Honolulu Magazine’s List of 20 Great Oahu Hikes

In the just released September issue of Honolulu Magazine, writer Alex Bitter takes a look at 20 Great Oahu Hikes. The article divides the trails up by ridge hikes, waterfalls, paths less traveled, hikes with history, and finally, “bad-ass” hikes. The article gives a short description for each trail and offers a few photos, but not much else. I’ve broken down the hikes mentioned in the article here and provide links to individual blog posts that we’ve written. Click on the links for detailed descriptions, photos, and directions to the trailheads. With that said, before you venture out on any of these hikes, please review these tips on hiking safely in Hawaii. Thoughts on Honolulu Magazine Top 20 list? Leave in the comments!

The cover of Honolulu Magazine's September 2013 Issue.

The cover of Honolulu Magazine’s September 2013 Issue.

Five Ridges to Tackle

  1. Makapuu Ridge
  2. Lanipo
  3. Manana Ridge
  4. Waimano Ridge
  5. Kuliouou Ridge

Thoughts: Good choices for ridge hikes. I’m guessing that when they say Makapuu Ridge, that they are referring to the Makapuu-TomTom trail that begins at the Makapuu end of the Koolau Summit Ridge Trail. Whereas Lanipo, Manana, Waimano, and Kuliouou are state maintained trails, Makapuu-TomTom is a non-sanction and non-maintained trail. There are tons of options when it comes to ridge hiking in Hawaii, and these choices are good choices.

Makapuu-TomTom is definitely a trail with stunning views. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Makapuu-TomTom is definitely a trail with stunning views. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Lanipo is a lovely ridge hike. Photo by Joel Sabugo.

Lanipo is a lovely ridge hike. Photo by Joel Sabugo.

Go Chasing Waterfalls

  1. Likeke Falls
  2. Laie Falls
  3. Maunawili Falls
  4. Lulumahu Falls
  5. Koloa Gulch

Thoughts: From this list, only Maunawili and Laie Falls are sanctioned trails. Lulumahu is definitely the controversial pick here and definitely a surprise to see mentioned in a major publication. Why a surprise? The waterfall is located on restricted watershed land. The other change is that I’d probably just list Kaau Crater here, rather than have it categorized as a Bad-Ass Hike. However, Kaau Crater is also on restricted Board of Water Supply land. Also, did Maunawili Falls even require a mention here?

Massive waterfall at the end of the 4 mile hike. Photo by Marvin Chandra.

Massive waterfall at the end of the 4 mile Koloa Gulch hike. Photo by Marvin Chandra.

The Paths Less Travelled

  1. Pali Puka
  2. Kuaokala Trail
  3. Puu Manamana Mini Hike
  4. Mokuleia & Kuaokala Firebreak Roads

Thoughts: Kuaokala and Mokuleia definitely are definitely trails less travelled, but, the Pali Puka? Nah, over the last two years or so, the Pali Puka has turned into a trendy mini-extreme hike for those looking for a cheap thrill. Everyone and their grandma knows about the Pali Puka. They’ve also listed Manamana as a mini hike by describing a 45 minute route that will bring you straight to the Crouching Lion. I’d actually recommend Kahekili-Manamana and then place it into the Bad-Ass hikes category. Finally, not really sure why Kuaokala and Mokuleia & Kuaokala are separate picks. The authors should have just combined them, or omitted one. And really, those “firebreak roads” are a bit long and boring.

Ahnate inside Crouching Lion. Photo by Marvin Chandra.

Ahnate inside Crouching Lion. Photo by Marvin Chandra.

Hikes with History

  1. Aiea Loop Trail
  2. Kamananui Valley Road
  3. Judd Memorial & Jack Ass Ginger Pool

Thoughts: The shining star here is Kamananui Valley Road. I love that trail and the history behind it. There’s a lot to explore in this valley, you just need to know where to look.

The view from Aiea Loop Trail. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The view from Aiea Loop Trail. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Tangled within Kamananui Valley Road are fragments of its past. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Tangled within Kamananui Valley Road are fragments of its past. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The Bad-Ass Hikes

  1. Kaau Crater
  2. Kealia Trail & Access Road
  3. Waianae-Kaala Trail

Thoughts: So this is where I think that the article takes a major nose dive. Honestly, these are three not-so-great choices for the category of Bad-Ass. First off, I really don’t think that Kealia Trail deserves to be labeled as a Bad-Ass Hike. In fact, I even mentioned it in this article on 5 Great Kid Friendly Hiking Trails on Oahu. The switchbacks are tiresome, sure, but you’re supposed to be tired, you’re hiking! If it’s badassery that you’re searching for, then how about choosing Kahekili-Manamana, The Bowman Trail, or maybe a thru hike of the Waianae Summit Trail. Okay, that last one deserves it’s own category labelled extreme.

The three waterfalls in Ka'au Crater. You will be climbing the third one. Photo by Marvin Chandra.

Final Thoughts

I think that this article offers a good list of introductory hikes for the person looking for hiking trails beyond just Diamond Head, Lanikai Pillboxes, or Koko Crater. However, I feel as if this article is a missed opportunity. The author makes mention of a few hikes that are a bit taboo to talk about because of restricted access (i.e. Lulumahu, Kaau Crater). I found this to be very surprising coming from a major publication like Honolulu Magazine. If mentioning Lulumahu, then why not make the article entirely about non-sanctioned trails, or maybe have non-sanctioned trails in its own category. My other gripe is the category of Bad-Ass hikes. It looks like they used Stuart Balls as a point of reference for the article, well then, they should have made mention of Kamaileunu, which he describes as one of the most difficult trails on the island. And the fact that Kealia is listed there makes the Bad-Ass category a bit of a sham. Just a few of my thoughts. Maybe we’ll see what we can come up with by putting together our own list using their categories.

About Coty

Founder of Exploration: Hawaii. Adventure, Minimalism, Vinyl, Typography, and Coffee + Matcha. A single space after a period, please.


    • Will L, LOL! Maybe Ahnate or Marvin, but not me! You can file them under the Bad-Ass hiker MOFOs category. I just really enjoy blogging. Plus, I really had nothing else to do while waiting to pick up Ahnate last night from the last leg of his Laie to Moanalua Valley trek!

  1. Thanks for the recap. I’m very surprised by this article for the same reasons as you. I found the inclusion of Lulumahu to be surprising as well. Though, if you were to drive by the parking area on a weekend these days, you’d think it’s Disneyland.

    I also found it interesting that they put Kuaokala and Kuaokala Firebreak as separate hikes in the same category.

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