Wearing: ASOS playsuit, Grown wooden sunglasses, Converse sneakers
Although one of the smallest of the Hawaiian islands, Oahu is by no means short on nature hikes. There are easy, flat hikes along beaches and bays, treks through lush rainforests to hidden waterfalls, and steep climbs up the sides of volcanic craters or ridges offering breathtaking views over the entire island and it's neighbours. As an avid hiker, I spent a fair amount of time researching hikes for my trip to Oahu before arriving on the island, but kept being led to the same selection of illegal hikes such as the Stairway to Heaven (which I am sure you've heard about but just in case you haven't click here). Eventually, I found the following 4 hiking trails that were not only legal but were also easily accessed without a rental car.
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Length: 2.6 km / 1.6 miles (round trip)
Fee: Walk-ins $1 / Parking $5
The Diamond Head Summit trail hike is Oahu's most popular hiking track, and for good reason. The trail was built in 1908 as part of the Oahu coastal defense system. Accordingly the trail features a number of World War II bunkers, which are now used to support antennas for the government. The trail starts from the middle of the volcanic tuff cone and involves a climb in elevation of approximately 170 metres to the uppermost tip of the rim. The climb begins with a slightly inclined paved path which then leads to several steeper, unpaved switchbacks and the first set of stairs. After the stairs you are led through a dimly-lit tunnel before reaching a second set of stairs leading to the the bunkers at the top of the rim. If you have any breath left at this point it will soon be taken away by the 360-degree views of the island, including an aerial view of nearby Waikiki which is especially stunning as the sun reflects off of it at sunrise. If you're without a car, hassle-free transport to and from the trail start can be organised through Kaimana Tours.
Tip: Definitely get an early start with this hike to avoid the crowds and heat that inevitably arrive after the sun has risen. If possible, head up at least 40 minutes before sunrise to ensure you are at the top of the crater's rim to enjoy the sunrise.
2. Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail
Length: 3.2 km / 2 miles (round trip)
The Makapu'u Lighthouse trail is a fairly easy yet very worthwhile hike. The trail takes you along a paved path with a moderate incline of 150 metres over the course of the 1.6 km track to the south-eastern most point of Oahu. As you enjoy not having to watch your step on the even terrain, you are treated to breathtaking views of the windward side of Oahu, as well as views all the way to Moloka'i and Lana'i on a clear day. Moreover, if visiting between November and May remember to pack your binoculars as you may be lucky enough to spot humpback whales migrating between the islands. Although the lighthouse is not currently open to the public, there is a lookout towards the end of the trail which provides a postcard worthy view of the lighthouse peaking out off of the cliff side. If you're up for a more challenging hike, there is an unpaved dirt path that leads down to the Makapu'u tide pools at the base of the cliffs about halfway along the path. This rugged hike takes about half an hour to hike down. Kaimana Tours also offer hassle-free transfers to the Makapu'u Lighthouse trail head.
Tip: This trail is exposed and there is no water on the trail, so make sure to bring water and to slip, slop and slap. Additionally there are no toilet facilities so be sure to use the loo before you arrive.
3. Manoa Falls Trail
Length: 3.2 km / 2 miles (round trip)
Fee: Walk-ins Free / Parking $5
Forget Kualoa Ranch, if you're looking for a Jurassic Park adventure look no further than the Manoa Falls trail. The short hike leads you through a lush rainforest where several scenes from Jurassic Park as well as Lost were filmed to the 30 metre tall rain-fed Manoa Falls. Unfortunately, you cannot swim in the pool at the base of the waterfall, but the view alone justifies the easy hike. To reach the trail head you can either take a guided eco-tour with Oahu Nature Tours or take bus no. 5 (Manoa) from Ala Moana shopping centre all the way to the last station.
Tip: You'll want to wear shoes with good grip for this hike as the trail can be quite muddy and involves climbing over slippery rocks which are hazardous even when the region has experienced little rain.
4. Koko Crater Railway Trail
Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
Length: 1.1 km / 0.7 miles (round trip)
Although a relatively short hike at only 1.1km, the Koko Head Crater trail is by no means easy involving an increase in elevation of over 354 metres! The track itself is comprised of 1024 stairs / railroad ties, which were originally built over 60 years ago as part of an incline tram system that was used to haul military personnel and supplies to the military bunkers at the top of the crater during World War II. So if you're not afraid of a little hard work this hike is definitely worthwhile for the breathtaking views from the summit.
Tip: There is a part of the trail where the tracks turn into a bridge with no bottom which can be a bit off putting and dangerous. However, there is a safe and easy way around the bridge if you head to the shady area to the right of the bridge.