The scenic hikes and magnificent views of Hawaii

Emily Becker

Senior Contributor

Hawaii is undoubtedly perfect for a vacation spent relaxing on the beach and soaking up the sun. But the gorgeous and various landscapes - lush tropical rainforests, beautiful beaches and almost outer space-like scenery of the volcanic craters - are also all perfect reasons to spend at least one afternoon of your trip to this island paradise exploring on foot.

Diamond Head

Island: Oahu

Towering above Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head might seem like a challenging climb, but a hike up to the summit will only take you about an hour. But the stunning 360-degree views would be worth it if even it took twice as long to reach the top. This hike does involve a fair amount of stairs to get to the 560-foot summit, but there are plenty of lookout spots to catch your breath and take in the scenery. From the top, you’ll see a lighthouse and the beach far below and maybe even glance some passing humpback whales. 

Manoa Falls Trail

Island: Oahu

The trail out to the 150-foot waterfall is both beautiful and slightly adventurous. You’ll start by crossing a bridge into a deep rainforest valley and then meander through eucalyptus and banyan trees on a path lined with wildflowers and ginger. The unique and picturesque area has been the backdrop for many Hollywood projects, including scenes in Jurassic Park and the tv show Lost. 

The Napali Coast

Island: Kauai

Visitors to the Napali Coast and the picturesque Kalalau Trail are required to make online reservations, but you’ll want to plan to take a hike in this area if your trip takes you to the island of Kauai. The 11-mile trail along the coast will lead you through a series of valleys, past waterfalls, streams and stone-walled terraces where Hawaiians used to cultivate taro to the pristine and secluded Kalalau Beach. (And the Kalalau Trail is the only way to see much of this part of the island.) Plan to spend all day walking through the lush vegetation and taking in this genuinely gorgeous part of the country. 

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Island: Hawaii

As the name suggests, which trails are open when you visit will depend on how much and which volcanoes have been active recently. If it’s open, though, the Halemaumau Crater trail is a good bet. The trail, about two miles long, will lead you through a rainforest to the edge of the Kīlauea Caldera. In addition to the lush vegetation and chance to see many varieties of birds and insects, the path crosses hardened lava fields from an eruption in 1974. The trail used to continue across the crater to the edge of the Halemanumau Crater, but this section of the path has been closed since 2008 due to eruptions and volcanic fumes in the area. 

Waipio Valley

Island: Hawaii

Also called “The Valley of the Kings,” the Waipio Valley is the largest valley of the Kohala Mountain on the Big Island. Three hikes of varying distances start at the Waipio overlook and give you the choice of hiking down to the beach, up cliffs on the other side of the valley or on a 16-mile, difficult hike across to the nearby Waimanu Valley. Whichever you choose, prepare to be awed by the lush vegetation and thousand-foot cliffs. Several majestic waterfalls feed into the Waipi'o River that runs through the valley. There’s a reason Hawaiian royalty once chose this area as their home. 

Wai’anapanapa State Park

Island: Maui

The natural stone arches, lava caves and hidden blowholes alone are gorgeous, but it’s the black sand beach that really makes Wai’anapanapa State Park a must-see destination on Maui. It’s a quick and easy hike out to the private cove where the waves have ground down cooled, hard lava over thousands of years to create the unusually-coloured sand. It’s the perfect spot to take a break, dip your feet in the ocean and enjoy the picture-perfect scenery. If you’re looking for a longer hike, there’s a trail along the rugged coastline that includes some pretty spectacular views of the Haleakala and passes by some of the traditional gravesites in the park. 

Haleakala National Park

Island: Maui

With over 35 miles of hiking trails, Haleakala National Park is perfect for both easy strolls and multi-night adventures. For some of the most breath-taking views of the island, head to the summit of Haleakala, the massive volcano that encompasses most of Maui itself. Start your day by making a reservation to catch the sunrise at the summit where the lack of light pollution allows for a 360-degree view of a clear, beautiful sky. (Or end your day with a sunset followed by some truly spectacular stargazing.) The landscape around the crater is rich and full of native plants and birds, and the park is open all day, year-round, except in severe weather. Fair warning, the weather can change quickly in the park, so make sure to wear layers and sunscreen and bring plenty of water, and it’s often significantly colder at the summit than at sea level. 

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