Discover the 10 Best Hikes in Oahu for Families: A Guide to Best Hikes on Oahu

BEST HIKES IN OAHU

The island of Oahu is a hiking paradise, especially for families looking to explore the great outdoors together. From easy coastal walks to more challenging summit climbs, there are trails suited for all ages and abilities. Spending time hiking Oahu as a family is a chance to unplug from devices, learn about Hawaiian nature and culture, and bond while adventuring.

When choosing the best kid-friendly trails in Oahu, key factors include having bathroom access, availability of shade, fun sights like waterfalls, and achievable distances for little legs. It’s also important to pick routes matched to your family’s level—an extremely steep or slippery path would be difficult with unpredictable young children.

This guide covers 10 of the top-rated best hikes in Oahu for families visiting the island. They range from short nature walks under a mile to moderate 4-5 mile out-and-backs with incredible payoffs. Each offers kid-approved adventures!

Top Selection of Best Hikes:

Table of Contents

ʻAiea Loop Trail ─ Family favorite hiking trail in Oahu

ʻAiea Loop Trail Oahu

Trail Distance: 7.2 km

Elevation Gain: 384 m

Terrain Rating: Moderate

Hike Time: 3 hours

Recommended Seasons: Year-round

Trailhead Location: ʻAiea, Oahu

Features: Dogs on leash | Kid friendly | Camping | Hiking | Running | Forest | Views | Wildflowers | Wildlife | Rocky | Scramble

The ʻAiea Loop Trail is a 4.5 mile loop that takes you on a ridge top walk through shady forest behind Pearl Harbor. The trailhead sits at the end of Moanalua Road above ʻAiea town. From the parking area, you’ll enter a tree tunnel known as the Conditioning Hike or “Con Hike” used by WWII soldiers.

After a short uphill section, the loop flattens out for easier hiking with kids. The forest includes patches of fragrant guava and sections of native plant restoration. A little over half a mile in you can take a short side trail to see petroglyph carvings made in stone centuries ago by Native Hawaiians.

The loop continues below the prominent Aiea Ridge and offers peeks of Pearl Harbor far below. Kids love checking out views through “monkey pod” trees and spotting wild fruits. Bathrooms are available at the trailhead.

Diamond Head Crater (Lēʻahi) Summit Trail

Diamond Head Crater (Lēʻahi) Summit Trail Oahu

Trail Distance: 3.1 km

Elevation Gain: 157 m

Terrain Rating: Moderate

Hike Time: 1 h 5 min

Recommended Seasons: Year-round

Trailhead Location: Diamond Head State Monument, Honolulu

Features: Kid-friendly | Hiking | Partially paved | Views | Wildflowers | Wildlife | Muddy | Fee | No dogs

No family trip to Oahu is complete without visiting the iconic Diamond Head crater, known in Hawaiian as Lēʻahi. The 1.6-mile trail to the 760-foot summit is entirely doable for kids and rewards with sweeping coastal views. A bonus is checking out the crater’s military history, like old WWII bunkers.

The well-defined, mostly paved trail has many switchbacks but gains elevation gradually. Handrails and stone steps also make the trail less intimidating. About halfway up the crater’s east side, you’ll walk through a 225-foot lighted tunnel built in the early 1900s.

At the top, a set of steep steps leads up to an open-air observation platform. From here, Waikiki’s famous beaches are visible to the west, while the Pacific Ocean and neighboring islands spread to the east. Since the caldera is fully exposed, visiting earlier or later in the day is recommended when it’s cooler. Bring sun protection.

Ehukai Pillboxes ─ best hike on oahu

Ehukai Pillboxes Oahu

Trail Distance: 3.7 km Loop

Elevation Gain: 225 m

Terrain Rating: Moderate

Hike Time: 1 h 26 min

Recommended Seasons: Year-round

Trailhead Location: Sunset Beach, North Shore

Features: Dogs on leash | Kid friendly | Hiking | Cave | Forest | Views | Wildflowers | Wildlife | Muddy

North Shore’s beautiful Ehukai Beach is famous for big wave surfing at Banzai Pipeline each winter. Just above, the Ehukai Pillboxes trail offers awesome family views. The out-and-back route totals 2 miles to WWII-era bunkers carved into the hillside for lookouts and machine guns.

A well-used dirt path climbs moderate slopes behind Sunset Beach, with some tricky rock and mud sections. Switchbacks break up the ascent under ironwood and strawberry guava trees. Panoramas expand over the marine reserve and famed surf spots to the west. Listen for choruses of coqui frogs!

