Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you choose to book through these links, I receive a small commission, which I will undoubtedly blow on mai tais, poke bowls, and shave ice. All of this internet voodoo takes place at no additional cost to you.
Inside: The island of Oahu is known for spectacular hiking and challenging trails. Luckily, there are a few easy Oahu hikes perfect for lazy hikers (like me!).
So there you are, lounging in a hammock on Waikiki Beach with your hands securely fastened around a cocktail served in a hollowed-out pineapple.
Life in paradise is good, my friends.
When suddenly someone, probably the type who goes jogging “for fun,” suggests going hiking. Like exercise. On vacation.
Naturally, your first instinct is to toss your pineapple at them.
I mean, hey, you like nature as much as the next person, right? Perhaps there are some easy hikes on Oahu that won’t leave you hobbling down stairs for the rest of your vacation?
Indeed there are!
In fact, I contend that the 5 hikes I’ve listed below are the best easy hikes on the island. Plus, there are gorgeous views and even beautiful waterfalls!
But most importantly, these hikes can be enjoyed by almost anyone of any age or fitness level. Even if hiking is definitely not your thing. (Let’s just say it’s no coincidence that these are the first 5 hikes my husband and I attempted after moving to Oahu.)
That’s right, these are actual hikes for the non-hiking crowd.
And while you’ll probably have to set down your mai tai and put on real shoes to complete them, you’ll score some great photos and memories to take home.
So let’s get started…
My Top 5 Best Easy Hikes on Oahu (that won’t kill you)
A quick note: I have personally done all 5 of these hikes, most of them more than once. I’ve listed them in order of easiest to hardest. In my opinion, all except one are suitable for families with kids. (But maybe not your kids. You know them better than I do, use your best judgment.)
1. Waimea Falls Trail
This hike is the ultimate Hawaii waterfall/botanical gardens hike straight out of central casting. Bring the kids, bring the grandparents, (bring your wallet) the Waimea Valley trail on the North Shore of Oahu is fun for the whole family. That’s why it’s one of the most popular hikes on Oahu.
Waimea Falls Hike Quick Facts
|Location||North Shore (1 hour from Waikiki)|
|Cost||Entry fee to Waimea Valley required – $25/Adults|
|Parking||Available, included with entry fee|
|Hours||Tuesday-Sunday, 9am-4pm. Closed Mondays.|
|Elevation & Distance||1.5 miles roundtrip, almost as flat as a pancake|
|Time||1 hour for the hike (add time to swim)|
|What You’ll See||Waterfall & botanical gardens 🌺💦|
Why you’ll love the Waimea Falls Hike
This is definitely the easiest hike on the island (that’s why I love it and there’s no shame in that!). You stroll through a botanical garden, which is essentially nature that someone else has arranged in an aesthetically pleasing manner, and then you eventually arrive at a waterfall.
It’s a super fun hike and one of the best kid-friendly hikes on Oahu. It’s also one of the easiest and best waterfall hikes on the island.
But wait, it gets better. You can actually swim at that waterfall!
So, if swimming in a Hawaiian waterfall is on your Bucket List, this is your chance to check it off.
Why it’s easy
The trail is paved the entire way with a few gravel paths off the main trail for additional exploration. I highly recommend taking your time and exploring some of these gravel paths.
There are no steep inclines here, the paved road is mostly flat with gentle hills suitable for nearly every fitness level. There are plenty of facilities here including restrooms and drinks and snacks for sale.
Why it’s hard
The only thing hard about this trail is coughing up the steep admission fee to hike it.
Don’t forget: A change of clothes if you plan to swim. Swimming is dependent on waterfall conditions. At 9:00am each day, a lifeguard makes that call. If swimming is important to you, call (808) 638-7766 after 9:00am for the day’s swimming status.
2. Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail
Located along Oahu’s stunning south shore, this is one of my favorite hikes on Oahu for panoramic views. It’s also the best place on Oahu to spot humpback whales on a clear day during the whale season months of December to May.
Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Hike Quick Facts
|Location||Southeast Oahu (30 minutes from Waikiki)|
|Parking||Free (but don’t leave anything in your car)|
|Elevation & Distance||2 miles roundtrip, 500-foot elevation gain|
|What You’ll See||Ocean views and possible whale sightings 🐳|
Why you’ll love the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
Three words: Views. For. Days.
The Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail is the holy grail of easy hikes on Oahu with big rewards. In fact, this paved path is easily the most scenic of Oahu’s easy hikes.
Even better? It’s totally free. And there’s parking. It’s an embarrassment of Oahu hiking riches and that’s why it’s one of my favorite easy hikes on the island.
