Hawaii’s Best Hiking Trails: A Guide For Nature Enthusiasts

Hawaii’s lush landscapes and stunning vistas make it a dream destination for nature enthusiasts and hikers from all over the world. That’s because this American state is home to a diverse range of ecosystems, from rugged volcanic landscapes to verdant rainforests, and boasts some of the world’s most breathtaking trails. 

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just starting, there’s a trail in Hawaii that’s perfect for you. But with so many options to choose from, planning your hiking itinerary can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to the best hiking trails in Hawaii.

In this article, we’ll take you on a journey through the state’s most stunning landscapes, from the towering cliffs of Kauai’s Napali Coast to the otherworldly terrain of the Big Island’s Volcanoes National Park. We’ll provide detailed information on each trail, including difficulty level, length, and highlights, so you can choose the perfect hike to suit your interests and fitness level. Not only that but we’ll also share insider tips and tricks to help you make the most of your hiking adventure, from what to pack to the best time of day to hit the trails. 

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So grab your hiking boots and get ready to discover the best of Hawaii’s natural beauty on foot.

How Many Hiking Trails Are There In Hawaii? 

Hawaii is home to a vast network of hiking trails, ranging from easy strolls to challenging treks that require advanced skills and experience. 

As of this moment, the Hawaiian Islands offer more than 100 official hiking trails, each with its unique features, including stunning waterfalls, panoramic views, and diverse wildlife.

The hiking trails in Hawaii are divided into four main categories: coastal, mountain, rainforest, and historic. The coastal trails lead hikers along the rugged coastline, while the mountain trails provide breathtaking views of the island’s interior. The rainforest trails offer a glimpse into the lush, tropical forests that blanket the islands, while the historic trails take hikers through ancient Hawaiian settlements and sacred sites.

Each island in Hawaii offers a unique selection of hiking trails. For example, on Oahu, hikers can explore the lush Kaena Point State Park or take on the challenging Koko Crater Trail, while on Maui, they can hike to the top of the Haleakala volcano or explore the lush Iao Valley State Park.

Related Read: Best Thing to Do in Hawaii

10 Best Hiking Trails In Hawaii 

With so many options to choose from, planning to go on a hike in Hawaii can end up becoming a pretty daunting task, but with the Hawaii hiking guide that we have down below, all you have to worry about is booking a trip. Here are some of the Best hiking trails in Hawaii  that tourists should go on when visiting this American state: 

Kalalau Trail, Kauai

Kalalau Trail, Kauai

Located in the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park, the Kalalau Trail is a breathtaking 11-mile hike that offers stunning views of the rugged coastline, towering cliffs, and lush valleys of Kauai. The trail is challenging and requires a permit, but hikers are rewarded with secluded beaches, hidden waterfalls, and an unforgettable experience.

Haiku Stairs (Stairway to Heaven), Oahu

The Haiku Stairs, also known as the Stairway to Heaven, is a highly sought-after hike among adventure seekers. The trail features a series of steep stairs that ascend to the top of a mountain, offering sweeping views of Oahu’s lush landscape. Although the hike is technically illegal and closed to the public, some hikers still attempt the trail for the thrill and challenge.

Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui

Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui

The Waihee Ridge Trail is a moderate 2.5-mile hike that rewards hikers with panoramic views of Maui’s stunning landscapes. The trail winds through lush forests, crosses bubbling streams, and climbs to a ridge where hikers can enjoy views of the ocean, valleys, and mountains. It’s a great hike for beginners and experienced hikers alike.

Diamond Head Summit Trail, Oahu

The Diamond Head Summit Trail is a popular hike that leads to the top of an extinct volcano. The trail is paved and features a series of switchbacks that offer stunning views of Waikiki Beach and the Honolulu skyline. At the summit, hikers can explore military bunkers and enjoy panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.

Manoa Falls Trail, Oahu

Manoa Falls Trail, Oahu

The Manoa Falls Trail is a short and easy hike that leads to a beautiful waterfall surrounded by lush greenery. The trail winds through a tropical rainforest, passing by bamboo forests and ferns. The waterfall at the end of the trail is a stunning sight, especially after a good rain.

