A gentle introduction to the East Side of Oahu, the Hanauma Bay Rim Trail is one of the best hidden secrets of this island. It’s basically empty at times, especially in the morning, but has one of the best views you can get. Another plus is that you can choose where you go and therefore the level of difficulty. There’s good enough views early on the hike on the paved road leading to the top of the hill, or midway down the trail. If you feel like you have enough energy, then you can do the whole loop and explore the cliffs on your own. Just be sure, like on any hike in Hawaii, to be prepared for the hike you choose to do. Below is a photo-essay of the hike I did at sunrise.
To access the Hanauma Bay Ridge Hike, you park on Nawiliwili St. and walk uphill towards the Hanauma Bay Entrance. On the hill side of Kalaniana’ole, you will see a small road with a two foot water drain on either side, this is where you will head up the small grass trail to the actual paved road start. The hiker marker on Google Maps is another option, but you can start climbing the hill before that far uphill.
The total distance of the rim trail is said to be 6.8km, however you can make it as short or long as possible. I recommend going to the hidden rock bridge and head back via the same route. I started at 5:15 in the morning, about 40 minutes before the sunrise (5:53 am on this day) and made it to a good viewpoint to watch the sunrise.
At 40 minutes before sunrise, on most non-cloudy mornings, you’ll be able to see where you are walking. For a short five minutes in the beginning, you’ll need a flashlight. Your iPhone will suffice.
It’s worth checking on the photo apps to see where the sun will rise. I use the TPE app and it displayed the location of the sun.
This sunrise was spectacular. I love when the clouds create another layer for the sun to shine through. In this case, there was one sunrise, and I knew later the sun would recrest the surface of the top clouds and make for a second sunrise.
If you’ve made it down the steep dirt-rock incline (the hill immediately to the left of the paved road), and then climb up the second little hill, you’ll likely be in a good spot to catch the sun. I sat for a good few minutes watching the sunset. When the sun disappeared again and I made my way to the ocean.
If you climb down the cliffs, you’ll eventually be able to spot a small rock outcropping, distinct from the other rocks below. You’ll want to head over to it to see a small hidden rock bridge. It’s still there after years of getting worn away by the waves. See it before it goes.
The colors of the water and sky will really pop if you use a polarizer at this spot. Be careful about the big waves. You won’t want to be swept out to see, if caught by one of these giants.
I sat at the rockbridge for what felt like hours. There was nobody around. It was so peaceful. Then, it was time to head back, as the sun was starting to bear down.
On the return trip, you’ll see every place you skipped and the colors will be very vibrant. Small tiny ant snorkelers will be entering the water as the preserve just opened. A few morning hikers will have made it out of bed. And you’ll be smiling goldenly, as you have just seen the best part of the day on one of the best parts of the island.
More Oahu Guides Here:
These are my other guides for Oahu:
Ultimate Guide to Oahu: Best Things to Do on Oahu – Complete Bucket List
Best Hikes: The Best Hikes on Oahu
Best Beaches: Top 5 Beaches in Waikiki
Where to Stay: Best Areas to Stay on Oahu, Hawaii – Your Travel Guide