Two pillbox sites are reachable, with kids loving to scramble around the concrete bunkers. Safe cliff-top spots also let you watch daredevil surfers over 30 feet below. Time it for low tide when more beach is exposed. The small parking area fills up so come early, especially on weekends.

Hauʻula Loop

Hauʻula Loop Oahu

Trail Distance: 4.2 km Loop

Elevation Gain: 276 m

Terrain Rating: Moderate

Hike Time: 1 h 41 min

Dog Friendly: No

Recommended Seasons: Year-round

Trailhead Location: Hauʻula, North Shore

Features: Kid friendly | Hiking | Mountain biking | Dog friendly | Forest | Views | Waterfall | Wildflowers | Wildlife

For families who like coastal views paired with lush hills, Oahu’s gorgeous Hauʻula Loop is ideal. The 4.8-mile trail links quiet Hauʻula town to dramatic sea cliffs on the island’s northeast point. Be sure to stop at fruit stands after for smoothies or shave ice!

You’ll traverse open pastures and grassy ridges above Hauʻula homes from the marked trailhead off Kamehameha Highway. The uphill is steady but smooth, through chirping birds and fragrant guava groves. As the loop turns north, the Pacific appears 300 feet below– an endless expanse of blue fringed by pounding surf.

The trail descends wooden steps clinging to steep slopes, with kids eager to peer over (carefully!) to sheer sea cliffs or rocky coves. Bathrooms are at the halfway picnic area. On the return, explore tidepools if safe and wave to locals casting fishing poles along the rocky shore.

Judd Trail

Judd Trail Oahu

Trail Distance: 1.9 kmLoop

Elevation Gain: 58 m

Terrain Rating: Difficult

Hike Time: 58 m

Recommended Seasons: Spring through fall

Trailhead Location: Nuʻuanu Valley, Honolulu

Features: Dogs on leash | Kid friendly | Hiking | Walking | Forest | River | Views | Waterfall | Wildlife

For families able to handle a steep uphill challenge, Honolulu’s Judd Trail is an eye-opening trek through lush Nuʻuanu Valley. The remote route ends at a historic stone cottage with unreal city views. Built in 1900, it was the former vacation home of Dr. James and Ella Judd.

From the roadside parking off Nuʻuanu Pali Drive, Judd Trail immediately travels uphill via stone steps threading under tall trees and vines. The incline is no joke but pacing stops helps small kids make it. Listen for native birds like the ‛elepaio’s whistling call.

In 1.5 miles, crest a small ridge to reveal Dr. Judd’s two-story home and guest house. When not soaked inside clouds, Honolulu and Manoa Valley fill the horizon. Have a trail snack while kids explore the empty cottage. Remember, this is private property– be respectful while visiting briefly.

Ka'ena Point Trail (from South)

Ka'ena Point Trail (from South) Oahu

Trail Distance: 9.8 km Out & back

Elevation Gain: 84 m

Terrain Rating: Easy to moderate

Hike Time:  2 h 1 min

Recommended Seasons: Year-round

Trailhead Location: Waianae, West Oahu

Features: Kid friendly | Hiking | Bird watching | Beach | Forest | Views | Wildlife | Rocky | Washed out | No shade | No dogs

At Oahu’s western tip lies stunning Kaʻena Point, a nature reserve protecting seabirds, native plants, and Hawaiian monk seals. Families can take a flat 4-mile walk on a broad dirt road to this remote landscape– just watch for bikes. Leashed dogs are also allowed.

From the ample parking area off Farrington Highway in Waianae, stroll northwest over an old runway with rugged mountains ahead. In two miles, ruins of a former military installation appear. Then sandy beaches come into view, lining Kaʻena Point to the left.

Stay on marked trails as you explore enticing tidepools where Hawaiian green sea turtles often rest. Signs also warn people away from seal moms and pups during pupping season. Loop around the point itself to see burrowing seabird nests before heading back on the out-and-back trek.

Likeke Falls Trail

Likeke Falls Trail Oahu

Trail Distance:1.3 km Out & back

Elevation Gain: 66 m

Terrain Rating: Easy to moderate

Hike Time: 27 min

Recommended Seasons: Year-round

Trailhead Location: Kōʻolau Range above Kaneohe

Features: Dogs on leash | Kid friendly | Hiking | Running | Forest | Views | Waterfall | Wildflowers | Wildlife | Muddy

Easy waterfall access makes the Likeke Falls Trail one of the best kid-friendly hikes on Oahu’s windward side. Located in a protected forest above Kaneohe town, this gentle walk leads to a gorgeous multi-tier cascade surrounded by tropical plants.