Koko Head Crater Trail, Oahu

Koko Head Crater Trail, Oahu

The Koko Head Crater Trail is a challenging hike that features a series of steep steps leading up to the top of an old volcanic crater. The moment hikers reach the top, they are rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and ocean. The hike is popular among locals and visitors alike, but be prepared for a strenuous workout.

Pipiwai Trail, Maui

Pipiwai Trail, Maui

The Pipiwai Trail is a moderate 4-mile hike that leads to the magnificent Waimoku Falls. The trail winds through a bamboo forest, crosses streams, and passes by scenic lookout points. The waterfall at the end of the trail is a stunning sight, plunging 400 feet into a pool below.

Makapuu Lighthouse Trail, Oahu

Makapuu Lighthouse Trail, Oahu

The Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is a popular hike that offers stunning views of Oahu’s rugged coastline. The trail is paved and features a gradual incline that leads to the top of a hill, where hikers can enjoy panoramic views of the ocean and the Makapuu Lighthouse. The trail is also a great spot for whale watching during the winter months.

Na Pali Coast Trail, Kauai

Na Pali Coast Trail, Kauai

The Na Pali Coast Trail is a challenging 22-mile hike that offers breathtaking views of Kauai’s rugged coastline. The trail winds through lush valleys, crosses streams, and climbs steep ridges. Hikers are rewarded with stunning views of sea cliffs, waterfalls, and secluded beaches. A permit is required to hike the entire trail, but day hikes are also available.

Mauna Loa Trail, Big Island

Mauna Loa Trail, Big Island

The last one on our list is the Mauna Loa Trail, which is a challenging hike that takes you to the summit of one of the most massive volcanoes on earth, making it the best hike Big Island. The trail starts at the Mauna Loa Observatory and climbs 11,000 feet to the summit of the volcano. The hike is 18.4 miles round trip and can take up to two or three days to complete. The trail offers stunning views of the Big Island’s landscape, including lava fields, craters, and even snow-capped peaks.

Best Hiking Island In Hawaii 

Kauai, also known as the “Garden Island”, is widely considered to be the hiking capital of Hawaii due to its diverse terrain and stunning natural beauty. With over 100 miles of hiking trails, Kauai offers a wide range of options for hikers of all skill levels, from beginner-friendly trails to challenging, backcountry treks.

One of the most notable features of Kauai’s hiking trails is the island’s rugged terrain, which includes towering cliffs, lush rainforests, and sweeping valleys. The Kalalau Trail, for example, is a challenging 11-mile hike that winds along the Napali Coast, offering stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the island’s rugged coastline. The Alakai Swamp Trail, on the other hand, takes hikers through the island’s lush rainforest, with sweeping views of the Waimea Canyon and the ocean beyond.

Another reason why Kauai is the hiking capital of Hawaii is the island’s commitment to preserving its natural beauty. Many of the island’s hiking trails are located within state parks and reserves, which are managed by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. These protected areas are home to a wide range of native plant and animal species, and the trails within them are carefully maintained to ensure that hikers can enjoy the island’s natural beauty without causing harm to the environment.

Tips Everyone Needs To Know When Hiking In Hawaii 

Exploring Hawaii’s breathtaking hiking trails can be an unforgettable experience, but being prepared and informed before hitting the trails is important. To help you prepare properly for your hiking trip, we have listed down some useful tips: 

Research The Trail

Before heading out on a hike, it’s important to research the trail to understand the difficulty level, terrain, and any potential hazards. Look for trail guides or reviews online, check weather and trail conditions, and make sure you are properly prepared for the hike. This will ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable experience.

Wear Appropriate Clothing

Wearing appropriate clothing is important for both comfort and safety on a hike. Choose clothing that is breathable, moisture-wicking, and appropriate for the weather conditions. Wear sturdy, comfortable hiking shoes or boots that provide good traction and support for your feet and ankles. Don’t forget to wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun.

Bring Plenty Of Water And Snacks

Staying hydrated and fueled is crucial during a hike. Make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks to keep your energy levels up. A good rule of thumb is to drink at least one liter of water per hour of hiking. Not only that but make sure you pack high-energy snacks like trail mix, granola bars, or fruit to keep you going. 

Start Early

Starting your hike early in the day will not only help you avoid the heat of the day but also give you plenty of time to complete the hike before it gets dark. This is especially important if you are hiking a longer trail or one with significant elevation gain.

