Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail: Oahu's Best Hike - Uprooted Traveler (2023)

Lush rainforests. Layer upon layer of green mountain ridges. Sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. You can experience all of these things (and so much more!) along the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail, a hike located on the eastern side of Oahu along the spine of Koʻolau Mountain range.

So if you’re looking for incredible views and a unique way to experience Hawai’i’s ethereal beauty, here’s everything you need to know about exploring the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail, from how to get there to exactly what to expect along this incredible hike.

Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail: Oahu's Best Hike - Uprooted Traveler (1)

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission, for which we are extremely grateful, at no extra cost to you.

Pssst… are you looking for even more Oahu hikes? If so, check out our other posts about hiking in Oahu:

  • 4 Actually Easy Hikes on Oahu: The Perfect Trails for Beginners
  • Ehukai Pillbox Hike: The Best Hike on Oahu’s North Shore
  • Koko Crater Trail: Everything You Need to Know

About the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail

  • Distance: 4.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,617 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Dog-friendly? Yes, but only on a leash. Additionally, the trail is almost always slippery and has some steep dropoffs, so I would only recommend bringing along a very well-behaved pup!

Along this trail, you’ll hike through a lush forest up to the top of the mountain ridge and climb along the spine to its summit, providing panoramic views of the entire island of Oahu.

A significant amount of the elevation gain comes in the last half mile of the hike up to the summit, where you’ll scramble up a series of steep stairs, constructed only of thick slabs of wood and the slippery clay that covers the mountainside. While there’s no technical skills required, given its steepness and the constantly muddy terrain, the trail is definitely challenging, especially for beginner hikers.

Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail: Oahu's Best Hike - Uprooted Traveler (2)

Many of Oahu’s most stunning hikes are, similar to Wiliwilinui Ridge, along mountain ridgelines. But these epic views usually go hand in hand with danger- ridgelines are usually very narrow, with crumbly cliffs and steep, slippery ascents. And this is no joke- more than a dozen hikers have fallen to their deaths in the past decade from hikes around Oahu.

Wiliwilinui Ridge, on the other hand, is an excellent alternative to include in your Oahu itinerary as compared to other ridgeline hikes on the island- the trail is well-maintained and fairly wide, therefore providing a safer way to enjoy those fantastic vistas.

But be careful- any hike, even Wiliwilinui Ridge, comes with its own risks, especially if the trail is wet and slippery (which, on the eastern side of Oahu, is pretty much always). I’d recommend checking the weather before you go and planning your hike to avoid any rain showers.

Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail: Oahu's Best Hike - Uprooted Traveler (3)

How to Get to the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail

This trail is unique in many ways, including the fact that it’s tucked away in an upscale gated community in the hills overlooking Honolulu.

To reach the trailhead (located here), you’ll need to pass by the security guard at the Waialae Iki 5 community. There’s only a handful of parking spots for hikers near the trailhead, so the guard passes out a certain number of laminated parking passes each day.

If the parking permits are all in use, you won’t be allowed to drive in the community and you’ll either need to come back at a later time or, alternatively, park in the residential neighborhood outside of the Waialae Iki 5 community (be sure to check for “No parking” signs!).

If you choose the latter option, you’ll need to walk at least another 1.8 miles (roundtrip) from the guard station, up a steep and winding hill to the trailhead. So if you want to be sure to snag a parking pass, you may want to time your visit for when the trail is less busy, like early on a weekday.

When my husband, Justin, and I came here, the guard also told us to try to be off the trail before dark, so I’d also avoid arriving too close to sunset. For what it’s worth, I was really nervous about not being able to get a permit (I really wanted to do this hike!), but, on a perfectly lovely Saturday afternoon, there seemed to be plenty of parking spots available at the trailhead. So perhaps the Wiliwilinui Ridge, despite its out-of-this-world beauty, is still flying somewhat under the radar.

Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail: Oahu's Best Hike - Uprooted Traveler (4)

If you’re lucky enough to snag a pass, there will be a map and clear directions on where to park included on the permit. You’ll basically follow Laukahi Street all the way to where it ends on Okoa Street, turn left on Okoa and follow the street up to one of the two small lots by the trailhead. And once you’re done with your hike, you’ll return the permit in a dropbox by the right side of the guard station.

