Hidden among the surfers and food trucks, there are several North Shore, Oahu hikes that are absolutely amazing. With some lead you to stunning viewpoints, others lead you to hidden waterfalls. Honestly, the North Shore of Oahu is a hidden treasure trove when it comes to hikes. Here are 12 rewarding North Shore, Oahu hikes.
The hike to Kaipapau Falls leads to a beautiful, tall waterfall, yet somehow, this hike has also managed to stay hidden. One potential reason for its covert existence may be because of the path to get there. While the path takes a relatively reasonable 2.5-hours one-way, the vast majority of these 2.5 hours are spent in a river. There are numerous river crossings required to meet Kaipapau Falls, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled the whole time for the colorful ribbons. Here is a more in-depth guide to Kaipapau Falls.
Just a few minutes away from the Polynesian Cultural Center and Turtle Bay Resort lies the start of the Laie Falls hike trailhead. This eight-mile round trip hike is surprisingly popular. At the end of the hike, you’ll reach Laie Falls, a rather small waterfall, but still a beautiful one. Do note that during the drier season (May to September), the falls may not have much water.
In order to hike Laie Falls, you must get a permit from the Hawaii Reserves office at the Laie Shopping Center, because the hike is technically on private property. While this permit is free, you will need to fill out this form.
This five-mile loop trail in the Pupukea Paumalu Forest Reserve is quite a treat. If you want to get completely off the beaten path, Kaunala Trail is great option. Along this trail, you’ll be able to catch glimpses of beautiful plants, such as wild orchids and delicious strawberry guava. That said, it seems that hikers have struggled to stay on the path due to lack of signage. This Yelp review by Steven B. describes the directions of this hike in quite a lot of detail, which should help.
Kaena Point is one of the special North Shore, Oahu hikes. Located all the way on the Western tip of Oahu, this hike is the only way to access the northwestern tip of the island: Kaena Point. After a 2.5-mile hike from the small town of Mokuleia, you’ll be able to access a remote bird sanctuary on the tip of the island. If you’re lucky, you may spot some monk seals hanging out on the rocks or, during the winter months, you may also see a few whales in the distance.
*Note: There are two trails to Kaena Point: one from the west side of Oahu and one from the North Shore of Oahu. When doing further research, be sure that you are looking at the information for the proper path.
Makua Rim (Three Corners)
This four-mile loop starts at the Peacock Flats Campground above Mokuleia. While the loop itself is just four miles, it takes 3.2 miles of hiking to get to the campground, so be prepared! One option is to camp at Peacock Flats for a night, and then cover the Makua Rim hike the next day. Do note that if you decide to camp out, you will need a camping permit from the Department of Forestry and Wildlife.
The highlight of the Makua Rim trail is the Three Corners. At one point during the hike, you’ll be able to see three different stunning Oahu valleys: Makua Valley, Makaha Valley, and Mokuleia Valley.
Easily the most popular “hike” on the North Shore of Oahu is Waimea Falls. I put “hike” in quotes, because it’s a bit of a stretch to call the walk to Waimea Falls a hike. The trail from the parking lot to the waterfall is only about three-fourths of a mile and takes about 30 minutes at a leisurely pace. Depending on the weather, swimming may be allowed at Waimea Falls. If you do wish to swim under the waterfall, you are required to wear a life jacket.
Given that this hike is within accessible area of Waimea Valley, there are changing areas, showering areas, and lifeguards. This means that the hike to Waimea Falls is one of the busiest waterfalls on Oahu as well.
If you’re a waterfall lover, here are seven more Oahu waterfall hikes.
While most people have heard of the Lanikai Pillbox hike in Kailua, the Ehukai Pillbox hike tends to fly under the radar. Tucked behind Sunset Beach and Banzai Pipeline, the Ehukai Pillbox offers a short but sweet adventure. This hour-long hike is filled with greenery, views of North Shore beaches, a picnic table covered with multicolored children’s handprints (called Lilikoi Junction), and a historic, graffiti-covered pillbox.
Here’s a post that goes into a bit more depth on the Ehukai Pillbox hike.
Hauula Loop Trail
The Hauula Loop Trail is a 2.5-mile that is perfect for hikers who aren’t looking for anything too strenuous. You do end up covering a bit of an incline, however, the path has a lot of switchbacks, so you won’t have to tackle a steep incline. While the highlight of this hike is the continuous beautiful greenery, there are also occasional views of the Pacific Ocean and potentially even a small waterfall.
If you thought Ehukai Pillbox flew under the radar, then you definitely have never heard of Hauula Pillbox. Also known as Kaipapau Bunker, this hike is only about 2.5 miles roundtrip. To get to this historical landmark, you’ll start off by taking the trail to Kaipapau Falls, but, not long after, you’ll have to take a couple of turns onto paths that are less clearly marked. If you’re interested, this is the clearest guide to the Kaipapau Bunkers that I could find. Please be sure to read it (and do some additional research) before heading out because there are several hiking trails in the area.
This 2.5-mile hike from Turtle Bay Resort to Kahuku Point is more of a walk than a hike. However, the only way to reach Kahuku Point – the northernmost point on the tip of Oahu – is on foot, so this hike on the Kahuku shoreline offers something a little bit special.
The hike itself is a beautiful, relaxing walk along Oahu’s North Shore. At the end though, there’s a special surprise. It’s not uncommon to catch a monk seal or two basking in the warm Hawaiian sun at Kahuku Point!
Koloa Gulch Trail
If you’re looking for one of the North Shore, Oahu hikes that’ll last the whole day and result in a great reward, the Koloa Gulch Trail is a fantastic option. While this hike typically takes about eight hours, you’ll have the opportunity to spot two secret 100-foot waterfalls. (They’re actually so secret that they don’t seem to have names!) Follow the colorful ribbons to stay on the path. If you do happen to lose the ribbons, just continue going upstream on the river until you catch a glimpse of the ribbons again. Here is a step-by-step breakdown of the Koloa Gulch Trail.
Just like Laie Falls, in order to hike the Koloa Gulch Trail, you must get a permit from the Hawaii Reserves office at the Laie Shopping Center, because the hike is technically on private property. While this permit is free, you will need to fill out this form.
Located in the Mokuleia Forest Preserve, Kealia Trail is one of the North Shore, Oahu hikes with the most elevation gain at over 2,000 feet – so be prepared for a workout! That said, this elevation increase on this seven-mile hike also allows for amazing view of the western side of the North Shore.
Many people cut the hike short at 1.5 miles and 1,000 feet in elevation. The ending point is a single picnic table, which is a great place to eat a snack and rehydrate. Refer to this guide for more information on the exact turns for the Kealia Trail.
Are you on the hunt for more Oahu hikes? Here’s a list of our favorite hikes on Oahu.
Are there any other North Shore hikes that you think should have made it onto this list? Let me know in the comments!
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