GOING AWESOME PLACES: 11 STUNNING WATERFALLS IN OAHU YOU CAN HIKE TO

GOING AWESOME PLACES


[2022] 11 STUNNING WATERFALLS IN OAHU YOU CAN HIKE TO

LAST UPDATED


It’s impressive that an island as small as Oahu manages to cram in so much natural beauty. So much, in fact, that if you hope to experience as much of it as possible on your visit, you’ll need to plan your time carefully. 


To help you, we’ve curated this list to cover the best waterfall hikes on Oahu and important things to consider before setting off. These trails range in difficulty but they all offer hashtag-no-filter-needed moments that are totally worth the effort to get to. 


1. Waimea Falls

waimea falls in waimea valley is one of the best oahu waterall hikes on the island
Image via Flickr by anthony-goto

Also known as Waihi Waterfall, Waimea Falls is located in the beautiful Waimea Valley. Not only will you find a gorgeous 45-foot waterfall here among the lush foliage, but this is a sacred Hawaiian site with immense cultural significance and 79 archaeological sites too. 

As a result, this area is protected, meaning you’ll need to buy a ticket to access it. This is a great hike for the family and very safe with a lifeguard on duty at the swimming area near the falls. 


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Address: 59-864 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712, United States

Hours: Tues – Sun 9AM – 4PM and 7 days a week for the holidays (Nov 29 – Jan 3)

Price: There is an admission fee to enter Waimea Valley:

  • Adult – $20
  • Senior (62+) – $16
  • Student (with ID) – $16
  • Child (4-12) – $12
  • Group (10+ adults) – $16
  • Discounts available for military and Hawaii residents
  • Shuttle to waterfall is available for $10 per person

Website: Waimea Valley

Parking: Parking is included with admission and there's a sizeable parking lot.

Amenities: Snack bar, bar, coffee house, snack shop, information centre, botanical gardens, guided tours, Hawaiian games, and bathrooms. There are 2 separate change rooms and 2 bathrooms at the waterfall (no lockers).

Length: 1.9 mile/3.1km round trip

Difficulty: Easy

Typical time spent here: 1-2 hours depending on whether you're swimming or not.

What makes this a great waterfall in Oahu to hike: As far as waterfalls go, this is the easiest and most comfortable because it's under the management of Waimea Valley. With numerous activities, services, and amenities, this is great for families (this is the only waterfall with lifeguards). I also love the Jurassic Park vibes that you'll feel here. The downside of course is that it's a fair bit “touristy”.

Tips: You are allowed to swim at the waterfall but whether it's open is determined by the lifeguard every day at 9AM. Swimming at the waterfall stops at 4:30PM. Since there is often a line up to use the change rooms, it's better if you have your swim suit underneath for a quick change. Have a bag handy to store your valuables, towel, change of clothes, and other gear that you can access near the waterfall. Make sure to bring good mosquito repellent for the hike. If you really want to avoid crowds, try to come here by 9AM – 9:30AM.

REVIEWS OF WAIMEA FALLS



2. Manoa Falls

manoa falls in oahu is great for hiking

One of the more popular Oahu hikes that include a waterfall, Manoa Falls is easy to access from Waikiki, and the hike is doable for a range of skill levels. If you’re bringing the kids, this one is great and the hike is only 20-30 minutes long. Parts of the trail can be a bit muddy, but it’s worth muddying up your hiking boots when you reach the cascading 100-foot waterfall. 


You’ll be forgiven for feeling like you’re in a scene from Jurassic Park – the original Jurassic Park movie contained scenes filmed right here. We think this fact alone makes this one of the best waterfall hikes on Oahu and one of our three best hikes near Honolulu.


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Address: Na Ala Hele, Honolulu, HI 96822, United States

Hours: 7 days a week, 6AM – 6PM.

Price: The trail is free to enter but there is a parking fee.

Parking: Parking is $7 for vehicles and $5 for military and cash only. Parking lot is not large so you may have to wait for a spot to open up.

Amenities: Pineapple stand with pineapple smoothie (highly recommended), small shop (selling rain ponchos), and bathroom next to the parking lot. There are no other bathrooms on the trail. There is also a high pressure hose at the trail head to rinse off the mud.

Length: 1.7 mile/2.7km round trip

Difficulty: Moderate to challenging (mostly uphill with potentially slippery rocks and muddy terrain).