From the marked lot off Likeke Falls Road, stroll under ripe guava and lychee trees on a wide gravel path. In one mile, glimpse sapphire Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden through the foliage. Ten minutes later, hear Likeke Falls splashing over basalt just off the trail.

Let kids stand safely behind the wire fence to feel the waterfall’s misty spray. Ferns and ginger plants sprout around mossy tiers dropping 50 feet into a rocky pool. Adventurous families can continue another 1.5 miles uphill on muddy slopes to scenic Kaʻawaloa Ridge.

Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse Trail ─ stairway to heaven

Makapuʻu Point Lighthouse Trail Oahu (1)

Trail Distance: 4.0 km

Elevation Gain: 198 m

Terrain Rating: Easy

Hike Time: 1 h 23 min

Dog Friendly: Yes

Recommended Seasons: Year-round

Trailhead Location: Makapuʻu Beach Park, Southeast Oahu

Features: Dogs on leash | Wheelchair friendly | Kid friendly | Stroller friendly | Hiking | Walking | Paved | Views | Wildflowers | Wildlife | No shade | Historic site

No list of easy kid hikes in Oahu is complete without the Makapuʻu Lighthouse Trail. Perfect for ages 4 and up, this paved coastal path leads to a historic red-roof lighthouse with nonstop ocean views. Bathrooms and a popular beach park with lifeguards make it super family-friendly.

The trail runs above Makapuu Beach then turns upslope via gentle switchbacks, with vistas expanding over the Windward shoreline. In one mile, reach the 1909 lighthouse and catwalk on the 646-foot-high point. Let kids explore the grassy lawn and look southeast– Molokai Island is faintly visible on clear days.

Well-behaved leashed dogs are allowed on this state park trail but must stay on pavement due to protected habitat. After, take an optional swim at Makapuu Beach to cool off. Insider tip: stop for shave ice at neighboring Sea Life Park!

Makiki Valley Loop Trail

Makiki Valley Loop Trail Oahu

Trail Distance: 5.5 km Loop

Elevation Gain: 304 m

Terrain Rating: Easy

Hike Time:  2 h 1 min

Dog Friendly: Leashed

Recommended Seasons: Year-round

Trailhead Location: Pacific Heights Park, Honolulu

Features: Dogs on leash | Kid friendly | Hiking | Walking | Bird watching | Running | Forest | Views | Wildflowers | Wildlife

Minutes from downtown Honolulu lies hidden Makiki Valley, home to towering emerald rainforest and a gorgeous stream. The 2.5 mile hiking loop accessible year-round is perfect for families, with an easy grade, shady cover, and forest waterfall as highlights.

Enter Makiki Forest Recreation Area from neat Pacific Heights Park off Wilder Street. Step under tall canopy trees and stroll gradually downhill via a mossy, fern-lined path. In one mile, peek through foliage to view narrow Makiki Falls plunging 100 feet over dark lava.

As the trail begins looping uphill, keep kids eyes peeled for bright orange ackee fruit hanging overhead like Chinese lanterns. Higher up, admire views over high-rises in nearby Manoa Valley. After exercising legs and curiosity, families can picnic at the playground or explore Honolulu’s Botanical Garden nearby.

Manoa Falls Trail

Mānoa Falls Trail Oahu

Trail Distance: 2.7 km Out & back

Elevation Gain: 188 m

Terrain Rating: Moderate to Difficult

Hike Time: 1 h 8 min

Dog Friendly: Yes

Recommended Seasons: Year-round

Trailhead Location: Mānoa Valley, Honolulu

Features: Kid friendly | Hiking | Forest | Views | Waterfall | Wildflowers | Wildlife | Fee

Tucked behind Honolulu lies a true jungle oasis—gorgeous 150-foot Mānoa Falls pouring into a lush valley. Reaching these hidden falls via a direct uphill hike will satisfy even restless kids. The rocky, sometimes muddy 1.6 mile trail has stairs and rope guides for steep sections.

From the small trailhead lot at the end of Mānoa Road, enter forest dominated by towering albizia trees and dangling vines. In a half mile, stone steps begin leading uphill over exposed roots and ridgetop boulders. Cresting the headwall, an overlook peers down on the two-tiered falls.

