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The best Sunrise Hikes Oahu
Oahu is a true paradise for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts. One of the island’s most rewarding experiences is the chance to witness a breathtaking sunrise from one of its many scenic hiking trails.
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just looking for a new way to start your day, a sunrise hike in Oahu is an unforgettable experience that offers stunning views and a sense of tranquility that will stay with you long after you return home.
Today we’ll explore some of the best sunrise hikes in Oahu, along with tips for planning your excursion and making the most of your time.
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The best sunrise hikes in Oahu
The Lanikai Pillbox hike begins near the Mid-Pacific Country Club. This is approximately 40 minutes from downtown Honolulu. It is one of the best sunrise hikes in Oahu.
It is a moderate hike that takes about an hour round trip. There are a few steep sections. You will also find loose gravel in a few areas.
This trail will lead you past the Lanikai pillboxes, old military pillbox bunkers. The Lanikai Pillbox trail is usually crowded, especially at sunrise.
Once you reach the top of the trail, you will see gorgeous views of Lanikai Beach and the Mokulua Islands.
After your hike, you may want to spend the rest of the day at Kailua Beach. It is a great place to relax and unwind after a morning on the trail. Or you can head into Kailua Town for the day.
Kaiwa Ridge Trail
The Kaiwa Ridge Trail is a longer version of the Lanikai Pillbox hike. This is an excellent option when you are searching for a challenging hike on the island of Oahu.
To find this trail, go to the first pillbox, then continue to the second pillbox before connecting with the trail along Kaiwa Ridge.
There are fewer crowds on this section of the trail. Embrace the tranquility as you enjoy the panoramic views.
This is one of Oahu’s most popular sunrise hikes for those who want to stay out in nature long after watching the sunrise.
Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Trail
The Kuliouou Ridge Trail offers some of the best views of Oahu, especially at sunrise. This trail is clearly marked. That makes it perfect for beginner hikers. However, there is a steep climb at the end near the summit.
Conquering that steep climb is necessary if you want to see the stunning views.
This hiking trail is 5 miles round trip. It begins on Kalaau Road. The beginning part of the trail is full of native plants. But the lush landscape thins out as you reach the summit.
The good news is you won’t need to walk the whole way to the summit without a break. There is a bench at the first viewpoint. It is the best way to take a break and get a little rest. You just won’t be able to spend much time on the bench unless you want to miss the sunrise.
Hiking this trail will be a great start to your day!
Tom Tom Trail
The Tom Tom Trail is one of the most challenging trails in Oahu. This hiking trail begins at Makapuu Lookout.
You must arrive early to catch the sunrise on this trail. The roundtrip hike will take you approximately 4 hours.
The Tom Tom Trail will take you along the Ko’olau Mountain Range. You will see Makapuu Beach, Rabbit Island, and the sparkling ocean from the trail.
You will also discover a “puka”. This scenic spot features a large hole within a natural rock formation. The rocks create a frame for gorgeous views of the beach.
It is important to note that this trail isn’t technically open to the public.
Diamond Head State Monument
Diamond Head sunrise hike is popular for anyone wanting to see the sunrise near Waikiki Beach. This is a short but slightly steep hike. The steep incline leads to stairs that you will need to climb.
Once you reach the top of Diamond Head, you will quickly discover why this is one of the best Oahu sunrise hikes. You can see the gorgeous sunrise over the entire island.
There is a fee to access the hiking trail to the Diamond Head State Monument. The fee is currently $5 for non-Hawaiian residents. That fee does include parking a vehicle in the parking lot.
Local tip: Arrive early to avoid the crowds.
Makapuu Lighthouse Trail
An easy hike on Oahu at sunrise is the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail. You will find the trailhead for this favorite sunrise hike within the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline.
This entire trail is paved. That means almost anyone should be able to do this hike without too many issues.
The best part is the entire trail is only 2 miles roundtrip. At the top, stand on the observation deck for beautiful Pacific Ocean views.
Oh, and if you visit during winter, you can see whales from the lookout point at the Makapu’u Lighthouse. Just take binoculars with you so that you can see them better!
Hanauma Bay Ridge Trail
Hanauma Bay might be on your list of places to visit while on vacation in Oahu. This is because it is one of the best places for swimming and snorkeling.
You may not know that a better way to see the bay is by looking at it from a different vantage point. The Hanauma Bay Ridge Trail will take you above the bay. This will allow you to see a stunning sunrise early in the day.
This hike does have a steep climb. However, the trail is paved and smooth.
Once you reach the top, you will see Hanauma Bay. Koko Head will be visible behind the day. Especially on a clear day.
Experienced hikers may want to continue along the trail until it reaches Hanauma Bay Rock Bridge. This will take you another 2 or 3 hours. But it may be worth it to see this natural formation over the ocean.
The easiest of the sunrise hikes on Oahu is China Walls. This hiking trail begins in the residential neighborhood of Hawaii Kai.
The name of the park in this residential area is Koko Kai Mini Beach Park. Exit the park and walk a short distance to reach China Walls. This is a sea cliff that offers views of a spectacular sunrise.
This is also a perfect spot for cliff diving. The drop is approximately 10 to 15 feet. It is important to understand that you should be cautious when jumping. It is also best to only jump if you are a strong swimmer. The currents down below can be slightly rough.