Why it’s easy
This is literally a paved trail all the way up. You can bring younger kids, Grandma, and the dog and still make it to the top. (If you do bring a dog, be sure to bring shoes for him, the asphalt trail gets hot!)
I often see people in flip-flops pushing strollers hiking this trail (though I don’t recommend the flip-flops and you’ll want to hold on tight to that stroller on the walk back down!).
Plus, during whale season, the whales often make an appearance to cheer you on (or maybe it’s their mating season, but let’s not split hairs). And there are plenty of places to stop along the trail and appreciate the glorious views.
Why it’s hard
The only downside of this trail is that there’s zero shade anywhere. You’ll be exposed to full sun for the entire hike so be sure to prepare for that. And though it’s fully paved, it’s still a decent incline heading up that hill.
So just keep in mind that this one is not a flat trail and will take a little effort, especially if you choose to do it in the middle of the afternoon under full sun.
Don’t forget: Sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water (there’s nowhere nearby to buy it). And it bears repeating, do not leave anything visible in your car in the parking lot – even a phone charger.
3. Diamond Head Crater
If you’re looking for a great hike close to Waikiki, this is the one to do. It’s busy, so you’ll be surrounded by people who are equally miserable or strangely into it, but the incredible views from the top are totally worth the effort. You’ll see Waikiki, the vast Pacific, and maybe even that mai tai you left behind on the beach.
Diamond Head Trail Quick Facts
|Location||5 minute drive from most Waikiki hotels|
|Cost||$5 (reservations required!)|
|Hours||Trail open daily, 6am-4pm|
|Elevation & Distance||1.6-mile roundtrip, 560-foot elevation|
|What You’ll See||Sprawling downtown Waikiki and the ocean 🌊|
Why you’ll love the Diamond Head Crater Hike
The Diamond Head hike is the iconic hike to do in Waikiki. If you only attempt one hiking trail while you’re on Oahu, this is the one. The best time to do this hike is in the early morning. Like the Makapu’u Lighthouse trail, there’s no shade and it gets hot later in the day.
On a personal note, this hike is super special to my husband and I because we got engaged at the top.
Why it’s easy
Though it’s not paved, there are helpful handrails along the parts with uneven surfaces (which is most of the trail). The slope is gradual and winding for most of the trail which makes it easy for most fitness levels.
Why it’s hard
The most challenging part of the Diamond Head State Monument trail involves 99 stairs straight up mid-way through. And then there’s another 76 stairs to reach the top. I won’t lie to you, the stairs suck. But just take them at your own pace and you’ll be fine.
(Sidebar: If you’re a little bit crazy and actually enjoy stairs like this, check out the Koko Crater trail, it’s a steep climb that’s ALL stairs – 1,048 of them to be exact – and has no place on this “easy hikes” list.)
Don’t forget: The most important thing about this one is you MUST make a reservation in advance. And those early morning reservations are tough to score so book well in advance.
4. Manoa Falls Trail
This jungle-style trail through the lush Manoa Valley is sure to satisfy your inner Tarzan without all that scary danger stuff. Located just a short drive from the Waikiki hotel zone, the Manoa Falls trail is one of the best hikes near Waikiki. It’s also one of the most popular easy waterfall hikes on Oahu.
The waterfall is much more impressive in the wetter winter months, but it’s still worth the hike in the summer (when the picture above was taken).
Manoa Falls Trail Quick Facts
|Location||Manoa area (15 minutes from Waikiki)|
|Cost||No entrance fee, just parking|
|Hours||Trail open daily, 6am-6pm|
|Elevation & Distance||1.6 miles roundtrip, 800-foot elevation|
|Time||About 1-1.5 hours|
|What You’ll See||Trees, plants, and a WATERFALL 🌳💦|
Why you’ll love the Manoa Falls Hike
Do you like the idea of trekking through the jungle but worry about encountering a snake, a spider, or worse?
Fear not. Manoa Falls offers all the scenic beauty without the scary critters. And at the end, you’ll find a waterfall that looks like something out of a Disney movie or Jurassic Park (especially during the rainy season).
Swimming’s not allowed here, though. Yes, you will see people down at the base of the waterfall. These people are ignoring the posted sign that warns of falling rocks. Don’t be these people.
Why it’s easy
Because of its shady jungle vibe, most of the trail here doesn’t get much sun. Which makes it a great place to beat the heat on a sunny day.
Why it’s hard
The downside of all that shade is that the trail conditions are often damp and muddy. And that can make it slippery in some places. My advice is to wear good shoes (not flip flops!) and take extra care going back down the trail if you want to avoid landing on your backside.
Don’t forget: Mosquito repellant and a change of shoes for the rest of the day, they’ll be muddy.
