The Aiea Loop Trail is one of my favorite hikes for a quick morning immersion in nature and workout. Taking most people just over two hours, it’s a perfect way to get in some exercise and enjoy an abundance of beautiful native plants and lush scenery. This 8km loop hike runs along the west side of Hālawa Valley and gives constant some seriously stunning views of the H3 Freeway as it slices through the mountain range.
HIKING THE AIEA LOOP TRAIL
IIn this blog post, I will share with you all of the details you need in order to enjoy this hike such as distance, incline, best viewpoints along the way, where to park, the best time of day, photo opportunities, and other attractions nearby.
AIEA LOOP TRAIL KEY DETAILS
- Hike Distance: The total distance of the hike is 8km or 5 miles for the entire loop.
- Hike Duration: The hike will likely take you just over 2 hours.
- Hike Incline: Total incline for the hike was 1250ft or 320 meters when starting all the way from the Koko Head parking lot.
- Hike Difficulty: This hike is one of the easier hikes on the island of Oahu due to the relatively soft incline spread out over 8km. Compared to many of the intense and wild hikes on Oahu, this is one for families and all levels of fitness with the easy-to-follow path.
AIEA LOOP TRAIL HOURS
The opening hours of the Aiea Loop Trail are 7 am to 6:45. There are signs advising not to start the loop trail any time after 4 pm as this would mean you are likely to be inside the park after finishing time. I started at 9 am and it was quite pleasant during the early morning although by around 10 am in the latter parts of the loop, the sun did start to have some sting about it.
AIEA LOOP TRAIL DIRECTIONS
Aiea Loop is about a 30-minute drive out west of Waikiki. For a fair chunk of that time, you will be on the H201 Highway before exiting and winding your way up into the forest to begin the hike. Once arriving at the top parking lot, you will find signs indicating the start of the trail next to the toilet facilities. I advise doing the trail in a counter-clockwise direction as the viewpoints came just after halfway. By that time, I had enjoyed the dense nature of the forest and finished with the viewpoints for a rest break every kilometer or so.
The official address of the trailhead is: 99-1849 ‘Aiea Heights Drive, ‘Aiea
I’ve also pinned it on the Google Map below so you have easy access to the Aiea Loop Directions.
AIEA LOOP TRAIL PARKING LOT
There was so much parking at the Aiea Loop Trailhead I was a bit surprised. I think I counted five different individual parking lots all with picnic tables, toilet facilities, and shaded areas. I parked at the first one and walked up through the rest but you can drive all the way to the top parking lot and start the trail from there. I went on a weekday and it wasn’t busy but I’m sure on the weekend this is a hotspot for hikers outside of the city so it could get crowded.
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MY EXPERIENCE HIKING THE AIEA LOOP TRAIL
The Aiea Loop Trail isn’t among the top few hikes on the island for tourists or visitors. However, it is hugely popular among locals who enjoy the moderate length and incline throughout this peaceful and relaxing loop.
I set off from Waikiki and enjoyed a quiet, solo drive out to the trailhead. It was a weekday so parking wasn’t a problem. However, I didn’t know there were five tiers of parking lots so chose the first and lowest. This meant I gave myself some extra distance and incline on my route.
I decided to start the loop in a counter-clockwise direction. This was due to recommendations that the loop is more enjoyable in this direction. The main reasoning was that the viewpoints are clustered on one half of the route and it’s better to reach them in the second part of your journey and use them as rest breaks. After having done the hike, the direction is not important but counter-clockwise would be a good call.
Depending on which parking lot or which direction you start the trail will determine what your actual trailhead looks like but there are signs everywhere and the trail was quite clear in my opinion. I headed off down a flight of stairs from the second parking lot and then off into the forest after passing through one of the many picnic sites in the area.
The Aiea Loop Trail is renowned for being quite muddy after rain. I found myself on the hike as it was lightly raining although the days prior were relatively dry. Even then, the path was quite muddy and slippery. This one shouldn’t be attempted in wet weather unless you want a muddy, slippery time.
Tree tunnels and dense foliage created a relaxing atmosphere as the trail began to ease me into the journey. Winding on the muddy path, I couldn’t help but to stop and take in the smaller details of native plants, intertwined roots, and beads of rain falling off tropical leaves. It’s a classic Oahu trail with spectacular scenery.
