Sam (5 1/2) and Ben (26 months) on Hau'ula Loop Trail (July 2010).

Sam (5 1/2) and Ben (26 months) on Hau’ula Loop Trail (July 2010).

My goal for Outdoor Ohana is to collect the information you need about trails and gear and provide a resource you can trust. I want you and your little hikers to have a great time outdoors! Check the links to your right for recent trip reports. Keep in mind that hiking always bears some inherent risk, especially when you have young kids depending on you. Please hike responsibly and be aware of weather conditions and how they may affect trail conditions (i.e., rain means mud and slippery roots/mosquitoes while hot, dry weather means hard, ball-bearing dirt and potential for dehydration on an exposed trail).

Family-friendly hikes are listed in the blue box below. Here are my criteria for a family-friendly hike:
Good shade
Low treachery
Good lunch spot
Good exercise

Below you will find a list of HAWAII hikes ranked from easiest to most challenging. Each is amenable to family hiking. If you are not in the shape you’d like to be, or your child is not accustomed to hiking, you will want to start at the top (flatter, shorter hikes) and work your way to the more challenging hikes. My kids have been hiking since they could walk, so generally speaking they hike as many miles as they are old. (This means they are generally quite a bit more fit on the trail than their peers, so be patient if your little one is just starting out. “Bring the horse back to the barn wanting more,” my track coach always said.) Remember that any outdoors adventure requires good judgment based on the conditions of the trail, which can change after storm damage or heavy rain (check the trail condition or trip report links to see if anyone has provided an update). Here are some items I always have in my pack:

  • water, food, quick snacks
  • first aid, insect repellent, sunscreen
  • rain jackets – almost always but for sure in winter (Oct-Apr)

whistle for child and parent, signal mirror, compass, cell phone (always let someone know which trail you’re hiking and your anticipated start/end times)Enjoy time in the outdoors with your ohana! (And check my CafePress site for buttons for your little peakbaggers! Not all trails have buttons yet, so feel free to contribute your artwork for any missing buttons and I’ll make one!)

  1. Foster Botanical Gardens, Honolulu Wonderful city-center park with huge trees, a conservatory and even a butterfly garden. Very accessible for the whole family – preschooler to tutu visiting for the holidays.
  2. Judd Memorial Trail, Nuuanu Great 1 mile hike with only 250′ elevation gain, just off Nuuanu Pali Dr. This shady loop hike includes a large pool and stream. A side trip just up the road from the trailhead includes a bamboo forest walk to King Kamehameha III’s summer palace.
  3. Kuliou’ou Valley Trail, Hawaii Kai Enchanting 1.5 mile walk along a stream bed. Good for kids of all ages who can handle the usual slippery roots and rocks. For a mixed party with a wide variety of abilities, grown-ups would enjoy branching off to do Kuliou’ou Ridge (5 miles roundtrip with 1800′ elevation gain to the Ko’olau Summit and its commanding views).
  4. Pu’u Ohia, Tantalus Great 1.5 mile walk through a bamboo forest on a gentle grade. Mt. Tantalus summit.
  5. Pu’u Ualaka’a This 1.7 mile shaded forest loop starts out with a great overlook where you can see Honolulu, Waikiki and Diamond Head. Then head into the forest and smell eucalyptus! Shaded, gentle grade.
  6. Likeke Falls, Kaneohe Wonderful, shady, 1.7 mile (roundtrip) hike up a gradual grade to a waterfall and a view of Kaneohe Bay.
  7. Waimano Valley, Pearl City Beautiful and interesting 2-mile hike along a stream then back up along a valley ridge. Footing could be challenging – see notes for full description.
  8. Pu’u Pia, Manoa Valley Great 2.4 mile (roundtrip) hike for kids! Shady 90% of the way, good lunch spot, no treachery! Beautiful views of Manoa Valley from the summit. Also a great vantage point to see Honolulu and the ocean beyond. Highly recommended.
  9. Bellows Loop Trail, Waimanalo – Great hike for families! This 2.8 mile trail is stroller/hiker/biker/jogger friendly with good shade for about half of the trail. No elevation gain. Playground and snack bar at the Registration building. This is a military base, however, so it is closed to the general public.
  10. Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens, Kaneohe – lots of shady trails among collections of plants from other Pacific islands.
  11. Friendship Garden, Kaneohe – this is a great hike to do with a little one, either in a carrier or hiking by your side. The trail is comprised of two small loops, about 1 mile total distance. It is shaded and there is a little covered picnic spot and a garden, along with great views of K-bay. Map, links and directions provided at the link above.
  12. Makapuu Lighthouse, Hawaii Kai – paved trail 1.5 mi one way up a gradual incline. Stroller-friendly. Good for whale watching in the winter months. Totally exposed, windy, potentially hot.
  13. Manoa Falls, University area – This shady hike to a waterfall is about 2 miles roundtrip with very moderate elevation gain. This is doable for kids but caution needs to be exerted near streams and over roots, boulders, etc. as with any hike.
  14. Hau’ula Loop Trail This 2.7 mile shady hike provides 600 ft of elevation gain at the beginning of the lollipop route, some scenic views of the windward beach and lush forests. Great hike for families with kids of all ages.
  15. Waimea Falls, North Shore – This hike is paved, and about 3 miles roundtrip, slight elevation gain. It’s run by the Audobon Society so there is an admission fee. It’s beautiful and easy for families. Stroller-friendly. (Tel. 808/638-9199)
  16. Waihe’e Falls, Kahalu’u This gentle, 3.6 mile (roundtrip) hike takes you to the base of a large waterfall set deep in the Waihe’e Valley. Gravel road the whole way, about 500 ft elevation gain. Good for the whole family if you have avid walkers or pack-riders. Gravel road is stroller-friendly until you get to the steeper sections along the second half of the trail to the falls.
  17. Maunawili Demonstration Trail, Pali Hwy – relatively level hike that hugs the Ko’olau Mountains from the Pali to Waimanalo. Go as far as you want and turn back. Great views offered along the way, and a connector trail to the Maunawili falls (0.7 miles long) can be found 3 mi into the trail from the Pali trailhead.
  18. Aiea Loop Trail – This 5 mi loop trail can be pretty challenging due to erosion, which has caused narrow trails and steep drop-offs to the side. Use caution and keep a close eye on kids – don’t let them go charging out ahead. Not recommended for young kids. Best age 10+ and trustworthy.
  19. Lanikai Pill Box – This hike is a bit more challenging to do with a child, but possible. It is about 3 miles total length if you do the entire loop, or about 1 mile total if you just head up to the second bunker and back. The footing is slippery at first (ropes are in place now) and the ascent is steep (500′ in 0.25 mi). See full write-up at link above for detailed review and directions to the trail head.
  20. Kuliou’ou Ridge, Hawaii Kai – 5 miles roundtrip with 1800′ elevation gain to sweeping views of the windward side. The first half is shady and has well-graded switchbacks to lessen the impact of the rapid elevation gain. The second half to the summit is exposed, slippery in some areas, has stairs and is narrow. No room to play at the summit!

Let me know if you have other suggestions that meet my “choosy mom” criteria!

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