With approximately 750 miles of magnificent coastline to explore, the Hawaiian Islands are home to some of the worlds’ greatest waterfront spots – from incredible beaches and secret spots to stunning coastal trails. And while we would argue that spending all our free time at the beach gets mundane, spending as much time near the ocean as possible is good for the soul.
From oceanfront boardwalks to rugged coastal trails, here are 12 incredible waterfront hikes that will satisfy your need for Vitamin Sea without ever stepping foot in the ocean – unless the hike ends at a secluded beach, of course!
1. 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.
2. Waianapanapa Coastal Trail
A three-mile trail that follows the coastline from Hana Bay, beyond Waianapanapa State Park, this coastal trail is known for its rugged scenery, including black lava cliffs jutting into the crystal blue ocean.
3. Ala Kahakai National Historical 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.
4. Kalalau Trail
This rugged 11-mile trek (one way) into Kalalau Valley on Kauai's Na Pali Coast may only be recommended for experienced hikers, but there is certainly something to be said for these incredible ocean views.
5. Kaiwi Shoreline Trail
Instead of heading to the paved Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail, veer right at the trailhead and take the dirt path that leads down to the ocean, Kaho‘ohaihai Inlet, Pele's Chair, and beyond. The trail is approximately 2.5 miles long round trip, and will surely leave you feeling at peace with the world.
6. Puna Trail
This moderate 5-mile round trip trail weaves through stunning coastal rainforest, and ends at the secluded Haena Beach, a picturesque spot seldom visited by tourists.
7. Hoapili Trail, King's Highway
Located in south Maui, this trail introduces hikers to a side of the island rarely seen - the hot, barren 5-mile round trip trek takes visitors along a section of coastal walking path once open only to royalty.
8. Polulu Valley Awiini 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.
9. 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.
10. Wailea Oceanfront Boardwalk
For a leisurely stroll alongside Maui's incredible western shore, including five pristine, white-sand beaches and eight world-class resorts, consider checking out this two mile Wailea walking path.
11. Trail to Papakolea Beach
A 2.5-mile trail brings hikers to Papakolea Beach, also known as Green Sand Beach, the southernmost point in the United States. The trail is reserved for pedestrians and four-wheel drive vehicles – and the dangerous offshore waters make it one of the best spots for shoreline fishing.
12. Maha'ulepu Trail
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.