The Best Hikes in Hawaii

Planning a trip to Hawaii once travel restrictions ease up? Beyond surfing and swimming, there’s another activity that should be added to your travel itinerary ASAP: hiking! Hiking is extremely underrated in the Aloha State, and yet it is home to some of the most remarkable trails in the entire world. For a little outdoor inspiration, here are the top three hikes in Hawaii.

The Kalalau Trail

Image credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority

Considered to be the most iconic hike in Hawaii, it would be a huge mistake not to mention the Kalalau Trail on this list. Located on the island of Kauai, the Kalalau Trail is roughly 20 miles long and is famous for its breathtaking views of the Na Pali coast. During much of this hike, you have the Pacific Ocean on one side and the lush mountains of Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park on the other. In essence, you will feel like you’ve stepped onto the set of Moana.

What we love about this trail is that it is home to beautiful Kalalau Beach. To top it off, this beach is only accessible by foot, which often means you have the entire beach to yourself. Prepare for the bluest water you’ve ever seen, not to mention stretches of pristine white sand. It really is paradise! The trail can be hiked in its entirety or in smaller chunks if you’re looking for a shorter day walk. However, one word of warning: the Kalalau Trail is quite narrow at times, which can be dangerous in adverse weather conditions, such as rain. So be extremely careful while hiking this trail and seriously consider postponing your hike in the event of bad weather.

The Diamond Head Trail

Image credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority

The Diamond Head Trail is one of Oahu’s most popular hikes for a reason. Although the iconic landmark known as Diamond Head might look like a mountain, in actuality it is a giant piece of volcanic rock that spans over 450 acres. Given this unique geographical formation, it’s no wonder that people from all over the world flock to it as a hiking destination.

The hike to the summit is approximately two miles long. Two miles might not sound like much, but keep in mind that the hike is almost entirely an uphill ascent. It is incredibly steep and strenuous, so be sure you’re up to the challenge. Rest assured, if you make it to the top, you will be well rewarded; from there, you will have one of the best views of Oahu’s rugged coastline.

The Mauna Kea Trail

Image credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority

Bet you didn’t realize there could be snow in Hawaii! Well, it’s true. However, you’ll only find it on Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in the entire state. Mauna Kea, located on Hawaii’s Big Island, stands nearly 14,000 feet above sea level. Given this altitude, it sometimes receives snow during the winter months, so be prepared for icy conditions if you’re hiking between November and March.

What’s notable about the hike to the summit of Mauna Kea is that it showcases a different side of Hawaii’s natural beauty than the other hikes on this list. There is no lush vegetation or turquoise blue water here. Instead, walking on Mauna Kea will make you feel like you’ve been transported to another planet. Much of the hike will have you trekking across red clay soil and even past a crystal-clear lake (Lake Waiau, one of the highest lakes in all of the United States and one of only a few lakes that remain in Hawaii). Beyond the Mars-esque landscape, it’s important to note that the hike to the top of Mauna Kea is not an easy one. As you can imagine, climbing to the top of a mountain requires above average hiking skills, especially since much of the trail is not maintained. But if you’re up for it, don’t let this discourage you, as there is nothing quite as magnificent as breaking above the cloud line and watching the sunset from the summit.



Emily Southey
Emily Southey is a freelance writer from Vancouver. Currently based in Toronto, it was during her time studying History and English at McGill and University College London that she became interested in writing. When she's not working, you can typically find her in a museum, baking cupcakes, watching Disney musicals, or Instagramming her new favourite coffee spot.