Seven Oahu Waterfall Hikes
Waterfalls are an essential part of any Hawaiian vacation. So, if you’re visiting Oahu, you owe it to yourself to pay a visit to one—or maybe a few—of these natural marvels. Even better, some of Oahu’s falls are just a short hike into the jungle, so if you’re not looking to trek the day away, you have options. Here, we’ll give you everything you need to know to plan a visit to these beautiful sights.
Manoa Falls | Edmund Garman from Salem, Oregon, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Manoa Falls is one of the most accessible on the Island of Oahu. The 1.7-mile trail does get pretty muddy and slippery during the wet season (October to March), but as long as you wear the right shoes, you’ll be fine. Keep in mind that swimming is not recommended here due to the potential for Leptospirosis.
This hike is located just outside of Honolulu at the end of Manoa Road. If the trail and falls look familiar, it’s because Manoa Falls has been a filming site for several locations including Jurassic Park and Lost. If you’re looking for a great trail for kids, this easy hike is perfect for the whole family, just remember to wear sneakers or hiking shoes since again, this spot gets slippery. Parking at Manoa Falls cost $5 and is cash only. You should also note that this is an extremely popular trail -- you’ll want to arrive early to beat the crowds.
Looking to visit Manoa Falls? Check it out on Shaka Guide's Honolulu Backyard Rainforest Tour!
Maunawili Falls | Zhong54, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
South of Kailua in the town of Maunawili, you can find another excellent waterfall for swimming. This Oahu waterfall hike is muddy most parts of the year, so dress appropriately. The hike is 2.4 miles one way and heavily trafficked through the dense jungle foliage of the Waimanalo Forest Reserve. You’re likely to see some locals jumping into the pool from several cliffs--partake at your own risk! Although this hike does get a bit muddy, it is still rated as easy.
Lulumahu Falls | California Cow from Seattle, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The Lulumahu Falls hike is much less traveled than the previous two, which is both good and bad. The hike is not maintained by the state, so it does become a bit overgrown and hard to follow at times. You can find the trailhead at the parking lot on the corner of Nuuanu Pali Drive and Pali Highway.
The 2-mile hike treks through a very muddy bamboo forest, an open field, and along a lake before arriving at the beautiful 50-foot waterfall. Since this hike is a bit more difficult to follow, it is rated as moderate.
If you’re looking for more of an adventure, Laie Falls has an 8-mile build-up before you arrive at the waterfall. Keep in mind that this means you’ll need to be prepared to hike 16, moderately-difficult miles in a single day since there is no camping along the trail. The scenery changes from an open lava-rock field into a dense jungle over the course of the hike, which makes this adventure feel like a real journey.
The trail begins just outside of the town of Laie. To get there take Poohaili Street until it turns into three unnamed roads. Take the leftmost road and then stay right at the next fork. The trail begins at the end of this road.
Daderot., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Waimea Falls is located inside Waimea Valley on the North Shore. It is an extremely easy, one-mile stroll that is perfect for kids. The botanical gardens are an attraction in their own right, so your day will be packed with amazing sights including some rare and endangered plant life. The park is open seven days a week from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission is $18 per adult.
The 30-foot pool below Waimea is often a great place to swim, depending on the conditions. You can check the current swimming status of the pool (regular swimming, limited swimming, no swimming) by calling (808) 638-7766. All swimmers are required to wear life jackets, which the park supplies.
Looking to visit Waimea Falls? Waimea Valley is a stop on Shaka Guide's Grand Circle Island Tour!
Kapena Falls requires the shortest hike of any of these destinations to see. The .5-mile, easy walk to the 15-foot waterfall features massive boulders and a banyan forest. The Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson film The Rundown, and Lost both filmed at this waterfall.
Take a walk along the 1-mile long Judd Trail to Ginger Pond where you'll find a small waterfall. Don't let the size deter you, this hike is perfect for families making it a great waterfall to visit with kids. Note, it can get slippery when wet so make sure to wear proper shoes.
elljay / Pixabay
There are two other Oahu waterfall hikes worth mentioning, however, they have been closed and entering them is considered trespassing on private property. You should not enter them or ever pass ‘no trespassing’ signs in Hawaii, even if you see others doing so!
Hamama Falls used to be an awesome location to get away from the crowds, but hiking is no longer allowed. Don’t test the posted ‘no trespassing’ signs since there are video cameras on site.
Sacred Falls is a beautiful destination as well, however, it has also been closed since Mothers Day 1999, when a rockfall resulted in several tragic deaths. Despite this, hikers continue to trespass on the closed state park’s lands to see this surreal natural wonder. However, we don’t recommend this — not only because it’s dangerous — but because fines run between $2,500 and $10,000 for entering the park illegally!
Despite these two closures, Oahu has an abundance of waterfalls to choose from. If you’re visiting, be sure to take one of the outstanding hikes through the beautiful trails to these untouched masterpieces of mother nature!
When you're in Hawaii, please be respectful of the land, animals and plant species you come across. Hawaii's ecosystems are fragile. You can show your aloha by leaving the trail better than you found it. Always dispose of your trash properly and never trespass on private property. If there are no trespassing signs, they are there for a reason! For more on how to be a safe and responsible traveler when you visit Hawaii, click here.
SHAKA GUIDE'S OAHU TOURS: Grand Circle Island Tour, East Oahu Shoreline Drive, Honolulu's Backyard Rainforest Tour, Legendary North Shore Loop, Heart of Waikiki Walking Tour, Historic Downtown Honolulu Walking Tour