The Hawaiian Islands are home to some of the world’s best hiking – but not everyone is experienced enough to complete the 22-mile
Kalalau Trail, or the illegal and dangerous Stairway to Heaven. In fact, I only know a handful of people who could ever complete these hikes – and one of them runs marathons. Luckily, you will also find some pretty incredible hikes that provide stunning views without too much effort. From paved coastal trails to waterfall hikes through the jungle, here are 12 phenomenal hikes in Hawaii perfect for beginners.
1. Manoa Falls
Just miles from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu is the lush Manoa Valley, and this beautiful 2-mile round trip hike through bamboo and banyan trees leads to a picturesque waterfall – and in less than 45 minutes one way.
2. Wai Koa Loop Trail
The moderate 5-mile Wai Koa Loop Trail meanders through the Wai Koa Plantation, by serene lagoons, a historic dam, and a majestic mahogany forest. Ideal for everyone from running enthusiasts to families with young children, the trail is relatively flat, and can be easily walked in two to three hours.
3. Poluluu Valley Trail
Often bypassed for other lookout points on the Big Island is Polulu Valley, perhaps due to the fact that you must drive to the end of the Highway 270 to reach this picturesque location. If you do make the drive out here, don’t settle for the views from the lookout – definitely take the time to hike the Awini Trail that leads down to the stunning black sand beach. The half-hour hike is steep at times, but the views – and the destination – are well worth it.
4. Iao Valley State Park
In the late 15th century, Maui’s ruler, Kaka’e, designated Iao Valley as an Ali’i burial ground, and in 1790 Kamehameha the Great defeated Kalanikupule and the Maui army during his quest to unify the islands during the Battle of Keaniwai. With a variety of short hiking trails leading through the park, you’re sure to find one that suits your needs.
5. Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail, a short and sweet two-mile hike on a paved trail to a historic lighthouse at Oahu’s southeastern point, features sweeping panoramic views of Oahu's southeastern and windward coasts.
6. Thurston Lava Tube
Located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, this short 20-minute walk through a thick forest leads visitors to a 500-foot lava tube that once carried molten lava.
7. Twin Falls
Also known as Hololawa Falls, these twin waterfalls are the first notable attraction on Maui’s Hana Highway coming from the north. Many guidebooks will argue that the falls are not worth the hike, but we tend to disagree. While the falls are short, the picturesque pools are quite lovely.
8. Lanikai Pillboxes
A short hike up to three old U.S. Marine pillboxes on Oahu’s east side provide views of Kailua Bay, Kaneohe and beyond. This one-mile hike not only provides stunning views of Windward Oahu – but a glimpse into World War II history as well. During the 1940s, the structures were equipped with telescopes, and soldiers would keep watch for enemy ships and send all relevant information back to Kaneohe Bay Naval Air Station.
9. Maha’ulepu Trail #1
This heritage trail is the last stretch of coastline along Kauai's southern shore that has yet to be developed. The trail leads you from the southeast corner of Shipwreck Beach alongside sand-dune cliffs, Kiawe groves, limestone formations, and rocky inlets.
10. Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
This 1.5-mile trail meanders through a beautiful botanical garden, home to more than 2,000 species of flora. Consider taking the 2.5-mile round trip donkey trail to Onomea Bay and Turtle Cove.
11. Waihou Spring Trail
This trail, located in Upcountry Maui at the end of Piiholo Road, leads hikers through a Cypress, Eucalyptus, native Hawaiian Koa, and Halapepe forest. The upper trail is perfect for families, while the lower trail is reserved for more experienced hikers.
12. Kaena Point
The northwestern tip of Oahu is home to Kaena Point State Park, a magical place full of hidden gems, including heart shaped rocks, tide pools, stunning cliff faces, and a natural reserve area created to protect nesting albatrosses, Hawaiian monk seals, and the fragile native vegetation. According to ancient Hawaiian lore, Kaena Point is the “jumping off” point for souls leaving this world.