There have been a few intermittent reports on AllTrails that the guards are only providing permits to individuals with a valid Hawai’i driver’s license or military ID. It looks like this requirement is incredibly sporadically enforced (i.e., there’s plenty of folks, including myself, who have hiked the trail and reported they were issued a permit without having these forms of ID), but just want to make you aware in case you happen to come across a particularly stringent guard.

What to Expect Along the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail

Once you’ve arrived at the trailhead, the hike starts down a shaded dirt path that winds through dense trees. As you climb higher and higher, you’ll catch glimpses of the surrounding mountain ridges and the Honolulu skyline through the trees, providing you a taste of the amazing views awaiting you at the summit.

The trail will eventually spit you out along the ridgeline and about 1.7 miles in, you’ll reach the first of many stairs you’ll take to climb up the rest of the mountain (So. Many. Stairs). While climbing stairs for almost a mile sounds quite terrible, they help you gain elevation at a much faster clip (as compared to if you were just trudging up switchbacks), so, really, it’s just getting you to those views quicker!

Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail: Oahu's Best Hike - Uprooted Traveler (5)

There’s some sections where the stairs have eroded away or are broken, where the trail consists of little more than a slick lump of clay. Certain steeper areas have ropes to help you scramble up, while there’s other spots along the hike where you have to get a bit creative to maneuver your way up the mountain (i.e., my hands got pretty dirty from scrambling up the muddy trail here- I would not recommend wearing your Sunday best on this one).

The farther up you climb, the more stellar the views get, until eventually, you’ll see layer after layer of green mountain ridges sprawling out from under your feet and unfurling towards the Pacific Ocean. I hike a LOT in some incredibly beautiful places and this still takes the cake for the most beautiful hike I’ve ever been on!

Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail: Oahu's Best Hike - Uprooted Traveler (6)

As a friendly reminder, please be sure to understand and follow the Leave No Trace principles while you’re on the trail, particularly disposing of waste properly (pack it in, pack it out) and leave what you find (take only memories, leave only footprints).

Hawai’i has a complicated history, especially with the United States, with the U.S. invading and overthrowing the Hawaiian monarchy in the late 1800s and exploiting its land and people ever since (if you want to learn more, here’s a helpful article regarding the colonization of Hawai’i). If you’re a visitor here, it’s imperative to respect Hawai’i’s beautiful culture, history, and land.

What to Bring on the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail

Since this trail isn’t particularly long, there isn’t a ton you’ll need to conquer this hike, but there are a few things you should definitely make sure are on your Hawaii packing list.

  • Headlamp: If you, like me, want to watch the sunset along the ridgeline, you NEED to bring along a headlamp to make your way back down the trail (note that, if you’re interested in watching the sunset here, the parking permits are only good during the daylight hours, so you’ll have to be thoughtful about where you watch sunset and how quickly you can safely make it back down to your car afterward).

    During our time in Oahu, we went on several sunset hikes, including the Koko Crater Trail and Ehukai Pillbox Hike, and on each one, ran into a terrified hiker fumbling their way back down the trail, either with a very weak cell phone flashlight or without any kind of lighting source to help them at all.

    Please don’t be that guy, especially on this trail, where you’re walking along the thin spine of a steep mountain- hiking a trail in the dark without the appropriate gear is extremely dangerous and could result in you doing anything from twisting your ankle to literally falling off a cliff (definitely not how you want to remember your Hawaiian getaway).

    My husband, Justin, and I have these ones that came in a pack of two AND are rechargeable, so you don’t have to mess around with carrying extra batteries. Score!

Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail: Oahu's Best Hike - Uprooted Traveler (7)
  • Hiking shoes: While most people laze around Oahu with flip-flops, I strongly would advise against doing that on this trail, given the steep and uneven terrain and slippery, muddy ground. At a minimum, you should wear hiking sandals, like Tevas (options for women and men) or Chacos (options for women and men), to provide better traction and support.

    I wore actual hiking boots (here’s my boots and men’s equivalent) and personally think, if you’re planning on doing this and other moderately challenging hikes in Hawai’i, it’s 100% worth the luggage real estate to bring along some sturdier shoes.

  • Reusable water bottle: Be sure to bring along plenty of water on this hike- while parts of the trail are shaded and the air along the mountain ridge feels cooler, you’re literally going to be climbing stairs for about a mile under the hot Hawaiian sun- so hydrate up!

