The stunning Hawaiian archipelago is perfect for hikers who want to see beautiful coastlines, volcanic rocks, and waterfalls. Plus, these tropical islands are easy to reach from the U.S. mainland, making them attractive getaway destinations for just about anyone who’s willing to fly there!
Hiking in Hawaii means getting to experience trails meandering through lush foliage, hidden waterfalls, panoramic vistas of majestic volcanic peaks, ancient lava fields, secret coves of soft sandy beaches, cerulean waters, and vast expanses of sparkling ocean stretching to the horizon.
Because of the island’s unique topographical conditions, you may have seen travel and hiking guides refer to hikes as “water hikes” and wondered what kind of shoes you should pack. I’ve been there too — I’ve got you covered.
Thanks to Hawaii’s beaches, rugged mountain ridges, tropical vegetation, and volcanic terrain, you will face various conditions when you hike. You’ll have to cross or wade rivers, trek along beaches, and maybe swim through pools and even under waterfalls. You’ll need a good water hiking shoe to handle wet conditions, dry fast, and prevent blisters.
The best water hiking shoes for Hawaii will allow you to hike through streams and rivers, walk on beaches, and dive in pools. They must be breathable, with good drainage, yet have protective, flexible soles.
And ideally for minimizing the amount of stuff you need to pack, a good water hiking shoe is a shoe that can double as your everyday walking shoe too.
Let’s dive into some of the best water hiking shoes for Hawaii!
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Table of Contents
What Is Water Hiking?
Water hiking refers to hikes where most or part of the walk includes moving through water. This can mean actually swimming along rivers, walking on sharp rocks, or wading through streams.
From time to time, you might even encounter a combo tour that includes kayaking with a waterfall hike. You’ll need a shoe that can handle both activities in one.
The most intense form of water hiking is sea trekking, and in this, you’ll wade through seawater, sometimes up to your waist.
Water hiking shoes will help prevent cuts from sharp rocks and protect you from stings and thorns that you might otherwise get if you were wearing sandals or going along barefoot — those pesty sea urchins can’t stick our feet with the proper shoes!
Good water hiking shoes will also be made of a material that is lightweight and breathable, while the soles will give you a good grip while crossing slippery river rocks.
Water Hiking Shoes: Features To Look For
What type of shoe you want is going to depend on what you plan to do while in Hawaii. Are you planning an intense sea trek that will call for lightweight aquatic shoes, or will you be doing a lot of cross-terrain hiking and want a versatile hiking boot?
Some water hiking shoes look pretty much like regular hiking shoes, making them suitable for regular hikes, while others will be more like sandals or water booties.
Here are the main things to consider when choosing a water hiking shoe:
First and foremost, drainage is crucial. Water hiking shoes should be designed to quickly and efficiently drain water, preventing them from becoming waterlogged and uncomfortable. Look for shoes with mesh sides and drainage ports that allow water to escape easily, ensuring your feet stay dry and comfortable throughout your water-based explorations.
Traction is another critical aspect to keep in mind. Hawaii’s diverse landscapes may lead you to encounter slippery surfaces while crossing rivers or navigating rocky shorelines.
Opt for water hiking shoes with rubber soles and a grip pattern akin to that of high-quality hiking shoes or sandals. The bumpier the bottom, the better! This feature will provide you with the necessary stability and confidence to tackle even the trickiest terrain safely.
If you plan on a lot of regular hiking, your water hiking shoe needs proper support in the right places. And we’re not just talking about laces. You’ll want shoes that provide good support around the arch of your foot and your ankle.
This ensures your feet remain comfortable and fatigue-free during longer hikes. Proper support will protect your feet from strain and discomfort, allowing you to fully focus on the beauty of Hawaii’s natural wonders — not the pain in your feet!
Closed-toe protection is essential to prevent any accidental stubs or injuries while walking on rocky surfaces or exploring rugged trails. Opt for water hiking shoes with closed toes to safeguard your feet from potential hazards and enjoy your adventures worry-free.
