5 Great Kid Friendly Hiking Trails on Oahu

One of the most frequent email questions that I receive from Exploration: Hawaii readers is: “What are some kid friendly hiking trails on Oahu?” This post will help to answer that question. First of all, I will disregard the three hikes that both you and your children probably have already done: Diamond Head, Makapuu Light House, and the Manoa Falls Trail. Of course, these three hikes are definitely good options if you haven’t already completed them. I’d like to focus a bit on the more obscure, or out-of-the-way trails. It’ll add to your child’s sense of adventure, and maybe get them hooked on the outdoors. You’ve been warned.

NOTE: none of the trails listed below are probably appropriate for infants or toddlers. These are NOT the kind of hikes meant for infants or toddlers. I’d probably say kids 10 and older can manage the trails below, but of course, you, the parent, is the best judge of whether or not your child can hike the trails listed below. Try these hikes first: Diamond HeadMakapuu Light House, and the Manoa Falls Trail, before you try the ones listed below. I have no hikes to suggest for those looking to hike with an infant or toddler in a hiking backpack. 

With that said, here are 5 great kid friendly hikes on Oahu. Below each description, I provide estimates for time and distance, a few tips, and trailhead directions. Each of these hikes were also previously mentioned in depth here and I have provided links to those posts as well. Before you venture out on any of these hikes, please review these tips on hiking safely in Hawaii. Have a suggestion for a great kid friendly hike? Leave it in the comments!

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Things That You See While Driving To The North Shore of Kauai

While en route to the Maniniholo dry cave and the Waiakanaloa wet cave, on Kauai’s North Shore, we were treated to some very lush vistas. A recurrent theme that we noticed? Waterfalls. A lot of waterfalls. With so many waterfalls around, we found ourselves making frequent stops to gawk at them and soak in the views. One of the sweet spots was near Hanalei Elementary School. The students of this particular school are indeed very lucky. On any given day, they are able to step out of their classrooms and experience the majestic views of the three peaks that form Hanalei Valley: Hihimanu, Namalokama, and Mamalahoa. On the day that we were there, these mountains were free flowing with waterfalls. On your next visit to Kauai, look mauka (toward the mountain) from Hanalei Elementary, and you might see Waioli Falls, one of Kauai longest flowing waterfall. I didn’t have nearly as great a view from my elementary school in Kalihi.

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Turtle Spotting at an Abandoned Beach on the North Shore

While most people spent Memorial Day Weekend with family and friends at one of many crowded Hawaii beaches, Exploration: Hawaii decided to get away from it all and headed to a rarely used beach on the North Shore. After parking our car, Joel and I walked about a mile into this abandoned beach and looked for the perfect spot to swim for turtles. We found an area tucked between some coral and set up our beach mats. Almost instantly, we saw a couple of turtles swim near the shore. Joel pointed out the turtles and I quickly grabbed my GoPro HERO3: Black Edition and Bobber by GoPole and gave it to him. He then ran into the water and snapped these photos. These were taken with the first five minutes of setting up our beach mats. We then spent the next few hours swimming with more turtles than we could keep count of. Pretty amazing, indeed.

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Maniniholo Dry Cave On Kauai’s North Shore

The Maniholo dry cave makes for a short and fun stop if traveling to the north shore of Kauai. The cave is located at the bottom of Kaiwikui Ridge and across from Haena Beach Park. Maniniholo means “travelling reef surgeonfish.” You’ll often times here locals refer to small fish, or small things in general, as being “manini.” According to legend, Maniniholo was the name of the head fisherman of the area during the time the menehunes were leaving the island (Wichman, 1998). Apparently, a few of these little imps were caught stealing food from the fisherman and were subsequently killed. The rest of the menehune, well, jumped on their canoes at Makua Bay and was never seen again.

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Kaunala Loop Trail: Part Hiking Trail and Part Dirt Road

The Kaunala Loop Trail, located in Pupukea on the North Shore, is an interesting hike. Some might classify only half of this trail as a hike, with the other half being walking on an excruciatingly long and boring road. Okay, maybe the walk down the road isn’t that excruciating, but, for some reason, when it’s asphalt my feet is walking on, I tend to get tired (probably from boredom) very quickly. Not to say that the entirety of this hike was boring, it wasn’t. In fact, it had its share of pleasant delights.

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Turtle Spotting at Japanese Beach on the North Shore

A few weeks ago I had the chance to attend a going away beach party at Japanese Beach on the North Shore. The beach party was great, but the underwater party was even better. I brought along my snorkeling gear and GoPro and decided to do some exploring. What we discovered was beyond what we expected. We thought that we would see one, maybe two, turtles if we were lucky. We were more than lucky on this day.

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