hanauma bay hike

Hanauma Bay Ridge Hike | The Ultimate Visitors Guide | One of the best hikes on Oahu

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The Hanauma Bay Ridge Hike has the most beautiful views of the ocean on the island. You’ll see here the most vibrant, aqua blue ocean water and the reef popping with color in the bay. There’s a reason that Hanauma Bay is known to have the BEST snorkeling on the island of Oahu. I agree to that!

The best way to see Hanauma Bay is to see it from a birds eye view, which is the ridge hike! Throw on your hiking shoes, and let’s go on an adventure!

Are you visiting Oahu? I have put together this visitors guide to help you find the trail head, where to park, the best time of the year to visit, best photo opportunities, and what to expect when you arrive here!

hanauma bay hike

Hanauma Bay Oahu

Hiking Stats of the Hanauma Bay Trail

Distance: 3.5 miles roundtrip

Difficulty: Easy-Moderate (depending how far you decide to go)

Length of time: 1.5-2 hours (depending how many times you stop to take photos)

Cliff notes: Once you park and make your way to the trailhead, you’ll start hiking through a bush area on a dirt path. The path is a short 5 minute hike to the top of a hill, and you’ll meet with the concrete path that outlines the Hanauma Bay Ridge. You’ll take a right up the ridge, and then you’ll see a few spots to exit onto another dirt path through some bushes (which I’ll share in more detail later in this article).

You’ll walk around the bay to the right of it and follow the little dirt path. There are plenty of beautiful spots here for photos. If you do decide to continue, descend down the steep rock formations to continue around the ridge hike. Once you reach a more flat area, you’ll keep following the hike to the top of the hill overlooking the bay. This part is another steep incline. This is a bit of a workout. Bring tennis shoes!

My top 3 favorite tours on Oahu!

How do you get to the Hanauma Bay Trail?

The Hanauma Bay Ridge Hike is about a 25-30 minute drive from Waikiki. The parking situation is a little ‘crazy’ at the Hanauma Bay parking lot. The lot was full when we got there, so we parked in the neighborhood down the street of Nawiliwili Street. The staff at Hanauma Bay actually told us to do this, so I’m sure there’s many people who park where we did. We were careful not to block any walkways or driveways. If you can’t find parking around there, you can also park at the KoKo Head Crater parking lot, and walk up the hill towards Hanauma Bay.

The entrance we found was much easier without all the hassle of dealing with the crowds of Hanauma Bay (because there is a limit of 1,400 people before 1:30pm). That’s A LOT of people. Like I said, there’s a reason it’s so popular, it’s absolutely stunning!

My biggest tip is to get there EARLY. Especially if you want to enter through the main entrance.

Trailhead short cut

Hanauma Bay main entrance trailhead

I highlighted in pink where the trailhead is for the little shortcut we took. If you do park at the KoKo Head parking lot, the trailhead will be at the entrance of Hanauma Bay and you’ll just hike up the concrete paved path up the ridge. This short cut we found meets at the same path. You’ll see here below on Google Maps.

Here is the Google Maps parking for Nawiliwili Street and for Koko Head parking, whichever you prefer. I’d recommend finding parking at the neighborhood Nawiliwili Street and taking the short cut. Both options are provided for your convenience.

hanauma bay trail map
hanauma bay trail map
hanauma bay hike
hanauma bay hike

Entrance fee into Hanauma Bay Marine Reserve

If you would like to park in the main entrance of Hanauma Bay, if you can beat the crowds, there is a $3 charge per vehicle and $1 for residents (you have to provide your Hawaii state ID). The park is closed Monday’s and Tuesday’s, and open Wednesday-Sunday 6:45am – 4:00pm.

If you’re looking to go snorkeling at the world famous snorkeling place of Hanauma Bay, it’s $25 per person unless you’re a resident or military you get in for free. I forgot my Hawaii state ID, so I had to pay the $25 even though I’m a resident. You should make reservations beforehand, we did not and waited for an hour and a half.

For more information about the park fees and reservations to the beach and snorkeling you can check it out here!

Where to stay on Oahu? My top 3 favorite hotels!

  1. Royal Hawaiian (known as the pink hotel) Super cute hotel right on Waikiki strip!
  2. Four Seasons Ko’Olina (luxury and relaxing experience)
  3. Parkshore Waikiki hotel (budget friendly) with the best view of Diamond Head, it’s at the end of the Waikiki strip

Best time to visit Hanauma Bay State Park

The BEST time to visit is… anytime! That’s one of the best things about Hawaii is the consistent weather. Now, if you visit during the winter months, the trees and bushes will be much more green. If you visit during the summer, it’ll look dry like a desert. We went in mid-June, so it looked like a desert.

The best time of day to visit is the morning. This trail has hardly any shade at all, and you’ll be hiking in direct sun. Bring sunglasses, hat, sunscreen and water!

What to expect hiking the Hanauma Bay Ridge Hike

When you start out the hike at the short cut entrance, it’s a dirt path right by the road. You’ll hike up this path for about 5 minutes before meeting the concrete paved path that goes along the ridge.

hanauma bay hike
Beginning of the hike trailhead

This is the short 5 minute hike up trail, and you’ll follow this until you meet the paved path at the top of the hill.

hanauma bay hike
hanauma bay trail

Once you are out of the dirt path area, take a look behind you and you’ll see beautiful views of the town of Hawaii Kai.

hanauma bay hike
Overlook of the town of Hawaii Kai
hanauma bay hike
hanauma bay trail

Continue along this paved path towards the top until you can see the telephone towers, then make a left on this little dirt path taking you closer to the bay lookout. You can see this area in the photo below!

hanauma bay hike
hanauma bay hike

You’ll see an opening at the end of this little dirt path to a gorgeous view of Hanauma Bay! Take a right along this path, and you’ll make your way to the end of the bay to the right.

hanauma bay hike
hanauma bay snorkeling below
hanauma bay hike
hanauma bay ridge hike

This is the area that the terrain becomes steep. Follow the path down the rock formations for about 10-15 minutes. This is why you need wear durable tennis shoes, because it can be easy to slip. If you don’t feel comfortable going down, the view from this area is still really beautiful.

hanauma bay hike

Steep terrain on the Hanauma Bay Hike

Once you reach the flatter part of the rock formations, you’ll start to climb again up the trail. This should only take a few minutes. Once you reach the top, there are so many really beautiful areas to take photos! There’s a little area off to the left that my husband and I went to, and took some epic drone shots!

hanauma bay hike
hanauma bay lookout

Final conclusions about the hike:

If you’re planning on visiting Oahu, I highly recommend this easy-moderate hike! The views of the ocean are the best on the island, in my humble opinion! If you do this hike in the morning, then have some breakfast, you can easily hop down into the water and go snorkeling after! Just make sure you have a reservation first 😉 That sounds like the PERFECT day on Oahu!

If you’ll be visiting Hawaii anytime soon, and going to the island of Oahu, check out my latest blog 12 Best things to do on Oahu! Thanks for reading!

abby hawaii


We are Abby & Nash Hagen, a married couple who lives in Hawaii and loves to travel the world! Our goal is to help you with your travels, and inspire you to get outside to see God’s beautiful world! :)

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