Continue 10 minutes downhill to reach calm pool swimming holes, where kids can stand under the falls’ misty spray. Please be careful of slippery rocks. On return, consider a treat stop in Mānoa Marketplace just outside the valley entrance.

TrailLength (km)Elevation Gain (m)DifficultyDurationHighlights
ʻAiea Loop Trail7.2384Moderate3 hrsForest, views, WWII history
Diamond Head Crater Trail2.6157Moderate1.5 hrsIconic views, geology, WWII history
Ehukai Pillboxes3.2225Moderate1.5 hrsBunkers, views, beach below
Hauʻula Loop4.8276Moderate3 hrsCoastal cliffs, tidepools
Judd Trail3.2381Difficult3 hrsLush valley, waterfall, stone house
Ka’ena Point Trail6.461Easy–Moderate2 hrsWildlife reserve, beaches
Likeke Falls Trail6.4152Easy–Moderate2 hrsLush forest, waterfall
Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail491Easy1.5 hrsIconic lighthouse, coastal views
Makiki Valley Loop4122Easy1-2 hrsLush rainforest, waterfall
Manoa Falls Trail2.6195Moderate–Difficult1.5-2 hrsIconic rainforest waterfall

What To Bring When Hiking The Best Hikes In Oahu For Families?

Here are some recommended items to bring when hiking the best family-friendly trails in Oahu:

Essentials

  • Sturdy shoes – sneakers or hiking shoes with good traction
  • Water – pack plenty for each family member
  • Snacks/lunch – trail mix, sandwiches, fruit
  • Sun protection – hats, sunglasses, sunscreen
  • Lightweight rain jackets or ponchos

Safety/First Aid Supplies

  • Charged cell phone
  • Whistle for signaling
  • Small first aid kit – Band-Aids, antibiotic cream
  • Emergency contact info

For the Kids

  • Kid-sized backpacks
  • Headlamps/flashlights
  • Binoculars for wildlife spotting
  • Field guides on Hawaiian birds, plants etc
  • Camera for capturing memories along the trail

Comfort Extras

  • Insect repellant
  • Portable battery charger
  • Collapsible seats for trail breaks
  • Beach towels and swimsuits if hiking to a waterfall
  • Trash bags for collecting litter

Packing well prepares families for an awesome and safe adventure hiking Oahu’s ridges, shores, and valley trails. Adjust items as needed depending on trail difficulty and distance. But the most important thing is to get outdoors and soak up Hawaii’s natural beauty together!

FAQs About the Best hikes in Oahu for families

What is the prettiest hike in Oahu?

The Lanikai Pillbox Hike on the windward side of Oahu is considered one of the best and prettiest hikes, with incredible views of the island. The trail starts with a steep climb but reaches the top of a ridge with sweeping views of the windward side. It’s a great view hike for hikers of all levels.

What is the most famous hiking trail in Hawaii?

The ridge hikes on Oahu like the Kuliouou Ridge Trail and the Lanikai Pillbox Hike are some of the most famous. These challenging hikes take you to the top of ridges with panoramic views of the windward side of the island. The views make these trails on Oahu a must-do for many hikes.

What is the easiest hike to a waterfall in Oahu?

The trail to Manoa Falls near Waikiki is a short, fairly easy hike ideal for beginners and families. The easy trail leads through lush forest to an incredible 150-foot waterfall. It’s one of the best family-friendly hikes on the island.

What is the most difficult hike in Oahu?

Some consider the hike to Ka’au Crater one of the most challenging trails on the beautiful island of Oahu. The steep 8-mile trail gains over 2,500 feet in elevation until hikers stand on top and see panoramic views of the west side. It takes experienced hikers with proper hiking boots at least 7 hours.

Where do the Kardashians hike?

The famous Stairway to Heaven hike on the west side of Oahu is an illegal but incredibly scenic ridge hike. The 4,000 steps trail gains over 2,500 feet to reach panoramic views. This trail hike has attracted hikers like the Kardashians despite steep drops and being technically closed.

Is Waimea Falls or Manoa Falls better?

Manoa Falls is a quick, easy hike ideal for families through lush Hawaiian forests until you reach an impressive 150-foot waterfall, one of many hikes on Oahu. For those up for more challenging trails on the island, Waimea Falls involves steep climbs by a river to reach the gorgeous red-dirt plunge pool. Both have incredible views at the end.

