6 Family-Friendly Hikes on Oahu

Hiking on Oahu can be a fun way to get out and enjoy the wonderful Hawaii weather and scenery. Below are some family-friendly hikes around Oahu. These hikes all have varying difficulty and most can be done baby-wearing or with a toddler backpack. 

Some general hiking safety is important before you hit the trails. Know your fitness level and limits (and those of your children) before starting a hike. Always check rain and weather conditions, as they can change quickly on the island. Bring snacks and water-you never know if a short hike might turn into a longer hike due to weather conditions. Check in with someone, let them know you are hiking, where you are hiking, and an expected return time. And as always, have fun! 

During COVID-19, please respect public health guidance relating to hiking. Hawaii State social distancing guidelines for outdoor recreation allow groups of two people from different households, or groups of hikers of single residential/family units. Hikers should maintain distances of at least 20 feet from other hiking groups. 

Here are some of my top family-friendly hikes on Oahu:

Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail

Photo courtesy of U.S. News & World Report

Length: 2 miles   Elevation Gain: Moderate  Terrain: Little Shade, Dry and Hot Parking Lot: Yes

Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail is on the Windward side of the island, on the southeastern coastline. The trail is paved. If you have a little one, this is a nice hike to use a stroller on. This hike has amazing views all the way up to the lighthouse. On a clear day, you can see Moloka’i and Lana’i in the distance. During the migration of humpback whales (November-May), you might get lucky to see some on your hike.  

Manoa Falls Trail (currently closed for trail restoration)

Photo courtesy of Journey Era

Length: 1.6 miles   Elevation Gain: Low   Terrain: Rain Forest/Shady   Parking Lot: Yes 

Manoa Falls Trail is a popular hiking trail in the Manoa neighborhood in Honolulu. It is a well-maintained trail that is suitable for all fitness levels, but is not stroller friendly. It is an easy trail to baby wear and/or let your toddler explore alongside you. This is a trail to avoid if it has been raining recently, or if it is currently raining, as the trail is treacherous when wet and muddy. 

Parking at Manoa Falls Trail is $5.00 if you park at the Paradise Park lot. Or you can utilize street parking in the neighborhood leading up to Manoa Falls and hike up to the trailhead. The trail is currently closed for trail restoration. Check to see updates on the restoration before traveling to hike.

Ka’ena Point Trail

Photo courtesy of Honolulu Magazine

Length: 3.5 miles  Elevation Gain: Negligible  Terrain: Little Shade, Dry and Hot  Parking Lot: Yes

Ka’ena Point Trail is one of my favorite trails on Oahu. Situated on the Leeward side of the island, this trail gets hot quickly. I recommend arriving to the trailhead as early as possible. The trail leads to the Ka’ena Point Natural Area Reserve, which is a protected reserve that you enter through a gate about a mile into the hike. Be aware that dogs are not allowed on this trail, as pets can damage the native flora and the nesting seabirds. If you are lucky, you will see some Hawaii Monk Seals sunning on the beach. 

Ka’iwa Ridge Trail (Lanikai Pillboxes)

Length: 1 mile-Pillboxes/3 mile ridge trail Elevation Gain: High Terrain: No Shade, Dry and Hot Parking Lot: No

The Ka’iwa Ridge Trail is a heavily trafficked trail on the Windward side of the island with a gorgeous view over Kailua. It is commonly referred to as the Lanikai Pillboxes due to the abandoned WWII observation bunkers on the trail. This is a trail that it might be difficult to babywear on, but many older children would have fun on this challenging hike. Be aware that this hike is more difficult coming down, there are areas where ropes are tied to trees to help with tricky parts of the trail. The view from the second pillbox provides a stunning view of Windward Oahu and the Mokulua Islands. 

Be aware that this trail starts in a residential neighborhood and there is limited parking available at the trailhead. Be courteous of the residents. Cars have been towed due to illegal parking, so  consider parking at Kailua Beach and walking to the trailhead. 

Want to hike some other pillboxes? There are others around the island, all with steep elevation gains. Pu’u O Hulu (Pink Pillbox) is on the Leeward side with stunning views of the Leeward coast. Ehukai Pillbox is on the North Shore, less known than the Lanikai and Pink Pillboxes, this is a hidden gem with views of the Banzai Pipeline. 

Pu’u Ma’eli’eli Digging Trail

Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor

Length: 1.5 miles Elevation Gain: Moderate Terrain: Forest/Shady Parking Lot: No

Located on the Windward side with sweeping views of Kaneohe Bay, the first thing to say about Pu’u Ma’eli’eli is that it can be difficult to get to the trailhead with young children. The trailhead is accessible from the side of the highway, across from the Valley of the Temples. Most people street park on the side streets near the Temple Valley Shopping Center. In order to get to the trailhead, you will need to walk along the guardrails of the highway for a very short distance. If you plan to hike this with young children, bring a carrier and have them in the carrier for the beginning part of this hike. If you have an older child who wanders and/or is a runner, I would recommend waiting until they are older to attempt this trail with them. I have completed this hike with a toddler in a carrier, as well as with others with children of various ages.

Once you get to the trailhead, the hardest part is the first half mile. It is steep, and can be difficult if it has rained recently. Once past this steep part, the hike wanders through the forest and brings you out along the coast line to yet another pillbox and gorgeous views of Kaneohe Bay. There are a few places on this hike that have guide ropes, more for helping with the descent. 

Kawai Nui Marsh Trail

Length: 3 miles  Elevation Gain: Negligible Terrain: Marshland Parking Lot: Yes

Kawai Nui Marsh Trail is a flat trail starting at the Kawai Nui Neighborhood Park. This trail runs along the Kawai Nui Marsh and is mostly paved. It is common to find families with strollers, runners, bicyclists and walkers on this trail. I often ran it as a training run with my toddler in a jogging stroller. This is a hike to wear sunscreen and bug spray on. The marsh brushes up against the Koolau Mountain Range and is a favorite for birdwatchers. 

There are many more family friendly hikes and outdoor activities on Oahu! Keep a look out for more family friendly hikes on Oahu. What is your favorite family-friendly hike?

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