Typical time spent here: 1.5 hours

What makes this a great waterfall in Oahu to hike: This is one of my favourites on the island because it has all the elements of a good hike in Hawaii – bamboo forest, a tall and powerful waterfall, and lush scenery. The location is also quite convenient being on the southern part of Oahu and a short drive from Honolulu.

Tips: Officially no swimming is allowed but you may find people jumping in anyways. Note that this trail can get muddy easily so make sure you have the proper footwear (leave the sandals and flip flops in the car). It can also be quite heavy on mosquitoes so make sure you have the right mosquito repellent.

REVIEWS OF MANOA FALLS


3. Lulumahu Falls

lulumahu falls hidden gem hike in oahu

Lulumahu Falls is undoubtedly one that most of you haven't heard of and the reason is because it's part of the Honolulu Forest Reserve and on private property. Don't let that scare you off though because you can easily get a permit to do this hike and is definitely one of Oahu's hidden gems.


This isn’t the easiest of hikes. It’s uneven and gravelly but if you’re adventurous and able to stick it out, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful 50-foot waterfall.

When attempting this hike, make sure to follow the ribbons (pink, orange, and blue) that are set up. Ultimately, follow the pink ribbons as closely as you can. There are some that have faded into an orange but trust your gut and try to stay along the stream.

This is by no means a “touristy” hike. It's off-the-beaten-path and you should treat this as a more serious hike. That said, families with kids have certainly done this one and is a true adventure.


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Address: 4459 HI-61, Honolulu, HI 96817, United States

Hours: 7 days a week

Price: You will need a permit to do this hike which you can obtain from the Hawaii Division of Forestry & Wildlife. The permit is $2.50 as an online processing free. You'll also need to create an eHawaii account.

Parking: There is parking on the side of the road near the trailhead but is limited to about 20 cars.

Amenities: None

Length: 1.6 mile/2.6km round trip

Difficulty: At the high end of moderate to challenging.

Typical time spent here: 1.5 – 2 hours

What makes this a great waterfall in Oahu to hike: If you're looking for a lesser-known hike that has multiple water crossings, bamboo forest, and lush scenery. The waterfall at the end is beautiful but this is very much one of those hikes where the journey is what you'll remember the most.

Tips: As you'll see from the reviews, this trail is often very muddy, you will have to cross the creek a few times, and you'll encounter plenty of slick rocks. Water shoes such as the Keen Newport H2 are highly recommended. It is also a shaded trail so no need for a hat. There have been a few reported incidents of car break-ins so make sure you don't have any visible valuables in the car.

REVIEWS OF LULUMAHU FALLS


4. Jackass Ginger Pond

jackass ginger pond on judd trail
Image courtesy of Honolulu Magazine by Lorin Eleni Gill

This popular hiking trail only takes around an hour and a half to arrive at the beautiful cascading waterfall. It’s only about a mile’s worth of hiking along Judd Trail, but it can be challenging going in places due to rocks and roots, and branches.


This area was originally named Kahuailanawai but got its new name from a donkey that used to live here 100 years ago and the bounty of ginger plants nearby.

Once you arrive, you can spend some time at the tranquil swimming hole or take a turn on the rope swing. The waterfall itself is not exactly high (10 foot) but the cascades sure provide a pretty backdrop to the watering hole that's great for cooling off on hot summer days or cliff jumping.

Parking is limited there, so we advise getting there early as it can get very busy with visitors also hoping to take on this waterfall hike. 


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Address: Judd Trail, Honolulu, HI 96817, United States

Hours: 7 days a week

Price: Free

Parking: Street parking is available in dirt pullouts along Nu'uanu Pali Drive.

Amenities: None

Length: 1 mile/1.6km round trip

Difficulty: Easy if hiking from Ko'olau Golf Club and moderate to challenging from Pali Lookout

Typical time spent here: 1.5 – 2 hours

What makes this a great waterfall in Oahu to hike: There aren't that many watering holes in Oahu so this one is a pretty cool hike to which includes a bit of a bamboo forest, a stream, and baby waterfall. It's relatively easy to get to and not as popular as other spots on the island.

Tips: As with many of the other waterfall hikes, this one can also be muddy especially after rain. Having good insect repellent is also smart to have. The trail is relatively easy to navigate as you can see from this AllTrails map. Just make sure you follow the river bank after you hit the first crossing/junction. Eventually you'll hear and see a switchback down to the pool. Lastly, note that there are private residences nearby so keep your volume down to a minimum.

