The Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail hike on Oahu is a rugged adventure onto the spine of the island. The 7.6km out-and-back route has almost 500 meters of elevations as you wind up a series of stairways and forest paths to reach the Koolau Summit Trail.
WILIWILINUI RIDGE TRAIL HIKE
WILIWILINUI RIDGE TRAIL DETAILS
- Hike Distance: The total distance of the hike is 7.6km.
- Hike Duration: The hike will take you about 2-3 hours up and down.
- Hike Incline: Total incline for the hike was 493 meters.
- Hike Difficulty: This hike is one of the more moderate hikes on the island of Oahu due to the medium level of incline and safe approach to the spine of the island. Compared to many of the intense and wild hikes on Oahu, this is one for those with basic hiking experience.
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!
HOW TO GET TO THE WILIWILINUI RIDGE HIKE TRAILHEAD
This hike is a bit hard to get started on but not impossible. The trailhead is in a gated community, Waialae Iki. There is a guardhouse where the guard will write down your license plate number and give you a parking pass. There are a limited number of passes. This trail starts out on a paved road which eventually turns into a dirt track. If you are having problems, just park outside and walk through the gated community, and put in the extra mileage.
I’ve pinned the trailhead located on the map below.
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MY EXPERIENCE HIKING THE WILIWILINUI RIDGE TRAIL
Standing at the summit of the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail hike, I can make out Waikiki, a city of white buildings seemingly a world away from the ridges we are roaming. I spin around to see the turquoise water of the east coast and the panoramic views make me feel like I am at the center of this beautiful island.
However, the morning began slowly when the guard told us the Wiliwilinui Ridge trail wouldn’t open until sunrise. After waiting for over an hour for the sun to come up, he allowed us to enter. However, no mopeds or motorbikes are allowed in the guarded community situated below the hike, which meant we had to walk an extra mile to reach the trailhead.
This situation seems to change every year and I always find it quite annoying when people or communities feel they have the right to be the gatekeepers to nature that doesn’t belong to them whatsoever.
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.
Despite the delayed start and the added warm-up, our spirits were high and each step was full of anticipation. Reaching the trailhead, we were surprised at how well the trail was maintained. The Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail hike began with a road rather than a trail, but the canopy of trees and a thick covering of soft and pulpy dead leaves along the ground gave the wide, open space an eerie atmosphere.
After less than twenty minutes our shoes were covered in mud, the hike had turned into a marbled dirt path surrounded on either side by ironwood trees. This region of the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail hike lasted for about 40 minutes. There were a few parts where we would get a peek through the trees but that was only a little teaser of the view that was to come.
The trail wound around a bend and opened up into a clearing with a swing hanging from one of the trees! Of course, we both had to have a go on the swing.
A muddy set of stairs awaited us at the other edge of the clearing and lead up to the final climb. The plastic stairs installed into the trail were definitely helpful but there were also many areas where there were not any stairs and instead just a rope to help you drag yourself up.
We were treated to views of the valleys at almost every landing during this period of the hike up. After reaching the relay station tower, it’s just a short trail along the ridge to a small room-sized clearing with a lone bench, which concluded the Wiliwilinui Ridge Hike.
If you sit on the bench, you are overlooking Kailua and Lanikai and if you turn back in the direction you came, you can see Waikiki, Koko Crater, and Diamond Head. This is a great place to pull out a snack and enjoy the view. Watch out though, it is a bit windy.
After finishing up our snacks we quickly realized the way down is even more slippery than the way up. We slid our way down the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail trying to stay upright while enjoying the views of the valley.
Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail hike is a beautiful adventure that offers amazing views, provides an imposing, isolated atmosphere, and is one of the least crowded hikes on Oahu. The incline is worth the feeling of peace you will find as you sit atop a ridge overlooking everything that has been created below you.
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.
MORE OAHU BLOG POSTS
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!
- What to pack for Hawaii: THE HAWAII PACKING LIST: WHAT TO PACK
- A helpful guide to choosing accommodation: WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU
- Most epic hike on Oahu: THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN OAHU, HAWAII
- The best Waterfalls: AMAZING WATERFALLS ON OAHU, HAWAII
- Ultimate Cliff Jumping Guide: 11 BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS ON OAHU
- Guide to Swimming with Sea Turtles: WHERE TO SEE TURTLES ON OAHU
- The best Waterfall Hikes: TOP WATERFALL HIKES ON OAHU
- Best Tours: 20 BEST TOURS ON OAHU
- The Ultimate Guide to Oahu: 80 AWESOME THINGS TO DO ON OAHU
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