Ualakaa Loop Trail
The Ualakaa Loop Trail is another easy sunrise hike in Oahu. You will find this trail within Puu Ualakaa State Park. This park is in downtown Honolulu.
This one-mile loop trail offers views of Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor, and the ocean. This trail is on the list of best hikes due to its location on the island. It is a short drive for many people who don’t want to get up too soon for their early start on the day.
Top of Koko Head Crater
One of the more challenging sunrise hikes on Oahu is the Koko Crater hike. This steep trail has plenty of steps you must conquer. You may not be ready to hear this, but this trail has earned the nickname Stairmaster of Oahu!
There are more than 1,000 steps within the elevation gain of 900 feet. The steps are actually old railway tracks that lead you from the base of Koko Crater.
So, yes, you will get your early morning workout at sunrise. But that’s okay because this is a beautiful place for a workout!
There is a section of the trail where you can go over a ravine on the bridge. However, most hikers bypass the bridge and use the detour.
Despite getting an early start on this trail, you will want to be prepared with plenty of water. There is very little shade to go with the steep incline and more steps than you will want to count.
Manoa Falls Trail
The Manoa Falls Trail is another sunrise hike in Oahu that is near downtown Honolulu. This is a great spot early in the day because many people hike this trail later in the day. So, you may easily get all the sunrise views for yourself.
While this is an easy trail, it is important to note it is a dirt trail. Therefore, the trail can be quite muddy, especially after it has rained. It is a good idea to wear hiking boots for this hike.
At the end of this hike is one of the breathtaking waterfalls in Oahu. You may want to spend a little extra time at the waterfall. Plan this extra time into your schedule so you don’t feel rushed.
This trail is also called the Pu’u Lanipo Trail. It is a challenging trail. However, it is still on the list of best sunrise hikes Oahu.
You will need to drive to Waikiki Beach for this early morning hike. The trailhead is near Diamond Head. Since it is a long hike, you will want to get an early start. If you don’t, you will miss the stunning sunrise.
Some basic rock climbing skills are necessary for this hiking trail in Oahu. Certain areas are pretty steep and require the use of a rope. Other parts of the trail are quite narrow. Flashlights are helpful before sunrise.
Ehukai Pillbox Hike
This hiking trail is located on the north shore. You will see some World War II military pillbox bunkers during this hike.
The beginning of this trailhead is located behind Sunset Elementary School. It is a moderate hike. Keep that in mind if you haven’t hiked much in the past.
When you reach the top of the trail, you will see gorgeous views of the entire north shore. Simply look towards the east to catch the sunrise.
Pu’u Ma’eli’eli Trail
This trail is also called the Kaneohe Pillbox Trail. So yes, it is another pillbox trail in Oahu. All the pillbox hikes on this stunning Hawaiian Island are perfect for all hiking abilities.
This is an easy and short hike at just over 2 miles. Since this trail is on the east side of Oahu, the best time to hike is early in the morning. That way, you can see the sunrise over Kaneohe Bay.
UPDATE: According to the all trails app, this trail is now on private property. Therefore, you may not be able to gain access to this trail. Please do not attempt to trespass.
Kaena Point should be on your list if you are searching for a remote hike in Oahu. This moderate hiking trail can be found in Kaena Point State Park. It is less than an hour’s drive from Honolulu.
The flat, dirt trail can become muddy after a rainstorm.
Since this trail follows the shoreline, you have an excellent chance of seeing sea turtles and monk seals. You may want to keep your camera handy.
Sandy Beach Park
Okay, so you won’t need to hike to see the sunrise at Sandy Beach Park. But this is one of the best places to watch the sunrise in Oahu if you have already completed countless hikes. Or if you don’t want to hike at all. This beach is near the base of Koko Crater. So you still get amazing views.
The best thing about this non-hike is that really young children can do it too, and you can listen to the waves coming onto shore as the sun rises.
Ala Moana Beach Park
Is your family, not a fan of getting up early in the morning? Would you prefer to see sunset views instead of the sunrise?
If so, head to Ala Moana Beach Park one night. It is the perfect place to watch the sun go down.
There’s plenty of room for the kids to run around. And you can enjoy a picnic dinner on the grassy areas while waiting for the sun to set.
Olomana Three Peaks Hike
If you want to see the sunset one night, the Olomana Three Peaks hike might be the best. This is a challenging hike. There are three peaks along this hike. Most people only go to the first peak before turning around.
That’s okay because the sunset views are amazing from that first peak. Watching the sun go down over Kaneohe Bay and Kualoa is simply incredible.
The best Sunrise Hikes Oahu
There you have it, the best sunrise hikes in Oahu. Did your favorite Oahu sunrise hike make the list? If not, let me know about it in the comments! Or, keep the secret to yourself. 🙂
More Oahu travel tips
Want even more ideas for things to do during your Oahu vacation? Check out:
- The 21 best beaches in Oahu
- Where to eat near Pearl Harbor
- 30 free things to do in Oahu
- 2-Day Oahu Itinerary
- The 30 best beaches in Hawaii
- What is the best luau in Oahu in 2023?
- The best Oahu snorkeling
Although I am a Hawaii Travel Agent, I am only taking on a few clients per month. You can contact me if you’d like more information. I recommend starting with my Hawaii travel guide if you plan to DIY your vacation!
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