Volume 5 No.1 Spring 2009 800.688.2254 

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Best Hiking Trails in Hawaii

Majestic waterfalls. Lush vegetation. Fascinating wildlife. Yes, Hawaii is a hiker's paradise. You could spend weeks traversing the islands' trails and still not cover them all. The problem is, most people only have less than a week to get some hikes in while vacationing in paradise. So with all the different trails available on each island, which are the most worth it? We take a look at some of the different trails on each of the islands in order to answer that question. So fill up that canteen and lace up your hiking boots as we take a look at some of the best hiking trails Hawaii has to offer.

Maui - Haleakala Crater Grand Loop

Skill Level- Intermediate-to-Advanced
This trail takes you right down into the crater of Maui's extinct volcano. The variation in colors and landscapes as you go from rocky to vegetative is astounding. The logistics of this one are half the trick, though. It's a 13-mile hike that has you start at an elevation of 9,800 feet, drop to 6,600 feet and then climb up 1,400 feet to finish at the 8,00 foot level. Why aren't you finishing back 9,00 feet, you ask? Because you're not finishing where you started, and therein lies the trick. In order to do this hike you need two cars, leaving one at the Halemau'u Trailhead between the 14 and 15 mile marker and then starting at the Sliding Sands Trailhead past the 20-mile marker. Most folks just rent an extra economy car for the day in order to make it work.

Maui - Pipiwai Trail

Skill Level- Easy
If you're planning on driving the Road to Hana, chances are you've heard of the Seven Sacred Pools. What many people don't know about, however, is the magnificent 4-mile hike (roundtrip) just above the pools. The elevation gain is a modest 650 feet with a gentle slope. Along the way you'll be treated to banyan trees, a bamboo forest and four waterfalls, the last of which (Waimoko Falls) is a majestic 400 foot wonder. All told it will take between 2.5-5 hours, but the ease of the trail combined with the sites seen along the way make it completely worth it. You'll probably want to start the trail fairly early in the day, however, as you don't want to drive the windy, poorly lit Hana Highway at night.

Kauai - Kalalau Trail

Skill Level- Advanced
The mother of all Hawaii hikes. This 22-mile (round trip) monster is more of an adventure than a hike. Plenty of switchbacks and elevation changes keep it interesting from start to finish. The trail does reward those brave enough to tackle it with some of the most breathtaking views Hawaii has to offer. The trail ends at Kalalau Beach. While we do know people who have done this hike in a day, most people camp on the beach overnight before returning the next day. If you plan on spending the night you'll need a camping permit; contact the Division of State Parks at 808-274-3444 for more information.

Kauai - Hanakapiai Falls

Skill Level- Intermediate
Don't feel like tackling the entire Kalalau Trail? There's still some adventure to be had if you didn't want to go all 11 miles. About two miles into the hike you reach Hanakapi'ai beach. From here you can hike about two miles inland (a side trail off the main Kalalau Trail) which will bring you to Hanakapi'ai Falls, one of the best on the north shore. The trail is tough in some spots, but nothing compared to its big brother mentioned above.

The Big Island - Volcanoes National Park

Skill Level- Varies
One of the most amazing sites in Hawaii is watching glowing orange lava flow down the side of a volcano into the ocean. This event happens constantly on the Big Island, and almost always in and around Volcanoes National Park. Unfortunately we can't be more specific with the location as it changes quite frequently. What we can do, however, is tell you where to go to find the information while you're there. The Volcanoes National Park's website (visit it by clicking here) has constant information including area and road closure information, weather updates and more. It will cost you $10 (per car) to get into the park and then you can stop at the ranger station to get maps and current information as well. Some of the trails can be rough as you constantly move up and down over hard, and sometimes sharp, lava rock. But the views you'll be rewarded with are once in a lifetime.

The Big Island - Kiholo Bay

Skill Level- Easy
Just past mile marker 81 on Highway 19 you'll come to a short trail leading to Kiholo Bay. This wondrous place is great for adventures and, best of all, is easy to get to with the hike only taking 15-20 minutes (each way). The bay has little islands spread throughout only a few yards off shore and turtles are plentiful as are hundreds of tropical fish. It's a really fun, relaxing hike.

Oahu - Haiku Stairs (Stairway to Heaven)

Skill Level- Intermediate
While this may not be a typical hike on a trail, the Haiku Stairs are just as demanding as a hike through the jungle and reward you with amazing views. The metal stairs and handrails start at an elevation of 520 feet and ends at 2,740 feet, a gain of 2,220 feet from climbing 3,922 stairs. This amounts to 222 stories of stairs! You don't need to go all the way up, though, to get some great views. There are five platform landings along the way with the first one at about 1,500 feet. The views overlooking Kane'ohe are amazing. This trail definitely isn't for those afraid of heights, though.

Oahu - Diamond Head

Skill Level- Easy
If you only do one hike on Oahu, this is it. Do it early, though, so you can get a parking spot ($5 per car) and to beat the heat. There is a gentle 560 feet gain in elevation spread out over a mile. All told, it's about an hour and a half round trip if you plan on spending about 20 minutes at the top (as most do). Once you reach the summit the view is nothing short of amazing. Waikiki, the ocean, lush valleys - you can see it all.

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