REVIEWS OF JACKASS GINGER POND


5. Likeke Falls

likeke falls hike in oahu

A lesser-known waterfall hike on Oahu, Likeke Falls lies at the end of a 0.8-mile trail. Also known as Old Pali Highway Falls, the two-tiered waterfall is one of the easiest waterfalls to access, and definitely one of the best waterfall hikes on Oahu.


The easiest and shortest route to take starts at the Ko’olau Golf Club, while the far trickier route starts at the Old Pali Highway, from Pali Lookout. The latter is more challenging but a great way to do two things in one. Along the way, you'll see incredible views of the Oahu jungle.

For those wanting to attempt the more challenging Pali Lookout to Likeke Falls, make sure you have something like this AllTrails map or use Gaia GPS to help you find your way. The hardest part is navigating under the Pali Highway and a 3-way fork on the trail.


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Address: 45-550 Kionaole Rd, Kaneohe, HI 96744

Hours: 7 days a week

Price: Free

Parking: You won't be able to park at the golf club for free but you can on the road before its gates. Make sure you park on the right side of the road as they are known to hand out tickets. Alternatively you can simply pay the $10 to park at the golf course which I might recommend because of some of the car break-ins that have been reported.

Amenities: None

Length: 0.8 mile/1.3km round trip

Difficulty: Moderate

Typical time spent here: 1 – 1.5 hours

What makes this a great waterfall in Oahu to hike: Fantastic family-friendly hike if you start from the golf cub which includes a graffiti'd silo, well-travelled trail through the dense forest, is dog-friendly, and ends with a gorgeous waterfall. While trail finding, make sure to follow the big blue arrow on the tree that points towards the waterfall.

Tips: This can be another muddy trail after rain but beyond that it's an easy hike so again make sure you wear the appropriate shoes. It's also under a canopy all the way through so it is nice and shaded.

REVIEWS OF LIKEKE FALLS


6. Maunawili Falls

maunawili falls challenging hike on oahu
Image via Flickr by Mikenan1

The hike to Maunawili Falls is one of the the longer waterfall hikes in Oahu you'll find. While it is well-known, many have mixed feelings about this trail because of how poorly maintained it is and how you end up tripping over slippery rocks and being suctioned by mud.


This is definitely not for the feint of heart as it's simply messy and hard.

On the trail, you will treat you to great views of Kailua Forest Reserve, a thick jungle filled with mango trees, guava trees, and ferns, and also swimming hole at the falls themselves. The trail works in and out of several gulches, ravines, and switchbacks. In the middle, it opens up, allowing you to see the surrounding mountains.

The waterfall itself isn’t the biggest or the most spectacular, but the setting is lush and tropical. There’s also a spot for cliff jumping into the pool, but if you’re not familiar with the depth of the freshwater pools, it’s best not to chance it. 

NOTICE: As of July 2021, the Maunawili Falls trailhead is currently closed for “realignment” and is supposed to be worked on until summer 2023.


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Address: 1201-1209 Kelewina St, Kailua, HI 96734, United States

Hours: 7 days a week

Price: Free

Parking: The trailhead is in a residential area so you'll have to rely on local street parking. This is free but make sure to respect the signs.

Amenities: None

Length: 2.8 mile/4.5km round trip

Difficulty: Very challenging

Typical time spent here: 3-4 hours

What makes this a great waterfall in Oahu to hike: Many of the hikes on Oahu are short and so for something that's a bit more extended through the Oahu jungle that's also more challenging, this hike can be fun as long as you're prepared.

Tips: This is definitely not an easy hike and a big part of it is that it's not the most well-maintained which is why it's undergoing restoration.

REVIEWS OF MAUNAWILI FALLS


7. Waimano Falls


Image via Reddit by A56user

One of the best waterfall hikes in Oahu, Waimano Falls is extremely popular with tourists and locals alike. Tucked in a residential area, this is a three-mile round trip through the forest. It’s not the toughest of hikes, but an area named Cardiac Hill should speak for itself. 


The reward for tackling this root-covered, dusty trail? A tiered waterfall with a pool perfect for swimming. This natural pool area also comes with a few ropes if you're feeling adventurous enough to jump in.

