5 Kid Friendly Hikes on Oahu, Hawaii

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It does not seem that long ago my friends and I were able to pick up and go on an adventure in a blink of an eye, no strings attached. It’s hard for me to believe that time has escaped us. Although, I do not have my own children, it seems that all of my friends come with a child or two. If I want and show my wonderful home of Oahu, I have to be prepared for an adventure with at least one tiny human. I have become well versed on Oahu beginner, kid friendly hikes. Note, when I say kid friendly, I also mean young, old, out of shape, fit and furry family members.

Family Friendly Hikes on Oahu

Many articles will list both Diamond Head and Waimea Falls as two easy, kid friendly hikes, but I am leaving those two out. Although they are good for beginners, I stay away from those two because they are often overcrowded and it costs to either park or enter the trail. I am a big fan of free and less crowded.

#1 Kid Friendly Hike: Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

Family Friendly Hikes on Oahu

Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail is one of the easiest, most family-friendly hikes on Oahu. It’s not a traditional “hike” meaning that it is completely paved. This is what makes it so family friendly. Though, it is quiet the cardio adventure, with 1 mile of continual, gradual incline. It took me several trips up the trail before my I did not feel like my heart would beat out of my chest. The good news is there are many look-out points along the trail to take in the breathtaking views and rest. If you come during whale watching season (December-May), you may even get to catch a glimpse of a humpback whale or two. On clear days, you can see the island of Molokai as well.
The lookout point from the top has one of a kind views of the Windward side of the island. As stated above, I am not a fan of crowds, and it can get a bit crowded at times because it is so easy to complete. My favorite time to go is at sunrise. You feel like you can almost touch the sun as it comes over the horizon on this eastern point trail.
 

Taking Makapu’u to the Next Level Ability

For the more adventurous member of the family, there are two parts of the trail to take it to the next level of “Hawaii”. The first: 3/4 of the way up the trail, you can climb down to the tide pools. It can be dangerous and less ocean familiar tourists have been swept out during high tide. I only suggest those with more tide knowledge and fitness levels to take the trip down to the tide pools.

The second: Just to the left of the traditional lookout, there is a less trafficked trail up to an old military bunker, set atop a hill. It is not difficult to get to, and even moderately fit folks can make the trip up. Rarely have I seen anyone up there when I have been and the views are just a tiny bit better. What is not to love, less people, more views! Overall, Makapu’u is great for the whole family. It is an easy, beginner hiker type of trail.
 
Family Friendly Hikes on Oahu

Be sure to wear sunscreen and have lots of water. The trail has zero shade from start to finish and it gets very warm throughout most of the day.

Directions to Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail.

#2 Family Friendly Hike: Lanikai Pillbox

Lanikai is an iconic photo opportunity just waiting to happen. This easy, beginner hike has photo opportunities from start to finish. Though, it is one that is one the higher skill levels for family friendly. We have done with while carrying a child, but it may be a bit more difficult with a toddler. It is entirely doable, though. There are just a few small climbing parts to be aware of as you go on this hike.

Also, it is common for some to want to catch a sunset here. I do not suggest this. First, this hike is on the east side, and the sun sets in the west. There are far better sunset opportunities on this island. Also, it gets very dark, very quick. I once made this rookie mistake and thought for certain I was going to have to be rescued because I couldn’t see anything and lost the trail quickly. Again, go when there is plenty of light.

The trail is highly trafficked; therefore, it is easy to follow. You will find many families with all ages on this beginner hike. It is another sparsely shaded hike, so sunscreen and lots of water are needed. It is 1.2 miles round trip if you just make it to the first pillbox. This is where I have always stopped. Going farther is doable, but I wouldn’t risk it with the babies. The views are still amazing from the first pillbox.
 

Directions to Lanikai Pillbox Trail

Be sure not to leave valuables in your car, as this is street parking instead of a parking lot.

#3 Kid Friendly Hike: Judd Trail

Judd Trail is a pretty unique trail that lies somewhere between the Lanikai Pill Box and Makapu’u Lighthouse skill level. It is also one where most of the fun stuff happens in the very beginning. By this, I mean all freshwater pools are just a few steps into the easy, beginner hike. Some sites will say this is a waterfall hike; however, in my opinion those are not waterfalls. There quite a bit of length of rolling freshwater that acts as a fun spot for kids of all ages. It is important to note many water sources in Hawaii have Leptospirosis, which is a bacterial infection carried in the urine of animals. So it is important to not drink any of the water or get in with any open cuts or sores. You don’t want to catch any fevers and ruin your trip to paradise.

