Hiking on Oahu is a different experience compared to your previous hiking adventures.  You’ll need some Oahu hiking tips.  Hiking in the islands is amazing, beautiful, fun and will most likely be a new outlook for those not from the islands.  Tropical climates make for challenging courses and high humidity levels can sometimes be uncomfortable.  Here are some of our hiking tips for having fun while exploring the islands.  

Oahu Hiking Tips #1: Be Prepared to Sweat

Be prepared to sweat.  This seems like a redundant and useless “hiking tip,” but it’s true.  If you were to go out on a hike of the same difficulty level, length and time of the year as a hike on Oahu and one in an arid climate, you will sweat more on the O’ahu hike.  This is regardless of the level of difficulty, as in this scenario we’re assuming both are of the same difficulty.  This is because of the humidity.  Humidity can be unbearable at times and extremely uncomfortable.  Be prepared to sweat.  Bring lots of water.  Drink lots of water before going.  Wear comfortable dry-wicking clothes.  It’s uncomfortable and potentially dangerous to approach a hike without the proper clothes wear.  For example, you wouldn’t hike the grand canyon during the winter in shorts.  That would pose a danger and legitimate risks.  The same precautions go for hiking in Oahu (minus the snow.)

Oahu Hiking Trails

The sun and the humidity will make you sweat more than usual.
Skyline, Waikiki by Paolo Salmaso is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Image may have been resized or cropped from original

Oahu Hiking Tips #2: Proper Hiking Shoes

Every hike I’ve done at home (and I’ve done well over a hundred,) there’s been mud involved.  Even when I try to avoid the mud, the mud is involved.  Wear shoes accordingly.  Bright white shoes are not recommended.  Several waterfall hikes include higher amounts of moisture and water, which is something to take into consideration.  If you’re aiming for comfort, remember that wearing covered shoes after you get out of water is uncomfortable.  However, it’s necessary when hiking.  Chackos are popular shoes on the mainland that feature comfort, arch support, and attract the outdoors crowd because they can function on both land and water.  However, those shoes are not fashionable in the islands.  I have never seen a person willingly wear those shoes.  Actually, I only thought they were in movies until I moved to the mainland and my friends wore them with a genuine intent.  Anyway, wear proper hiking shoes and factor in the moisture, waterfalls, and mud.  

Oahu Hiking Trails

No rubbah slippahs allowed! Photo credits palihawaiiansandals.com

Oahu Hiking Tips #3: Short and Steep

My primary critique of why Oahu hikes are so unique is because of their short and steep qualities compared to typical hikes on the mainland.  For example, the islands have amazing landscapes including all sorts of scenery.  There are huge mountain ranges in the smallest areas with thousands of people squeezed into them.  This makes for steep hikes that are shorter in distance.  The hikes gain elevation quickly while hiking up the side of a mountain or valley.  However, because our mountains are not as tall as mountains like in the sierra Nevadas, the hike is relatively short.  This makes for a great cardio workout.  There are few hikes that are very long and flat, but they are near and far.  There are certain lengthy expeditions you can go on that would require a guide, like on Kauai’s Na Pali coast but that’s a backpacking adventure, not a quick hike.  

Oahu Hiking Trails

You’ll find short, steep hikes all over the island, like this one, “Koko Head Crater Arch Hike.” Photo Copyright CyberCom, Inc.

Oahu Hiking Tips #4: Beware of Private Property

Some popular hikes have recently been banned because of private property restrictions.  For example, the “Deadman’s Catwalk” hike was recently banned because of its’ location on government property.  Although it has always been illegal to hike on this land, local government has taken action in cracking down on this hike.  Another popular hike, “Stairway to Heaven” is also illegal.  Those caught hiking the trial can be fined up to a thousand.  The punishment could increase for non residents.  The trailhead to the hike is monitored by a guard.  Some say that you hiking the trial in the early hours of the morning can avoid the guard however, I’ve never done the hike myself. Anyway, always research the hike you’re doing and beware of private property warnings.  

Oahu Hiking Trails

This hike has always been off-limits, but now it’s really off limits. Photo Copyright CyberCom, Inc.

Oahu Hiking Tips #5: Beware of Trade Winds

The winds in the islands are unique.  The “trade Winds” sweep over the islands coming in from the northeast.  They’re consistent and unique to the islands.  However, they can be dangerous at certain points on the island, particularly on cliffs.  For example, the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout, a popular tourist destination, is featured on the cliff of the Ko’olau mountains and overlooks the Nu’uanu valley.  The Pali Lookout is known for is at an elevation of 1168 feet and known for its’ intense winds.  I’ve done a few hikes in this area, branching off the Pali lookout.  It was dangerous and I was extremely cautious while hiking these ridges.  These hikes, such as the “Pali Puka” follows a thin mountain ridge line encountering high winds.  One slip and you would drop down that 1168 feet.  It would be an instant fatality.  Watch out for these types of conditions.  Research your hike before you go. 

Oahu Hiking Trails

Spuds doesn’t like the wind in his hair. Photo Copyright CyberCom, Inc.