8 Easy Hikes on Oahu That Are Not Illegal or “Extremely Dangerous” ; )

Oahu has plenty of famous, jaw dropping hikes. While Kauai usually gets the buzz for being the hiker’s paradise, most of those epic drone shots you see plastered on social media by YouTubers and influencers are actually on Oahu. 

Well, here’s the deal, like more than half of them are flat out illegal or genuinely described as “extremely dangerous” by people that have hiked them. I was reading a post about hiking on Oahu by some big time travel influencers and I kid you not, they described half of the hikes on their list as either illegal or very dangerous. 

Well, I specialize in a different niche of hikes…I like to call them “breathtakingly beautiful but very low risk of death” hikes ; )

Easy Hikes on Oahu

So I’ve labeled this post “easy” hikes, but what exactly does that mean? Well I’ll be honest…when you’re in the middle of some of these hikes you might be thinking “this is NOT easy” but in general they’re all either very well marked and maintained trails (some completely paved), or at least fairly short distances. Most of the hikes on this list are under two miles which I think makes them “easy” even if they feel challenging for a bit. 

Here we go!

Diamond Head

Diamond Head is probably the most iconic hike on Oahu, and that’s partially because of how accessible it is but mostly because of the views. 

It’s a fairly mild hike for such a big payoff. Yes, it’s all uphill, but it only takes 30-40 minutes to climb to the top and once you do, you’ll have fabulous views of Waikiki and Honolulu. 

The entire trail is very well marked, maintained and well traveled so there’s no big “risk” factor.

The most dramatic part of the hike is the tunnel you have to walk through once you get towards the top (maybe 30 seconds or so) and then…the stairs. 

Once you come out of the tunnel, you’ve got two options. Turn right and you’ll go up the largest staircase you’ve ever seen ; ) 

There’s a sign suggesting that you go left instead. If you go left, you still have to climb some stairs, but they’re more broken up so it seems easier. Either way you go, it’s a loop. 

The first time I hiked Diamond Head, we went to the left and then once we were at the top we just retraced our steps back down (most people do this). 

But if you want to do the full “loop” and come DOWN that massive staircase you saw when you came out of the tunnel, then once you’re at the very top, you climb into the pillbox (concrete bunker) and go down the metal spiral staircase to get to it. 

Either way works. 

So here are the logistics…

Increasing popularity has triggered a new reservation system, so you’ll need to plan this one in advance. 

Reservations can be made 30 days in advance here for either just entry or parking and entry. 

If you’re booking the entry and parking options (what I would recommend if you have a car), reservations are made in 2 hour increments starting at 6AM (6AM-8AM, 8AM-10AM, 10AM-12PM, etc.) and you’re asked to arrive within the first 30 minutes of your time slot. 

If you’re just booking entry, reservations are made in hour increments starting at 6AM.

Entry is $5/person (whether you park, Uber, or hike in) plus $10/car for parking. 

If you take the bus/trolley or park in the free spots, you’re going to have to walk pretty far before you get to the actual trailhead. But I believe Uber/Lyft drops you off right at the parking area. 

Either way, you still need reservations. 

I highly recommend booking an early time slot as there is NO SHADE on this hike. 

And if you’re a hesitant hiker and need a little incentive to push you over the edge, here it is…Diamond Head has a line of EXCLUSIVE HELLO KITTY MERCHANDISE. So hike Diamond Head and then you can buy an array of swag with Hello Kitty on it that says “I hiked Diamond Head.” What could be more fun?

Lanikai Pillbox Hike

There are so many great hikes on Oahu, but I think this is my favorite! 

It’s fairly short, but it’s got a good pay off. 

You’ll find the trailhead on Kaelepulu Drive in Lanikai. All of the parking is on the road and it’s super limited. Be sure to respect the signs of where you’re allowed to be and where you’re not and don’t go traipsing through people’s yards. Because of limited parking, you’re going to want to get an early start on this one. 

Because the view faces east, some people like to go for sunrise, but you’ll definitely need headlamps if you go that route. 

This hike only took me about an hour up and back, but you really have to scramble in some places. The first part is by far the steepest. Most people stop when they reach the first pillbox, but you can keep going if you want to see them all. 

I wouldn’t say this is a “hard” hike at all, but the trail is a lot less defined and cleared than Diamond Head so you have to do a bit of negotiating. 

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Makapu’u Point and Trail

This is a great easy/beginner hike with a big payoff of great views at the top. Located on the southeastern side of the island, this is a great hike to pair with snorkeling at Hanauma Bay or the Halona Blowhole or even a drive up the windward coast past Kailua and Kaneohe. 

