Now that school is no longer in session, it is of utmost important to keep our keiki active – both physically and mentally. So, why not combine both into a day trip they won’t soon forget? With fascinating history, and some of the best hiking in the world, Hawaii is home to a variety of hiking trails that will also teach us lessons in history and culture. From old military bunkers to ancient Hawaiian fishing villages, these 11 trails will lead hikers on an unforgettable journey back in time.
1. Lanikai Pillboxes
This short 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. The pillboxes are now home to a variety of bugs – and a great deal of graffiti.
2. Ala Kahakai Trail
Traversing nearly 175 miles of pristine coastline on Hawaii Island is the Ala Kahakai Trail, established to access the traditional Hawaiian culture and natural resources. The section of trail between Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site and Anaeho'omalu Bay is the most popularly-traveled.
3. Lapakahi Village Interpretive Trail
Found within the rugged 262-acre oceanfront park is this easy one-mile loop trail through the partially restored remains of an ancient coastal fishing settlement, with a variety of historic structures to check out throughout the carefully-placed footpath.
4. Diamond Head State Monument
This iconic Hawaiian hike is perhaps the state’s most popular destination, known for its sweeping views of Honolulu. But not everyone knows that the crater was once home to Fort Ruger, the first United States Military reservation on Hawaii.
At one point, hikers will find themselves ascending a spiral staircase inside a coastal artillery observation platform built in 1908. Today, only the Hawaii State Civil Defense and a National Guard facility remain in the crater.
5. Mo’okini Heiau
On the secluded Kohala Coast of Hawaii Island, sits one of the most amazing archaeological sites in all of Hawaii. Legend has it that a priest named Pa’ao came to the Big Island, most likely from Tahiti, bringing with him a new system of worship and an established system of kapu (forbidden things), as well as human sacrifice.
While many historians argue the validity of these legends, it is thought that thousands were killed here – making this an eerie site. The trailhead begins at the Upolu Airport, and while some choose to take their four-wheel drive vehicles up the trail, we think hiking is cooler.
6. King's Trail
More than 500 years ago, the island of Maui was circumnavigated by this vital trade route. The road was built by native Hawaiians under the rule of King Pi’ilani, and was revitalized in the 1800s by prisoners, earning the road the moniker “the road that sin built.” The road is now largely abandoned.
7. Aiea Loop Trail
Approximately halfway through this relatively easy 4.8-mile loop trail in Aiea, the wreckage of a B-24J bomber lies in a valley not far from the trail. The plane crashed here in May 1944, and is often considered to be one of Hawaii’s most well-known crash sites. While the wreckage is hard to spot, it makes for a fun game about halfway into your hike.
8. Koke’e State Park
With approximately 45 miles of amazing hiking trails, this awe-inspiring state park features panoramic views of Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau Valley from 4,000 feet in elevation. Once home to ancient Hawaiians, visitors can learn about the park’s natural features at the Koke’e Musuem.
9. Kaniakapupu Ruins
Better known as King Kamehameha III’s summer home, this phenomenal treasure and piece of true Hawaiian history is hidden away near Oahu’s Pali Highway. The structure dates back to 1847, and was only used for a few decades before being abandoned and reclaimed by nature. You can find the ruins near the popular Lulumahu Falls trail.
10. 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 hiking trails leading through the park, you’re sure to find one that suits your needs.
11. Ehukai Pillboxes
Unlike the crowded and popular Lanikai Pillboxes, this north shore hike is a local secret – and full of World War II history, with two graffiti-decorated military bunkers that were once used for surveillance serving as the hike’s destination. Oh, and throughout the trail system at the summit, you will surely find other relics of a bygone era, forgotten in the forest.
Aren’t these historic hikes absolutely fascinating? What other trails would you add to this list? Sound off on our Only In Hawaii