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If you’re spending time in Oahu, you probably have a large bucket list. For the hiking enthusiasts, there are endless hikes on the island that offer different views and terrain. For first time Oahu hikers, I recommend these three hikes to get a sense of the land. The great thing is that all of the hikes are relatively short, so you can do all three in one day! Or, you can break them up and do one at a time, whatever works for your schedule. However, doing all of the hikes in one day will require some physical endurance and an early start, as it is nearly 6.5 miles in combined trails.
First stop on the hiking tour is Diamond Head. This is, by far, one of the more popular hikes on the island and gets very full with tourists. The park where the hike is located opens at 6 am and closes at 6 pm. The cost to enter the park is $1 walk-in or $5 per car. Definitely the earlier the better to beat the crowds. If you are committed to doing all three hikes in a day, I would start at Diamond Head no later than 8 am. At the summit, you will have beautiful views of Waikiki beach and the ocean. There are also some old WWII bunkers that you can explore.
Diamond Head crater is an iconic landmark in Waikiki beach and also for all of Hawaii. The hike itself is mostly a series of switchbacks up the mountain. The trail is 1.5 miles roundtrip and may take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the level of physical endurance. It ends with two staircases that have nearly 200 stairs to take you to the top. The hike is exposed to the sun with no shade, so please wear protective gear and bring plenty of water.
After Diamond Head, I recommend driving 20 minutes to Manoa Falls. Manoa Falls is a heavily-trafficked 1.5-mile hike into a waterfall. Similar to Diamond Head, this hike could take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours. There is parking for $5/car and there’s plenty of spaces available.
The trail is shaded and has some serious jungle vibes. However, the ground is often wet and can be very muddy, so please bring appropriate gear. Hiking Manoa Falls makes you feel like you’re in the middle of the jungle. You can explore the nature on the island and view many tropical plants. The waterfall at the trail end is picturesque and a nice place to relax.
Finally, Kaiwa Ridge, known as Lanikai Pillboxes, aka the pillboxes, is a must-do hike. This hike features two WWII pillboxes on the trail. This hike is a bit of a drive from Manoa Falls in the Kailua/Lanikai neighborhoods. Depending on traffic, the drive could be as little as 35 minutes, but upwards of an hour if the roadways are busy. On your drive, enjoy the views and perhaps stop for a bite to eat along the way. Unlike the other trails, there is not a designated parking lot at Lanikai. Instead, there is street parking in the surrounding neighborhood, which can be sparse at times. You may have to drive around to find parking.
Lanika is a bit further away from Honolulu, so if you got a late start on the other hikes, or feel tired, this would be a good time to stop for the day. Lanikai can always be done on its own day if you don’t want to be caught coming down the trail after sunset. Like Diamond Head, it is an exposed hike with no shade. If you arrive at the hike in the heat of the day, you may want to consider taking a dip in the nearby ocean first (or afterward!) And remember your sun protection and extra water!
This is a moderate hike, which may take around one to one and a half hours to complete. Depending on how far you go on the ridge trail, it can be up to a three-mile hike. It’s a little under a mile to get to the first and second pillbox.
This hike is so special because of the beautiful views of iconic Lanikai beach that you can see as you go up the hike and reach the summit. The mokes, which are the twin islands off of the beach, are easily visible from this trail. As the name suggests, there are multiple WWII pillboxes on the hike where you can sit and relax and soak in the sun. Enjoy whatever time you have left in your day at the pillboxes or below on the beach!
Oahu has endless hikes and vistas – it is a hikers paradise! If you have limited time on the island and want to experience some great hikes, these are three that I recommend. With good hiking endurance and a fast pace, you can do them all in a day. If not, you can break them up and do one at a time.
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