What are the Tallest Mountains in Hawaii

Tallest mountains in Hawaii

Hawaii is one of the go-to places for tourists from all around the wold. Its beautiful scenery is indeed one to behold. Hawaii’s fine sandy beaches are one of the reasons why it pops up when people decide where to go for their vacation, but although it may not be the first thing you think of when planning a Hawaiian vacation, its mountains cannot just be overlooked when talking about the scenery and landscape of such a beautiful place. I mean they are pretty tall, right?

Hawaiian mountains are simply jaw-dropping. They are not just tall and prominent but also beautiful and spectacular. Hikers love heading to these mountains because of the unique experience it creates. People who love nature and photographers also grab the chance to hike these mountains when the opportunity arises. Although climbing the mountains can be quite challenging, the view when you arrive at the summit makes it all worth the effort. Standing atop these Hawaiian mountains gives epic views that makes one feel on top of the world.

Here are the top seven (7) tallest mountains in Hawaii and some basic info you should know before taking a hike on any of them:

Tallest mountains in Hawaii - mauna kea

  1. Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea is the tallest Peak in Hawaii and also ranked the tallest volcano in the world. It stands at a massive 13,803 ft above sea level. It also dwarfs other volcanic mountains thanks to its 33,000 ft height from the bottom of the sea. Its last eruption was dated over 4000 years ago. Because of this, Mauna Kea is now considered dormant.

There is a stable dry air flow at the summit of the mountain which makes it one of the best places for astronomical research and star gazing. In fact, there are more than ten telescopes positioned on the mountain’s summit by different countries for research purposes.

Mauna Kea can also be used for skiing because of the huge deposits of snow usually found on it in the early months of a year. Doing this requires hikers or tourist to have good knowledge of snow skiing as the mountain can be quite challenging.

Although there are some routes of getting to the summit of Mauna Kea, the best route to take is the Mauna Kea Trail.

Is there camping on or around the mountain? There is no specified area for camping in the area. If you are in dire need of a place to sleep, you can camp at Mauna Kea State recreation Centre which is about 7 miles from the mountain. You can also rest at the Onizuka Visitor center before taking the hike.

What kind of wildlife can you expect to see?  You be able to spot some sheep roaming around in the surrounding forest in the area.

Tallest mountains in Hawaii - mauna loa

  1. Mauna Loa

Mauna Loa, at an impressive 13,679 ft, is the second highest mountain in Hawaii. It is also a volcanic mountain but is very much active, unlike Mauna Kea. Mauna Loa is considered one of the the largest volcanic mountains in the world second only to the famous Tamu Massif.

Hiking the mountain to the top is not too difficult because the slopes and trail are not too steep.

There are a number of trails that will lead you straight to the summit of the mountain. Below are two of the most commonly used routes.

  • Mauna Loa trail: The Mauna Loa trail is the oldest trail hikers use when hiking the mountain. It is the longest and most used trail on the mountain. If you choose to use this trail you can expect a lot of exposure to the sun because shade is scarce on the trail.

Campground: Because of how hot it can get when hiking, there are two cabins hikers can hang out in during the hike. This makes the climb easier.


  • The observatory trail: the observatory trail is a new trail that has been receiving lots of attention – traffic wise – in recent days. The trail is shorter than the Mauna Loa trail and also much more difficult than the other routes or trails. Using this route makes hiking the mountain to the summit possible within a day.

Campground: there is a cabin along the observatory trail called Summit Cabin. It is said to have one of the nicest camping facilities and is highly recommended for hikers.

There is one more trail that goes all the way to the summit. It is the most difficult, most strenuous and steepest trail on Mauna Loa. It is an ancient trail and should only be attempted by seasoned hikers.

Tallest mountains in Hawaii - haleakala

  1. Haleakala (Red Hill)

Haleakala is a prominent volcanic mountain with an elevation of 10,023 ft. This makes it the third highest mountain in Hawaii.

