other places.

    Because of the many trees, there is some shade on this trail, too, but you will have to talk through some sunny areas as well.

    The best reason why this is the easiest hike on the island is that there is a trolley. You can take the trolley both to the waterfall and back. Or, you can just take it one way.  Many families with young children will opt to take the trolley either both ways or maybe just one the way back. It’s great to know that if your children get tired, there is an option to get them back without having to walk.

Know before you go

Are you thinking about going on a hike in Hawaii?  You should know that there are risks and dangers involved in each hike. Do your research carefully before you decide which hike is right for you. Some hikes have stairs, others are flat. Some hikes are paved, others are rocky. And while some hikes are mostly shaded,  others are completely in the sun.

Think about your skill and comfort level before you go. What do you want to see? Are you looking for a cascading waterfall or views of the ocean?

Make sure that you always bring plenty of water, sunscreen, sunglasses, hand sanitizer, a snack (protein bar or trail mix), napkins, lip balm with SPF, your cell phone (100% charged,) and a camera. Carry it all in a backpack to make it easy to carry. You also might want to consider wearing a hat and bringing a first aid kit, and a ziplock bag for trash. Make sure you know where to go and about how long the hike is supposed to be.

Never go off the path, and respect “no trespassing” and other warning signs.

And, of course, don’t forget to take pictures! The views from this trail make pretty amazing Instagram pictures. Did you know that we’re now on Instagram? Follow us @hawaiialohatravel and use #hawaiialohatravel.

Not sure which hike to do on Oahu? Give our travel agents a call. We will we will help you plan the perfect Hawaiian adventure — not a cookie-cutter vacation.

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