Let’s be honest, the Hawaiian Islands are home to some of the best hiking in the country, and maybe even the world. Last fall, we brought you “
12 Trails In Hawaii You Must Take If You Love The Outdoors,” and now we’re back with even more of our favorite Hawaiian hikes, but this time, they all have one thing in common: from pristine lakes and secret beaches to cascading waterfalls and panoramic vistas, these 14 trails all have absolutely magnificent final destinations, worthy of all the effort it takes to get there.
1. Alakai Swamp Trail
Nestled in the heart of Koke’e State Park, just north of Waimea Canyon, is the Alakai Swamp, a truly one-of-a-kind Hawaiian landscape. The Alakai Swamp Trail is approximately seven miles round trip, and takes you on a journey through lush forests and ethereal swamplands. Most people start the trail at the Pu’u o Kila Lookout, meander along the Pihea Summit Trail, and traverse approximately 3.5 miles of boardwalk through a unique wet forest, and a boggy swamp.
2. 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.
3. Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach
This stunning red sand beach on Maui’s eastern coast is one of only a few red sand beaches in the world. You’ll have to access the stunning beach via an overgrown cliff-side trail, and the water is rough, but the views are well worth the effort.
4. Lake Waiau
Located at 13,000 feet above sea level on the Big Island’s Mauna Kea, Lake Waiau is arguably one of the highest lakes in all of the United States. However, it is also relatively small, measuring in at just about 100 meters across. To reach this sacred lake, visitors will have to take a short, one-mile walk, found near Mauna Kea’s astronomy domes.
5. 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.
6. Hanakapiai Beach + Falls
Situated on Kauai’s fabled Na Pali Coast is Hanakapi’ai Falls, accessible only by a strenuous day hike. The trail is, in fact, the beginning of the 11-mile Kalalau Trail, but only takes you four miles in, past Hanakapi’ai Beach and up to the valley and approximately 300-foot cascading waterfall.
7. Muliwai Trail
Nestled between the more accessible and well-known Hawaii Island’s Waipio and Pololu valleys is a stunning valley you’ve probably never even heard of. Waimanu Valley, the largest of several remote valleys on the Hamakua Coastline, is quite difficult to visit, but offers incredible views for anyone adventurous enough to tackle the nine-mile Muliwai Trail.
8. 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.
9. 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?
10. 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 tropical rainforest to a towering banyan tree, through a vast bamboo forest, and to two impressive, cascading waterfalls.
11. Makapu'u Lighthouse
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.
12. Olivine Pools
Though the journey to reach these picturesque tide pools is short, it can be slippery, and the pools themselves can be dangerous - we'd maybe stick to just teens + adults on this trail for that reason.
13. Wai Koa Loop
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.
14. 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.