Hawaiian postcards all depict the islands as swaying palm tree lined white and beaches with vibrant turquoise waters, but there is so much more to the Aloha State than our killer beaches; The Hawaiian Islands are one of the country’s greatest hiking destinations as well. From beginner to advanced, these 17 trails lead through rainforests, up mountain ridges, to abandoned places and waterfalls that only exist in your wildest imagination – and are easily the greatest hikes in all of Hawaii.
1. Kilauea Iki Trail
This four-mile loop trail, which is the remains of a massive 1959 eruption, is wildly popular among Volcanoes National Park visitors. The trail – which takes hikers through lush rainforests, near active steam and sulfur vents, and across a solidified lava lake – was voted as the Big Island’s favorite scenic hiking trail by Hawaii Magazine.
2. 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.
3. Kalalau Trail
Perhaps one of the most famous hikes on the island of Kauai, this rugged 11-mile trek along the breathtaking and secluded Na Pali Coast is challenging, even for those in killer shape.
4. Pipiwai Trail
Located in southeast Maui, off Hana Highway and near the Pools of Oheo, is the unforgettable Pipiwai Trail, a four-mile round trip trek that will take you on quite the enchanting journey through a lush Hawaiian rainforest – complete with beautiful bamboo groves and a massive banyan tree - to two impressive waterfalls.
5. Waipio Valley
While the breathtaking Waipio Valley and Beach is often seen from above at the easily accessible lookout, hiking 1.5 miles from the parking lot to the valley floor is well worth the effort - and you can bet that you’ll be mostly alone once you arrive.
6. 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.
7. Alakai Swamp Trail
Journey across the Alakai Swamp, and through rainforests and bogs, in Koke’e State Park on this moderate seven-mile round trip hike. The trail is part dirt trail, part boardwalk, and provides simply unparalleled views of Kauai.
8. Koko Head Stairs
Please don’t let the short 1.5-mile round trip description fool you – Koko Head is brutal – we’re talking more than 1,000 railway steps leading to the summit. It’s a great workout that yields stellar views, and if you get up early enough, it is one of the best spots on the island to view the sunrise.
9. Papakolea Green Sand 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.
10. Uluwehi Falls
Known to locals and visitors as Secret Falls, this is a popular day adventure on Kauai’s east side. The trailhead is located up the Wailua River, so you will need to either book a guided tour or rent kayaks or canoes. Once you reach the trail, it is a muddy, and often slippery, 45-minute hike to the falls, but it is worth every second. And the journey is half the fun, right?
11. Sliding Sands of Mount Haleakala
With various hiking trails and miles of fascinating terrain to explore, Haleakala is paradise for explorers. Check out the 10-mile sliding sands trail that takes you from Haleakala’s summit to the Paliku Cabins, descending through several miles of loose cinder.
12. 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.
13. Thurston Lava Tube
This 500-year-old lava cave within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a stunning geographic feature formed when a river of lava gradually forms walls and a ceiling. When the lava flow stops, the remaining lava flows downhill, and you are left with a tunnel.
14. Lulumahu Falls
Located off Pali Highway is this extraordinary waterfall hike – complete with a trek through a bamboo forest, views of a stunning field and reservoir, the beauty of the Hawaiian jungle, and – of course – the jaw-dropping, 50-foot Lulumahu Falls.
15. Redwood Trail
Located approximately 7,000 feet above sea level in Polipoli State Park is this forest is populated by redwood trees that were brought to Hawaii in the 1920s to re-establish the watershed. The popular Redwood Trail is 1.7 miles, and guides hikers through a forest of baby Redwood trees, and is the access point for many other trails.
16. Waimea Canyon Trail
This 3.4-mile hike begins off the short Cliff trail, following the northern rim of Waimea Canyon. At the halfway point, you will encounter Waipo’o Falls, the perfect place to stop and enjoy a picnic lunch. The trail ends at the awe-inspiring Kumuwela Lookout, with sweeping views of Waimea Canyon and the Pacific Ocean.
17. Stairway to Heaven
Though this hike is extremely difficult, illegal and dangerous, it is hard to deny the incredible view. We clearly don’t endorse this hike but it wouldn’t be a hiking bucket list without including the most famous hike in all of Hawaii.
With countless miles of trails, it’s truly impossible to include all of Hawaii’s best hiking trails – but these 17 trails are certainly the best of the best. Tell us, what other trails would you add to this list? And don’t forget to check out
this Hawaii nature lover’s bucket list while you’re here.