Some things in life are transcendent, and hiking ranks exceptionally high. Did you know that Hanauma Bay has some spectacular hiking routes? Before you rush off to conquer the mountains of Hawaii, one of the most critical questions to answer before embarking on any hiking expedition is, “what is the hike’s distance?” So, how long is the Hanauma Bay hike?
There are three hiking trails in the Hanauma Bay region of Oahu, of varying distances. The Hanauma Bay Ridge hike is roughly 3.5 miles long, the Hanauma Bay Lookout route is 0.8 miles, and the Palea Point loop is 1.1 miles long. The lookout route is the official route and is open year-round.
The hiking trails within Hanauma bay are not particularly complicated or technical, but some are more intense than others. While planning your outing, the distance is not the only important factor; things like duration, incline, and the trail’s features all dictate what you need to take and what you should expect while hiking.
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Located on Oahu Island in the Hawaiian archipelago, the Hanauma Bay region is about 12.6 miles from Honolulu.
You will find all three of these hiking trails located near the Hanauma Bay nature preserve. This protected area, located within a volcanic cone, features fascinating wildlife, wildflowers, rock formations, and (in particular) marine life.
The bay was declared a protected area in 1967 due to the beautiful marine life and the need to protect it, and it is a popular tourist spot. The beach itself was voted the best in the USA in 2016.
Below we’ll investigate each of the three hiking trails in the bay area.
Trail length: 0.8 miles
Trail duration: approximately 27 minutes
Trail difficulty: easy
Trail elevation: 194 feet
Trail type: Out and back
Trail description: This well-used short hike features a variety of patrons, including families with children, nature enthusiasts, and beachgoers. Access to this trail is year-round, so pop in and have a look whenever you’re in the area.
The Hanauma Bay Lookout trail features a paved walkway to the lookout point. The elevation provides a fantastic view of the bay area, while the walk itself provides hikers with a myriad of wildlife and vegetation viewing on the hillside and beach.
The elevation is a bit steep in some places, but the view is more than rewarding for the effort.
Parking for this trail is at Hanauma Bay nature preserve parking, or if it fills up (there are many snorkelers), there is parking at Koko Head, just down the way.
The hike to the lookout is the official hike for Hanauma Bay.
Dogs are unfortunately not allowed on this trail, so leave your furry friends at home.
Trail length: 1.1 miles
Trail duration: approximately 35 minutes
Trail difficulty: easy
Trail elevation: 194 feet
Trail type: loop
Trail description: The Palea point loop goes in the opposite direction to the lookout trail but starts relatively close to it. This trail is/was a popular route with families, nature enthusiasts, and hikers in general.
This route ran through private property and was closed to the public on 27 September 2020.
Asking the landowners for permission to walk on their property is a feasible option. It is not recommended to trespass, as there are often severe repercussions.
If this route is not accessible on the day, the lookout route is still available.
Trail length: 4.2 miles (including the extension, otherwise the route is roughly 3.5 miles)
Trail duration: approximately 2.5 to 3 hours (extension), or 1 to 1.5 hours (shorter route)
Trail difficulty: hard (extension) or easy (shorter route)
Trail elevation: 1535 feet (extended route) or 500 feet (shorter route)
Trail type: loop (extension) or out and back (shorter route)
Trail description: The Hanauma Bay ridge trail is another dubious trail in terms of whether you are allowed to hike it or not. There are no signs saying “no entry,” but there is an access gate across the paved maintenance road that remains locked.
This gate primarily prevents cars, and many people have not experienced issues with the security guards at the entrance. Still, some people have reported receiving citations for accessing the route.
Please take care, and if you encounter security, then asking them if the route is available is recommended. If there are “keep out” signs, please respect and obey those.
This moderate trail is quite popular and consists of a shorter route up the maintenance road to the telephone poles on top of the ridge. While the view at the top is obscured by vegetation, the vista of the bay and of Koko head (the hill opposite the one you’ll be climbing) while hiking is exquisite.
Before you reach the ridge’s peak, the path branches off to the left. For the more adventurous sort, this route eventually leads to the Hanauma Bay stone bridge and a “secret” beach and then loops around the hillto climb up the other side.
The stone bridge is a naturally occurring phenomenon. Rock juts out from a point on the formation and bridges a gap to the cliffside over the ocean. Waves often break over this bridge, so care should be taken when accessing it as there have been some fatalities.
The trail along this extension is more complicated, as there is no paved route, and slippery rocks are common.
Some other helpful information concerning the Hanauma Bay area and its hikes include:
- Due to the Hanauma Bay area being an important marine conservation site, they established an education center in 2002 within the state park. Visitors can go there to find out more info on the area’s history, fauna, and flora.
- The area is also a popular snorkeling spot, so if you’re into adventures, other than hiking, popping down for a dip in the ocean and checking the marine life out is a great end to the hike.
If you’re not into snorkeling, heading down to the lovely beach after the hike is still a great way to cool off (be advised, there is an entrance tariff for the park).
- Although not as spectacular in its scenery as the Ridge hike, the Hanauma bay lookout hike is the official route in the area. We highly recommend using this route if you experience any issues with the other two trails or they don’t grant you access to the hiking trails.
- All three of these routes are relatively unshaded, so wearing a hat and sunblock is preferable.
- With any hike, the correct attire is critical, so make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and dress appropriately for the weather.
- When hiking anywhere, make sure you take enough water.
The three hiking trails at Hanauma Bay vary from 0.8 miles to roughly 4.5 miles. These routes are all relatively easy, but the lookout route is the only official one. Please take care not to walk on the other two trails in the area illegally. Make sure to wear a hat and other appropriate clothing when hiking, and bring enough water.