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Lisa Owen

There’s more to the Hawaiian Islands than the beaches of Waikiki. The Hawaiian Islands are an outdoor lover’s paradise with all kinds of land and water based activities on offer to entertain every adventurer.

For explorer types, the Hawaiian Islands offer a multitude of hikes – some along a well beaten path, some are more of a rock scramble, and some are downright scary as you inch along a cliff edge.

There’s four main islands in the Hawaiian Islands chain  – Oahu, Maui, The Big Island (Hawaii) and Kauai. I’ve visited all four and here’s my pick of the top five hikes.

hawaiian islands

Crouching Lion, Kaaawa, Oahu

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Feel on top of the world in just 20 minutes with a hike up the Crouching Lion trail.

The Crouching Lion trail – so called because the mountain looks like a lion from the road - starts a few hundred feet from the boarded up Crouching Lion Inn on Oahu’s east coast.

The trail is short, but very steep and muddy. Luckily there’s a small rope leading up the trail to help you ascend the steepest parts. You’ll weave over and under trees and scramble over tree roots as you steadily head up.

The burning calf muscles and sweat dripping down your back will all be worth it once you reach the top and get breathtaking views over the turquoise waters of Kahana Bay, the Pacific Ocean and mountains formed by lava.

You should get up to the first viewing area in about 20 minutes, but add another 10 minutes or so if you’re going up to higher viewpoints. The higher you go, the more challenging the hike is as you clamber over rocks near cliff edges - but the view gets better. Be warned this is not a hike for those scared of heights! The trail is very narrow in some parts and there are many sheer drop-offs. This short hike forms the start of the much harder Pu’u Manamana trail if you’ve got the time – and the courage!


Pipiwai Trail, Haleakalā National Park, Maui

Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

The Pipiwai Trail up to Waimoku Falls is a favorite because of its mix terrain and the 390 foot waterfall at the end. The 3.7 mile return hike takes you through a bamboo forest and a couple of swimming holes perfect for a dip after you work up a sweat.

The trail can be muddy and rocky in places, but there are some boardwalks through the bamboo forest. The Waimoku Falls cascade down a tall lava rockwall into a shallow waterhole strewn with rocks. This is the tallest waterfall on Maui.

The trail takes hikers about two hours return, including photo stops. After the Pipiwai Trail, make sure you take the short walk down to the Seven Pools of O’heo.


Kiluaea Iki, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island (Hawai’i)

Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

The Kiluaea Iki Trail is a loop walk spanning 4 miles through the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. The trail descends through the forest before opening out to a hardened lava lake dating back to a volcanic eruption in 1959.

The expansive hardened lava lake is the highlight of the trail. You can see where the lava flowed and cracked as it hardened. The trail is like a desert land with only a few plants growing, and it’s a fascinating way to get close to a volcanic area.

This trail is very exposed during the lava lake section so bring a hat and sunscreen. It will take about 90 minutes to hike, with some short steep sections at the beginning and end of the trail.

hawaii volcanoes national park

Kalalau Trail/Hanakapiai Falls, Kauai

Difficulty Level: Challenging

Some of the best views of Kauai’s stunning Napali Coast can be seen on the first section of the Kalalau Trail.  The trail is 11 miles all up, but you need to obtain a permit in advance to hike past Hanakapiai Beach.

If all you want is a taste of the Napali Coast, you can hike for 1.8 miles along the Kalalau Trail and then continue another 2 miles onto the beautiful Hanakapiai Falls. The first 1.8 miles of the Kahalau trail offers breathtaking views of turquoise waters, old lava flows that are now towering cliffs, and a pretty creek crossing flowing out to sea.

To get to the waterfall, you hike through mud, past bamboo forests, creek crossings you can rock hop over, and then the real adventure – creek crossings where the only way to get across is to get your feet wet – or possibly half your body if you’re short in stature like me! Or you fall in.

One of the bonuses of this hike is that once you get back to the starting point, Ke’e Beach is right there so you can cool off with a swim.

Koko Head Crater, Honolulu, Oahu

Difficulty Level: Moderate

It’s straight up from the word go on the Koko Head Crater trail, as you climb up 1,048 wooden steps. When you reach the top, you’ll get views from the roofs of wartime pillboxes across popular snorkelling spot Hanauma Bay, Honolulu, and Koko Head Crater.

This hike is very exposed so remember to bring a hat and put on some sunscreen.

koko head crater

Things You Should Know:

  • You’ll need a car to reach these hikes. You can easily hire cars in the main towns of each island or at the airport.
  • Hikes on the Hawaiian Islands are a muddy, hot and sweaty affair no matter the time of year you visit. Bring lots of water and wear sunscreen and a hat.
  • If you’re heading out on the Kahulua Trail, head there early. Parking is limited and parking inspectors are rife, so start early to get a carpark and also to avoid the worst of the heat. Don’t park on the road or you’ll risk a fine. You’ll need an advance permit for Kahulua Trail if you’re hiking past Hanakapiai Beach.
  • Haleakalā National Park has an entry fee of USD$20 per vehicle. The entry pass is valid for three days.
  • Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park has an entry fee of USD$20 per vehicle as well. The entry pass is valid for seven days.


Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 60 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @thelittleadventurer Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Documents available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.