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Top 3 Hikes Hawaii | Travel Guide

Top 3 hikes in hawaii

This hike is on my Top 3 hikes in Hawaii one becouse its the most popular on the island, sadly it’s illegal and there are many security guards around waiting to hand out ridiculous high fines (US$ 1000).  I’m glad that didn’t stop me doing it, the effort going there by night, crossing a forest and hiding in the neighborhood, was totally worth it. 

My first impression

Why Hawaii? All I knew about it was actually, what people back home told me: “a nice honeymoon place” and “only rich people going there”. Well, that was quite the opposite of me… Solo travelling, as my girlfriend was travelling somewhere else and  all I had was my backpack and not much money I wanted to spent on that island. But a direct flight from Sydney return for only AU$ 300 got me. And there I was at Honolulu international airport, just about to figure out that Hawaii would be one of my favourite places to go hiking! And all the honeymoon stories I heard where not all Hawaii had to offer.

Honolulu is the largest city in O’ahu. It’s located in the centre with public transport, which makes it to a convenient place for a staying.  The island itself is fluted with students, military and tourists which makes it very pricey. So the fact about only rich people going there is probably true. Never mind I will tell you how I survived without spending all my savings. 

Top 3 hikes in Hawaii

1. Stairways to Heaven

Top 3 hikes hawaii

Surprise, surprise! Hawaii is not all about beautiful sand beaches. The first day I arrived meeting my first couchsurfing host opened my eyes for a completely new view about Hawaii. I loved not only the amazing views on the peaks of the mountains, but the challenging and varying paths up to the top.

Your ultimate hiking guide to reach the top without getting caught

There are many ways to complete this hike. And there are probably heaps of blogs about how to do it in different ways, but I picked unfortunately the wrong one. I followed one of those online guides and trust me that was a baaaaad idea.

I’ll give you a brief glimpse of my adventure reaching the top: I had to leave at 3 o’clock at night, because that’s what people wrote was a good time to escape the guards… Honestly I felt like I part of a comedy show. Completely BULLSH**. I ended up getting caught by the guard twice and chased by the local people through the streets. I escaped over a fence in the middle of the forest, all lost, about to give up. But on my lost path finding a way out of this forest, I came across the right path, and found my way to the stairs. All this took me 4 hours!! The start of the track and the main road are only 2 km apart. Completely tired, no actually exhausted I reached the track at 7 am. Don’t worry,  I learnt from my mistakes and I’ll save you from getting in trouble in my “way to the stairways to heaven”.

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2. koko head

Koko head

Climbing up this old railway is not as easy as I thought. But it’s still possible for any level of fitness. There are about 1048 wooden steps with 1/2 meter space in between. Some of my friends weren’t in their best shape so it was really exhausting for them half way trough, but trust me when I say the view is totally worth it! (drop the shirt and enjoy the heat and get some tan on you way up.

Getting there

Using public transportation from Waikiki is far the best and cheapest way to get there.

Price:           $ 5,5 for a day ticket
Duration:     1,5 hours

Use google map to find the right buses. You have to change once. But I guess google maps updates the bus schedule more often than I my blog 🙂 

Riding the bus is very easy, jump out at the stop “Kalanianaole Hwy + Opp Hanauma Bay R”. Cross the street and walk around the gate. It’s legal and there is a normal road. just keep on following it until you reach a car park. Then you also cross that one and keep following the road until you reach the start of the trail.

The walk from the bus stop to the hiking track takes maximum 15 minutes. The track is obvious  and you’ll find you way up to the top. So “RUN FORREST RUN”


koko head entrance
start of track koko head

3. Pali Puka

pali puka top

One for the more experienced hikers is Pali Puka. My personal favourite hike. I loved it! It’s challenging and fun. There are more than only one spot with an amazing view. You will be walking on the cliff of the mountain with a steep slope right next to you, crawling through bushes and climbing with ropes straight up the side of the mountain side. It’s nothing to worry about  as  this is all made for tourists and there are all the tools that you need to get from A to B. Just keep in mind that it might be a bit more challenging than a normal walk, and don’t be afraid of heights! 

Getting there

There is no public transport going that way, so you have to use another kind of transport, 

I just hitchhiked, which is very easy  and a good way to get here. Just make sure to make you way out of the big city by public transport and then find a good spot, where people can actually stop to pick you up. And then THUMB UP!

