Hawaii offers stunning scenery, from lush rainforests to volcanic landscapes, along with beautiful beaches and turquoise waters for all outdoor enthusiasts.
The islands have extensive trail systems that wind through valleys, along coastlines, and up volcanic mountainsides.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at hiking and backpacking in Hawaii from a lightweight standpoint, providing practical tips to help you prepare for your upcoming outdoor adventure.
We’ll share the best 5 trails in Hawaii in two parts. The first is for day hikes under 15 miles, great for exploring in one day. The second is for multi-day trips, where you can restock supplies easily.
We picked out some of the best day hiking trails in Hawaii where having lightweight gear will be really useful:
Discover our picks of Hawaii’s beautiful trails:
Hawaii generally has a tropical climate with warm temperatures throughout the year:
Based on what we’ve learned, it’s a good idea to check the weather forecast for the exact time and place you intend to visit. Also, be ready for unexpected weather changes, especially in higher areas where it can be cooler and less predictable.
Before you grab your backpack and head outdoors, take a look at the weather statistics for Hawaii (Honolulu):
Having a campfire while camping in Hawaii is regulated. On most islands, campfires are generally prohibited except in designated fire pits in campgrounds. Permits may be required for campfires depending on location. Certain areas prohibit ground fires year-round. Portable cooking stoves are allowed.
When backpacking in Hawaii, be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions by packing proper rain gear and layers. Bring plenty of sun protection including a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen since the sun can be intense. Stay on marked trails as vegetation can be dense. Watch for loose rocks and cliffs when hiking along coastal areas. Check for flash flood warnings if hiking in valleys or streams. Bring more water than you think you’ll need since sources may be scarce. Know basic first aid for treating cuts, scrapes or jellyfish stings from snorkeling. Research any permits required for backcountry camping. Let someone know your itinerary. Exercise caution near shorelines due to large waves and currents.
When you go hiking in Hawaii, you might come across animals like wild pigs, goats, cats, and rodents. It’s important to keep a safe distance from them and not try to get close or feed them. If you see a Hawaiian monk seal or a sea turtle on the beach, make sure to stay at least 150 feet away and don’t disturb them. If you happen to see a snake, just stand still and let it pass without bothering it. Be careful not to touch plants and rocks where centipedes might be hiding. Also, be cautious around cliffs where birds might be nesting. If you encounter a mammal that seems aggressive, make yourself look big and slowly move away. And if you find any injured animals, be sure to report it to wildlife authorities.
When backpacking in Hawaii, fishing can provide a good source of food. Be sure to get the proper permits and know size and catch limits. Pack lightweight, collapsible rods and compact tackle. Small spinners and lures work well for trout in mountain streams and lakes. In coastal areas, pack saltwater gear to surf fish or try your luck from rocky outcroppings. Bring polarized sunglasses to spot fish in the water. Use barbless hooks for easier catch and release. Store cleaned fish in doubled zip-lock bags. Follow leave no trace principles and dispose of entrails properly.
With its active volcanoes, waterfalls, tropical paradise landscapes, and aloha spirit, the island of Hawaii is a backpacker’s dream. Trek through lava fields and see flowing lava at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for a unique outdoor experience. Marvel at scenic nature scenes like Akaka Falls and Waipio Valley. Summit Mauna Kea under starry skies. Hike through lush palm tree forests to secluded beaches. Watch the sunset over towering sea cliffs. Enjoy the postcard views of rolling hills, crashing surf, and outdoor adventures. The diversity of trails on the Big Island allow you to experience Hawaii’s stunning volcanic nature, cascading waterfalls, and spirit of aloha while hiking. It’s an outdoorsy paradise for hikers seeking sunset vistas and volcano treks.
Hammock camping is generally feasible in Hawaii as long as certain precautions are taken. Good locations to hang a hammock include official campgrounds, permitted backcountry sites, and legal dispersed camping areas, such as palm tree groves. Be mindful of not damaging vegetation or trespassing on private property. Choose durable tree straps to prevent harming trees like palm trees. Stay away from steep mountain cliffs for safety. Mosquito nets are useful especially in rainforests. Consider an underquilt since nights can be cold at high elevations. Stay visible to avoid startling nearby wildlife. Be prepared to set up a tent as backup since trees suitable for hanging are not guaranteed.