5 Unbelievable Hikes on Oahu, Hawaii
Story by Jackson Groves
I was lucky enough to live on Oahu, Hawaii for two years and I quickly became addicted to hiking its lush terrain. The rush you get as you finally reach the top and look out over the ocean, valley or city is something that cannot be matched very easily. These are five of my favorite hikes on Oahu:
1. Stairway To Heaven
One of the most dramatic and awe-inspiring hikes in the world rests on a steep mountain in Kaneohe. Often referred to as one of the wonders of the world, the stairway to heaven (Haiku Stairs) has become an infamous viewpoint for adventurers on the small island of Hawaii. 3,922 stairs wind up an imposing ridge – often completely vertical – with nothing but a hand rail and rickety stairs guiding your hike.
The stairs were originally built by the U.S. Navy in 1942 as a secret facility used to transmit radio signals to vessels in the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately the stairs have been closed to the public since 1987 when they were labeled unsafe and in dire need of repair.
Today, the stairs are hiked daily by those not willing to abide by the laws. In a jail-break like scenario, hikers must evade a guard and sometimes police all to catch the sunrise from above the clouds at the summit of the stairway.
2. Kaau Crater Hike
One of the most magical journeys on Oahu is the Kaau Crater Hike, taking you from the depths of valleys to the top of a crater. Three waterfalls require you to climb up with the aid of ropes which is truly exhilarating but not as dangerous as it sounds. As you finish the ascent of the third and final waterfall the steep climb begins up the ridge of the Kaau Crater. Once again more ropes are necessary but not you can look back over your shoulder and catch glimpses of Waikiki and civilization.
This hike begins in a jungle like setting with muddy terrain as you follow the small stream towards the first waterfall. Rays of light break through the canopies and shimmer on the flowing water. Birds and geckos criss-cross the path as you really get to connect with nature and your surroundings on the most all-round hike on Oahu.
3. Pali Notches
As you nervously walk along the dangerously steep ridge hike known as Pali Notches, gusts of wind threaten to blow you off either side of the steep cliff. The notches are small rock climbing obstacles that were supposedly created to harbor cannons in the 1700’s by King Kamehameha’s warriors. This is one of the most dangerous hikes on Oahu despite being quite short. It has claimed several lives in the past and needs to be attempted with extreme caution as the weather conditions in this region can often be unruly.
The hike begins at the Pali Lookout, which is a popular viewpoint for tourists who will give off a funny look as they see you begin climbing into the bushes. The climb begins through a grove of Hau trees before opening up to expansive views of the Pali Highway and Kaneohe.
4. Tom Tom Trail
One of the safer hikes yet one of the best views comes while hiking the Tom Tom Trail on the east coast of Oahu. Beginning opposite the Makapu’u lookout the trail begins on the side of the mountain before leading you to the cliff edge. The sweeping views of Makapu’u beach and the lighthouse are truly out of this world. During the hike you will be lucky enough to find a puka (a hole in the rock) which creates a small window to view the ocean while offering a break from the wind.
If you are not afraid of an early start, this is one of the prime spots for sunrise on the island. The sun will break the horizon directly in front of you, illuminating the entire coast with an explosion of light.
5. Pink Pillbox/Maili Pillbox Hike
The Pu’u O Hulu or ‘Pink Pillbox’ Hike is a lesser known hike on the West Side of Oahu overlooking beautiful stretches of beaches that Oahu is known for. The hike has five pillboxes, which are military installations and can be seen throughout the coastal mountains of Oahu. It is amazing to stand inside of a pillbox and image watching out over the ocean, staying on guard for any possible invasions.
One of the pillboxes is painted pink and often inscribed with names of breast cancer victims and survivors. It can be clearly spotted from the highway below and stands out vibrantly against the often dry grass and shrubbery that covers the area.