When you arrive at the parking lot make sure to take the right trail. There are two hikes starting here:

1. Pali Pika 

2. Pali Notches

First go and have a look at the entrance to the “Pali Notches Hike”, there is a lookout point over the whole rain forest.

After enjoying the view make your way to the start of the track “Pali Pika”. It’s in the back of the parking lot. Look behind all the busses or cars it might be there.

I circled the small hole red in the half high wall where you can enter the forest, 


pali puku entrance
pali puka
Half way up the hike: me sitting in this cute natural window

Tips and tricks


You might think this is a bit funny but being a poor backpacker in Hawaii, just there for the beautiful landscape and hikes it’s quite expensive to eat here. Because of the many tourists in this area, the prices for food in supermarkets and restaurants are not really  effort-able with a backpacker’s budget, Eating at the local brand “SUBWAY” will save you a big amount of money, a daily sandwich with drink is “only” $5.

Getting around

Getting around on Hawaii is not convenient at all, there are no information about public transport and renting a car is too expensive. Its really hard to find a schedule for the public transport, so it can be hard to know where and when the busses go but a tickets for a bus are $ 4 daily and you can use is everywhere, so it’s not too bad to get lost. 

Google maps

“google map” is really helpful. It will give you some information about public transport or where the hike start or information online, so using the app, is really handy. If you want to go somewhere, just type in your start point and destination and it will show you which bus you have to take and where to change.You also get the information,  where the hikes start, even if you are lost on a hike, you can use the offline map to find your way back on track.

What to bring for hikes

I’ve made a list below showing you what I would bring for my hikes, there ain’t much but the basic.

  1. Water (2 LITERS)
  2. Snacks 
  3. Gloves (it can be slippery)
  4. Hiking shoes (there are many muddy places)
  5. Small backpack (to carry all your stuff)
  6. Flash light (night time or caves)
  7. Powerbank (to keep you phone charged)
  8. jacket (for cold nights/days)

40 thoughts on “Top 3 Hikes Hawaii | Travel Guide

  1. Hawaii is so gorgeous! I was there years ago and hope to go back one day. We didn’t do any hikes the last time, mostly because I’m lazy and just wanted to lay on the beach and stuff my face with pineapple.

  2. Hawaii is always a desired destination for travelers . Thanks for the Ideas give love to experiment it.

  3. Wow Hawaii is so gorgeous. Like you, I always thought that it’s just a place for beautiful beaches and honeymoon haha! You took some really great pictures too btw 😊

  4. Loved your Hawaii post. I am yet to explore this amazing area. Delighted to know about hikes too my favorite part wherever I travel.

  5. This is an awesome guide! I tried stairway to heaven one time and the security guard sent me away 🙁

  6. Hawaii is so so gorgeous and honestly, I didn’t know that there’s so many places to hike. Like many, I only know of its beaches and volcanoes.. I especially love looking at the picture you took at Pali Puka! There’s just something about it that’s serene and calming

  7. Same here, all i know about the place is honey moons, which i still find intriguing. But after your post, i am even more curious. I see myself at Pali Puka, and just taking in all that beauty 🙂

  8. You have some testicular fortitude! I am way too much of a chicken to break the rules. I am glad that you enjoyed the hikes and got away from security. The photos of you at the edge of the mountain is stunning (and scary).

  9. My parents did take their honeymoon in Hawaii, so I have often thought about it as a destination for just that. However when they went, they explored more and did things like hiking. I would love to visit one day myself.

  10. A good guide on a trip to Hawaai.. Have never been to or planned for Hawaai but would definetely plan now for. Even I write travel guides on my blog and the next time I will also write a guide on Hawaai 🙂

    Just kidding..Thanks for the guide.

  11. I’ve always wanted to go to that beautiful place. Extraordinary photos and I’ll keep it in mind for my future trips

  12. Love Hawaii. Love the hikes, and thanks for the recommendations! I especially love your photos! How amazing to be able to travel and write about what you enjoy!

  13. Hawaii has been on our list for a long time and we love hiking. Hence reading your post has been very helpful to plan our trip! Its hard to say which among the three hikes is best.. so better to experience them all. Thanks for additional tips.

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