As for the hike itself, it can be technical at a few points along the trail including switchbacks with ropes. Some of the trail markers are hard to see.


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Address: Pearl City, HI 96782, United States

Hours: 7 days a week

Price: Free

Parking: The trailhead as at the dead end of a residential neighborhood of Pearl City. There's limited street parking in this area so try to go early.

Amenities: None

Length: 2.8 mile/4.7km round trip

Difficulty: Moderate to challenging

Typical time spent here: 3 hours

What makes this a great waterfall in Oahu to hike: This is another trail that makes you work for it but the views of the waterfall and natural pool at the end make it worth it. Along the way, you'll encounter tons of roots, rocks, boulders, and mud which'll make for an adventurous hike.

Tips: Should it be a surprise at this point that this hike can also be extremely muddy? A good pair of water shoes or hiking sandals are highly recommended. With no amenities along the way, make sure you pack a change of clothes, towel, mosquito repellent, plenty of water, and first aid kit in case you get any scrapes or bruises.

REVIEWS OF WAIMANO FALLS


8. Laie Falls

laie falls is a great long hike on oahu
Image via Flickr by JulianBleeker

Similar to Lulumahu Falls, this is another waterfall that requires a permit to hike to because it sits on private property. This one is manage by the Hawaii Reserves.


Laie Falls is one for the adventurers who are looking for a longer hike and a more remote waterfall to sink their teeth into. It’s a 7.9-mile round trip that includes scenic lookouts, Alice in Wonderland vibes in the jungle, pine forests, red-soil hills, and tons of variation in elevation.

The permit process is different from others because it's a paper form that needs to be filled out and then emailed to their office at contact_us@hawaiireserves.com. Without a permit, you'll be trespassing.

You’ll walk through bamboo and pine, over exposed ridges and steep uphills, to get to the 15-foot tiered waterfall that cascades into a pool that’s great for swimming.

It’s not the easiest of hikes, but a firm contender on our list of the best waterfall hikes on Oahu, particularly for the experienced hiker. 


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Address: 55-261 Poohaili St, Laie, HI 96762, United States

Hours: 7 days a week

Price: Permit is free to submit – just e-mail the form in. They usually respond back within a day.

Parking: There is no parking at the trailhead. Instead, you're supposed to park by Laie Park and walk up Poohalli Street.

Amenities: None

Length: 7.9 mile/12.7km round trip

Difficulty: Moderate to challenging

Typical time spent here: 2.5 – 3 hours

What makes this a great waterfall in Oahu to hike: This is one of the most diverse waterfall hikes on the list with some portions that are covered and others that are out in the open, providing beautiful vistas of mountains and the ocean. There's also a good mix of terrain and elevation changes. It's also not the easiest all the way through especially the steep downhill climb to the waterfall that has a rope for assistance.

Tips: This is one of the few waterfall hikes in Oahu where it opens up from the canopy. This means that you should try to start early to avoid the heat and also bring a good hat and sunscreen. Some spots can also be a bit overgrown that have been known to scratch up legs so long pants are highly recommended. A few hikers recently have also noticed some areas thick with gnats so having a Buff or face covering will help.

REVIEWS OF LAIE FALLS


9. Koloa Gulch

koloa gulch waterfall
Image via AllTrails by Bon Hen

Also managed by Hawaii Reserves is a second private hike called Koloa Gulch. Similar to Laie Falls, you'll need to e-mail them a permit application in order to do this hike.


This waterfall hike in Oahu is for the more advanced hikers. It's an 8-mile trail, starting at the Koolau Range which involves plenty of rock hopping and at least 35 different stream crossings (# varies depending on who you ask) that will be required. The trail eventually forks, offering a small waterfall and pool to the left, and a small pool and a 100-foot tiered waterfall to the right.

This is one of those hikes that you'll really need to power through because it's long and exhausting especially with all of the crossings, slick rocks, and scrambles.

Luckily, this trail is easy to follow with its many pink trail markers.


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Address: Koolauloa, HI 96762, USA

Hours: 7 days a week

Price: Permit is free to submit – just e-mail the form in. They usually respond back within a day.

Parking: There is no parking at the trailhead. It's easiest to park at Pounders Beach and hike from there.

