5 Beginner-Friendly Hikes on Oahu


Kim Baxter

One of the many beautiful views at the end of a fun and easy hike in Oahu.

With school starting, ways to relieve stress and stay active during the school year are always helpful. Luckily living in paradise has many available activities in nature. Hiking is a great way to stay both distracted and fit. Although we have many hikes in O’ahu, here are some easy hikes that anyone from children to elders can do that are relatively short in distance and elevation gain.

Before getting into the list, common hikes such as Diamond Head Crater and Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail are not included because the majority of O’ahu population (whether local or tourist) are familiar with these hikes due to them being well-known attractions.

As someone who loves to find easy new hikes all around the island, here are five beginner-friendly hikes that may be less known.

Hau’ula Loop Trail (2.7 miles)
O’ahu has a few loop trails but out of all of them, Hau’ula Loop is the easiest. This hike has limited ocean views due to vegetation but as a result, there is plenty shade within the beautiful terrain. With a steep incline the loop is fairly easy despite being 2.7 miles long; the elevation gain is quite intense going up but mellows out the rest of the way. When starting the hike, complete the loop clockwise to capture all the beauty Hau’ula Loop offers with an easier downhill trip. As for the path, there are no guard rails with a few narrow sections so be careful when hiking and avoid going when raining due to mud and wet ground. 

Waimea Valley Trail (1.9 miles)
On the north side of O’ahu is where you can find Waimea Valley Trail. There is an entrance fee of $25 (discounted price for children and military) but parking is free. This hike is captivating, surrounded by trees and flowers with a waterfall at the end. This is Perfect for families with children in strollers due to the paved trail. However, a downside of this hike is that depending on the weather, the waterfall flow can fluctuate. But when the waterfall is at proper levels, swimming is allowed and everyone is required to wear a life vests (which are provided). Waimea Valley is a popular destination in O’ahu, so this hike may be crowded.

Lanikai Pillbox (1.2 miles) 
This trail is one of two Pillbox hikes on Oahu that is short and easy with a bit of scrambling, located along the Ka’iwa Ridge in Kailua. The hike to the pillbox is unpaved and has a few steep sections that require climbing with the help of rope (which is provided). Like most hikes, take caution if and when it rains because with the increased incline, climbing can be difficult and dangerous when slippery. The view at the top makes the climb worth it. It’s a very popular view with a gorgeous overlook of Kailua and Lanikai beaches, perfect for sunrise hikes. Plus after the hike, you can cool off at a nearby beach. Fair warning: the entrance is located on a residential street, so there is no parking lot. Street parking is the only option; obey parking signs to avoid getting towed. 

Mānoa Falls Trail (1.2 miles) 
For hikes closer in the Honolulu area, Mānoa Falls is a great hike. This is a popular location so it tends to be quite crowded but it leads to a pretty waterfall at the end. However, at the waterfall, swimming is not allowed. This trail is a great family-friendly hike with lots of rocks and while it can be slippery with or without rain, wear proper footwear for an easier journey. After returning from the hike, treats such as shave ice and smoothies are available for purchase at the trailhead to wind down with. 

Judd Trail to Jackass Ginger Pool (1 mile) 
This is a short hike that takes approximately 30 minutes. Similar to Hau’ula Loop, due to vegetation, there is a lot of shade. Within the bamboo forest there’s a small river crossing. Once crossed, a Judd Trail sign will become visible with two arrows pointing in two different directions: one right and another pointing left (straight up a hill). Both paths lead to Jackass Ginger Pool but going left lets you see more of what Judd Trail offers. The terrain is breathtaking with the greenery, bamboo and pine trees. Unlike other hikes, swimming is permitted.