If you enjoy the outdoors, then Hawaii is an exceptional place to live. Many say that Hawaii has some of the most beautiful beaches and best waves in the world. However, if you look mauka, or towards the mountains, you’ll also notice her beautiful valleys and ridges. Comprised of volcanic rock, Hawaii’s hiking options are unique and in a class of its own. Below are seven reasons why hiking in Hawaii is indeed awesome. However, be warned. A spur of the moment hike might lead to the start of a new hobby, and then a lifelong obsession.
Note: Each hike mentioned below comes with its own set of dangers and can be very taxing for even the most veteran of hikers, especially those who are not familiar with Hawaii’s volcanic and often times crumbly terrain. Before you venture out on any of these hikes, please review these tips on hiking safely in Hawaii.
1. You can hike through volcanic craters.
If you’re on Oahu, then the extinct Diamond Head (Leahi) is likely on your to do list. To get even more of a volcanic experience, you’ll want to island hop to the Big Island of Hawaii and hike through the various trails in Volcanoes National Park, including the Kilauea Iki Trail. And of course, there are numerous hiking and backpacking options in the House of the Rising Sun, Haleakala.
2. You have the unique opportunity to view endemic plant and animal life.
There’s nowhere else in the world where you can get up close and personal with the beautiful Ohia Lehua, or hear the chirping of an apapane or elepaio. As the climate changes and new invasive species are introduced, you may have a limited amount of time before these rare species are gone forever. Many hikes on East Oahu feature Ohia Lehua, and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot elepaio on Hawaii Loa Ridge. If you visit Haleakala, then you might get to see silverswords (‘ahinahina) in bloom (photo of silversword below by A. Baird).
3. There are countless waterfalls to visit.
No matter the island, you’re always just a drive away from a waterfall. On Maui, drive through the long and winding Hana Highway to experience a buffet of waterfalls and end your trip at the majestic Waimoku Falls. On Oahu, stop by the multi-tiered Waimano Falls. And, on Kauai, there’s always Secret Falls.
4. No “winter” in Hawaii means year round hiking opportunities for avid hikers.
Winter? What’s that? For the most part, it’s summer all year long in Hawaii. The rainy season is from November through March, but of course, if you catch yourself out in the rain then why not check out a raging waterfall (see number 3 above)? There are many that you can drive straight to that don’t require dangerous hiking through flooded stream beds, like Rainbow Falls on the Big Island or Wailua Falls in Kauai. By the way, winter months are often great times to hit the ridges. You won’t be hit too hard by the sun, and often times you’ll have a nice breeze. To get an idea of what winter in Hawaii looks like, take a look at the two photos below which were taken in early January on Oahu.
5. There’s no need to worry about being bitten by snakes, or mauled by bears.
No snakes, no bears, no cougars. Need I say more? Just be careful of wild boar, though. The spirits of ancient Hawaiians are also said to be strong in certain parts of the Hawaiian islands. If you spot a wild boar, clap really loud and yell at it. Then, get the hell out of there. if you experience that mana of an ancient Hawaiian spirit, well…
6. You can hike with the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club, one of America’s oldest and most respected hiking clubs.
Not sure of where to hike? Check out the HTMC website for their weekly weekend hike schedule. Founded in 1910, HTMC has been hiking the islands for decades. For just a $3 donation, you’ll get to hike with a group of Hawaii hiking regulars.
7. The view is amazing.
Seriously, pretty much every view in Hawaii rocks. You can choose between lush valley views, to scenic ridge views. Nothing screams “I’m on vacation in Hawaii” better then a shot of you, in your tank top and wayfarers, on a ridge, with the picturesque Pacific Ocean in the background. If this is what you’re looking for, then Lanikai Ridge Trail overlooking the famous Lanikai Beach should be high on your list. For the more adventurous, check out the narrow Puu Manamana Trail. Venture off the beaten path and check out Puu O Hulu.
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