After you pass Sandy Beach Park and come around the point, you’ll see a turn off to the right with cars parked along it and a small parking lot at the bottom (if you come to the Sea Life Park you’ve gone too far). 

It’s a mile hike (at a decent incline) to get to the top where you can see a lighthouse plus epic views of the windward coast, but it’s entirely paved. 

I did this in flip-flops, although I wouldn’t really recommend it. It’s an easy enough hike, but a pretty good incline going up. 

The hike only takes about an hour, but bring plenty of water because there’s not really any shade. 

Manoa Falls

This is a popular hike because it’s quick (1.6 miles round trip), pretty flat, and rewarding (hello waterfall!). This may be your easiest chance for waterfall gazing. 

Unlike a lot of the shorter hikes on this list that are pretty wide open or arid before leading to ocean views, the trail to Manoa Falls is through a lush, tropical rainforest. 

Also, I would classify this one as more of a “walk” than a hike which makes it great for kids, older people or those who can’t or don’t want to push for a strenuous hike. 

Besides the beautiful scenery along the trail, you’ll be rewarded with views of the 100 foot Manoa Falls at the end. This isn’t a place that you can swim underneath a waterfall though, this one breaks over rocks. 

And just remember…how impressive the waterfall is depends on the amount of recent rainfall. 

Koko Head Crater

Sometimes overshadowed by Diamond Head, the hike up this extinct volcanic crater is still pretty popular, but it’s waaaaay more strenuous than Diamond Head. 

I have included it on this list of “easy” hikes though because the trailhead is pretty easily accessed and it’s a relatively straightforward (and not terribly long) hike. 

But here’s the deal…it’s 1000 steps up railroad ties straight to the top. Talk about a leg burner!

Ehukai Pillbox

The Lanikai Pillbox hike gets most of the attention, but there are actually several pillbox hikes on the island 

The pillboxes are old bunkers left over from WWII and since they were all used as lookouts, they’ve all got pretty amazing views. 

If you’re staying on the north shore (or just exploring for the day), you’ll want to check out the Ehukai Pillbox. 

It’s a pretty quick scramble to the top, but you’ll be rewarded with GREAT views of the ocean and when the Banzai Pipeline is going off in the winter, it’s a prime view. 

Maili Pillbox Hike

If you’re staying in Ko Olina (Aulani, the Four Seasons, Marriott Beach Club, etc.) this hike isn’t too far away. 

Besides beautiful ocean views, what sits this one apart is that the pillbox was painted PINK to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month several years ago. 

Kaena Point Trail

This is probably one of the less traveled options on this list, but if you’re spending time on the west side, then you may want to check it out. 

It’s at the absolute end of the road on the west side, and the trail is dry, rugged, and pretty isolated. 

There just aren’t too many people that make it out there. It’s mostly because the road doesn’t connect around the island. 

The trail goes about 2.5 miles out and it offers great views of the coast, but it’s very arid so bring plenty of water. The tide pools below may look enticing, but it’s just so isolated that I recommend staying out of the water. If anything should happen, there’s just no one around to help.

Want to read more? Don’t miss some of my most popular (and favorite) posts about Oahu:

If you’re trying to figure out where to stay, you’re going to want to look at my favorite boutique resort in Waikiki and the lowdown on where to stay on Oahu besides Waikiki. Plus I’ve got the scoop on how to avoid illegal vacation rentals and a roundup of where to stay in Ko Olina and reviews of the Laylow and Disney’s Aulani Resort. And a LOT more on Aulani like is Aulani worth it?, tips for staying at Aulani, how many days to spend, and the best things to eat and drink at Aulani

If you’re researching luaus on Oahu, I’ve written quite a bit. First, I’ve got a full breakdown of the best luaus (and the worst) on Oahu. Then I’ve got complete reviews of Paradise Cove, the Polynesian Cultural Center, and Aulani’s Ka Wa’a Luau. And if you’ve narrowed it down to the top two most popular on the island and still can’t decide, here’s Paradise Cove vs Polynesian Cultural Center

If you’re trying to put together an itinerary full of the best things to do, take a look at my best 5 day itinerary, and roundups of the best things to do in Waikiki, “secret” things to do on Oahu, plus my favorite things to do in Kailua and the windward coast, in Ko Olina, and on the north shore. And if you’re looking for food recommendations, I’ve got the best restaurants in Ko Olina and where locals eat in Waikiki

And last but not least, some of my favorite things on Oahu like Jurassic Park at Kualoa Ranch, Shangri La and the Honolulu Museum of Art, tips for visiting Pearl Harbor, easy hikes on Oahu, and the best spas on Oahu. And everything you need to know BEFORE you go to Oahu.

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