5. Lanikai Pillbox Hike
I’m just going to say it…I don’t think this hike is easy. I actually consider it a moderate hike. But it seems to appear on every list of “easy Oahu hikes” so let’s discuss, shall we?
Would I recommend that my parents do this hike? No.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re in fantastic shape. In fact, they walk 4 miles a day (that’s more than I can say!). But they are in their 70’s and the possibility of a slip and fall on this hike is real.
Would I recommend this hike for small children? Definitely not.
Personally, I have enough trouble navigating the Lanikai Pillbox Hike myself, much less trying to guide a child safely through it. The last time I did this hike, as I was nearing the end of the trail, lowering myself down the last stretch slowly using the handy safety rope, I passed a man with a baby strapped to his chest on his way up.
Now, I’m not one to judge, but unless you’re in great shape and have done this hike before, please don’t try it with a baby strapped to you.
For grown-ups in decent shape and teenagers with sturdy shoes, this hike is fine. Just take it slowly.
Lanikai Pillbox Hike Quick Facts
|Location||Kailua (40 minutes from Waikiki)|
|Parking||Free (but hard to find!) street parking|
|Hours||Trail open daily, 6am-8pm|
|Elevation & Distance||1.8 miles roundtrip, 600-foot elevation|
|Time||Around 1-1.5 hours|
|What You’ll See||Military bunkers and Mokulua Islands 🏝️|
Why you’ll love the Lanikai Pillbox Hike
Also known as the Kaiwa Ridge trail, the Lanikai Pillbox hike features two pretty cool World War II bunkers. You can stand atop one and enjoy amazing views of Lanikai Beach and the twin Mokulua Islands in the distance.
Why it’s easy
The good news is it’s a relatively short hike. And there are some flat areas along the way that are great for catching your breath and enjoying all those beautiful views.
Why it’s hard
Some say the hardest part of this hike is finding a place to park in this quiet residential area.
Tip: Don’t bother, just park a mile or so away at the Kailua Beach parking area and walk to the trail head from there. Yes, it adds some time and distance to the hike. But it’s one of my favorite beaches on the island and after this hike, you’ll be ready for a dip in the ocean to cool off.
Now, back to the actual hiking part.
The rocky, gravel parts of the trail are definitely tricky to navigate in some places. There are plenty of areas with loose dirt where you’ll need both hands free to hold onto branches or rocks as you go, especially coming back down.
I’d recommend a camelback for water so you can keep your hands free. But let’s be honest, if you’re looking for easy hikes around the island you probably didn’t pack a camel back. And that’s ok.
Do what I do and finish your bottle of water at the top and throw the empty in your backpack so you have your hands free on the way back down.
Don’t forget: Water, sunscreen, and solid footwear. If you squeezed hiking boots in your suitcase, this is the time to break them out. And either wear something with pockets for your phone and water or bring a small backpack.
And there you have it
My top 5 easy hikes on the island (well, 4 easy, one moderate) for non-hikers. By this point, you’ve probably picked out the least terror-inducing option to try and you’re ready to hit the trail.
But before you do, let’s quickly cover the basic rules of hiking in Hawaii…
Oahu Hiking Golden Rules
Whether you’re in search of an easy hike on Oahu or a more challenging adventure, there are several essential guidelines that do apply to all hikes:
1. Stay on designated trails
I cannot stress this enough. I swear, on every single hike we’ve done, we’ve seen people purposely veer off of designated trails. I don’t know why people insist on doing this. I get it, you want that great Instagram shot.
But honestly, give it a rest.
Stick to the marked trails and paths while hiking. Not only can you harm delicate ecosystems, but you’ll definitely increase the risk of an accident or rescue situation. And I’m quite sure making the local news is not on your Hawaii must-do list.
2. Respect closures and advisories
Pay attention to any trail closures or advisories due to hazardous conditions or ongoing preservation efforts. These closures are put in place to protect you and to preserve the environment.
Perfect example: Every time we go to Manoa Falls, we see people wading in the waterfall pool, even though this is clearly in violation of the posted signs. Don’t be these people. These are the people who end up on the news.
3. Leave nothing behind
Pack out what you pack in. Bring those empty water bottles back out with you and dispose of your trash and waste. Help keep Hawaii’s natural areas pristine. It’s the least you can do as a guest here.
So yes, you can take a hike in Oahu…
Even if your idea of exercise typically involves curls of the 12-ounce variety.
In any case, these 5 easy Oahu hikes prove that you can balance Hawaii’s natural beauty with your natural inclination to do absolutely nothing strenuous on your Hawaiian vacation.
Now someone bring me a mai tai!
P.S. If you’ve worked up a serious appetite with all this talk of hiking, I can help you with that, too: