Hiking is one of the best ways to enjoy your free time and a fantastic way to start your day.
Sunrise hikes on Oahu are great because they offer a unique experience that you won’t find during other times of the day. It isn’t just about seeing the sunrise in all its glory; it’s also about being able to see the world around you as it wakes up from its peaceful slumber.
You’ll see nature and wildlife waking up for their morning routines and hear sounds that aren’t audible at any other time of day. This makes sunrise hiking an exciting adventure!
This list of top 5 sunrise hikes on Oahu will help guide you through some of Oahu’s most popular trails with stunning views so that you can make sure to get out there and take in nature’s beauty!
Our picks for Oahu’s top five sunrise hikes are Lanikai Pillbox, Makapu’u Trail, Koko Head, Sandy Beach, and Kualoa Beach. Note: The last two options are technically not hikes, but they deserve a spot on this list as bonus options.
Pro Tip: Make sure to check the weather before heading out on a sunrise hike. If it’s cloudy or rainy, you won’t see much besides the clouds, and it could lead to a disappointing experience. Trust me, I have been there multiple times, and it isn’t ideal. Try to pick the clearest day to increase your chances of seeing the best sunrise.
Before we begin, let’s answer some FAQs.
Oahu Sunrise Hikes: Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe to hike before sunrise?
Yes. Generally speaking, Oahu is pretty safe. As always, be aware of your surroundings and take necessary precautions like bringing a hiking buddy and telling someone where you’re going. Be sure to bring a flashlight as it will be dark when you start your hike. Be sure not to leave any valuables in your car to prevent car break-ins.
Why is hiking at sunrise popular?
Sunrise hikes are popular because it’s a great time of day to take advantage of Hawaii’s beautiful weather, view rare wildlife activities & scenery, and get a lot done without other people in your way. It’s also one of the best times of day to take pictures. So head on out and get that perfect golden hour shot!
What time should I leave for the sunrise hike?
This will depend on the day and time of year you visit Oahu. The best thing to do is to check when the sun is supposed to rise and estimate the time based on how long it will take you to get there, as well as how long it will take to hike to the sunrise viewing spot.
You can check this website to get an idea of when the sun will rise.
Sunrise hikes start early in the morning, so make sure you leave yourself enough time to get there and to enjoy your hike.
I always allow myself an additional 15-20 minutes once I get to the top to relax and enjoy the quietness before the sun comes out.
This allows me to enjoy the hike’s surroundings and allows me to get more quality pictures.
What should I bring on a sunrise hike?
Here are some essential items you need to bring:
Water: It should go without saying that you need to be hydrated before you take on such an adventure. Make sure to bring enough water for the hike. I can’t say this enough, but you should not hike without water.
Snacks: Bring something light like trail mix or fruit; this will help give you some energy throughout your hike. It’s always nice to have a little something in your stomach to give you some fuel for the hike.
Backpack: A backpack is essential because it will hold all of your things, and you’ll have both hands free to help with your balance. Make sure to pick a good quality pack so that it can carry what you need and last for years.
Flashlight or Headlamp: It’s always wise to bring a flashlight or headlamp on a sunrise hike. This is a safety precaution that’s highly recommended.
Wear Proper Hiking Shoes for Hawaii: The type of shoes you’ll want to wear will depend on the hike. I don’t recommend wearing flip-flops to any of these hikes unless it’s one of the bonus options mentioned towards the end of this article. Check out the article above to learn more about the types of hiking shoes you will need while in Oahu.
Now that we have discussed some FAQs let’s dive into what you came here for, after all.
I will only be discussing LEGAL hikes in this post. I will not be discussing the famous ILLEGAL sunrise hikes, such as the Stairway to Heaven, Crouching Lion, or the Tom Tom Trail.
I will try my best to update the post with new information in case a hike that’s not on this list (because it’s illegal) somehow becomes LEGAL again, and vice-versa.
The Top 3 Sunrise Hikes on Oahu
1) Lanikai Pillbox (Kaiwa Ridge Trail)
If you have been reading any of my Oahu posts, you know why I love the Lanikai Pillbox.
The trail to the pillbox starts out very steep, but I promise you that once you make it through the first steep hill, the rest of it is a piece of cake.
The hike will lead you to two pillboxes with astonishing views all around. You will be rewarded with views of Lanikai and Kailua Beaches, the Mokolua Islands, and the east side of Oahu.
It should take you about 20-30 minutes to get to the first pillbox, and this one is my personal favorite. I usually give myself 45 minutes to get to the top to relax once I get there.
The sunrises here are stunning and beautiful; you will not be disappointed! You will get to see the sunrise from the two twin islands (Mokolua Islands).
Note: Parking here is usually tricky as you park in a residential neighborhood. You hopefully won’t have difficulty finding parking though, since you will be getting there early for the sunrise.
Please follow proper parking protocols to avoid getting ticketed. We somehow managed to get a ticket here during a sunrise hike on our first-ever trip to Oahu, but now we know better; MAKE SURE THAT IF YOU PARK ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE ROAD, YOUR VEHICLE IS FACING IN THE SAME DIRECTION AS TRAFFIC FLOWS, AND NOT FACING BACKWARDS.
2) Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
The Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail is another one of my favorite easy hikes on Oahu. This sunrise hike will lead you to some pretty incredible views of the southeastern coastline of Oahu.
The trail is paved all the way and very well-maintained. The sunrises here are just spectacular, and the hike is perfect for everyone, including beginners and families with young children.
You will be able to capture gorgeous views of Koko Head and Koko Crater, the Makapu’u Lighthouse, and stunning views of the windward coast and offshore islets.
If you are lucky, you might even see the islands of Molokai and Lanai on a clear day.
3) Koko Head
The Koko Head sunrise hike is another one of my favorite hikes on Oahu. This hike is the most challenging (about 1,048 steps to get to the top) on this list, and it’s not for the faint-hearted.
The sunrise views are just incredible and completely worth the steep hike. There are no words to describe what you will see. The rugged coastline, the stunning views of Honolulu, Hanauma Bay, Sandy Beach, and even Diamond Head all make for one memorable sunrise hike.
If you want to challenge yourself and have a great time, this hike is for you. As mentioned before, the hike up the stairs can be pretty strenuous depending on your fitness level. Make sure to assess your fitness level before embarking on this journey.
The following two sunrise spots are bonus options in this article since they technically do not require a hike.
4) Sandy Beach
Sandy Beach is a great place to see a gorgeous sunrise without the work of hiking.
While not technically a sunrise hike, Sandy Beach is still one of the best places to watch the sunrise in Oahu. You will be able to capture some epic photos here. Also, if you are looking for one of the best beaches on Oahu, Sandy Beach is a great option.
5) Kualoa Beach Park
Kualoa Beach Park is another place in Oahu where you can see a stunning sunrise without hiking. This is one of the best places to visit on the windward side of Oahu.
This beach park has some excellent views, so if you are not in the mood for an intense hike this might be your best bet in Oahu.
The Wrap Up: Top Sunrise Hikes on Oahu
So there you have it, our list of top sunrise hikes in Oahu are Lanikai Pillbox, Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail, and Koko Head. Bonus options for viewing the sunrise include Sandy Beach and Kuoloa Beach Park.
Sunrise hikes are great because you get to see the sun come up over the horizon, reminding you of how immense the universe is and how miraculous life truly is. Not only does that feel special, but it also feels like you earned something in the morning.
Whether you decide to try all 5 of these or just one, I promise that you will not be disappointed with any option on this list!
Mahalo for reading our post. Until next time, Aloha and Happy Hiking in Oahu!