What is the famous illegal hike in Hawaii?

The scenic Stairway to Heaven hike on the west side of Oahu starts as paved steps leading to panoramic views from mountain ridges, attracting hikers of all levels. However, despite its sweeping views, the trail hike is technically closed yet still completed illegally by experienced hikers with proper boots and preparation.

Is Manoa Falls an easy hike?

Yes, Manoa Falls Trail is considered one of the best easy hikes on Oahu, perfect for families and beginners. The paved and mostly flat 1.6-mile comfortable hiking trail leads through lush, tropical forest with scenic valley views until you reach the breathtaking 150-foot waterfall.

Is Oahu or Maui better for hiking?

Both Oahu and Maui have incredible hiking trails ranging from coastal hikes to challenging mountain ridges with panoramic views. Maui’s Haleakala trails offer more diverse terrain while Oahu has a vast network of mountain and waterfall hikes like Manoa Falls as well as famous ridge trails with sweeping views of the windward side. Each island simply offers different beautiful hiking adventures.

Conclusion

The island of Oahu offers spectacular scenery for family hiking adventures—from windswept ridges to hidden waterfalls. Choosing kid-friendly trails matched to your crew’s ages and abilities lets everyone soak up natural wonders safely. Pack sun protection, sturdy shoes, snacks and water before embarking on these top-rated routes across Oahu.

Bonding while immersed in Hawaii’s landscapes creates lifelong memories. As an added bonus, getting kids moving outdoors has great health benefits too. Whether tackling diamond Head or scouting for turtles at Kaʻena Point, there’s a best Oahu hike tailored perfectly for your family’s next tropical getaway. The aloha spirit starts on the trail!

John Smith

John Smith

John has been an avid hiker for over ten years and has explored some of the most challenging trails across the USA. He has completed multiple long-distance hikes, including the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails. John is also a certified hiking guide, leading several hiking trips for groups of all ages and skill levels.

John Smith

John Smith

John has been an avid hiker for over ten years and has explored some of the most challenging trails across the USA. He has completed multiple long-distance hikes, including the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails. John is also a certified hiking guide, leading several hiking trips for groups of all ages and skill levels.

8 thoughts on “Discover the 10 Best Hikes in Oahu for Families: A Guide to Best Hikes on Oahu”

  1. As a parent always looking for kid-friendly adventures in nature, I loved this breakdown of Oahu’s most scenic and enjoyable trails for families. The tips on choosing easier coastal routes like Makapu’u Point vs more challenging interior options like Manoa Falls are super helpful for gauging children’s ages and hiking abilities.
    It reminds families like mine how rewarding these excursions can be when taking time to prepare properly with trail maps, sun protection, snacks, and even entertaining kid carriers to help little legs along!
    After reading this, I’m excited to explore Oahu’s natural wonders like Waimea Valley waterfall and get my keiki lei’d at the end by local guides – what special memories to cherish from our Hawaiian vacation! We’ll definitely be following this blog’s recommendations for an awesome outdoor experience kids will rave about for years. Mahalo for outlining such beautiful and fun trails accessible for ‘ohana of all ages. Aloha!

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  4. Overall, this article has provided me with a wealth of information and has fueled my excitement for exploring the best hikes in Oahu with my family. I can’t wait to pack our hiking gear and embark on these adventures together. Kudos to Hiking Horizon for putting together such a fantastic guide

  5. After reading this guide I am thrilled to plan an adventurous trip with my loved ones. The detailed descriptions of each trail, including the distance, terrain rating, and recommended seasons, provide valuable insights for selecting the perfect hike.
    I particularly appreciate the emphasis on kid-friendly features such as bathroom access, shade, and fun sights like waterfalls. The breathtaking views, historical landmarks, and opportunities to explore nature together make these hikes truly appealing. I can’t wait to embark on these family-friendly adventures and create lasting memories in the beautiful landscapes of Oahu.

  6. Christopher White

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  7. Wow, this guide to the best hikes in Oahu for families is a treasure trove of adventure! As a nature-loving parent, I appreciate the detailed descriptions and helpful tips for each trail. From the breathtaking views of Diamond Head Crater to the enchanting Likeke Falls, this list has it all. I can’t wait to unplug, bond with my family, and create unforgettable memories on these kid-friendly hikes. Thank you, Hiking Horizon, for this invaluable resource!

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