Paragliding in Oahu: the best options

Paragliding must be one of the most incredible experiences there is and even more so if you are flying over an island paradise like Oahu.

Lorena Morales

Lorena Morales

10 min read

Paragliding in Oahu: the best options

Paragliding Trip | ©Kristjan Morgan

The Hawaiian island of Oahu has the ideal conditions for you to paraglide and enjoy the wonderful sensation of flying in its dreamlike places. The volcanic craters of Koko Head, Koko Crater and Diamond Head, the cliffs at Makapuu and the mountain ranges of Waianae are part of an incomplete list of the most impressive aerial views you can enjoy paragliding.

Paragliding is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Oahu for those who dare to experience extreme emotions, and also for those who are just starting out in this sport. Here you will find the 10 best places to take off in paragliding, from where you can fly over cliffs, jungle valleys, mountains, coral reefs, craters, the immense blue sea and also the cities and roads that are part of the landscape that you can see from the air.

1. Fly over the east end of Oahu from Makapuu

Paragliding in Makapuu| ©Dave Bean
Paragliding in Makapuu| ©Dave Bean

Makapuu is located at the eastern end of the island, where there is a cliff almost 200 meters above sea level. At this point you can take off at 12 meters above sea level towards the lighthouse and soar to see the entire east end of the island.

Flying over the beautiful green cliffs, with the blue sea on both sides, is part of what you will see when taking off from Makapuu. As if that weren't enough, in November and April you may see humpback whales swimming in the ocean.

Nearby is the beautiful Waimanalo Beach, known to be one of the best beaches on Oahu. It has about 5 km of coastline with crystal clear water and huge waves. From the Makapuu take-off point you can also see Mānana Island, better known as the "rabbit" island, due to its resemblance to the head of this animal, and Kāohikaipu Island, a volcanic island. Both are bird sanctuaries and you are not allowed to visit them by land, but you can see them a little from the air.

How to get there

To get to this take-off site you must drive from Wainamalo beach along the Kalaniana'ole road to Makapuu beach, between the Sea Life Park and the mountain of the same name.

The launch site is located near the Makapu'u Point lighthouse, which belongs to the U.S. Coast Guard and is closed to the public.

2. Fly on the south shore of Oahu from Diamond Head Crater

Diamond Head Crater from the Paraglider| ©Kristjan Morgan
Diamond Head Crater from the Paraglider| ©Kristjan Morgan

Diamond Head is an excellent place to take off in paragliding and fly over the south coast of the island. It is located near Diamond Head Beach, east of Waikiki Beach, and very close to Koko Head Crater and Hanauma Bay. It is one of the most overflown points of the island.

The volcanic crater Diamond Head, was formed about 200,000 years ago by a series of volcanic eruptions in Honolulu, which also gave rise to Mānana Island, Koko Head Crater, Hanauma Bay and Punchbowl Crater.

It is believed that the name "Diamond" (meaning diamond in English) is due to the fact that its discoverers found calcite crystals on the site and mistook them for diamonds. However, for Hawaiians its name is Leahi, which means "tuna eyebrow".

Today the volcano is inactive and scientists assure that it will not erupt again. Diamond Head was named a U.S. National Natural Landmark in 1968.

How to get there

The Diamond Head launch site is located near the coast at only 7 meters above sea level at Diamond Head Beach Park, not far from the Diamond Head Lighthouse.

Book a tour of Hanauma Bay and the North Shore

3. See Koko Head Crater from the air

Paragliding over Koko Head Crater| ©Tim
Paragliding over Koko Head Crater| ©Tim

Koko Head is a volcanic crater 196 meters high located east of Maunalua Bay, on the southeast side of the island of Oahu. At its summit, near the Vortac facility, there is a paved area where you can take off in paragliding, and enjoy the incredible scenery around you.

To paraglide from Koko Head you only need winds from the south to southwest. It is usual to land at Koko Head Regional Park. Be aware that it can be very crowded and it is sometimes difficult to see the park from above.
Koko Head is located in Koko Head Regional Park, near Hanauma Bay, which you can see from high above.

