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 Oahu is the state’s Na Ala Hele (Trails to Go On) Program (www.hawaiitrails.org; 808/973-9782). The website has everything you need: detailed maps and descriptions of 40 trails in the Na Ala Hele program, a hiking safety brochure, updates on the trails, hyperlinks to weather information, health warnings, info on native plants or how to volunteer for trail upkeep, and more.
To get to the trailhead from Waikiki take Kalanianaole Highway (Hwy. 72) to Hawaii Kai, turn left at Lunalilo Home Road, and then follow Anapalau Street to the trailhead parking lot; you can also take TheBus no. 22 or 23.
Kuliouou 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, ohia lehua, with its distinctive red pom-pom–like flowers grow. Hawaiian legend has it that Ohia and Lehua were lovers. Pele fell in love with Ohia, 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 ohia 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 Waimanalo.
Makapuu Lighthouse Trail ★★—You’ve seen this famous old lighthouse on episodes of Magnum, P.I. and Hawaii Five-O. No longer staffed by the Coast Guard (it’s fully automated now), the lighthouse sits at the end of a precipitous cliff trail on an airy perch over the Windward Coast, Manana (Rabbit) Island, and the azure Pacific. It’s about a 45-minute, 1-mile hike from Kalanianaole Highway (Hwy. 72), along a paved road that begins across from Hawaii Kai Executive Golf Course and winds around the 646-foot-high sea bluff to the lighthouse lookout.
Pali (Maunawili) Trail ★—For a million-dollar view of the Windward Coast, take this 11-mile (one-way) foothill trail. The trailhead is about 6 miles from downtown Honolulu, on the windward side of the Nuʻunau Pali Tunnel, at the scenic lookout just beyond the hairpin turn of the Pali Highway (Hwy. 61). Just as you begin the turn, look for the scenic overlook sign, slow down, and pull off the highway into the parking lot (sorry, no bus service available).
To Land’s End: A Leeward Oahu Hike
To hike out to this departing place, take the clearly marked trail from the parking lot of Kaena Point State Park. The moderate 5-mile round-trip hike to the point will take a couple of hours. The trail along the cliff passes tide pools abundant in marine life and rugged protrusions of lava reaching out to the turbulent sea; seabirds circle overhead. Do not go off the trail; you might step on buried birds’ eggs. There are no sandy beaches, and the water is nearly always turbulent here. In winter, when a big north swell is running, the waves at Kaʻena are the biggest in the state, averaging heights of 30 to 40 feet. Even when the water appears calm, offshore currents are powerful, so don’t plan on taking a swim. Go early in the morning to see the schools of porpoises that frequent the area just offshore.
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.