Hawaii October 16, 2019
11 Of The Greatest Mountain Hiking Trails In Hawaii For Beginners
While the crystalline turquoise waters and fine white sand beaches of the Hawaiian Islands invite you in, it is the majestic mountains that keep you coming back for more – at least for me, an avid hiker, that is. From the lush, green mountains of Kauai to the stark volcanic landscapes of Hawaii Island, there is little more awe-inspiring than Hawaii’s mountain ranges. While you can experience these mountains from afar, there’s little better than embarking on a hike in the mountains. Not all trails are created equal, and though many of Hawaii’s hiking trails are reserved for those with plenty of experience, these 11 mountain hikes are ideal for beginners.
1. Diamond Head State Monument
This volcanic tuff cone is perhaps the most well-known landmark on Oahu. The view of Diamond Head via airplane is iconic, the hike to the summit is mentioned in every guidebook, and you can even see the volcano from the famous beaches of Waikiki. While many locals think the trail is overrated, the views are absolutely second to none. The crater is more than 3,500 feet in diameter and has been dormant for more than 150,000 years. Once used for military training, the government-owned property has since been opened to the public, and is now the most iconic hike on the island for tourists. The trail leads hikers on a steep trail more than 500 feet in elevation over 1.6 miles to the crater's summit — and magnificent views of Honolulu.
2. Mauna Kea Highpoint Trail
Measuring in at just one mile in length and gaining less than 300 feet in elevation, the lightly-trafficked Highpoint Trail begins at the end of the road where you will find the mountain’s many observatories. Once you reach the summit, you will feel on top of the world. Not only will you discover jaw-dropping 360-degree panoramic views above the clouds, but you'll feel a sense of accomplishment at hiking to the summit of one of America's tallest mountains — even though you won't be hiking very long.
3. Ohai Loop Trail
Nestled on Maui’s northeastern coast between Waihee and Kapalua is the Ohai Trail Loop, an incredibly scenic and short hike you’ll want to check off of your Hawaii hiking bucket list as soon as possible. Measuring in at just 1.2 miles and gaining less than 200 feet in elevation, this scenic hike leaves no excuse not to tackle this terrific trail. After all, the sweeping panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and rock formations along the Hawaiian coast will take your breath away.
4. Friendship Gardens Trail
Located high above Kaneohe on Oahu’s stunning windward coast, this trail meanders its way through a 10-acre hiking area in a serene, lush forest. Measuring in at less than half a mile, the lightly trafficked lower loop is an idyllic trail to complete on a warm summer day when you’re short on time but don’t want to sacrifice views.
5. Waimea Canyon Cliff Trail
Nearly 14 miles long, one mile wide, and more than 3,600 feet deep, the stunning Waimea Canyon is full of striking cliffs, incredible colors, and cascading waterfalls; it is perhaps Hawaii’s most unspoiled natural beauty. Measuring in at just .2 miles, this extremely short trail will give you a glimpse of the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" without any real effort involved.
6. Iao Valley State Park Trail
Located just south of the West Maui Forest Reserve and near Wailuku is Iao Valley State Park, a lush, 4,000-acre valley with miles of hiking trails, stunning vistas, and the famous Iao Needle. The short, 0.6-mile nature loop through the park is truly one-of-a-kind, and you’ll want to add it to your Hawaii bucket list.
7. Pu'u O Hulu Kai
Similar to the wildly popular Lanikai Pillbox trail above Kailua, Pu’u O Hulu Kai is located on the opposite side of the island above Nanakuli — but still just as gorgeous, and far less crowded. This 1.6-mile moderately trafficked trail gains approximately 700 feet and leads hikers on a journey up the side of a mountain via a set of steep switchbacks. And the views, once you reach the top, will leave you speechless.
8. Pu'u Huluhulu Trail
Situated between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea where the Mauna Kea Access Road intersects with the Saddle Road, Pu’u Huluhulu is a forested cinder cone, or volcanic hill, covered with vegetation and surrounded by younger lava flow. Translating to "hairy hill" in the Hawaiian language, the one-mile Puu Huluhulu Trail takes hikers on a journey through a protected natural area sure to leave you speechless.
9. Leleiwi Overlook Trail
Just 27 square miles short of equaling the entire size of Oahu, Mount Haleakala is a gentle giant — a dormant volcano that has inspired those who make the journey to its summit for centuries. While you will find expansive views throughout this national park, one of our favorites is the Leleiwi Overlook. Nestled at approximately 8,800 feet above sea level, this short, 0.3-mile hike provides some truly phenomenal views.
10. Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail
Within the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline is the Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail, where hikers are rewarded with breathtaking views of Oahu's south and eastern shores, as well as vistas of the picturesque Makapu'u Lighthouse. The trail is paved and though it gains quite a bit of elevation, measures in at only two miles.
11. Kuilau Ridge Trail
With sweeping vistas of Mount Wai’ale’ale, the Kuilau Trail may be long (measuring in at 4.5 miles) but is welcoming to those who want a non-treacherous hike on Kauai. The easy to moderate trail winds its way through the Lihue-Koloa Forest Reserve and ends at the trailhead for the Moalepe Trail. It is when you enter the lush, green interior of Kauai along the Kuilau Trail that you understand just how the island got the nickname “The Garden Isle.”
How many of these mountain trails have you explored before? Which of Hawaii’s mountain trails is your favorite? Share your opinions and experiences in the comments below!
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