This bay is also an extinct volcanic crater and is one of the most visited sites on the island. Hanauma Bay is also one of the best places to snorkel in Oahu, for its wonderful coral formations.

How to get there

To reach the launch site at Koko Head you must drive along Kalaniana'ole Road to Hanauma Bay, and then cross the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve heading SW.

Useful Info

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday from 6:30 am to 1:30 pm, and you can stay in the park until 4 pm.

You can reserve your ticket online at this website, or purchase your ticket at the preserve. It has a low-cost parking lot ($3 for non-residents and $1 for residents approximately).

  • Phone: (808) 768-6861
  • General admission: about $25

4. Fly into Hanauma Bay from Koko Crater

Paragliding over Hanauma Bay| ©richard chang
Paragliding over Hanauma Bay| ©richard chang

Koko Crater is very close to Koko Head, on the other side of Hanauma Bay. Being the tallest of the volcanic cones in this area, it is the most recognizable of the three, measuring 368 meters high.

Inside Koko Crater there is a botanical garden and horse stables.

If the wind conditions are favorable, from this take-off point you can fly over Koko Crater and get one of the most fabulous views of this interesting volcanic formation that is very close to the coast and the blue ocean. You will also have a privileged view of Hanauma Bay and Koko Head Crater.

How to get to Koko Crater

The Koko Crater launch point is located on the northeast slope of this volcanic cone, 82 meters above sea level.

Book a paragliding flight over Oahu

5. Fly at Kaena Point from Dillingham Airport

Kaena Point| ©Ken Lund
Kaena Point| ©Ken Lund

The take-off point at Kaena Point is located near the Dillingham military airport, at 190 meters above sea level. Mountains, valleys and white sandy beaches far from the populated areas of the island promise one of the most wonderful paragliding flights on Oahu.

This take-off point is located in Kaena Point State Park on the western end of the island of Oahu. It is a place where hiking is practiced and has an important spiritual significance for its inhabitants. It is also a bird refuge.

It is believed that Kaena Point was a place of passage to the other world, where the natives of the island met with their ancestors, so in Oahu is considered a sacred place.

How to get to Kaena Point

To get to Kaena Point you can drive from Mokuleia along Farrington Highway to Dillingham Airport and take a trail to the takeoff area from the west side of the airport. Remember to bring sunscreen and plenty of water, as it is a seldom visited site and you will not find a place to get supplies.

6. Paragliding from Kaena Point SO

Paragliding| ©Raimar Bylaardt II
Paragliding| ©Raimar Bylaardt II

In Kaena Point Park there is another take-off point at the SW end, at about 49 meters above sea level. Reaching this site is a bit more difficult if you go by land, but the scenery during the ride will not disappoint you at all.

The take-off point at Kaena Point SW is near the westernmost tip of the island, inside a protected area where the mountains and the turbulent waves of the coast will be the protagonists of an unparalleled paragliding flight.

Being a remote place, you will be able to enjoy a flight in a place of exuberant nature, far from the noises and constructions of civilization.

How to get to Kaena Point

To get to Kaena Point SO you can drive from Mokuleia along Farrington Highway to Kaena Point Trail) and then continue along Waianae Summit Trail on foot to go around the end of the island.

You can also arrive from the Leeward Coast and take the trail at the end of the road. Both of these overland trails are quite long and will take you a couple of hours to walk, but the launch area is close to the coast, so it won't be difficult to get there.

7. Fly into Kaena Park from Nanakuli

Kaena Park| ©Thomas Jundt
Kaena Park| ©Thomas Jundt

In Kaena Park you have another point where you can take off in paragliding, the Nanakuli, which is 394 meters high. From the air you will have an incredible panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and the hills covered with vegetation, as can only be seen from the far ends of the island.

