8 amazing hikes of Hawaii

Hawaii Stories


8 amazing hikes of Hawaii

Go beyond the beach to witness the wonders of Hawaii’s forests, volcanoes, canyons and peaks.

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Some of the best views of Hawaii call for a few extra steps. Our hiking trails wind through rainforests, lava fields and botanical gardens, showing you a special side of the Islands that you won’t soon forget. So, lace up your shoes and fill your daypack for these eight amazing hikes of Hawaii — we’ve got some ground to cover.

Iao Needle

Lush valley: Iao Needle Lookout Trail of Maui

Easy | 0.6 miles | 200 ft. elevation gain | Entrance fees for non-residents
Iao Valley, Wailuku
8 miles from Kahului Airport (OGG)

For a glimpse into Hawaii’s unique rainforest climate, Maui’s Iao Valley State Monument is an easy bet. Its centerpiece, the unmistakable Kukaemoku (Iao Needle), rises 1,200 feet from the valley floor - taller than the Eiffel Tower and just shy of the Empire State Building. The giant rock is covered with vegetation as a testament to the lush valley’s abundant rain. Small in distance but big in scenery, Iao Needle Lookout Trail and Ethnobotanical Loop is a short, paved walking trail that weaves through a garden and along the ridgetop to provide the greatest view of Iao Needle. Pause to learn about the plants brought to the valley by Hawaiians as well as King Kamehameha I's famed Battle of Kepaniwai that took place here in 1790. Stay on the marked trail as this is sacred land. For a deeper dive into the island’s natural history, visit the nearby Hawaii Nature Center for hands-on exhibits and guided nature walks.

Crater Rim Trail

Volcanic wonders: Crater Rim Trail of Hawaii Island

Easy | Distance varies | Park entrance fee
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
35 miles from Hilo International Airport (ITO)

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a park as spectacular as Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve that contains two of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa. The paved Crater Rim Drive circumvents Kilauea caldera, but you can leave the car for a more immersive experience by foot. Crater Rim Trail is an easy day hike that traces the caldera from north to south, and it's accessible from multiple locations along the drive. Follow the marked trails to witness steam vents, Kilauea overlook and Uekahuna, a sacred Hawaiian site at the 4,000-foot summit. You'll also find Kupinai Pali (Waldron Ledge) above Halemaumau Crater, which collapsed during the 2018 eruption that changed the landscape. From here, you can take the more challenging Kilauea Iki Trail that descends to the crater floor. To learn more about the historic summit eruptions, talk to a park ranger at Kilauea Visitor Center and support local businesses in the nearby town of Volcano.

Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden

Peaceful escape: Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden Trail of Oahu

Easy | Distance varies | No entrance fees
Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden, Kaneohe
20 miles from Honolulu International Airport (HNL)

Tucked under the vast Koolau Mountain Range on Oahu’s windward side, Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden is a sprawling property showcasing plants from around the world. Across 400 acres, botanical collections represent tropical regions from Africa to Oceania (and Hawaii, of course). The main Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden Trail stretches from the visitor center to the Melanesia collection, skirting a picturesque lake. Take your time enjoying the peaceful nature walk that serves as a sort of international trip, where you’ll see plants that are many miles from their familial lands. On rainy days, look to waterfalls cascading down the Koolau mountain ridges as if they’ve been waiting for a big musical number. (We won’t judge any round of applause.) The garden is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with no entrance fee, but you’ll want to say hello to the gate attendant who’s getting a head count. Remember the road has no stops until the parking lot, so save your Instagram moment for inside the garden.

Makapuu Point Lighthouse

Family friendly: Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail of Oahu

Moderate | 2 miles | 500 ft. elevation gain | Limited parking, no fees
Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline
30 miles from Honolulu International Airport (HNL)

Bring your binoculars to Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail, the easternmost point of Oahu and part of the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline. From November to May, this family-friendly trail offers a ringside seat to migrating humpback whales; there are also telescopes near the informational signs. The entire oceanfront route is scenic, but at the top you'll find panoramic views from Hawaii Kai's Koko Head to Kailua's Mokulua, plus the signature 1909 lighthouse. (You’ll spot plenty of family photo ops along the way.) Because the paved trail is 2 miles roundtrip and collects only 500 feet of elevation gain, most kids should be able to stay in good spirits. A water bottle and sunscreen will help since this part of the island tends to be sunny and hot. Keep in mind that the tide pools are closed and known for hazardous conditions, so stay on the paved trail and have the young ones close.


