Exploring the outdoors along with getting a great workout is one of my favorite things to do. After years of hiking all over California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii, I find myself searching for nature walks that are a bit more extreme or even just less populated with weekenders. On Hawaii, it’s virtually impossible to not stumble upon some form of hiking trail and experience unmatched natural beauty as well as thoroughly challenging treks, but on my recent visit, I decided to go a little further. Here are some of my favorite hikes that are a bit tough and require some planning, but are well worth the effort.
Crater Trail and Sliding Sands, Haleakala National Park, Maui
This isn’t your average walk with a water bottle and flip flops; this is the real deal. Taking the trek up to Maui’s highest point at the summit of Haleakala, the caldera of what may be the largest dormant volcano on earth, allows you explore the history of the mountain and witness cinder cones and lava flows. The basin is BIG – many people, myself included, choose to take a tent and spend a couple of days exploring the otherworldly, red rock terrain. Otherwise, the one-way, 11 mile Sliding Sands to Halemau’u route offers day trip opportunities.
Moanalua Valley Trail, Oahu
If you’ve already cut your teeth on Diamond Head, you’re probably ready to take on Moanalua Valley Trail. It’s relatively easy, but the intense climb at the end garners a little preparation on your part. With 22 stream crossings and sweeping views of the Moanalua Valley, it’s a different experience altogether.
Manoa Falls, Oahu
Tucked in the rainforest behind the bustle of Waikiki, the 100-foot cataract of Manoa Falls is one of my favorite places. Laden with heavy vegetation including ginger, ferns and a map of tree roots, the muddy jungle path is a sight to behold. Since all you can hear is the rustling of the foliage and tropical bird calls, it’s easy to forget that it’s conveniently located near a number of Oahu hotels and amenities. (One of my favorites to re-charge at is the Modern Honolulu.)
Na Pali Coast, Kaui
Not only is the Na Pali coast mind-blowingly beautiful, this hike has long been one of my favorites for the sheer variation of inclines and declines. It’s a veritable bucking bronco of 400’ up, 400’ down across some pretty muddy and slippery trails, making it a really challenging hike. Kaui’s heavy rainfall makes for some out-of- this world waterfalls and green valleys full of lush tropical flowers amid Hawaiian ruins. What’s great about the Na Pali coast hike is that you can make it whatever you want. Day hike from the trailhead at Ke’e Beach to Hanakapiai Beach for two miles and make it back to the hotel for a comfortable bed after your workout, or backpack and stay on the coast for 11 miles and camp at Kalalua beach. I’m still saving my energy and time up to do the full 22 miles!