Skip to Content

WILIWILINUI RIDGE TRAIL HIKE ON OAHU, HAWAII

WILIWILINUI RIDGE TRAIL HIKE ON OAHU, HAWAII

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.
oahu hikes waterfalls amazing view

THE FOUR MOST POPULAR OAHU TOURS

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.

 

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.

oahu hikes waterfalls amazing view

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.

oahu hikes waterfalls amazing view

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.

What are my favorite pieces of hiking gear?

There are four pieces of gear that I simply never forget when I go on a hike. These are four items that I using right now and this list gets updated every year! Here are my 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.

oahu hikes waterfalls amazing view

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.

oahu hikes waterfalls amazing view

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.

oahu hikes waterfalls amazing view

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.

oahu hikes waterfalls amazing view

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!

HOLD UP! Are you sure you’re ready to start hiking and traveling? GET INSURED FIRST!

If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Don’t wait for an accident to happen, Get insured. I fractured an ankle halfway through a multi-day trek and had THOUSANDS covered by through insurance claim.

I’ve been using World Nomads and SafetyWing for the past 6 years. I’ve made successful claims with both and found them professional, helpful, and reliable but most importantly.. cheap! I trust them both. World Nomads is great for travel up to two months and SafetyWing is perfect for long-term travel.

To find out why I choose World Nomads and SafetyWing, check out my review: Best (Cheap) Travel Insurance or get a quote below.

Rian

Monday 21st of January 2019

great write-up, thanks! :)

Thursday 11th of October 2018

Why are there no directions on how to get to these hikes?

Mervi Aho

Thursday 15th of November 2018

All trails app

Jordan

Thursday 19th of April 2018

do you know about how many miles this hike is and the Ka'au crater hike? My fiancé and I are going to be in Oahu for a day or two for our honeymoon and would love to do one of these! Is it safe to do without a group? I'd rather us just find the trail and do it alone if possible.

Thanks!

David Simone

Friday 1st of March 2019

This hike (low intermediate difficulty) is fine to do without a group but I have hiked Ka'au (intermediate to difficult) and I would not do that hike without a person who has done it before.