The Nanakuli take-off point is near Yokohama Bay, also known as Keawaula Beach. It is a beach with turquoise waters where dolphins are often sighted and is popular with surfers.

How to get to Kaena Point

To get to Nanakuli you can drive along the Farrington Highway from Makaha to Yokohama Bay, crossing Kaluakauila Creek. If you take the Satellite Tracking Station Rd (which takes you to the Kaena Point Satellite Tracking Station), you will arrive at the launching point before the end of the road.

8. Soar through the air at Kahana Bay

Kahana Bay| ©charlee955
Kahana Bay| ©charlee955

In Kahana Bay there are several paragliding launching areas located on two ridges, approximately 75 to 100 meters high. The bay is surrounded by valleys and green mountains, where the Kila (364 meters) and Pu'upiei (529 meters) mountains overlook.

Next to Kahana Bay, which is about 16 kilometers long, is the Ahupua'a O Kahana State Park. It is a very quiet place, perfect for flying over the blue coast, where the views of the bay, the beach, the green valleys, forests and mountains are really wonderful.

How to get to Kahana Bay

The launching point for paragliding from Kahana Bay is south of the town of Kaaawa, on the east coast of Oahu, about an hour from Honolulu. From Kaaawa you can drive along State Hwy 83 and cross the entire bay to its southern end.

Learn more about Kahuku

This launch site is managed by the USHPA (United States Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association), so to take off in paragliding there you must be a member of the local club(Hawaii Paragliding Association ), which is free of charge.

9. Explore Kahuku from above

Start the Trip| ©Jeff Wiles
Start the Trip| ©Jeff Wiles

Kahuku is an Oahu town located in the northeastern part of the island, between Laie and Turtle Bay. There you will find the Motocross Park nature reserve, where there is a trail you can take to get to this launching point that is located about 43 meters above sea level.

From Motocross Park you can fly over the green hills of the nature reserve, and enjoy wonderful views of the beaches of Hanaka'illio and Kaihalulu, and the immense blue sea.

Kahuku means in Hawaiian "the projection" and it is due to the fact that it is a place that is at the northernmost tip of the island. It is a place known for the shrimp trucks that are parked on Kamehameha Street, its main street, to which you can go after the impressive paragliding flight from Motocross Park.

How to get to Kahuku

Kahuku's takeoff point is near Waialee Beach, which you can reach via Kamehameha Road from Waiael'e or State Hwy 83 from downtown Kahuku. The site is known as Motocross Park, as it has a trail that functions as a motorcycle track and is usually very busy on weekends.

Learn more about Kahukuabout Motocross Park

  • Location: Haleiwa, HI 96712, USA
  • Hours: The trail is open from 8 am to 6 pm on weekends and holidays.

Book a food tour on Oahu

10. Deploy your paraglider in Makua

Flying in Makua| ©flykahana
Flying in Makua| ©flykahana

Makua is a launch site in Kaena Point Park, at 99 meters above sea level. It is located between Makua Beach and Kaneana Cave and is a more accessible point than others in this park, as it is close to the coast and the road. The Waianae Mountains, the Makua Valley and the blue sea make this an incredible place to paraglide.

This area of the island of Oahu is not very crowded, except for surfing, paragliding or hiking, and the scenery overhead is one of the most beautiful you can see on the island.

How to get to Oahu

If you take the Farrington Highway, you must pass the Kaneana Caves to reach this launching point, which is before the white sandy Makua Beach. It is a place where there are no facilities of any kind, so you should bring enough water and food.

When is the best time to paraglide in Oahu

Flight Day| ©aether_seeker
Flight Day| ©aether_seeker

To paraglide in Oahu you must make sure that the wind conditions are adequate, so you can enjoy your flight to the fullest and without any danger. Ideally, the wind should be up to 15 km/h and no more than 30 km/h if you are a beginner.

A paraglider can withstand between 35 and 55 km/h, depending on the model, but these speeds can be dangerous. It is best to consult specialized sites like this one, to know the wind conditions in real time.