If you choose to do the actual hike, it is a child’s dream. There is most likely going to be mud everywhere. It is quite a mud bath. Be prepared. It is a 1.5 mile loop hike. There are a few inclines to get that cardio up, but overall, it is a very easy, kid friendly hike. Watch for the pink ribbons to indicate the trail direction.

This trail is completely shaded. I always suggest sunscreen and lots of water because you are still in Hawaii. Also, bring the bug spray. There are armies of critters that could take you away if you don’t come prepared.

Directions to Judd Trail.

Be sure not to leave valuables in your car, as this is street parking instead of a parking lot.

 

#4 Kid Friendly Hike: Manoa Falls

I know at the beginning I said I was not a fan of hikes that include any kind of cost; however, this family friendly hike does have a parking lot where you have to pay $5 if you want to start right at the trail head. If you don’t mind an easy walk .4 mile, you can find free residential area parking just after Waakaua Street. I promise this easy, family friendly hike is worth every penny if you choose to pay for parking.

From the very beginning of this easy hike, you will see why I love it so much. You feel like you have walked into Jurassic Park. It is real Hawaii Stuff. The scenery is breathtaking, from the greenery to the flowers. You feel like you have been transported into a whole new world. Once you get into the trail portion, it can get muddy. However, I have done this hike with someone wearing white shoes that came out clean as a whistle. I am not sure if he had super powers, or what, but I guess the mud is only a problem for some of us.

The incline is gradual and easily handled. If you can move your legs, you can make it up this trail. I have seen multigenerational families hiking this trail, having the time of their lives. Of course, the payout of this hike is a wonderful 100 foot waterfall that is a fantastic backdrop for photos. In total, the journey is just 2 miles round trip. It is an incredibly family friendly hike, and a trip that won’t let you down.

The majority of this hike is shaded, but there are a few open portions. Do not forget sunscreen. Also, bring plenty water! Bugs are plentiful here, so bring that bug spray for protection.

Directions to Moana Falls Parking.

 

#5 Kid Friendly Hike: Likeke Falls

I saved the best easy, kid friendly hike for the last: Likeke Falls. One day, I accidentally stumbled across this trail on the AllTrails App. I was skeptical since I had never heard of this trail, but I was pleasantly surprised. The drive up the H3 a stunning sight and the parking was plentiful and safe. This does not happen often on the island. It seemed too good to be true, but it only got better.

The trail head is easily seen from the parking lot of the Ko’olau Golf Course. It is very muddy from the beginning. You are greeted pretty quickly with a large tank covered in graffiti. From here, the trail is just to the left of this tank. The trail is marked throughout with colored tape and paint. The reviews stated it was easy to get lost, but I absolutely disagree, as the trail is very clear.

Again, be prepared for tons of mud. Luckily, it is mud that is easily washed off (but does stain red). There is a tiny incline, but I saw handfuls of very small children and a few women with babies in body carriers along the way. It is very safe for all ages and abilities. The defining part for being an easy, kid friendly hike is the length. It is a short 1/2 mile trek to get to the beautiful waterfall at the end. You can get very close to the falls. You can even splash around at the bottom. It is a beautiful hike that is fun for the whole family.

Directions to Likeke Falls. Be sure to bring the bug spray and towels for after the falls!

Finishing Thoughts

  1. Water is always a must when roaming this beautiful island. Even those easy, family friendly hikes need plenty of water to stay hydrated in this tropical climate. I highly suggest a hydroflask to not only stay ecofriendly, but also to keep ice cold water. I also suggest a day pack to carry all your necessities. My favorite, cheap bag (not waterproof) is made by Zomake. Mine has lasted many hikes and several years. It is well worth the cost. If you are willing to spend a few extra dollars and want a waterproof day pack, Madera Outdoors makes a great one AND they have a great business model to plant a tree with every purchase.
  2. Use sunscreen at all times. We are so close to the sun here on Oahu. It doesn’t take long for it to sneak up on you and turn you into a lobster. I have fallen victim several times. It is no fun at all!
  3. Be sure to not take anything from your hikes. Locals feel it is bad luck to take items from the natural world. Also, do not leave your trash out in nature. Remember, this is home to over a million people. We take pride in this tropical paradise.
  4. I have personally done all but the Judd Trail with a child in tow. We had an epic time… all of us. Although I did not do Judd Trail with a child of my own, I passed no less than 10 children having a ball. Also, I tend to have the clumsiness level of a baby giraffe starting to walk, so I am kind of like a large toddler. All these are verified, family friendly hikes.
  5. Enjoy yourself! You are in paradise.

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