The Best Sunrise Hikes on Oahu You Won’t Want to Miss

/
sunrise hikes on Oahu
Image Credit: Shane Myers Photography / Shutterstock

Are you an early riser and interested in discovering the best sunrise hikes on Oahu? The thrill of getting an early start and ascending a trail in the dim early morning light, followed by the breathtaking spectacle of sunrise, is an experience like no other. Oahu's rugged landscapes offer some of the most remarkable sunrise views, and the island's trails lead you to vantage points you've only dreamt of. From novice hikers to seasoned adventurers, these sunrise hikes provide an unforgettable way to start the day.

Join us as we explore the best sunrise hikes on Oahu, where the colors of dawn paint the sky and the serene landscapes awaken with the new day as hikers watch the sun rise. Check out our list of the best hikes to experience the magic of Oahu.

10 Best Sunrise Hikes on Oahu

With its stunning landscapes and mesmerizing sunrises, the island of Oahu offers some of the most unforgettable hiking experiences. Ready to explore? Here's what you need to know about the best trails that provide the perfect start to your day.

1. Diamond Head Summit Trail / Lēʻahi

Location and Overview

Diamond Head, known as Lēʻahi, is a volcanic tuff cone near Waikiki and a short drive from downtown Honolulu. It's one of the most recognized landmarks in Hawaii and offers a breathtaking hike and amazing views that shouldn't be missed.

Difficulty Level of the Trail

The Diamond Head trail hike is considered moderate in difficulty. It's about 1.6 miles round trip and includes some steep stairs and uneven terrain. Though it might get your heart pumping, the average person with reasonable fitness can conquer this trail.

Best Time to Hike

The best time to do the Diamond Head hike is early morning, just in time to catch the sunrise. It's less crowded then, and the weather is cooler, making climbing more comfortable. Remember that the gates open at 6:00 AM and close at 4:00 PM.

Unique features and view

Diamond Head is known for its unique Diamond Head crater shape and stunning panoramic views. You'll see a spectacular 360-degree view of Waikiki, Honolulu, and the deep blue Pacific Ocean from the summit. The historical military bunkers add to the experience, blending nature and history. This is a view and an experience that you'll cherish forever.

2. Lanikai Pillbox Trail Hike

Location and Overview

Located on the Windward Coast of Oahu, the Lanikai Pillbox Hike is one of the most popular hikes and it takes you to old military bunkers, or “pillboxes.” The fun hike starts in the stunning Lanikai neighborhood, offering an experience that's both scenic and historically rich.

Difficulty Level of the Trail

This hike is considered easy to moderate. It's a 1.8-mile round trip with some inclines but is generally accessible for most hikers. Families, beginners, or those looking for a leisurely hike will find it appealing.

Best Time to Hike

Early morning is the ideal time to head out on the Lanikai Pillbox Hike to beat the crowds and the heat. Weekdays are less crowded, and if you start just before sunrise, you'll be rewarded with a spectacular view as the sun comes up.

Unique Features and View

The view from the pillboxes is genuinely unique. Overlooking the beautiful turquoise waters of Kailua Bay and the Mokulua Islands, the idea is picturesque and serene. The graffiti art on the pillboxes adds a modern touch to the historical site. This hike is a must-do to capture a slice of Oahu's natural beauty mixed with a touch of history. It is the perfect place to get a cool picture for social media.

3. Koko Head Crater Trail

Location and Overview

Situated on the southeastern side of Oahu, the Koko Head Crater Trail is a great hike that leads to the summit of Koko Crater. The trailhead is easily accessible from Honolulu, and this adventure starts at Koko Head District Park.

Difficulty Level of the Trail

Koko Head is considered a challenging hike, especially for beginners. If you are looking for an easy Oahu hike, this is not the one. Comprising over 1,000 old railway ties, this straight-up climb will test your stamina. But don't worry. Many hikers of various fitness levels have completed it, and the effort is worth the reward.

Best Time to Hike

The hiking trail can become crowded, so starting early in the morning, ideally just before or at sunrise, is best. The path offers little shade, so early timing helps avoid the day's intense heat.

Unique Features and View

Reaching the summit of Koko Head offers incredible views. Along with the feeling of accomplishment, you'll be treated to panoramic views of Hanauma Bay, the Ko'olau Mountain Range, and the expansive Pacific Ocean. The old railway tracks and the remnants of a military observation post add a historical touch to the stunning vistas. If you're in for a thrilling climb with a view worth every step, Koko Head Crater Trail is the way to go.