    To be kind to the planet and to cut down on wasting money on bottled water, Justin and I both have giant Nalgene bottles that we take everywhere, from international vacations to RV trips around the Pacific Northwest and, yup, even hiking in Hawai’i!

  • Clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty: Between scrambling up sections of the trail that don’t have stairs and unintentional slips (Justin and I both slipped and fell along the muddy trail), you will almost certainly get filthy along this hike.

    Another fun fact: the mud here will stain your clothes! Justin wore a new white t-shirt while doing this hike that was ruined from the red clay that got on it during one of his falls. So perhaps plan on wearing some non-white apparel.

Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail: Oahu's Best Hike - Uprooted Traveler (8)

I hope you have an incredible time hiking the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail. Are there any other tips for this hike that I forgot to include here? Let me know in the comments below!

Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail: Oahu's Best Hike - Uprooted Traveler (9)

Thank you for reading our post! Check out our latest stories here and follow us on Instagram (@UprootedTraveler), YouTube, or on Facebook to see what we’re up to next!


How long does it take to hike Wiliwilinui? ›

3 MI/ 4.8KM (2-4HRS)

How long is Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail round trip? ›

The nearly 5-mile round-trip trail is known for its unimpeded views of East Oahu. From the top of the ridge, at an elevation just shy of 1,600 feet, you're treated to a panorama of Waikiki, Honolulu, Waimanalo and Konahuanui, the highest peak in the Koolau Mountain range.

What is the most difficult hike on Oahu? ›

Koko Crater Trail. If you're looking for a hard hike on Oahu, look no further than Koko Crater Trail. This steep climb consists of 1,000+ steps along an abandoned railroad track that runs to the top of Koko Crater.

What is the easiest hike on Oahu? ›

Diamond Head Crater is an easy hike on Oahu and the most popular hikes on Oahu. It takes about 30-minutes to reach the old war bunkers at the top from which you will have amazing views of Waikiki and the ocean. The entire hike is quite scenic but it isn't until you reach the.

How difficult is Waihee Ridge Trail? ›

Generally considered a challenging route, it takes an average of 2 h 49 min to complete. This is a very popular area for hiking and running, so you'll likely encounter other people while exploring. The trail is open year-round and is beautiful to visit anytime. Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

How difficult is Misery Ridge Trail? ›

The Misery Ridge Trail is considered a moderate-to-challenging hike. It is relatively short at only 2.5 miles, but has a rapid elevation gain of 1220ft.

How hard is Misery Ridge? ›

Enjoy this 3.5-mile loop trail near Terrebonne, Oregon. Generally considered a challenging route, it takes an average of 2 h 0 min to complete. This is a very popular area for hiking, so you'll likely encounter other people while exploring.

How long does it take to hike deadmans catwalk? ›

Dead Man's Catwalk offers a really amazing and unique view of the island without being very dangerous or long. This hike takes about 30 minutes to make it to the top going at a normal hiking rate. The entire walk is paved and is an upward incline for most of the hike.

What is the prettiest hike in Oahu? ›

1. Diamond Head (Le'ahi) Summit Trail. Description: This is perhaps the most popular trail for casual hikers on the island of Oahu as it leads to one of Hawaii's best known landmarks. And it's truly stunning.

Why is Stairway to Heaven in Oahu forbidden? ›

Synopsis. Hawaii, besides being home to some spectacular beaches, is also renowned for its iconic Haiku Stairs or Stairway to Heaven. However, the government has decided to remove the famous attraction because of numerous illegal trespassing and injuries at the site, leading to hefty costs.

What is the most beautiful waterfall in Oahu? ›

The waterfall located nearest to Waikiki, and arguably one of the most magnificent waterfalls on Oahu, is Manoa Falls. Nestled in the back of the lush Manoa Valley, Manoa Falls are a short 45-60 minute hike through bamboo forests and patches of tropical wild flowers.

How long should a beginner hike for? ›

Pick A Hike for Beginners

If you're just starting out, pick a hike under 5 miles with minimal climbing. If you want to do a longer hike, make a training plan in advance. Do an extra mile or two each week and build up to your target distance. Don't forget to look at the total climbing on your hike.

Which would be an easier hike for a beginner? ›

As a beginner, I recommend looking for a trail that is under 5 miles with minimal elevation gain. Think about it like you're on a treadmill: a 1-mile hike with 500 ft of elevation gain has an average grade of 10%. Look for beginner hikes with less than 250 feet of elevation gain per mile.

