We lived on the beautiful island of Hawaii in January 2019. We love to hike as as family and there was no chance we were going to let our month pass without giving our best efforts to hiking all over the island of Oahu. Here are our FAVORITE family-friendly hikes (watch the video here) and what we loved about them:
- Lanikai Pillbox — Truthfully when I was first researching hikes on Oahu I saw a few pillbox hikes and was like “meh, that doesn’t look that cool.” What!? Like my mind is blown that those words actually, really, truly crossed my mind. I want to punch my brain for thinking those ridiculous words. Good thing Colby was in the driver seat and picked this hike because the Lanikai Pillbox hike was easily our family’s unanimous favorite. The views from the top are simply spectacular. Absolutely, breathlessly spectacular.
What we loved: kid-friendly, not too long, not too steep (there are some steep, rougher, rocky parts) amazing 360 degree panoramic views of the ocean and the island, and a fun “finish” — having a definite ending point always makes a hike more fun, especially for kids.
Crew and Zoe loved the ropes at the beginning of the hike and part way up the hike Crew insisted on hiking in just one shoe. We rewarded the kids for making it to the top and back down with some smarties Grandma Bell sent for them. They were thrilled about their little reward, but they were stoked about the hike on it’s own and really didn’t need any additional incentive.
Note: Parking is a zoo on the weekends. Plan to go during the week. The hike took us about 2 hours total with our 3 little kids, including ample time to rest, play, and take in the view atop the pillboxes.
2. Laie Point — The views at Laie point are also amazing. I’m including this in the “hiking” list, but really it might be better classified as a walk since there’s no incline. Either way, the hike, or walk, out on the rocky Laie point is well worth it. Easy and fun for kids to see the waves crash roughly against the rocky peninsula and make cascading waterfalls as it runs off.
Note: This is a quick easy stop, out to the point and back in 30 minutes or less with kids. Free parking alongside the road at the start of the point. The actual “sunset” can’t be seen on this part of the island, but go just before sunset to see the mountains bathed in the beautiful bronze evening light.
3. Manoa Falls — We did Manoa Falls, right in the heart of Honolulu thinking it would be one of our favorites and we were a bit underwhelmed. Ironically, the first time we tried to do it the road to get to it was closed so we tried again another day. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great, beautiful, kid-friendly hike, but our expectations were just a bit too high I think.
What we loved: affordable $5 parking at the bottom of the hike, vines for the kids to swing on, bamboo forest to tramp through, unbelievable views straight out of Jurassic Park and relatively short, easy, kid-friendly with a waterfall ending destination. The waterfall itself seemed a bit weak when we saw it (maybe not much rain?) and the viewing area around it was quite small and very crowded, making it difficult to enjoy it or snap a picture — and we went on a Wednesday afternoon.
4. Waimea Falls — Waimea took us by surprise because we knew there was an entrance fee but we didn’t realize it would cost our little family $75 — and that was with Crew and Marley being free! We didn’t realize it offered much more than just a waterfall hike where you could swim at the bottom.
What we loved: paved, kid-friendly, stroller-friendly trail all the way to the waterfall with a fun, historic village of the native people. We learned a lot and the kids really enjoyed exploring.
Note: Lifejackets are provided and required to swim at the falls and when we went in January the water was frigid! Colby and the older kids still loved it though. If we were to go again we would arrive much earlier and plan for more time to spend there and take the stroller.
5. Maili Pillbox — Most of our month on Oahu was spent living on the West side at the very end of the road in Makaha Valley. We loved it there despite some of the concerns of family and friends (watch our video of our time on the west side here) and one of the things we loved was the Maili Pillbox hike, just a short drive from our place. You can’t see the sunset on a lot of the island of Oahu, but the west side offers gorgeous sunset views so we ambitiously got out late in the afternoon hoping to catch the sunset from the top of the pillboxes. We did, but that meant that we were hiking down in the dark with our 3 little kids. It was quite dark and steep and we wouldn’t recommend it with kids, and maybe not even as adults. Go in the daytime when you have plenty of light and can appreciate the views without feeling rushed to get down.
What we loved: the pillboxes are really colorful and the kids loved exploring inside them, they were easier to access and get inside than those at the Lanikai Pillbox hike. The views from the Maili pillboxes were, in our opinion not quite as spectacular, but still absolutely beautiful. I went and hiked it again by myself one afternoon for some quick me-time and the views are pretty amazing.
Note: Park on the street right at the base of the hike and don’t go just before sunset. It took us about 45 minutes to hike up with the kids and about 25 minutes up on my own.
6. Ko’Olina Beach Park Walking Trail — we almost missed this and are SO glad we didn’t! It was perfect and amazing. Like Laie Point, I’m not sure if this counts as a “hike” but it does have a walking trail and it’s SO family-friendly and perfect. We went on a Sunday afternoon and it was a perfect beautiful stroll.
What we loved: Free public parking, and there are several man-made lagoons that are perfect for safely swimming and playing in, bordered by a paved walkway=stroller friendly. The beaches surrounding the lagoons are perfect for kids and ours were in heaven running from palm to palm trying to climb each one growing at a less-than upright angle. Because of the several resorts sharing the lagoons there are ample restaurants and shopping in the area as well.
Obviously there’s a lot more hiking to be done on Oahu and we were sad we never made to do the famous Diamond Head hike, or hike Kaena Point (too long and exposed for our little fam) where we heard lots of wildlife can often be spotted. Maybe next time! What’s your favorite Hawaii hike? We’ll be back no doubt.
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