4. Makapuʻu Lighthouse Trail

Location and Overview

The Makapuʻu Lighthouse Trail is located on Oahu's southeastern tip. Starting at Makapuʻu Head, the trail leads you along a coastal path that showcases the island's natural beauty. It's an accessible location, just a 30-minute drive from Honolulu.

Difficulty Level of the Trail

This hike is considered easy, making it suitable for all ages and fitness levelsf. The paved path stretches 2 miles round trip and offers a gentle incline perfect for a leisurely walk or an entire family adventure with young children.

Best Time to Hike

The early morning, particularly at sunrise, is the most magical time to experience the Makapuʻu Lighthouse Trail. The weather is more relaxed, and the soft morning light breathtakingly illuminates the coastal scenery.

Unique Features and View

The Makapuʻu Lighthouse Trail is known for its stunning ocean views, iconic red-roofed lighthouse, and the chance to spot humpback whales during winter. As you make your way to the lookout point, you'll be treated to views of Makapuʻu Beach, the Windward Coast, and even the islands of Molokai and Lanai on clear days. Whether you're a tourist or a local, this trail is a must-visit for anyone looking to take in some of Oahu's most beautiful coastal vistas.

5. Olomana Three Peaks Trail

Location and Overview

Situated near Kailua on Oahu's Windward side, the Olomana Three Peaks Trail is a truly unique hike. Starting near the Royal Hawaiian Golf Club, this trail is accessible via the Maunawili residential area.

Difficulty Level of the Trail

The Olomana Three Peaks Trail is considered difficult and is best suited for experienced hikers. Each peak offers increased challenge, with the third peak being the most demanding. Rock climbing and steep drops are involved, so it's essential to take caution.

Best Time to Hike

Early morning before sunrise time is an ideal time to tackle this trail. The weather tends to be calmer, and the path is less crowded. As some sections may become slippery with rain, avoiding hiking after heavy rainfall is advisable.

Unique Features and View

What sets this trail apart are the three distinct peaks, each with its own breathtaking view. You'll have a panoramic view of the Windward side from the first peak. The second offers views of the first and third peaks, while the third gives an incredible vista of the entire range. You'll encounter lush greenery, rocky outcrops, and possibly even wild goats along the way. If you're looking for a thrilling hike with stunning views, Olomana Three Peaks is a choice to consider seriously. It's a trail that rewards the brave and offers an unparalleled hiking experience on Oahu.

6. Ka'au Crater Hike

Location and Overview

Tucked away in the lush Palolo Valley near Honolulu, the Ka'au Crater Hike is an enchanting trail to explore. It's a quiet spot, away from the typical tourist hustle, offering a chance to experience a more secluded side of Oahu.

Difficulty Level of the Trail

Labeled as moderate to difficult, the Ka'au Crater Hike isn't for the faint-hearted. This hike spans about 5 miles and offers diverse terrain, including steep climbs, narrow ridges, and crossing over streams. Proper hiking shoes and a good level of fitness are advised.

Best Time to Hike

The ideal time to undertake this hike is during the dry season, usually from April to October. Mornings are preferred to beat the heat, and avoiding the trail after heavy rain is crucial, as it can become muddy and more challenging to navigate.

Unique Features and View

The Ka'au Crater Hike is famed for its three beautiful waterfalls, lush vegetation, and magnificent crater at the top. It is one of the best waterfall hikes on Oahu. The bird's-eye view of Honolulu and the surrounding area from the crater's rim is unparalleled. You'll be treated to vistas of ocean, mountains, and even a glimpse of Diamond Head on clear days. The hike may be demanding, but the unique combination of natural features makes it a rewarding adventure for those looking to explore beyond Oahu's beaten paths.

7. Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail

Location and Overview

Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail is a hidden treasure in the lush Waialae Iki community of Honolulu. It's a favorite among locals and offers a chance to escape the usual tourist trails and embrace Oahu's natural beauty. A parking lot is available at the trailhead, making it easily accessible.

Difficulty Level of the Trail

Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail is a moderate hike, making it suitable for hikers with varying experience levels. The trail stretches about 4.5 miles round trip and offers a well-maintained path with steep sections and stairs.

Best Time to Hike

For an awe-inspiring experience, head to the trail during the early morning or late afternoon. The weather is typically more excellent, and the lighting is just right for capturing stunning photographs. The dry months, usually from May to October, are the preferred times to hike this trail.

Unique Features and View

What sets Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail apart are its impressive views and lovely forested sections. As you ascend, you'll encounter various native plants, and the summit rewards you with a 360-degree view of Oahu, including Waikiki, Diamond Head, and the Ko'olau Mountains. The benches at the summit provide a perfect spot to rest and soak in the panoramic beauty. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or just starting, Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail offers an unforgettable experience showcasing Oahu's natural splendor.

