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People are often surprised to discover that the great outdoors is often minutes from downtown Honolulu. The island’s major hiking trails traverse razor-thin ridgebacks, deep waterfall valleys, and more. The best source of hiking information on O‘ahu is the state’s Nā Ala Hele (Trails to Go On) Program (www.hawaiitrails.org; tel. 808/973-9782). The website has everything you need: detailed maps and descriptions of 40 trails in the Nā Ala Hele program, a hiking safety brochure, updates on the trails, hyperlinks to weather information, health warnings, info on native plants, how to volunteer for trail upkeep, and more.

The Hawaiian Trail & Mountain Club (www.htmclub.org) offers regular hikes on O‘ahu. Bring a couple of bucks for the donation, your own lunch, and drinking water, and meet up with the club members at the scheduled location to join them on a hike. In addition, the club meets for Saturday and Sunday hikes at the ‘Iolani Palace at King Street between Richard and Punchbowl streets in downtown Honolulu. Generally, club members meet at 8am; look for a group of people dressed in hiking clothes and boots at the left rear of the palace.

We have detailed info on the top hikes on Oahu in our attractions section. They are:

In addition, we recommend the following two excellent hikes:

Koko Crater Railway Trail

If you’re looking for quiet, you’ll want to find another trail. This is less a hike than a strenuous workout, and it’s popular among fitness buffs who climb it daily, people trying to stick to New Year’s resolutions to be more active, and triathletes in training. But first-timers and tourists also tackle the 1,048 stairs along the railway track—once part of a World War II–era tram system—for the panoramic views from the Windward Coast to Waikīkī. It’s a tough hike, but you'll have lots of friendly company along the way, and the view from the top is worth it. As they say, no pain, no gain. It’s unshaded the whole way, so try to go early in the morning or in the late afternoon to catch the sunset, and bring plenty of water.

To get to the trail head from Waikīkī, take Kalanianaʻole Highway (Hwy. 72) to Hawai‘i Kai, turn left at Lunalilo Home Road, and then follow Anapalau Street to the trail head parking lot; you can also take TheBus no. 22 or 23.

Kuliʻouʻou Ridge Trail

One of Honolulu’s best ridge trails, this moderate 2.5-mile hike (each way) starts in the middle of a residential neighborhood, then ascends through ironwood and pine trees, and drops you in the middle of a native Hawaiian forest. Here, ʻōhiʻa lehua, with its distinctive red pom-pom–like flowers grow. Hawaiian legend has it that ʻŌhiʻa and Lehua were lovers. Pele fell in love with Ōhiʻa, but when he rejected her advances, she turned him into a tree. The gods took pity on the heartbroken Lehua and turned her into a flower on the tree. According to the story, if you pick a flower from the ʻōhiʻa lehua, it will rain, representing the separated lovers’ tears. So avoid picking the flowers, if only to assure clear views at the top of the summit—on a good day, you can see all the way to Waimānalo.

To get there from Waikīkī, take Kalanianaʻole Highway (Hwy. 72) and turn left on Kuliʻouʻou Road. Turn right on Kalaʻau Place and look for street parking. You’ll find the trail head at the end of the road. No bus service is available.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.