Along this trail, you can expect to pass by a range of species such as Lemon Eucalyptus Trees, Norfolk Pines, and even native Koa Trees.
HAWAII HIKING PACKING LIST
Many people come unprepared for hiking on Oahu and that’s why there are so many rescues. Make sure you at least have the basics and you will be prepared for bad weather or any mishaps on the trail. A headlamp, rain jacket, and good hiking boots or shoes are the three main pieces of gear you need. Below are my four Hawaii hiking essentials.
- Arcteryx BETA AR Rain Jacket: This is my go-to rain jacket. It’s super light, folds down into a tiny ball, and protects brilliantly in a storm. This one never leaves my backpack.
- Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots: For the best ankle support, waterproofing, and durable exterior I’m a fan of tough but light hiking boots like these Salomons for my adventures.
- Black Diamond Head Torch: I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve arrived back from a hike unexpectedly late. I always keep this lightweight but strong headtorch in my bag for the unexpected.
- Darn Tough Socks: These are the most comfortable hiking socks I’ve ever worn and last for years. They also have a lifetime warranty and you just send them in with a hole and they replace it no questions asked.
Something I wasn’t expecting and had never seen before on Oahu, was a circular tree. Halfway through the hike, there is a slightly worn path on the inside of the trail that runs for a few yards leading up to this uniquely formed tree. I caught it out of the corner of my eye and went down for a closer look.
As the trail passed the halfway mark, the path became less muddy and opened up a little, more sunlight was creeping through and I was nearing my first glimpse from one of the many viewpoints.
While the Aiea Loop Trail isn’t known for expansive views or epic drop-offs like many hikes on Oahu, it does have a specific view it’s famous for. From several viewpoints, you have incredible views of the H3 highway. While a highway might not sound that exciting, keep in mind this is a tropical island with a ridge running down the center. The H3 literally pierces through the mountains to help motorists transit from one side of the island to the other.
The view from above is truly amazing as the highway just disappears into a sea of green. These are a few of the shots I took from some of the viewpoints along the way. Keep in mind, you need to do small 1-2 minute detours from the main track to see the view. Just be curious and explore any small path that you see.
The final point of interest on this hike for me was running into a female pig near the end of the trail. She was just chilling and came right past me without a panic. They can be aggressive and probably won’t react well to dogs so do be careful and keep your dog leashed at all times on this track.
That was the end of the route for me as I headed back to my car. I hope you enjoyed the photos and this guide to the Aiea Loop Trail. Happy hiking guys!
TIPS FOR THE AIEA LOOP TRAIL
- This is an awesome trail running route with steady incline but probably best for dry days when it’s not muddy.
- If it’s been raining, maybe give it a miss unless you want a very muddy path.
- Despite this being labeled an easy hike, it is still 8km (5 miles) in length and can catch some people out. Quick hikers will take two hours, moderate hikers will take just under three.
- Dogs are allowed on this trail but keep them close as I met a wild boar.
THE FOUR MOST POPULAR OAHU TOURS
- Doors-Off Oahu Helicopter Flight Tour: My number one recommendation is to do a heli-flight (doors off) and be blown away when you see Oahu from the air.
- North Shore Shark Cage Tour: The biggest adrenaline rush you can have in Hawaii is beneath the surface with sharks!
- Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Tour: One of the best experiences I had on Oahu was swimming with the beautiful spinner dolphins on this exact tour.
- Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran: The number 1 MOST POPULAR snorkel tour on Oahu. GUARANTEED Turtles!
WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU
- Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort (Overall Favorite): In the heart of Waikiki, this high-end resort is right on the beach with a private lagoon.
- Sheraton Waikiki (Luxury): A luxury resort with the most amazing infinity pool on the island, which overlooks the beach.
- Ewa Hotel Waikiki: (Value): Ewa Hotel is just one block back from the beach and is just over $150 USD.
- Waikiki Beachside Hostel (Budget Choice): A budget alternative, which is still in an amazing location.
- Disney Aulani Resort (Family Choice): This is a resort your kids will never forget. It honestly feels like you are living in a theme park.
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I lived on Oahu for two years and loved adventuring from the beaches to the mountains to the waterfalls! These are my most popular blog post and guides from the beautiful island of Oahu to help you plan your trip!
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