Wiliwilinui Hike – Oahu, Hawaii

classic Oahu ridge hike that shoots straight to the summit of the Ko’olaus, the Wiliwilinui hike is one of the easiest, most-straightforward trails on the island, but still provides spectacular views of Diamond HeadWaikiki, and the other side of the island – including Kailua, Kaneohe, and part of Waimanalo. If you have a half-day on the south side of the island and can get up early to snag a coveted parking spot, then this is the hike to do.


The Wiliwilinui Hiking Trail begins at the top of the Waialae Iki subdivision at the end of a gated community. You’ll have to drive up Laukahi St off of the Kalaniana’ole Highway till you reach the guard house, then show your ID to the guard in exchange for a red laminated parking permit. Then drive all the way up to the end of Laukahi St and take a left onto Okao. Drive all the way to the end of the road till it becomes a mud lot, or park at the designated stalls 100m away from the start of the hike.

Trail Information:

Time: 3 hours

Elevation Gain: 1,600 ft., 487m

Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Description: Walkable road-path first-half, and a second-steep-half that’s muddy but well maintained, leading to a summit.

My friends decided to try the Wiliwilinui trail to get our hiking group back into the swing of things. Since it’s rated as easy-moderate, you’ll be in for a workout on some of the trail, but it’s definitely not strenuous unless you hike during the hottest part of the day. About 40 minutes into the trail – which the first part consists of a road/dirt path, you’ll reach the initial ascent – a ladder of stairs that marks the difficult part of the trail. Past this point, it’s a muddy 40 minutes to the top. This is the trail to wear your worst clothes as you’ll likely have a few slips along the way. You’ll also want to pack some water to wash your hands afterwards, a towel to sit on (leave all this at the car), and a few bags for your muddy shoes. 

Even though it’s an easy trail, you’ll still get a great introduction to Hawaii’s hiking. Dotted along most of the way are big Ohia trees (the tall, canopy tree on the right of the image below – has red flowers in bloom), and some Koa – featured on the left. Uluhe ferns grow on the sides of the mountains, but aren’t going to scrape your legs like some of the unsanctioned hikes on the island.

On most days, you’ll enter the clouds and although the initial disappointment of not seeing anything will likely make you wonder if the hike is worth it, the feeling wears off and you’ll begin to embrace how the fog makes the scenery’s colors pop in front of your eyes.

If you look back, you can see glimpses of Diamond Head and Waikiki, and the valleys below.

After a set of steep, slippery stairs, you’ll make it to the flatter, top part of the ridge, which signals the summit. If there’s no view for the day, then it’s worth looking at all the different plant life. It’s part of enjoying a hike on Oahu – seeing and being part of nature.

Having no view and already observing the plants, we decided to head back down. It takes about the same amount of time as the climb up – 1.5 hours, but going down, you’ll see the incredible views of the south side of Oahu.

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