oahu hiking

Less Touristy Things to Do on Oahu, Hawaii

Less Touristy Things to Do on Oahu, Hawaii

Hawaii is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world. As such, some travelers think Hawaii is too touristy and over-crowded. While both of these observations are in many ways true, there are less touristy things to do in Hawaii. I grew up on Oahu and have experienced this island as both a child growing up and an adult returning home as a tourist. In truth, Oahu has changed and developed so much over the past several years that I barely know where to visit anymore.

Hawaii's Hardest Hike? Koko Crater Trail

If you're looking for a hard hike on Oahu, look no further than Koko Crater Trail. This steep climb consists of 1,000+ steps along an abandoned railroad track that runs to the top of Koko Crater. It's a challenging hike that will challenge not only your leg strength but your will as well. Read on for tips on how to find and conquer this beast of a hike.

The Stats

  • Round trip distance: 1.8 miles
  • Number of steps: 1,048
  • Elevation gain: 820 feet
  • Type of hike: out and back
  • Difficulty level: difficult
  • Generally very crowded with athletes, hikers, and tourists
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii

About the Trail

Originally created during World War II at the same time as bunkers such as the Lanikai Pillbox, this railway was used to haul cargo and supplies to the mountaintop. Today, the abandoned railway is used as a hiking trail. It's considered a difficult hike, but you'll see all types of people attempting to get to the top. Some are athletes using the trail as their regular training route, while others range from experienced hikers to overly optimistic tourists. Not all will reach the top, but that's actually ok given the fact that you can get decent views from even part way up the trail.

The ascent is rather difficult and steep at times. It's made more challenging by the fact that most of the steps are much longer and taller than the usual steps that we are used to. But the reward is a stunning panorama with views of Hanauma Bay and Hawaii Kai. If you have any fear of heights, don't attempt this one, or come with an experienced friend who is willing to give you a helping hand. There are no ropes or handrails to help you up and down these stairs.

Where is Koko Crater Trail?

The trail is pretty easy to find and is visible in the distance. From Waikiki, drive south on H1 (Kalaianaoli Highway) and keep going until it turns into Highway 72. When you hit Hawaii Kai Shopping center, take a left on Lunalilo Home Road, then a right on Anapalau Street. Taka e left onto Koko Head District Park where you'll find parking lots and a trailhead.

More Oahu Hiking Guides

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koko crater trail
koko crater trail

Photo Gallery

Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii

Best Hikes on Oahu, Hawaii

There is no shortage of stunning hiking trails on Oahu. From popular trails with more people than you can count to more serene destinations where it's just you and nature, there's something for everyone. This is a list of some of my favorite hiking trails on Oahu. I have personally completed these hikes and have found them all to be very enjoyable and photo-worthy.

Recommended Hiking Gear

As a rather risk-averse hiker who is wary of heights, the first two hikes were somewhat easy for me. The latter was truly difficult and I had a hard time making it to the top and back. If you too are not much of a hiker, know that there's absolutely no shame in turning back if at any point you feel uncomfortable. No hike is worth risking your health and safety. On that note, do make sure you are duly prepared with proper hiking equipment. This alone can make your hiking experience much safer and more enjoyable.

Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail - Very Easy

This is a pretty popular trail that can at times seem crowded if you judge on parking availability alone. But to be fair, the parking lot to this trail is on the small side, and it's actually ok to park your car on the side of the road just outside of the gates. Even if the parking lot seems full, don't be deterred. Makapu'u Point is quite large with many little side trails so it doesn't feel very crowded. The main trail is nicely paved, allowing for baby strollers and those in wheelchairs to access the top. But it is a somewhat steep climb. The view at the end is such a reward and worth the hike. Makapu'u tidepools can also be accessed from this trail, although that path isn't paved and requires a bit more agility.

Kaena Point Trail - Easy

The easiest hiking trail I've done on Oahu has to be Kaena Point Trail. It's roughly 5-miles long (roundtrip). The terrain is flat and there's little to no descent. It winds along the westernmost coast of Oahu leading to a nature reserve where you can see seabirds (mainly albatross) and large Hawaiian monk seals in the wild. Since there are two different trails, this hike is rarely crowded and is one of those "off the beaten path" trails.

Read more about the Kaena Point Trail.

Kaena Point Beach and Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Kaena Point Beach and Hike on Oahu, Hawaii

Lanikai Pillboxes - Moderate

A moderate Oahu hiking trail is the now popular Lanikai Pillbox hike. Located on the windward side, this hike is actually quite short, but it involves a quick, steep ascent. It's not terribly difficult, but those with a fear of heights and poor balance may have issues. The reward comes rather quick in the form of a stunning panoramic view of Lanikai and Kailua Beaches. This hike can be somewhat crowded, but traffic is restricted by the difficulty in finding parking in this area.

Read more about the Lanikai Pillboxes Trail.

Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail

Koko Crater Trail - Difficult

By far the hardest hike I've yet to do on Oahu is Koko Crater Trail. From what I've read, there are many other hikes that are much more difficult but I warn you again that I'm not much of a hiker. So for me, Koko Crater Trail exceeds my comfort zone by a lot.

This trail is short (under 2 miles), but it's very steep. It also involves climbing old railway tracks that now serve as makeshift stairs. Except these stairs are much longer and taller than the ones that modern humans are used to, so they're not terribly easy for those of us with shorter legs. But like Lanikai Pillboxes, the reward is in the panoramic view at the top. So in that sense, Koko Crater is worth doing at least once.

Read more about the Koko Crater Trail.

Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Koko Head Crater Hike on Oahu, Hawaii

Over To You

What are your favorite hiking trails on Oahu? Let me know in the comments below!

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Best oahu hikes
Best oahu hikes

Underrated Hikes of Oahu - Go Off the Beaten Path

If you're traveling to Oahu with the goal of hiking in mind, you might end up disappointed. Many of the island's popular hiking trails are so crowded with tourists that they can be hard to enjoy. If you're seeking solitude and opportunities to really bond with Hawaii's unique nature, we recommend traveling off the beaten path. Explore some these underrated, lesser-known hiking trails that are more likely to be populated with locals, if anyone at all.

Popular Oahu Hikes

First, let's address some of those popular hiking trails that you might want to avoid if you want to dodge crowds:

Kaena Point Beach and Hike on Oahu, Hawaii
Kaena Point Beach and Hike on Oahu, Hawaii

Lesser Known Oahu Hiking Trails

Kaena Point Trail

Located along the westernmost point of Oahu, this trail will take you to the Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve. This reserve is home to native plants and seabirds, namely albatross that come here to mate and hatch chicks. Hawaiian monk seals can also be seen here. It's a long-ish hike of about 5 miles roundtrip, but the terrain is very flat and relatively easy to walk on. Those seeking a hardcore hiking experience won't find this one a challenge in terms of terrain. There is no shade or protection from the sun, so sunscreen, hats, and plenty of water should be packed. The path winds along the coast offering beautiful ocean views, but high surf and winds can be treacherous, so mind any weather warnings. Pets are not allowed on this trail to ensure the safety of the seabirds at the nature reserve.

It's also important to note that Kaena Point Trail has two different starting points: the Waianae route and the Mokuleia route. The Waianae route can be accessed from Honolulu by taking the H1 freeway west until it turns into Farrington Highway (Route 93). Keep following the road until it terminates; park here and start your hike. From Mokuleia, drive on H-2 to Kaukonahua Road (Route 903) to Farrington Highway (Route 930). Following the road past Waialua and Camp Erdman; the trailhead begins where the paved road ends.

Makiki Valley Loop Trail

This hiking trail is probably lesser known because it doesn't offer any stunning views or particularly Instagram-worthy material. What it does offer is a chance to get your cardio on and also experience Hawaii nature in the raw. The Makiki Valley Loop starts at the Hawaii Nature Center, which also offers nature excursions and activities. But this loop can be done as a self-guided hike. The loop is comprised of three trails: Makiki Valley Trail, Kanealole Trail, and Maunalaha Trail. All in all, it's a 2.5-mile round trip that is fairly easy to navigate if you pay attention to trail markers. Pets are welcome on this trail.

Start at the Hawaii Nature Center and step onto the clearly marked Makiki Valley Loop Trail. From here, you have a choice. Hiking counterclockwise on the Maunalaha Trail gives you the challenge up front. This steep ascent is littered with lots of tree roots and rocks. It sounds challenging, but even inexperienced hikers can handle the terrain with some extra care and attention. Once you reach the top, there are benches that let you take a breather. From here, head down Kanealole Trail, which is significantly easier with nice sounds of chirping birds and a gently flowing stream.

Aiea Loop Trail

If you're looking for a simple, easy Oahu hike, Aiea Loop Trail is worth exploring. This 4.8-mile hike takes you along the west side of Halawa Valley, offering views of Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor, and the picturesque Ko'olau Mountains. It's also mostly shaded so you can stay relatively cool. Since the path is a loop, directions are easy once you get started, and you get unique views from every stop. This hike starts at the Keaiwa Heiau State Recreation Area, a 384-acre park with lots of parking and restrooms for a pit stop.

Kalauao Trail

Want to toughen up the Aiea Loop Trail? Look for an S-shaped curve at the trail junction and head down the Kalauao Trail. It's a 4-mile, mostly downhill trail that leads to many swimming holes and a waterfall. Just prepare for the strenuous uphill hike back.

Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail
Lanikai Pillbox Oahu Hiking Trail

West Oahu Pillbox Hike (Pu'u O Hulu Kai)

You've probably heard of the popular Lanikai Pillbox hike on Oahu's windward side. If you want a similar, less crowded hike, head to the west side of Oahu and seek out the Pink Pillbox Hike (Pu'u O Hulu Kai). This short 2-mile hike takes you up a ridge between the Nanakuli and Maili suburbs. The trail starts at Kaukama Road after the 9th light pole on the ride side of the road. There are a couple of different route options that lead to the top.

The shortest route is also the most challenging as it is a steep ascent. Only attempt this if you're an experienced hiker up for a challenge. The other route is an easier but longer zigzag path. When you get to the top, be sure to mind the rocky edges.

Wondering what the Lanikai Pillbox hike is like? Check out this first-person hyperlapse video below that takes you through the trail!

Hiking Safety Tips

All of these hikes mentioned above are free without cost or the need for a permit or license. Many also do not have an official opening or closing times, but it's always best to finish your hike before sunset. In many cases, drastic weather such as heavy rains or high surf can affect the hiking trail terrain. Be sure to check local websites for any official closures or warning signs.

More Oahu Hiking Guides

- Best Oahu Hikes: http://bit.ly/best-oahu-hikes

- Underrated Oahu Hikes: http://bit.ly/underrated-oahu-hikes

- Lanikai Pillbox Hike: http://bit.ly/lanikai-pillboxes

- Koko Crater Trail Hike: http://bit.ly/koko-crater-trail

Lesser-Known Oahu Hiking Trails Map

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underrated hawaii hiking
underrated hawaii hiking