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Hiking in Hawaii doesn’t always have to be for the outdoor enthusiast. If you’re not a hiking extraordinaire, don’t worry! Because there are plenty of easy walking trails along Oahu that offer the beauty, scenery, and outdoor experiences that any other good hike will offer. We understand that not everyone comes to Hawaii for the activities; some of you might be allured simply by the sunshine and relaxing days of lounging and leisure. So if you’re not an active type of vacationer, but still want to enjoy some of Hawaii’s untouched beauty, then here are a couple mellow hikes for you to explore.
The first one we’re going to highlight is the Manoa Falls hike. While the weekends have proved to be somewhat crowded here, during a weekday or off-times (early morning and late afternoon), this hike is a real pleaser. Located in the lush valley of Manoa, this hike is very accessible if you’re staying in the town parts of Oahu (Honolulu/Waikiki). Just head inland up Manoa Road and you’ll wind through neighborhoods of beautifully classic Hawaiian plantation homes and points of interest. There is a parking lot at the end of the road, where you’ll also find the Lyon Arboretum and Tree Tops Restaurant. Parking here is $5, or you can retrace back out into the neighborhoods and park along the street. The walk back into the park entrance is roughly 5-8 minutes on pavement, but if you prefer the convenience of parking close to the trailhead, we recommend having cash to spare for the lot.
The trail begins through dripping vines and large green elephant-eared palm fronds along a crumbled black asphalt and dirt road. It’ll then open up into a larger trail, where you’ll pass through tall coconut palm forests, canopies of trees and ferns, and arguably the lushest sights you’ll ever encounter. A bridge takes you over a small ravine and then you’re in the real beginning of the trail. Manoa Falls hike is beautiful and easy, with some rocks, roots, and wood planks to walk over. We recommend wearing walking shoes on this hike, but have also seen it done easily in slippers (and we mean rubbah slippahs, not your fuzzy house slippers). The hike takes less than an hour one-way, and the end result is a tumbling waterfall down into a shallow pool of fresh water.
There are ropes and signs deterring folks from trekking outside of the intended path, and this is for reasons of nature preservation as well as safety. So don’t hang out beneath the lip of the waterfall because there have been falling rocks and landslides known to occur at waterfall cliff sites. There are many break points along the trail where you can stop and rest, (or take in the beauty, however you prefer to label it :), including a bamboo forest, various creek sides, twisted tree branch areas, river crossings, and large sitting rocks.
The hike is under 2 miles roundtrip, within shady canopies and along a beaten path. If it has been rainy, be prepared for mud. If you’re inclined to getting bug bites, you might want to bring repellant on this hike, or just wear long pants. Also, during the summer months, the waterfall is just barely a trickle, since the water flow is dependant upon the rainfall. So don’t think you’re hiking into some spectacularly powerful waterfall! Manoa Falls is beautiful and tall, but doesn’t yield tons of water (unless there has been heavy rains). So before you talk yourself out of some activity while in Hawaii, give this easy but gorgeous trail a chance! It is very worthwhile and takes you into the greenest, most tropical parts of the island. You haven’t explored Hawaii if you haven’t been to its rainforests!
The second hike to highlight is the Makapu’u Point Trail. Located on Oahu’s southeastern side, this hike is the opposite of Manoa Falls. Meaning that it offers spectacular views of the coastline, rather than the rainforests. Equally stunning yet unique in their own ways, this particular hike winds within the Ka Iwi State Scenic Shoreline, including along Koko Head and Koko Crater. Another relatively short hike (2 miles roundtrip) Makapu’u Trail is for any age and any stage of hiker. But we do recommend walking shoes for this hike, as it winds up and down slopes.
The views along this hike are absolutely fantastic. From the Makapu’u Lighthouse to the sea cliffs and sandy shores, to views of Lanai and Molokai (only on very clear days) and migrating humpback whales, this trail is ideal for anyone looking to see some of Oahu’s panoramic ocean scenery. Exposed to the island’s elements, we recommend wearing sunscreen and bringing a hat and sunglasses for this hike. It is usually sunny and hot too, so pack plenty of water and be prepared to sweat!
There is an easy parking area located off of the Kalanianaole Highway (Hwy. 72) at the southeastern most point of Oahu. A short distance out of Honolulu and Waikiki, this is a great way to spend an afternoon on Oahu, even if you’re not keen on being active during your vacation. Look at it more as a sightseeing adventure rather than a hike, because you’re sure to see a lot more along this terrain than sitting poolside at the resort! And it’s an easy trail. Exploring Oahu’s natural beauty is just as rewarding as soaking in its resort-esque beauty too, so don’t cut yourself short during your Hawaiian vacation. Enjoy a leisurely outdoor experience and feel content and deserving about that extra lava flow or French fry at the end of the day! Happy trails and travels to you!