What is the hardest trail to hike? ›

1.Kalalau Valley, Kauai, Hawaii

The trail is often slippery with mud and rain and so it is a really dangerous route and certainly one of the toughest walks in the world.

Does Waihee Ridge Trail have waterfalls? ›

You'll walk under the dense cover of these trees until, about 0.6 miles in, the trail makes a hairpin turn to the left- at this bend, you'll have a spectacular view, off to your right, of Makamaka'ole Falls, a 270-foot two-tiered waterfall.

What time should I start Waihee Ridge Trail? ›

The Waihee Ridge Trail is open to visitors daily from 7 am to 7 pm. Due to limited parking, it's best to hike this trail as early as possible in the morning to secure a spot.

How long is Waihee Ridge Trail round trip? ›

That is exactly what you'll be able to do on the Waihee Ridge Trail. Located in the West Maui Mountains, also known as Mauna Kahalawai, the 5-mile round-trip trail ascends 1,500 ft. through a lush forest of kukui, guava, ohia, and ferns.

Why are Oahu mountains so steep? ›

Nearly 2 million years ago, the eastern flank of the Ko'olau volcano collapsed and slid into the sea, leaving the steep mountain range that we see today on the windward side.

What is the highest hike in Oahu? ›

The summit of Mount Kaala, Oahu's tallest peak, sits 4,010 feet above sea level on the northern most end of the island (oliver 95).

What is the famous hike in Hawaii? ›

The Kalalau Trail. Located on Kauai, this is arguably the most famous hike in Hawaii. Approximately twenty-two miles long roundtrip, the Kalalau Trail is particularly well known for its spectacular views of Na Pall Coast. Also, it is unique in that is the only possible way to access Kalalau Beach by land.

How long does it take to hike Lulumahu Falls? ›

1.5Mi/ 2.4km(1hr-2hr)

How difficult is Lulumahu Falls hike? ›

A pretty good hike, easy for the most part, if you're an avid hiker. Definitely wear shoes that you don't mind getting muddy or wet! Follow the all trails navigation but if you fine yourself lost, there are lots of trails that lead back to the main route so look for the ribbons on tree or follow the stream!

How long does Maunawili falls take? ›

The total distance of the in-and-out hike is 3.5 miles. You'll need to wear sturdy shoes with good traction, it can get muddy. Plan for about 2-3 hours or longer if you'd like to stay and enjoy the falls.

Is Maunawili Falls hike hard? ›

Get to know this 6.3-mile out-and-back trail near Kailua, Oahu. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes an average of 4 h 4 min to complete. This is a very popular area for hiking, so you'll likely encounter other people while exploring.

What is the most beautiful waterfall in Hawaii? ›

Waipoo Falls, Kauai. Akaka Falls, Big Island. Rainbow Falls, Big Island.

Can you hike Manoa Falls in flip flops? ›

Manoa Falls trail is well maintained, but you should be sure to wear sensible shoes nonetheless (don't be one of the goofballs attempting the hike in flip-flops/slippers/sandals!).

Can you go to Secret Beach in Oahu? ›

There is a secret island on Oahu and is part of the Kualoa Ranch tours. You can visit the secret island beach and do many of their jungle expedition tours as well.

What is the scariest hike in the world? ›

Kalalau Trail, Hawaii

A 22-mile “out and back” along the Na Pali Coast of Kauai, the Kalalau Trail isn't just Hawaii's most dangerous hike: It's one of the most lethal in the entire United States.

What is the hardest hike ever? ›

The Kalalau Trail is part of the Na Pali Coast State Wildness Park and it is considered one of the hardest hikes in the world.

Is Deadmans catwalk hard? ›

This is a perfect hike for people who wanted the postcard views without all the hard work. Most of the climb is done in your vehicle before arriving at the beginning of the trail. The hike began well above sea level, which is the reason why you could have such amazing views with only a short ascent.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Delena Feil

Last Updated: 10/10/2022

Views: 6284

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (45 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Delena Feil

Birthday: 1998-08-29

Address: 747 Lubowitz Run, Sidmouth, HI 90646-5543

Phone: +99513241752844

Job: Design Supervisor

Hobby: Digital arts, Lacemaking, Air sports, Running, Scouting, Shooting, Puzzles

Introduction: My name is Delena Feil, I am a clean, splendid, calm, fancy, jolly, bright, faithful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.