Petroglyph fields: Kiholo-Puako Trail of Hawaii Island

Moderate | 3.4 miles | 118 ft. elevation gain | Public parking lots
Waikoloa Village
27 miles from Kona International Airport (KOA)

Kiholo-Puako Trail is part of the King’s Trail and the larger Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, a 175-mile network that contains important historic and cultural sites on Hawaii Island. This 3.4-mile out-and-back trail captures a chunk of the splendor, slicing a path through rocky lava fields to one of the best-preserved petroglyph sites on the island. The trail’s proximity to beachfront resorts and golf courses makes it a popular day hike, plus it’s a pretty easy walk if you’re well hydrated. The Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve contains thousands of carvings that are believed to signify crossing the border between the ancient kingdoms of Kohala and Kona. The petroglyphs were made by stone over centuries, from ancient Hawaii to post-western contact. Because this site has profound significance, it's protected by law. Stay on the path and viewing areas that are lined by loose rockwork.

Canyon Trail Kauai

Iconic waterfall: Canyon Trail of Kauai

Moderate to difficult | 3 miles | 1,066 ft. elevation gain | Limited parking with fee
Waimea Canyon State Park
40 miles from Lihue Airport (LIH)

The impressive Waimea Canyon is known as “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific” and earns its title at 14 miles long and more than 3,600 feet deep. Shaped by the Waimea River after a volcano collapsed millions of years ago, the canyon’s deep gorges are a beautiful juxtaposition of red earth and scatterings of green bushes and trees. Admire the dramatic ridges from popular lookouts like Puu Hinahina, where you’ll find the Canyon Trail to Waipoo Falls trailhead. With 1,000-foot elevation gain, this 3-mile out-and-back hike rates as moderate, leading up and down through a rainforest to the top of Waipoo Falls, an iconic 800-foot waterfall that’s famously photographed. Prepare for mud and exercise caution while hiking, especially around the steep ledges. If you're not a seasoned hiker, Iliau Nature Loop in Waimea State Park might be a better fit.

Sliding sands

Otherworldly views: Sliding Sands Trail of Maui

Difficult | 11 miles | 2,500 ft. elevation gain | Park entrance fees
Haleakala National Park
35 miles from Kahului Airport (OGG)

Towering 10,023 feet above sea level, Haleakala is Maui's tallest peak and offers arguably the best views on the island. The national park stretches more than 30,000 acres across the dormant shield volcano, so you're unlikely to explore it all in one trip; instead, set your sights on a trail that gets you up close to the crater. Keoneheehee Trail (Sliding Sands Trail) is a popular choice for experienced hikers — it's ranked as difficult due to its 2,500-foot elevation change and 11 miles out and back, especially rough during peak heat. Halfway down the crater, Pele’s Paint Pot wows with its vibrant colors more reminiscent of Mars than this planet. For an easier route, consider Pa Kaoao Trail (White Hill Trail), a half-mile jaunt from the visitor center to clear views of the crater. Whatever the hike, be sure to pack plenty of water and food, wear sun protection and sturdy shoes, and dress for the possibility of rain or low temperatures. Also remember that Haleakala’s famed sunrise viewings now require reservations.

Kalalau trail

Big adventure: Kalalau Trail of Kauai

Difficult | 22 miles | 800 ft. elevation gain | Entry and parking fees
Napali Coast
38 miles from Lihue Airport (LIH)

Just one trail leads to the remote Napali Coast of Kauai, and it was built in the late 1800s — needless to say, Kalalau Trail is not your average hike. At 22 miles roundtrip (out and back), this route requires at least a full day of your time, some significant hiking experience and an advance reservation through Haena State Park. (Even the shorter Kee Beach to Hanakapiai section necessitates a day pass.) The trail mirrors a route that once connected Hawaiian settlements, crossing ridges and five valleys to reach Kalalau Beach, a secluded white-sand cove guarded by soaring cliffs. Before the final narrow descent, there are waterfall detours, strenuous switchbacks and an ancient taro field complex. This ancestral landscape has profound cultural importance, so please treat it with respect. Also know your limits and use extreme caution, especially during wet weather, cliffside exposure and rip currents. If this sounds intimidating, remember you can always see the stunning Napali Coast by a boat or helicopter tour.