10 Best Sunrise Hikes in Oahu Worth Waking Up For

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It’s not easy to get up before the sun on Oahu, especially when you’re on vacation. But if there’s one thing that will make it worth getting up early, it’s a hike that ends with a jaw-dropping view of the sunrise.

From short trails accessible from Waikiki to longer treks near the summit of an extinct volcano, these 10 best sunrise hikes in Oahu offer something for everyone – even those who aren’t early risers.

So get up early, put on your hiking boots and head to one of these beautiful spots for a front-row view of Oahu’s sun as it rises over the horizon.

Easy Oahu Sunrise Hikes

1. Lanikai Pillbox

Looking for an easy hike to watch the sunrise? The Lanikai Pillbox hike is a family-friendly trail that you won’t want to miss.

It takes you on a short, steep ascent at first, but then levels out and follows the ridge with stunning panoramic views of Lanikai Beach and the Mokulua islands.

The sun rises over the two islands and casts a beautiful light on the water; it’s truly a photographer’s dream.

And of course, there are the three pillboxes – structures that were once used as military lookout points. You can make it to the first pillbox in 25 minutes, but trust us, you’ll want to spend some time taking in the views from all three before heading back down.

But there’s a downside to its popularity: parking can be a nightmare. The best way to avoid the crowds is to hike first thing in the morning for the sunrise!

Sunrise at Lanikai pilbox
Sunrise at Lanikai pilbox

2. Makapuu Lighthouse Trail

Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is one of the easiest hikes on Oahu, especially if you’re chasing the sunrise.

This short and sweet paved path will take you directly to a lighthouse with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.

It’s perfect for beginners or families with young children since it’ll only take you about 45 minutes (1.5 miles roundtrip).

You’ll get to see the sun slowly peek over the horizon, flanked by Rabbit Island and Kaohikaipu Island State Seabird Sanctuary.

And if that’s not enough to take your breath away, make sure to take a quick detour to see the tidepools and blowhole.

Soak up all the majestic beauty before heading back to the car – you’ll be glad you made this hike part of your Oahu itinerary.

Diamond Head Sunrise Hike

Start your morning by enjoying a scenic hike up Diamond Head with rewarding 360-degree views of the city and Waikiki Beach.

Watch the sun break over the horizon on Oahu’s east side and paint its peaks gold.

Afterward, head to a local hotspot for an acai bowl. It's the perfect way to refuel after your hike and enjoy some time with new friends!

tip

3. Hanauma Bay Lookout

As the sun rises over the horizon, watch the colors reflect off the crystal clear waters of Hanauma Bay.

The easy hike to Hanauma Bay Lookout is less than a mile both ways and is paved, making it perfect for a quick morning adventure.

The bay is renowned for its clear waters and abundance of marine life, so you’re sure to see something beautiful on your morning stroll.

Moderate Oahu Sunrise Hikes

4. Diamond Head State Monument

Are you looking for something to tell your friends back home about? Let’s not kid ourselves – we all knew that Diamond Head State Monument has to make an appearance on this list.

This saucer-shaped volcanic crater is one of the most popular Oahu hiking trails and it’s sure to give you a story or two.

Located on the southeastern tip of Oahu, this easy-to-moderate hike offers stunning views of the city, coastline, and even the neighboring island of Molokai on a clear day.

The summit is only a mile away, but the journey will take you through a strenuous ascent of 500 feet.

But it’s not just the views that make Diamond Head worth visiting. The monument is also home to several historical landmarks, including lighthouses and military bunkers. These offer a fascinating glimpse into Hawaii’s past, and are well worth exploring.

If you’re visiting during winter, you might even catch a glimpse of humpback whales passing by.

So whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just looking for a new Instagram-worthy spot, Diamond Head is definitely worth checking out.

5. Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Trail

If you’re an early riser and looking for a great sunrise hike on Oahu, look no further than the Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Trail.

This moderate 5-mile hike offers stunning views of the East Coast of Oahu, as well as a front-row seat to watch the sun rise over the clouds.

The trail is clearly marked, so you won’t get lost, and the only difficult part is the steep climb to the summit at the end.

The views from the top are incredible, and it’s definitely worth getting up early to catch the sunrise from this spot.

6. Makiki Neighborhood Trail

Looking for an early morning hike that will really wake you up? The Makiki Neighborhood Trail is a relatively short hike (3.2-mile loop), making it perfect for those who want to get an early start to their day.

Although it is steep in places, you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of Diamond Head and Honolulu city.

Sunrise is definitely the best time to tackle this hike to beat the crowds, so make sure you get an early start – the trail opens at 5:30am.

And don’t forget to bring water – you’re going to need it!

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Challenging Oahu Sunrise Hikes

7. Koko Head Crater

When it comes to sunrise hikes, Koko Head is where it’s at. While the views from the top of the crater are certainly stunning, the hike itself is no walk in the park.

This popular hike, located a short drive from downtown Honolulu, was once used to transport goods during WWII.

With over 1,000 stairs to climb, the challenging hike is well worth it when you reach the top – you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Waikiki, Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay and Hawaii Kai.

The trailhead is easy to find and there’s plenty of parking; if you’re down to sweat, you can’t really go wrong here.

8. Mau’umae Trail (Pu’u Lanipo)

Mau’umae Trail is a 7-mile roundtrip hike that offers stunning views of the city and the ocean beyond. The trailhead is located in the Mauna Lani Heights residential area, so it’s easily accessible.

As you hike up the trail, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the city nestled between the two valleys. While the trail is a bit rocky and has some significant elevation changes, it’s not overly challenging.

If you make it to the top, you’ll also get a glimpse of the famous Diamond Head Crater. But the best part of all is watching the sun peek over the horizon and cast its warm rays over the landscape.

It’s an unforgettable experience that’s well worth getting up early for. Make sure to add Mau’umae Trail to your must-see list!

No Hiking Needed

9. Sandy Beach

Sandy Beach Park is one of the best places to catch a sunrise in Oahu. The best part? No hiking is needed so it’s perfect for those lazy mornings.

This beach lies at the base of Koko Crater and provides stunning views of the sun as it rises above the crater’s edge.

But Sandy Beach is more than just a pretty face; the powerful shorebreak makes it one of the most dangerous beaches on the island. Every year, there are reports of neck and back injuries from surfing.

So come here to watch one of nature’s most magnificent displays, but only from a safe distance!

Sandy Beach Park Kalanianaole Hwy Honolulu
Sandy Beach Park Photo by Robert Linsdell

10. Ala Moana Beach Park

There’s something special about watching the sun rise over the ocean. And if you’re looking for the best sunrise in Oahu that doesn’t require hiking, Ala Moana Beach Park is the place to be.

The park is hidden away in the Hawaii Kai residential neighborhood, and once you’re there, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the sun rising over the water.

And if you’re feeling active, there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy, from biking and walking to paddling and playing volleyball.

Whether you’re looking for a peaceful place to watch the sunrise or a fun place to get active, Ala Moana Beach Park is the perfect spot.