Stick To The Trail

It’s important to stay on designated trails to avoid damaging fragile ecosystems and to prevent getting lost or injured. When on a trip, always follow trail markers and signs, and avoid shortcuts or creating new trails. If you encounter obstacles or hazards on the trail, use caution and follow the designated path.

Leave No Trace

Hiking responsibly means leaving no trace of your presence on the trail. This includes carrying out all trash and litter, avoiding damaging or removing plants or wildlife, and avoiding loud noises or disruptive behavior. Leave the trail as you found it so that others can enjoy it too.

Carry A First-Aid Kit

Accidents can happen on the trail, so it’s important to be prepared. Bring a basic first-aid kit that includes bandages, antiseptic, tweezers, and any other supplies you might need. Make sure to know how to use the supplies in your kit.

Hike With A Buddy

Hiking with a buddy is always a good idea, especially if you are hiking in a remote area or on a new trail. Not only is it more fun to share the experience with someone, but it also provides an extra level of safety in case of an emergency.

Check The Weather Forecast

Weather can change quickly in Hawaii, so it’s important to check the forecast before heading out on a hike. Avoid hiking in dangerous weather conditions such as thunderstorms, heavy rain, or high winds.

Respect Nature

Finally, respect the natural environment and the wildlife you encounter on the trail. Avoid disturbing wildlife, and stay a safe distance from animals like snakes or wild pigs. Remember that you are a guest in their habitat, so act responsibly and respectfully.

15 Things To Pack With You When Going On A Hike In Hawaii 

When it comes to going on a hike in Hawaii, you have to pack the right things with you. Here are 15 things that everyone should bring when going on a hiking trip in Hawaii:

Proper Footwear – A sturdy pair of hiking shoes or boots is a must-have for any hiking trip in Hawaii. Make sure the ones that you bring have good traction and ankle support, and be waterproof. Having the right footwear will help you keep your feet safe and can allow you to stay comfortable throughout the entire trip. 

Lightweight Backpack – Bringing a backpack with multiple compartments is perfect when it comes to hiking in Hawaii. A lightweight backpack will be amazing when it comes to storing water bottles, snacks, sunscreen, and other essentials when hiking.

Water Bottles – Hiking can be pretty exhausting, which is why bringing water with you is a must. Remember, hydration is essential during a hike, so be sure to bring enough water to last the entire trip. 

Snacks – Pack lightweight energy-dense snacks like trail mix, energy bars, and dried fruit to keep you fueled and energized throughout the entire hike.

Sunscreen – Hawaii’s sun can be pretty intense, especially during peak sun hours, so be sure to apply and reapply sunscreen throughout the entire hiking trip to avoid getting sunburned. 

Hat – A wide-brimmed hat can provide shade and protect your face and neck from the sun.

Sunglasses – Protect your eyes from harmful UV rays with a pair of quality sunglasses.

Insect Repellent – Mosquitoes and other biting insects can be a problem in Hawaii, so be sure to bring insect repellent with you for the trip. 

First Aid Kit – Anything can go south when hiking this is why hikers should be prepared for minor injuries. When going on a hike, bring a first aid kit that includes items like band-aids, antiseptic, and pain relievers to ensure safety.

Map And Compass – Make sure you have a map and compass when hiking. But remember, having them will not be enough. Knowing how to use them is necessary as they can help you navigate unfamiliar trails and can help you avoid getting lost.

Portable Charger – Having a phone with you when going on a hiking trip can be pretty useful, but keeping them working can be a problem. Luckily, you can keep your phone or other electronic devices charged with a portable charger. So bring one with you. 

Camera – Capture the stunning views and unique scenery of Hawaii’s hiking trails with a camera. You can either bring a professional-type DSLR with you or just use the camera your phone has.

Light Rain Jacket – Hawaii’s weather can be unpredictable, so it’s always a good idea to bring a lightweight rain jacket to keep yourself dry. 

Trekking Poles – If you plan on hiking on steep or rocky terrain, trekking poles can help provide stability and reduce strain on your knees and ankles.

Extra Set Of Clothes – Bring a change of clothes in case you get wet or need to change after the hike. It’s also a good idea to bring a waterproof bag to store any wet clothes.

Remember to pack light and to bring everything you need to ensure a safe and enjoyable hike.

Last Updated on August 31, 2023

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