Avoid doing hikes in open-toed shoes.
The choice of materials is crucial to ensure comfort and prevent blisters and chafing. Choose water hiking shoes made from quick-drying materials that offer a snug and comfortable fit. The less your feet slip around, the fewer chances for unnecessary rubbing and abrasion!
High-quality shoe materials will keep your feet dry, comfortable, and blister-free, even after prolonged water exposure.
Ease Of Getting In/Out Of Them
If you only plan to use your water hiking shoes for short periods of time – such as during river crossings – you might want to consider how easy they are to put on and take off.
This practical feature will add convenience to your water-based excursions, because no one wants to hold up an entire group while struggling to get their damp foot into a complicated shoe!
Water Hiking Shoe Types
Water hiking shoes come in different varieties. Some are multi-purpose, look more like traditional sneakers, and are usually the most versatile.
Other makes are closer in design to sandals, though usually with a closed toe for extra protection. These are excellent for kayaking, crossing rivers, and hiking through water but not as great for overland hikes.
Some water hiking shoes are made with a Vibram-style sole, which gives you a protected barefoot feel and a flexible sole. These may not provide adequate cushioning and support for long overland hikes on unstable surfaces.
What you ultimately choose will depend on all the features we covered above!
Personally, I can’t stand that wet feet feeling inside of a shoe. Because of my preferences, I like a bit more breathability in my water hiking shoes, so I tend to look for close-toed shoes that offer the most drainage.
Once you’ve figured out what you like/dislike in a water shoe, check out our list below and pick the pair that works best for your needs.
Best Water Hiking Shoes For Hawaii
Salomon Tech Amphib 4
Best feature: Can be used in and out of the water and on trails for the ultimate multi-purpose shoe
Available for both men and women.
The Salomon Tech Amphib 4 is on par with some of the best water hiking shoes out there. In wet and damp conditions, the Tech Amphib 4 really lives up to its name!
This dynamic and sleek-looking water hiking shoe features super breathable mesh to let water drain from the shoe quickly while keeping debris out.
This lightweight multi-purpose shoe is ideal for both water hiking and trail running. It’s made of rubber and has a cushioned midsole and mesh sides.
- extremely versatile
- lightweight and breathable
- heel cinch for extra fit
- collapsible heel for easy on/off
- fits like a glove on your feet
- breathes extremely well in hot environments
- grippy on wet surfaces to minimize chances of slipping
- stiffer feel than some other water shoes
- upper material is flimsier than others
Columbia Drainmaker IV
Best feature: quick-drying, sneaker-like design
Available for men, women, and kids.
The Columbia Drainmaker IV Water Shoe is an excellent choice for water hiking in Hawaii due to its innovative features and design.
First off, you can barely tell this is a water shoe! It looks more like an outdoor trail running shoe than a water shoe, boat shoe, river sandal, or water sock. The aesthetic is perfect for those who want more of a classic running shoe look.
Perhaps the shoe’s best feature, its quick-drying capabilities ensure that your feet stay comfortable and dry throughout your water adventures. By quick-drying, we mean like 10-20 minutes fast! Whether you’re crossing streams, wading through shallow waters, or exploring waterfalls, these shoes will keep your feet from staying damp all day, preventing discomfort and blisters.
The shoe’s superior grip and traction on wet surfaces provide stability and confidence while navigating slippery rocks or uneven terrains in Hawaii’s lush landscapes, thanks to the non-marking rubber outsole.
Its ventilated design allows air to circulate, preventing your feet from getting too hot and sweaty during long journeys. And for water activities such as snorkeling or exploring tide pools, the shoe’s draining ports quickly dispel water, preventing any pooling inside the shoe.
- comfortable for daily wear
- quick-drying to prevent that damp foot feeling
- durable enough for multi-purpose hikes
- look acceptable for everyday wear
- laces can be too short
- the sole grip may not be excellent on mossy rocks
Merrell Hydro Moc
Best feature: quick-drying slip-on sandal
Available for men, women, and kids.
