A favorite workout for city dwellers, the 2.5-mile Makiki Valley Loop links three Tantalus-area trails. These trails are usually muddy, so wear shoes with traction and pick up a walking stick. The loop cuts through a lush tropical forest, mainly composed of non-native species introduced to reforest an area denuded by Hawaii's 19th-century ʻiliahi (sandalwood) trade.
The Maunalaha Trail crosses a small stream, passes taro patches and climbs up the eastern ridge of Makiki Valley, passing Norfolk pine, banyans, bamboo and some clear views. Look out below for the tumbled-down remains of ancient Hawaiian stone walls and a historic coffee plantation. After 0.7 miles, you'll reach a four-way junction. Continue uphill on the 1.1-mile Makiki Valley Trail, which traverses small gulches and crosses gentle streams bordered by patches of ginger and guava trees while offering glimpses of the city below. The 0.7-mile Kanealole Trail begins as you cross Kanealole Stream, then follows the stream back down through a field of Job's tears – the beadlike psuedocarps ('false fruit') of the female flowers of this tall grass are sometimes used for lei – to return to the forest baseyard.
Alternatively, a more strenuous 6.2-mile hike beginning from the same trailhead eventually leads to sweeping views of the valley and the ocean beyond. This Manoa Cliffs Circuit, aka the 'Big Loop,' starts on the same Maunalaha Trail, then takes the Moleka Trail to the Manoa Cliff, Kalawahine and Nahuina Trails. At the Kalawahine Trail intersection, you can detour right onto the Pauoa Flats Trail to reach the Nuʻuanu Valley Lookout. From the lookout, backtrack to the Kalawahine Trail, then connect via the Nahuina Trail with the Kanealole Trail, which rolls downhill back to the forest baseyard.
The starting point for both hiking loops is Makiki Forest Recreation Area, less than 0.5 miles up Makiki Heights Dr from Makiki St. Park in the 'car park for hikers' as indicated, then follow the signs and walk along the hillside nature path toward the main trailheads near the Hawaiʻi Nature Center, which organizes family-friendly hikes and outdoor education programs.