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The definition of an “easy” hike differs from person to person. Some people are hardcore hikers who have all that extra gear and solid muscle (definitely not me). Others rarely get out and consider rocky trails to be more than they can handle. I usually get a chance to hike about 1 – 2 times a month, so while I may be used to walking on exposed roots and muddy trails, I enjoy not gasping for breath or feeling my knees shake.
Take my suggestions with a grain of salt. Your “easy” is probably not the same definition as mine; however, I do think all the hikes in this list are manageable for almost any hiking level. Do your due diligence and research the hike in advance so you know what you’re getting yourself into.
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Paved Oahu hikes
- Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden – Hawaii’s largest botanical garden that resembles a gigantic park. Running through Hoomaluhia is a paved road for cars to drive to the end, but there’s plenty of room for those who want to stretch their legs. Entrance into Hoomaluhia is free, so just park your car at the Visitor Center and start walking. There are plenty of separate grounds to explore, but the best sight has got to be the majestic Koolau mountains right next to you as you walk.
- Makapuu Lighthouse Trail – Recently repaved and a very smooth and beautiful walk up to the viewpoint. The path up is not too steep and there are a few lookouts on the way where you can catch your breath if needed. This hike is especially popular during whale watching season as they like to swim right in this area.
- Waimea Valley – You’ll have to pay to get into Waimea Valley, but it’s a gorgeous walk that includes a waterfall, botanical garden, and traditional Hawaiian structures and foundations. This was once a rich and thriving Hawaiian village and a walk through Waimea Valley is like walking through an outdoor museum. There’s a lot of Hawaiian history and culture to be learned here and I think most visitors will find that their visit was time well spent.
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Flat Oahu hikes
- Kaena Point State Park – You can begin this hike either from Mokuleia (North Shore) or Makaha (west side). Both are similar in that the entire hike is flat with very little elevation gain. However, I do recommend beginning your hike as early as possible as there is no shade to take cover in. This hike is known for Hawaiian monk seals, Laysan albatrosses, shearwaters, dolphins, and whales (during whale watching season).
- Aiea Loop Trail – One of my favorite trails on Oahu because of the pretty views and abundance of shade. It’s really comfortable and enjoyable to hike this trail mostly because it’s not an out-and-back trail. The loop offers different environments to walk through, which keeps the hike fun and entertaining.
- Manana Trail – This hike can lead to Waimano Falls (aka Cardiac Hill), but if you pass by and continue on the Manana Trail, you’ll have a beautiful hike toward the mountain ridge that ends at a covered picnic table looking out over several mountains and valleys. You can continue onto the ridge, but hiking to the picnic table and back is usually a good 2-hour hike for me. (3 hours if Daisy is waddling along with me!)
- Tantalus Drive to Pauoa Flats – Although this hike is high up in the mountains, the elevation gain is done all by car to get to the trailhead. Once you park your car, the hike stays pretty flat until you reach Pauoa Flats where there is a beautiful lookout and a bench to enjoy the view from.
Short Oahu hikes
- Pink Pillbox Hike – A short switchback hike in Waianae that takes you up to a lookout point where there are three pillboxes – the most famous of them being the pink pillbox. The pillboxes are remnants of World War II that you can go inside and explore. This hike shouldn’t take you more than an hour to get to the top and those in great shape will probably reach the top within a half hour.
- Lanikai Pillbox Hike – Another short pillbox hike this time on the windward side of the island in Kailua. The top offers a gorgeous view of Kailua and Na Mokulua (aka the “Mokes” or Twin Islands). Both islands (Moku Nui and Moku Iki) are both seabird sanctuaries, but you can walk the perimeter of Moku Nui.
Easy Oahu switchback hikes
- Diamond Head State Monument – Hawaii’s most iconic hike is a switchback trail that is well-maintained and safe. There are a few places on the way up where you can stop and take a breather if you need to. If you come during peak hours, the crowd can sometimes slow the pace down, which can be a boon for those who don’t want to go fast. Safety is always first at Diamond Head, so you’ll see plenty of rails, stairs, and signs.
- Kealia Trail – A switchback trail that begins at Dillingham Airfield. While there are no railings here, the trail is easy to see and is a constant zig-zag up to the top where there is a picnic table and a nice view. The great thing about this hike is that you have a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean all the way up. You’ll have a hard time deciding whether to look at where you’re stepping or out at the ocean!
Local Tip: Switchback trails can be hard for those who aren’t used to physical activity. But if you are used to hiking or walking up with a constant elevation gain, then these hikes will be a cinch for you.
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