Hawaii has some of the best hiking in the world! We are sharing helpful tips for hiking in Hawaii to prepare for your trip and conquer every Hawaii hike on your bucket list! Additionally, we are sharing what makes hiking in Hawaii unique and how we find incredible hikes all over Hawaii.
The lush green mountains and ever changing vegetation surrounded by the endless blue ocean makes for views that will leave you in awe every time. However, the unique Hawaiian climate makes hiking in Hawaii challenging and a different experience than other places you have probably hiked. Coming from rather experienced hikers that have hiked all over the world, hiking on Kauai, Maui and Oahu really challenged us. To help you prepare, here is everything you need to know about hiking in Hawaii and our top 11 tips for hiking in Hawaii for fun and safety.
What makes hiking in Hawaii unique?
Hawaii is one of the most ecologically diverse places in the entire world! It has 10 out of the 14 microclimates meaning on a single hike you might go from extremely wet monsoon conditions, to extremely dry desert conditions. There are even tundra like conditions in Hawaii! Yes, it’s true! If you’re up for it, tundra like conditions can be found at the top of Haleakala volcano.
Before hiking in Hawaii it’s important to know many hiking trails there can be very dangerous if certain precautions aren’t taken. Some trails follow a skinny ridge line with steep drop offs on both sides. Others take you down washed out trails that are extremely slippery. Some lead you down a trail that has both – a slippery trail with steep drop offs on both sides.
It’s important to consider your skill level when hiking here to stay safe on your Hawaii trip. When hiking in Hawaii prepare to come across situations and conditions like you never have before.
11 Tips For Hiking in Hawaii
To help you have a fun and safe trip, here are 11 tips for hiking in Hawaii.
It will take longer than you think
You may look up a hike and think “oh just a short 3 miler, I’ll bang that out in an hour, watch the sunset and be in bed by 9pm.” Many Hawaii hikes require a much slower pace than you might be used to. The trail might be wet and slippery or extremely steep. You might be caught ducking under trees and watching every step to avoid tree roots or wobbly rocks. Hiking in Hawaii is going to take longer than you think. Allow yourself extra time to complete the hike so you aren’t stressed about making it to the next thing on your itinerary.
Moderate= hard, difficult = impossible
When you are researching what hikes you want to do, you may see hikes ranked as easy, moderate and difficult if you are using something like the All Trails App. We are here to warn you that moderate actually means hard and difficult means nearly impossible. If you are looking for a challenge, the difficult hikes are sure to deliver. We are pretty frequent hikers and we think some Hawaii hikes are some of the sketchiest hikes we’ve ever done. Before you start a hike read reviews about it to know what you are getting in to. If you’re ever uncomfortable throughout the hike don’t feel bad about turning around early.
Ridge trails are usually steep with drop offs on both sides
Again, this is something to keep in mind when you are researching hikes and marking hikes you want to do on your trip. If the hike name has “ridge” in it, that typically means you will be hiking on a narrow strip of land with 100 foot drop offs on both sides of you at some point to get to the end. If you are afraid of heights, these specific hikes are probably not for you.
It will probably rain
Remember those microclimates? Well, because of them there is a good chance you will get rained on at some point during your hike. I think I’ve mentioned how muddy and slippery the hiking trails typically are and that doesn’t just happen on its own. In one hike it might be sprinkling one minute, clear sunny skies the next and absolutely pouring the next. I wish I was kidding!! It would be smart to throw a rain jacket in your hiking pack or even a small umbrella.
Consider wearing long pants
Some trails are very narrow and have lots of bushes surrounding it. These bushes can scratch up your legs pretty badly. If you’re worried about this, some long pants are an easy solution. Of course breathable pants are better since you’ll most likely be hot and sweaty or wet from rain.
Use good hiking shoes
With Hawaii’s unpredictable trails it’s very important to have good hiking shoes that have a lot of support and tread on the bottom. A lot of the trails are very slippery or extremely uneven with tree roots covering the ground. Trails are often wet. A good waterproof hiking shoe or hiking sandal for easier hikes are the way to go.
Bring a change of shoes
While we are on the topic of shoes, pack an extra pair of shoes to change into once you are done hiking. The shoes you wore hiking are most likely covered in mud or very dirty. Having a pair to switch into will feel so good and stop you from tracking mud everywhere you go.
Consider using hiking poles
Even if you don’t typically use hiking poles, Hawaii is a place you might want to consider using them. Hiking in Hawaii can get very dangerous when you are hiking steep slippery trails with 100 foot drop offs on each side of you. Hiking poles can help provide stabilization while conquering the harder hikes.
Don’t forget sun protection
I don’t think this will come as a shocker, but Hawaii’s sun is harsh and many trails are exposed with no shade. Pack all the essentials to protect yourself from the sun including a hat, sunglasses, and reef friendly sunscreen (because you never know when you’re going to jump into the ocean) so you are prepared for any hiking conditions.
Bring lots of water
Hawaii is hot and the sun is fierce. A lot of trails even have heat stroke warnings written on a sign at the trailhead. I know it’s important to keep your hiking pack light but water isn’t the area you want to skimp on. Plus it will lighten your load as you drink it. Using some type of water bladder is a great way to pack a lot of water and easily drink it without having to take your backpack off and dig through your bag.
Wear moisture wicking clothing
When you’re packing for your Hawaii trip make sure moisture wicking activewear is on your list if you plan on hiking. I know you’re in a beautiful place and you want to wear the cutest outfits or bikinis but having proper hiking clothes is key for this climate. If you aren’t dripping sweat, you are probably getting rained (or poured) on. Moisture wicking clothes are the best for drying quickly and keeping you cool and comfortable.
How to find hikes in Hawaii
With lots of practice, we feel like we’re pretty good at finding hikes. Here are the tools we typically use to make our list of hikes we want to do at our destination.
Instagram – Use the search feature to search your destination location and save photos of hikes you want to do. Locations are not always shared so this technique sometimes requires more hunting but it’s a great place to start and get inspired and excited about your upcoming trip.
All trails – This app is great for finding hikes near you, seeing the hike information, and reading reviews.
Pinterest – Simply search best hikes in (insert destination) and you will find a lot of pins that link to blogs that are full of great information.
Google – Using google to search for the best hikes in your destination works too, but I’m always annoyed by the random tourist websites that pop up first. If you use the google technique scroll down until you find a blog to read. These are full of much more information, photos and real reviews.
That is everything you need to know and you are now prepared for hiking in Hawaii! Enjoy this incredible destination and the beautiful hiking that comes with it. Hawaii is full of adventure! It’s just waiting for your arrival!
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