8. Manoa Falls Trail

Location and Overview

Just a short drive from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu lies the Manoa Falls Trail. This 1.7-mile round trip path is nestled in the lush Manoa Valley, offering a peaceful retreat for those seeking an escape from city life. A small parking fee is required to access the parking area, but it's worth every penny!

Difficulty Level of the Trail

Manoa Falls Trail is for you for an easy and enjoyable hike! This trail is primarily flat, with a slight incline as you approach the falls. This trail is excellent for families, beginners, or anyone looking to stroll through nature.

Best Time to Hike

Though it's open year-round, the best time to visit Manoa Falls Trail is during the week to avoid weekend crowds. Early mornings are also perfect if you want the trail almost to yourself. Remember an umbrella; the valley can be wet, keeping it green and gorgeous!

Unique Features and View

The trail is a journey through a tropical rainforest, but the real highlight is the stunning 150-foot waterfall at the end. Surrounded by lush greenery and possibly a rainbow or two, the waterfall provides an ideal backdrop for unforgettable photos. Swimming isn't allowed at the falls, but you'll still feel its cooling mist on your face. Take advantage of this awe-inspiring piece of paradise on your next visit to Oahu!

9. Crouching Lion Hike

Location and Overview

Situated on Oahu's windward coast, the Crouching Lion Hike is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. With an entrance just off the highway near Ka'a'awa, this trail takes you through a dense forest leading to jaw-dropping views.

Difficulty Level of the Trail

This hike is easy to moderate, with steep and sometimes muddy sections. Although it's a relatively short trail at just over a mile, it requires caution and proper hiking footwear. It's a challenge, but the views at the top make it all worthwhile!

Best Time to Hike

To enjoy the Crouching Lion Hike to the fullest, it's best to go during the dry season, typically from April to October. Early mornings are preferable for cooler temperatures and catching those incredible sunrises for which the trail is famous.

Unique Features and View

The Crouching Lion Hike rewards adventurers with some of the best views in Oahu. From the vantage point at the top, you'll see the crystal blue waters of Kahana Bay and the rugged Ko'olau Mountains. The scenery is so unique it's almost like looking at a painting. And if you're lucky, you might even spot a whale or two in the winter months! It's a hike that delivers a physical challenge and a visual feast for the eyes.

10. Aiea Loop Trail

Location and Overview

Nestled within the lush Keaiwa Heiau State Recreation Area, the Aiea Loop Trail takes you on a scenic 4.8-mile adventure. It's conveniently located just off the H-3 freeway, making it an accessible getaway for locals and visitors.

Difficulty Level of the Trail

The Aiea Loop Trail is rated moderate, perfect for those seeking a gentle and rewarding experience. With its well-maintained paths and gradual but sometimes steep inclines, this hike welcomes both beginners and experienced hikers.

Best Time to Hike

The relaxed and comfortable winter months are ideal if you're after a hike without the scorching sun. But honestly, there's always a right time to hit this trail. Mornings are typically cooler, and the canopy of trees provides ample shade to refresh you.

Unique Features and View

The Aiea Loop Trail is known for its diverse botanical wonders. Wander through a forest filled with native plants, eucalyptus, and fragrant lemon eucalyptus trees. Enjoy beautiful views of the southern coastline of Oahu, including the iconic Pearl Harbor. This hike is more than a walk; it explores Oahu's natural beauty, leaving you in awe.

Embrace the Dawn with Oahu's Amazing Hikes

Hiking on Oahu is more than just a trek through nature; it's a journey into the island's very soul. Among the top sunrise hikes on Oahu, you'll find trails that offer breathtaking views, unique landscapes, and the chance to experience the magic of dawn like never before. Whether you're an adventurous soul or someone who just enjoys a peaceful morning walk, Oahu's sunrise trails have something to captivate everyone.

Take advantage of the opportunity to be part of a sunrise spectacle that paints the sky with gold, pink, and orange hues. With a rich blend of scenery and tranquility, these trails are not just routes but doorways into the heart of Hawaiian beauty, making them some of the best sunrise hikes on Oahu to add to your must-visit list.

The Impulse Traveler
+ posts
20 Best Places to Visit in the USA 6 Top Things to Do in Bayfield Ontario Ultimate Tortola Travel Guide: Best Things to Do Even if You Are a Cruise Passenger Top 15 Things to Do in Geneva, Switzerland 8 Best Places In Europe For Mild Summer Weather 2023