The Merrell Hydro Moc is a water-friendly, slip-on sandal made from EVA performance foam and rubber.
Its water-friendly design allows you to transition seamlessly from wet to dry terrains. The shoe is constructed with quick-drying materials, ensuring that your feet stay comfortable and free from the discomfort of soggy shoes after traversing through streams, riverbeds, or beaches.
The Hydro Moc’s exceptional traction on wet surfaces is another standout feature. Its durable rubber outsole provides excellent grip, offering stability and confidence while navigating slippery, wet rocks and uneven surfaces in and around water.
Additionally, the shoe’s slip-on design with a heel pull tab makes it convenient and easy to wear and remove, even when your feet are wet. This practical feature is perfect for water activities like snorkeling, where you might frequently switch between dry and wet surfaces.
The Hydro Moc also has a comfortable, cushioned footbed that provides support during hikes, though it’s not the most comfortable while hiking barefoot. Bringing along a pair of socks should help immensely on those hikes though!
All in all, it’s an excellent river crossing and camp shoe, but if you plan on doing longer hikes of over 3-4 miles, you should choose another water hiking shoe on this list instead.
- light, comfortable, and durable
- easy on and off
- great for snorkeling, use at campsites, and as shower shoes too
- comes in lots and lots of colors
- not the best for long walks barefoot (wearing socks will help a lot)
- tend to run big (so sizing down is recommended)
- soles are thick but soft (avoid stepping on anything too sharp)
Merrell Waterpro Maipo 2 Water Shoe
Best feature: Close-toed water shoe best for water activities and light hiking
Available for both men and women.
The Merrell Waterpro Maipo 2 Water Shoe is an exceptional choice for water hiking adventures in Hawaii and beyond.
One of its standout features is its water-friendly design, specifically crafted to excel in aquatic environments. The shoe’s quick-drying materials ensure that your feet remain comfortable and dry, even after submerging your feet entirely underwater.
Additionally, the Waterpro Maipo 2 boasts excellent traction on wet surfaces. Its closed-toe design offers additional protection, safeguarding your feet from accidental stubs and injuries during water-based hikes.
While the Merrell Waterpro Maipo 2 is highly regarded for its performance and water-friendly features, some customers may find that it lacks the same level of ankle and arch support that traditional hiking shoes offer.
As a specialized water shoe, it prioritizes quick-drying capabilities and water resistance over extensive foot support. While this may be ideal for shorter water hikes and activities, it may not be the best choice for longer hikes on challenging terrains that require more significant support.
- Excellent traction on both wet and dry surfaces
- Out-of-the-box comfort, no break-in period required
- Lightweight and quick-drying
- water shoe that also looks great as an all-around shoe with no-show socks.
- Runs bigger
- Not enough support for long or challenging hikes
KEEN Drift Creek H2
Best feature: Close-toed sandal-style hiking shoe best for dirt trails and water activities
Available for both men and women.
The KEEN Drift Creek H2 is a fantastic water hiking shoe that offers several features to excel in aquatic environments.
The Drift Creek H2 is designed with quick-drying materials that allow it to shed water easily. It also has an exceptional grip on wet surfaces. The shoe’s non-marking rubber outsole is specifically designed for traction in water and on slippery rocks, providing stability and preventing slips during water-based hikes.
Additionally, the Drift Creek H2 incorporates a secure and adjustable fit. Its bungee lace system allows you to customize the fit according to your foot shape, ensuring a snug and comfortable feel throughout your hikes.
On top of that, the sandal’s closed-toe design offers extra protection from rocks and debris, making it ideal for both water and trail hiking.
Having said that, they’re not the most comfortable when walking on gravel or atop small rocks as the soles are very thin, meaning you’ll be able to feel everything you’re stepping on.
- secure fit closed-toe sandal
- machine washable
- adjustable fit
- supportive and quick drying
- not the best for wide feet
- can be more difficult to put on
- thinner, flexible soles are great for water hikes but not for longer overland hikes
KEEN Targhee III – Midheight
Best feature: Hiking boots with great ankle support, best for overland hikes with some water crossings
Available for both men and women.
