Hiking Do’s and Don’ts

I love to hike. I think it’s because I’m lazy and the only way you could ever get me to exercise for hours on end is if I know I’m about to see some spectacular scenery, and Hawaii does have some fantastic hiking trails! Unfortunately, Hawaii also has some very slippery rocks, loose gravel and steep ridges. To be safe, I never hike alone, always use only state-maintained trails, and will tell someone where we’re going.

To get some solid advice on hiking here in Hawaii, we reached out to the folks from the Department of Land and Natural Resources that run the Na Ala Hele Trails and Access Program. Aaron Lowe, an Oahu Trails and Access Specialist advised us, “The #1 rule is to stay on the trail and to use only authorized trails” as these trails are regularly maintained by the state.  

He also adds, “Don’t trust the internet. Be cautious of internet postings of unauthorized trails.” You will sometimes hear news of tourists that need rescue because they see a gorgeous “secret” hike online and attempt to do it and run into trouble. If you’re a visitor here, it’s best to join an established local hiking group or tour company here in Hawaii as well as do your research to see if you’re capable of the hike you want to go on. 

Aaron also adds, “Check weather conditions – things can get worse quickly. Avoid going out during any ‘advisories,’ ‘watches’ and definitely don’t go out during ‘warnings.’” Hawaii has unique weather from sea level to mountain with sunshine one minute to a flash flood warning the next. It’s always smart to check the weather report before heading out. Here’s is a list of do’s and don’ts that may also help you get started, enjoy. 

Hiking Do’s 

Stick to the trail.

Wear appropriate clothes and hiking shoes with grip. 

Bring supplies: cell phone, something bright if you need rescue, a whistle, rain gear, 2 to 3 liters of water, space blanket, a small first-aid kit, and a flashlight. 

Hike with a group or partner and stick together. 

Tell someone at home where you’re going, the expected duration of your hike, and notify them once you’ve returned safely. 

Check the weather, cancel your hike if it seems unsafe that day. 

Research the trail. You can view the Department of Land & Natural Resources’ (DLNR) maintained trails at http://hawaiitrails.ehawaii.gov/home.php or the DLNR State Parks at http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp/hiking/oahu/

Look where you step. 

Watch the time, try to return around the expected time so others at home won’t worry and call for rescue. 

Avoid risks, if it looks unsafe turn back or if it’s running late and getting dark cut the hike short and try it again starting earlier another day. 

Hiking Don’ts 

Don’t wear slippers or running shoes without grip that can cause slipping, some parts of Hawaii’s valleys can get really muddy, wet and slippery. 

Don’t skip packing clothes that allow you to stay warm. Try to bring clothes that you can layer with a hat or beanie just in case. 

Don’t venture off alone, there is safety in numbers! 

Don’t try a risky hike, especially after only viewing it online. Although it looks pretty, if you’re not experienced and hiking with an advanced hiker or with a group that knows how difficult the trail is, don’t attempt it. 

Don’t take unnecessary risks, like rock climbing and wandering off the trail. 

Don’t use a cellphone or other device while hiking. Unfortunately, some have gotten seriously injured trying to take the most impressive hiking photos. It’s best to take photos while resting, taking a break and enjoying the scenery. 

For more information, see the DLNR’s Hiking Safely in Hawaii brochure

The Hawaiian Trail & Mountain Club also has an excellent tips page and more information on joining a group hike

Hiking is a great activity for all sorts of people, and is a great way to stay in shape. Get out there and enjoy Hawaii’s many trails. Just make sure to plan right.