WHETHER YOU’RE EMBARKING ON A JOURNEY TO
MAUI, KAUAI, MOLOKAI—OR ANOTHER ONE OF HAWAII’S RUGGEDLY BEAUTIFUL
ISLANDS—THERE’S A GREAT HIKE TO SUIT EVERY SENSE OF ADVENTURE AND
ABILITY LEVEL. CHECK OUT OUR SIX FAVORITE TRAILS.
By: Angie Orth, Editor-in-Chief at AngieAway.com
America’s 50th state is known for many things—hula dancing, surfing
and the spirit of “aloha”—but it’s also renowned for some pretty
amazing coastal and mountain scenery. What’s the best way to
experience all those incomparable vistas? By hiking through them, of
course. We’ve narrowed the list of Hawaii’s innumerable hiking paths
to a hit list of just six exceptional trails. Once you land on the
island of your choice, grab
your pack, some SPF and embark on an adventure that gets better
with every step.
The Kalalau Trail on Kauai’s pristine, uninhabited Na Pali
Coast is a 22-mile/35 km round-trip journey traversing high cliffs,
remote beaches, steep inclines and lush valleys. To complete the
entire hike, you’ll need to plan for an overnight campout.
Don’t feel like taking such an extended trip? Day hikes along the
first section of the Kalalau Trail afford spectacular views of the Na
The full-length trail is ideal for an advanced hiker looking for a
true test of his or her skill: its footpaths can be fairly narrow in
spots and strong currents and the mouth of the Hanakāpīʻai and Kalalau
Rivers mean you should never try to cool off by swimming. The Sierra
Club rates this adventure a 9/10 on the difficulty scale, as
conditions can range from wet, slick and muddy to dry and crumbly.
Because of these challenges, the Kalalau Trail earns its reputation as
one of Hawaii’s toughest—but most rewarding—hikes.
Beginning at Ke’e Beach, the Hanakāpīʻai Trail offers a rocky
river, a beach and a magnificent waterfall in an ancient valley. The
first two miles/3 km of the trail wind up and down a narrow path
overlooking the crashing Pacific and lead to the rocky Hanakāpīʻai
Beach. Here, the trail diverges: hikers can go on toward Kalalau
Valley or turn into the island toward the picturesque Hanakāpīʻai
Falls. Take note: this is just about the only spot on the trail for a
swim—a very cold swim!—as the shore breaks on the beaches are usually
too dangerous for a dip. The hike to the falls is an 8-mile/13 km
roundtrip and usually takes about 5-6 hours.
Sunrise at Maui’s dormant volcano is a must-see and while
you’re there, why not climb right in? Here, there are 27 miles/43 km
of wilderness trails featuring such varied terrain as rainforests and
moonscapes. Try the 4-mile/6 km Sliding Sands trail or the intense
11-mile path from Sliding Sands to the Halemau’u Trailhead. Starting
at the rim located 9,800 feet/ 3 km above sea level, the trail winds
its way down into the crater, reaching the valley floor at about 6,600
feet/2 km. At 11 miles/17 km (around 9 hours each way) the hike is
best taken over two days. Note: The weather here changes rapidly and
experts say you could be exposed to intense sunlight, heavy rain and
chilling temperatures all in the same day. So pack accordingly!
There are five beautiful valleys on Molokai, but only Halawa is
accessible on foot. A 250-foot/75 meter waterfall, a lagoon and a
beach with great surf are all within reach on this relatively easy
hike. The Solotario family owns the land and are the only guides
allowed into the valley, so meet them at the County Park Pavilion in
the morning to start the tour. You’ll learn all about the history of
the Halawa Valley, Hawaiian culture and the flora and fauna along the trail.
On a clear day, the Munro Trail, located along Lanai’s caldera
rim, might just afford a view of four other islands from the peak at
Lanaihale: Molokai, Maui, The Big Island and Oahu. Only attempt this
trail if it’s been dry, as the strenuous, 11-mile/17 km round-trip
ascent can be challenging and, quite literally, breathtaking. It
should take about 7 hours, but don’t forget to stop and rest!
The Big Island
No trip to the Big Island would be complete without a visit to
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you can hike across an active
volcano and see “Pele’s fireworks” for yourself. With 150 miles/240 km
of trails in the park, there are options for every fitness level. For
a real challenge, check out the 4-mile/6 km Kilauea Iki Trail (and
don’t forget your winter gear, as its gets cold). For an easier hike,
try the Thurston Lava Tube/Nahuku trail.
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