The KEEN Targhee III is a versatile and popular hiking boot that offers several features that make it suitable for water hiking as well.
While it is primarily designed as a hiking shoe, it is water-friendly and can handle wet conditions effectively. The shoe is equipped with a waterproof and breathable membrane, keeping your feet dry and comfortable even in damp environments, making it an excellent choice for water-based hikes in places like Hawaii, where you might encounter streams and rain showers.
The Targhee III also boasts a sturdy and grippy outsole, providing excellent traction on various terrains, including wet surfaces. And because this is an actual hiking boot, your toes are going to be very well protected!
While the KEEN Targhee III is well-regarded for its performance and versatility, some customers may find the shoe a bit on the heavier side compared to regular hiking shoes. As a waterproof hiking shoe, it offers robust features that may add a bit of weight.
However, its benefits in providing waterproof protection and excellent traction can outweigh the slight weight difference for many hikers.
Are mid-height hiking boots too much for what you need? They also come in a low-height design too:
- great for ankle support
- good for all-terrain hikes
- breathable waterproof leather uppers
- non-marking rubber outsole
- while these are good for wet hikes, they won’t be your best choice if your excursions involve mostly water activities.
MAYZERO Water Shoes
Best feature: Great budget option for primarily water activities and light walking
Available for both men and women.
MAYZERO Water Shoes are an excellent ‘barefoot’ aqua shoe for people looking for super-affordable option. While this shoe is not the best for hiking, it’s perfectly fine for when you’re engaging in primarily water activities in Hawaii.
These shoes are specifically designed to excel in wet environments, making them perfect for snorkeling, exploring tide pools, and enjoying beach activities. The quick-drying and lightweight materials ensure your feet stay comfortable even after submersion in water, allowing you to transition seamlessly from land to sea.
The shoes come with a natural five-toe design. That means the wide toe partitions can keep your toes from rubbing on themselves, and from being scratched by sharp objects such as shells or stones when doing water sports.
However, it’s important to note that while MAYZERO Water Shoes are ideal for water activities, they may not be the best option for long hikes on rugged terrains. The shoes lack significant ankle support and arch support, which are essential for providing stability and comfort during extended hikes.
For those planning to engage in an equal mix of water and land activities, it might be best to consider a more versatile footwear option that offers both water-friendly features and adequate support for prolonged hiking.
- flexible and soft, almost like socks
- durable and breathable
- very lightweight
- no arch support
- no ankle support
- not suited for long overland hikes or hikes with lots of rocks
Water Hiking Shoe Buying Tips
When buying your water hiking shoes, consider how you’ll use them. If you need comfortable shoes that will allow you to cross rivers and beaches and swim, then you’ll not need extra arch and ankle support.
A waterproof hiking shoe with additional support might be a better fit if you plan to do more overland hiking through wet conditions.
An all-terrain shoe will suit you if you want a multifunctional, good-looking shoe for tackling light hikes and wet conditions.
Many water hiking shoes have cinches that offer a tighter heel fit, and you’ll want to look at sole flexibility. The more flexible soles feel closer to barefoot walking but don’t provide the support you’ll need for day-long hikes.
Price range is also essential, as you’ll need to consider how much use you’ll get from your water-hiking shoes. Many shoes are available in the $60-$100 range, and you can watch for last season specials.
How To Clean Your Water Hiking Shoes
Rinse off your hiking shoes, and use a soft brush to remove any mud. If they have washable insoles, remove these for cleaning and drying. Allow your water hiking shoes to dry thoroughly before using them again.
Avoid drying your hiking shoes in the sun or on a radiator. When storing them long-term, keep them in a breathable container. Making sure they’re fully dried before packing them away will prevent any unwanted nasties and odors from developing!
Hope this article was helpful for you in finding a water shoe for your Hawaii needs!
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