Climbing the mountain is trickier than it looks. While going up the mountain is relatively easy, descending isn’t. This is because almost all the trails on the mountain lead to the Crater Floor.

As discussed earlier, ascending the mountain to the summit is easy because there is a road where vehicles can move through to the top. Hikers prefer to descend the mountain using any of the several routes that lead down the mountain. These routes are the tricky part of hiking the mountain.

There are some routes on the mountain hikers can use to ascend or descend the mountain. But being that Haleakala is mostly climbed from the top down, here are the commonly used ones.

  • Haleakala Highway 37: This road leads to the summit of the mountain and allows hikers to be driven straight to the top.
  • Kaupo Gap Trail
  • Sliding sand trail

Note: You will be required to pay a $10 fee at the park gate. This is because Haleakala is part of Haleakala National Park.

Wildlife: the mountain is mostly bare and hot, hence not much wildlife activity

Tallest mountains in Hawaii - Hualalai

  1. Hualalai

Standing at 8,271ft above sea level, Hualalai is one very active volcanic mountain. It is one of the volcanoes that form the Island of Hawaii. It is a fairly easy hike and because of this, it attracts a fair number of hikers. While most of the area around the mountain is privately owned, there are times when hiking the mountain that hikers might come across a notice of land ownership. Hence, you need to take note that you might be trespassing.

  • Pu’u Wa’a Wa’a Trailhead
  • There is another route when coming from Highway 190. The trail starts at the end of the road from Huehue St.

Campground: there is no provision for camping in the area. The best thing you can do is start as early as you can so that you can get back to the hotel you lodged in when visiting the country after you finish the hike.

Tallest mountains in Hawaii - Puʻu Kukui

  1. Puʻu Kukui

Pu’u Kukui is the fifth highest peak In Hawaii. It has an elevation of 5,788 ft. it is considered one of the wettest mountains in Hawaii. Most of the Trees found in the area are dwarfs because of the dense soil. There are lots of bogs on the mountain.

Pu’u Kukui is home to several endangered species of animals and plants. Because of this, access to the mountain is restricted to only researchers and conservationist. A hiker might be lucky at times and get permitted. This is usually after such hiker has applied over and over again.

The summit is accessible via several trails. The boardwalk trail is the most used route.

Wildlife: most of the wildlife here are endangered bird species.

Tallest mountains in Hawaii - Kawaikini

  1. Kawaikini

Kawaikini is the seventh highest mountain in Hawaii. It is known for its high rainfall. Kawaikini translates to ‘the multitudinous water. It has an elevation of 5,243 ft and is considered one of the most beautiful and scenic mountains in the world. It has long been dormant and thanks to the high rainfall, is considered one of the wettest place in the world.

For hikers who want to hike the mountain, the best route to take is the Kokee State Park trails. To get to this trail, you have to pass through the Alakai Swamp.

Tallest mountains in Hawaii - Kamakou

  1. Kamakou

Kamakou is a 4,961 feet mountain located on the Island of Molokai. It is home to some of Hawaii’s most endangered and rarest plant species. It is also one of the wettest places in Hawaii. Because of the presence of some rare plant species, some part of the mountain is preserved by the Nature Conservancy. Although it is preserved, visitors are still allowed to see the plants or hike the mountain if they want albeit with a permit.

These hikes are permitted monthly and the route used during such hike is the Pepeopae trailhead.

Campground: no camping is allowed on the mountain as the hike can be completed within a day. However, hikers can rest under some trees along the route if they need to.

Hawaiian mountains are really worth the effort if you decide to hike them. Being that some of the mountains are volcanic mountains, you might be privileged to see an active volcano in action.

In addition, because of the fact that most of the mountains are volcanic in nature, most of the wildlife sightings are usually in forests leading to the foot of some of the mountains. The view on top of all the Hawaiian mountain makes it one of the go-to destination for hikers.

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