Summer Island Hop: The Ultimate Hawaiian Hiking Guide

From the culture to the land and the ridges to the sand, the Hawaiian islands and their uniqueness make one visit an unforgettable experience. Across all islands, though, one thing is for certain: the hiking is top-notch, and getting on the trails is a must for many.  This read offers the coolest adventures across multiple islands to get the most out of your Hawaiian vacation. Odds are this tour of the islands will have you planning a return trip!
Prepared By:

Semaj Thomas

Photographer, Traveler & Writer

From the culture to the land and the ridges to the sand, the Hawaiian islands and their uniqueness make one visit an unforgettable experience. Across all islands, though, one thing is for certain: the hiking is top-notch, and getting on the trails is a must for many. 

This read offers the coolest adventures across multiple islands to get the most out of your Hawaiian vacation. Odds are this tour of the islands will have you planning a return trip!

The Garden Isle & Awa’awapuhi

Photo by Semaj Thomas Photography

Let’s kick it off in Kauai. As Hawai’i’s oldest rock, the island of Kauai is just that: old Hawai’i. Most of the island is inaccessible by vehicle but it is a hiker’s paradise.

Kauai’s wildness makes it an island for the ultra-adventurous: It’s perfect for those that want to get off the grid and venture into lush jungles, mind-bending canyons, and cathedral-like coastlines seen by many but canvassed by few.

Photo by Semaj Thomas Photography

In Kōke’e State Park, Awa’awapuhi Trail is a beautiful trek through the dense, vibrant jungle, with a coastal reward at the finish line. The downhill trail offers a few glimpses of the ocean through the jungle, but the sudden opening at the end of the trail is still unexpected and impressive. At once, you’re standing out on one of Kauai’s ridges with steep drop-offs on either side trying to make sense of the enormity of the scene. It’s a powerful glimpse at old Hawai’i and a timeless memory to bring home. 

Hawai’i Island & Pololu

Photo by Semaj Thomas Photography

On the northern tip of the Big Island of Hawai’i, Pololu Valley is nestled in the Kohala Mountain Range. Formerly a massive volcano, the area is now an expansive landscape with sheer cliffs and oceanside views. The Pololu Valley Trail is a steep descent (I recommend hiking shoes here… this coastal trail can get muddy) with beautiful views all the way down to a black sand beach! You can choose to relax on the beach or keep trekking across the beach up to Honokane Nui Lookout.

Maui & Waihe’e

Photo by Semaj Thomas Photography

West Maui is a masterpiece, and the lookout atop Waihe’e Ridge Trail is the perfect place to bask in all its glory. The trail itself is a steep incline through a beautiful forested area before opening up to 360-degree views the rest of the way. There are several resting spots and photo lookouts that you’ll definitely want to take advantage of, especially on clear days!

One important thing to remember before setting out on this hike (and any hike): Wipe the bottom of your shoes on the footpads at the trailhead. Why? This ensures that you aren’t carrying invasive plant seeds into the mountains with you! 

Now Relax

After a full day of hiking, there’s nothing better than sinking into some Hawaiian sand. Any beach will do, but these are my favorites on Maui and Kauai:

Olowalu Beach in Maui is incredible for a sunset hang and reef snorkeling, but the length and accessibility of this spot make it my favorite. The beach has a traditional entrance, but extends along the highway for miles! Where else can you pull off the road and step out onto a black sand beach?

The five-mile, rough sand road to Polihale State Park in Kauai is an adventure in itself (4×4 highly recommended)! The rough ride is worth it, though, as you pull up to a large, secluded beach with the perfect setup for spectacular sunsets. Beach camping is available by permit as well.

So, there you have it! Whether you’re planning a short trip or a longer vacation, this island-hopping adventure shares Hawai’i’s impressive highlights. Remember to take lots of photos to help you reminisce… or just go ahead and start planning your next Hawaiian vacation! 

Some ADA Accessible Lookouts across the Hawaiian Islands

Kauai: Kalalau Lookout, Pu’u O Kila Lookout, Pu’u Hinahina Lookout

Oahu: Tantalus Lookout, Halona Blowhole Lookout, Hanauma Bay Lookout

Maui: Haleakala National Park, Wai’anapanapa State Park

Big Island: Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Other Places & Experiences

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