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If you’re trying to find the best sunrise hikes on Oahu then this list is for you. I live on Oahu and have personally done each and every one of these hikes.
Getting up early while vacationing in Oahu is easy, at least for the first couple of days, especially if you are coming from the Americas.
Start your day at 5 am with a great cup of joe and head out to one of these sunrise hikes and your day will be off to a great start.
What Should I Bring On An Oahu Sunset Hike?
AllTrails App: One of our best picks for hiking apps, AllTrails allows you to view practically every single available hike in your area. They also allow you to download trails to your phone, so you don’t need a stable internet connection to ensure you’re safe. One of the apps we recommend in the 42 Best Apps for Hawaii article.
Proper hiking shoes: Make sure that the shoes you bring on a hike have good gripping soles and are comfortable to wear for the whole time. I like to use Whitin shoes because they are lightweight and reasonably priced. Their low profile also makes then easier to pack for trips.
Extra change of shoes: If the trail is muddy, one of the best things you can bring is a change of shoes so you don’t get your car floor dirty.
Reef-Safe Sunscreen: Although you’re hiking before sunrise, you will be exposed the entire time you descend from the trail. Many hikes are located near beaches, make sure the sunscreen you use is reef safe so you can help protect the beauty of the ocean. I like Sun Bum products when choosing a reef-safe sunscreen.
Bug repellant: Mosquitos can be rather annoying when trying to enjoy a hike, so make sure you always come prepared. Make sure it is DEET free since this chemical has been known to harm delicate ecosystems, like this one.
Water + Snacks: Whenever you plan on going hiking, plenty of water and snacks are a must. Some of my favorites can be found in my pre-made Instacart snack list, salty and sweet, not healthy 🙂
Fully charged phone: Make sure your phone is fully charged so you can take videos and photos of the sunrise, but also just in case of an emergency.
Flashlight/Headlamp: During the morning or evening, it can be pretty dark outside, so it’s always a good idea to have a flashlight and be safe. You can also use the flashlight on your phone, but be aware that it will drain your battery faster.
Here is a great headlamp that I have used in the past, especially handy when you start the trail in the dark in order to get those summit first-light shots.
Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
One of the most popular hikes on Oahu to see the sunrise is the Makapu’u Lighthouse trail because of its perfect positioning and beautiful views of the ocean. This hike is ranked as easy because of the constant paved ground all the way to the top, with only mild inclines throughout.
Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail also has a parking lot right in front of the trail, just make sure to get there early because it can get really busy.
Once you reach the top of the trail, there are a few lookout areas that give you a view of not only the sunrise but also Makapu’u Beach, Rabbit Island, and even Sandy Beach Park to the left of you, proving that this is truly one of the best sunrise hikes on the island.
Make sure to bring your cameras because once the sun peeks out from the horizon, you get a truly unbeatable view more than any other place on the island.
Makapu’u Lighthouse is also a very popular place for whale watching on the island of Oahu, from the very top and the first lookout, you have the chance of seeing a whale.
From the very top, you can also look down and see tide pools towards the bottom of Makapu’u; if you plan on going down there, make sure to take proper precautions.
Koko Head Trail
Difficulty: Hard–Very Hard
Koko Head Trail is the best of both worlds when it comes to viewing the sunrise and sunset on Oahu. Since the top of Koko Head Crater is so high up, there is nothing infringing on your view of both a perfect sunrise on a clear day and a perfect sunset during the evening.
Koko Head is ranked as a hard to very hard hike because of the very steep climb and elevation gain of around 35% at the 2/3 mark of the trail, meaning that you are hiking close to vertical; not to mention the rather large spacing in between the steps, it is important to not overestimate yourself and always be prepared for a steep hike such as this one.
While difficult, the views you achieve from the top are 100% worth the hike. Without street noise, bustling sidewalks, or noisy beaches, Koko Head is a relaxing escape to one of Oahu’s most popular sunrise hikes. If you plan on going for the sunset, make sure you bring plenty of water and a flashlight, also check out our best picks for sunset spots on Oahu.
From the summit of this hike, you can see one of the top luxury hotels on Oahu, The Kahala Hotel and Resort. Secluded and legendary in the islands.
Hanauma Bay Ridge Trail
Hanauma Bay Ridge Trail is a relatively easy hiking trail that takes you around the crescent ridge of Hanauma Bay, allowing you to look down at the bay itself and see an amazing sunrise over the Pacific Ocean right in front of you.
This hike is ranked as easy because of the relatively smooth ground and only a few inclines. This hike is perfect for families with children and pets if you decide to bring your dog along.
Unlike the other hikes on our list, Hanauma Bay Ridge Trail is relatively short at only 1.5 miles, there is no need to bring loads of hiking gear.
Hanauma Bay Ridge has been known to be very windy at times, make sure you hold onto your hats! At the end of the trail, you will be able to see the top of Diamond Head and a spectacular view of the surrounding land.
Lanikai Pillbox Hike (Ka’iwa Ridge Trail)
Located on the eastern side of the island, Lanikai Pillbox Hike is a must-do when deciding on a sunrise hike on the island of Oahu. This hike is moderately difficult due to the wear and tear of hundreds of hikers traversing the path, the slippery rocks, steep incline, and infrequent climbing makes this trail slightly more difficult than the other ones.
In order to access the Lanikai Pillbox Hike, you must park in a residential neighborhood and hike up from there. Whenever you park in a residential area, make sure to park legally and be respectful of the people who live there.
Also, make sure you stay off private property and stick to the marked trail.
The reason why this trail is so popular is because of the amazing views that you get once you’re at the first pillbox.
The pillbox looks over Lanikai Beach and sets you up in the best way for a perfect sunrise photo. When doing this hike, make sure to use plenty of sunscreen because of the prolonged sun exposure. A
dditionally, the top of the trail allows for sights of Kaneohe Bay and Kailua Beach; there are multiple other pillboxes that you can hike to but the best views come from the first one.
When planning a hike to Lanikai Pillbox, be sure to stop in Kailua town and spend some time checking out all the amazing places to eat and shop.
One of our recommendations for breakfast in Kailua is Over Easy, they have an amazing menu with a breakfast that will prepare you for a day of hiking and enjoying the Oahu scenery.
Diamond Head Crater Trail
One of the most famous craters on the island is Diamond Head, which is always featured in postcards and travel photography. There is a reason why Diamond Head is so popular, it has some of the best panoramic views on the island and is perfect for both sunset and sunrise hikes.
Once you’re at the top, you get a 360-degree of the south side of the island including Waikiki Beach in the distance. The hike starts at the Diamond Head State Monument, so make sure to spend some time relaxing down there.
This hike is rated as a moderate hike because of the steep inclines that are found later on in the hike; however, the hike is only around 1.6 miles round trip, being one of the shorter ones on this list.
Something that should be noted before doing this hike is that there is an entrance fee of $5 per adult and $10 per car, locals are allowed free access with an ID. Get current hours, closure notices, and fee amounts at the official website.
Unlike other trails that only feature rocky terrains or flat grounds, Diamond Head has flights of stairs and tunnels too.