Top 5 Long Hiking Trails on Oahu

the koolau mountains
Hawaii Aloha Travel > Blog > Top 5 Long Hiking Trails on Oahu

Do you love to spend the day outdoors? Do you have a moderate amount of hiking experience? And, most importantly, do you have a lot of endurance?

If so, you’re the perfect candidate to try some of the best long hiking trails on Oahu. Unlike the easier, shorter hikes that average about 1-2 hours, many of these longer trails will require you block-off the lion’s share of a day. But, the rewards at the end are well worth it!

Here’s our take on the top 5 long hiking trails on Oahu:

1. Kawailoa Trail: Kawailoa Trail is a 9.4 mile out and back trail located near Haleiwa, Hawaii that offers an abundance of scenic views. If you’re looking for a rough, muddy, long, historic trail that winds up through the Koolau Summit through lush vegetation, this is the trail for you!

The total elevation difference for this backpacking trail is 1,408 feet which is about average. Keep in mind that this is a long trail, so make sure you bring plenty of supplies.

This backcountry hike shouldn’t take more than 8 hours, but you never know stuff could go wrong and you could get stuck so be prepared for that. There is only one trailhead, so you’re looking at an in and out backcountry walk.

Total in and out hiking length = 9.4 miles
Total climbing distance = 3.9 miles
Difficulty : Difficult
Casual Hiking Pace: 8 hours
Fast Hiking Pace: 5 hours
Total elevation difference: 1408 feet

The Kawailoa Trail is a 9.4 mile trail located near Haleiwa, Hawaii that offers an abundance of scenic views. After the long hike, you can take a break and grab a shave ice in Haleiwa!

2. Wahiawa Poamoho Trail: The Poamoho Trail is part of the “Na Ala Hele” Hawaii Trail and Access System. That means it is a state sanctioned trail, maintained by the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and open to the public. You do need a permit to hike this trail though.

Starting in Wahiawa (Central Oahu), you drive in six miles to the trailhead. Once through the first gate follow the yellow post through two more gates. The Poamoho Hele Loa access road is about six miles. The road first goes through old pineapple fields and cow pasture. Then after about four miles the vegetation transitions into native Uluhe fern with Koa and Ohia trees emerging throughout the landscape. A map and directions will be provided with approved access permits.

The Wahiawa Poamoho Trail is a spectacular ridge hike which traverses along a ridge through mostly native forest up to the Koolau Summit. The trail is quite narrow in sections and is not suitable for novice hikers. The trail offers a wide variety of native plants — some of them quite rare. From the summit, Poamoho Trail rewards hikers with awesome views of Kahana and Punaluu Valleys and the north-eastern shores of Oahu. Poamoho Trail is also a good trail for bird watching. The Poamoho Trail takes you up to a peak on the Kooloau Mountains where you’ll be treated to a massive panoramic view of the east side of Oahu.

A beautiful view of the windward side of Oahu is the reward when you get to the summits of some of the best hiking trails on Oahu.

3. Konahuanui: This is an extreme hike and should not be attempted by novice hikers. This 7.2 mile hike is a steep muddy trail that climbs to the top of a pair of towering peaks, which are the tallest in the Koolau range. Twin peaked Puu Konahuanui is the tallest mountain in the Koolau range, on the island of Oahu. The summit region of Konahuanui is nearly a living catalog of the common and some of the uncommon plants found in Hawaii’s wet forests. The views are spectacular on the rare clear day, but being on Konahuanui in the clouds is an equally special experience.

4. Waimano Ridge Trail: If you’re looking for a trail with lush vegetation and spectacular views, this may the the hike for you. Oh, and you need a long day to do it, too.

Waimano Trail begins at a chain link fence next to the parking area. You will quickly come to a fork where lower Waimano Trail splits from upper Waimano Trail. They form a loop. Lower Waimano Trail continues on an old jeep road to the floor of the valley and then follows the stream for a distance up the valley. The trail will then climb back uphill to join the upper Waimano Trail. The upper trail goes continues from the split along the road for 0.5 mile. It then turns left and follows a ditch and tunnels to an intake in the east branch of Waimano Valley. It then climbs over a ridge and continues along a stream to an old abandoned dam. The trail then goes slightly to the right, makes several switchbacks and then continues gradually up to the Koolau summit. This trail offers a wide variety of native and non-native vegetation and spectacular views of Waimano Valley. From the summit, the ends at a view of the windward side of Oahu.

Trail Length: 7.2 mi.
Terrain: Varied. Wet gulches to native forest
Activity: Pedestrian
Elevation: 1600 ft

5.  Maunawili Trail: (Currently closed to open in 2024) When you imagine hiking in Hawaii, you may well imagine an experience similar to Maunawili Trail. That’s because the trail environment is full of vegetation, PLUS, at the end, you’re rewarded with a waterfall with a swimming hole below. According to Na Ala Hele, Hawaii’s Trail and Access System website, Maunawili Trail is a 10 mile trail that contours the base of the Koolau Mountain Range on the windward side. It begins off the Pali Highway and ends in Waimanalo. It offers spectacular views of the windward side of Oahu, Olomana, and the Koolaupoko watershed. Vegetation along the trail includes mountain apple, rose apple, ti, naupaka, mamake, lobelia, koa and ohia. Maunawili Trail is a good family trail, and there are three access points for this trail.

If you’re a beginner hiker, but still want to try hiking a moderately difficult trail, be sure to join a hiking group or book a hiking tour through a reputable tour company, such as Hawaii Aloha Travel. The company offers a Kualoa Ranch hiking tour, as well as other sightseeing tours, and you can be assured of your safety when you join their experienced guides for a long hike.

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