Amenities: None

Length: 8 mile/12.9km round trip

Difficulty: Challenging

Typical time spent here: 4.5 – 5.5 hours

What makes this a great waterfall in Oahu to hike: If you're looking for a challenge, this one is for you. It's a physically draining hike with its length and crossings but leads to an area that has some spectacular waterfalls.

Tips: Watch the weather as this trail is prone to flash flooding since it follows the rocky stream bed. If it starts to rain while you're hiking, it's best to be safe and turn back. This is the kind of hike where you really need to be aware at all times whether it's the weather or the stream crossings. Since this is a long hike, it's recommended to start bright and early in the morning.


10. Kaipapau Falls

kaipapau falls with woman sitting and contemplating in this challenging oahu hike
Image via YouTube by howzitboy

Kaipapau Falls hike is also an 8.5-mile trek, that is somewhat similar to Koloa Gulch but arguably more challenging. There are plenty of rock hopping across streams as you criss cross from both sides of the bank of Kaipapau Gulch as you make your way up.


You’ll walk through lush forests and past abandoned bunkers to reach the spectacular 90-foot waterfall. If you’re a beginner hiker, it’s highly recommended that you bring an experienced hiker with you. It’s not for the novice to tackle on their own. 

This waterfall hike in Oahu is definitely one of the lesser known ones that isn't well documented and for good reason because of how difficult it is.


For a visual guide, Kenji Saito has a photo journey of his hike.

What's not too clear from many of the guides is the start of the trail. You start along Kawaipuna Street and at the end of the road, there's a paved path that continues and this is what takes you into Kaipapau Valley. This trail map gives you a better idea of the actual trail path you'll be taking. AllTrails has another recorded hike that you can follow.


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Address: Kaipapau Valley

Hours: 7 days a week

Price: Free

Parking: Park in the local neighbourhood on Kawaipuna Street.

Amenities: None

Length: 8.5 mile/13.7km round trip

Difficulty: Extremely challenging

Typical time spent here: 7 – 8 hours

What makes this a great waterfall in Oahu to hike: Kaipapau Falls is clearly a hardcore hike and for those super comfortable with stream crossings. Not many people will know about this hike which will make completing it that much sweeter.

Tips: Avoid doing this hike on rainy days as the water levels will rise without warning and is prone to flash flooding. With the amount of stream crossing you'll be doing, you'll want good footwear. At the extreme, you should hike with microspikes. Locals will use Japanese spiked tabis for this hike. Do this hike with a group of experienced hikers.


11. Waipuhia Falls

wapuhia falls is an upside down waterfall in oahu
Image via AllTrails by Emily Holcomb

At just 0.6 miles, this is one of the shortest waterfall hikes on Oahu. Starting from Pali Highway, the trail passes a wide variety of plants species and gorgeous flowers. It’s so lush that it is possible to lose your way, which is why we don’t recommend this for inexperienced hikers. 


That said, it's important to note that this trail is on private property so unless you have been invited by the owners, you do risk being kicked out.

What makes this waterfall unique among all the other waterfalls is that it is often called the upside-down falls. The reason for this name is that on a windy day, the force of the wind creates the illusion that the water is flowing upwards.

For many that have attempted this hike, there's a high chance of being disappointed because unless there's been heavy rainfall, this waterfall is dry.


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Address: Honolulu, HI 96817, United States

Hours: 7 days a week

Price: Free but requires permission from the owner. Otherwise, this is private property.

Parking: You can risk parking on the pull-off closest to the trailhead.

Amenities: None

Length: 0.6 mile/1km round trip

Difficulty: Moderate

Typical time spent here: 1-2 hours

What makes this a great waterfall in Oahu to hike: The mythical “upside-down” falls can be found here but only when the timing is right as there has to be sufficient amount of rain and wind to cause it to blow upwards.

Tips: This is a short hike so go in with that in mind. You will most likely be bushwhacking your way through as it is quite overgrown. The trailhead is hard to find but it is 50 yards after the second guard rail on the right. Follow the orange tape where you can until you see a huge cliff.

REVIEWS OF WAIPUHIA FALLS


MAP OF BEST WATERFALLS IN OAHU TO HIKE TO

The below is an interactive map of all of the waterfall hikes mentioned in this article. The location pinned are the trailheads instead of the location of the waterfall to assist in trip planning.


11 Stunning Waterfalls in Oahu You Can Hike To - Google My Maps


TOP 3 OAHU WATERFALL HIKE GUIDED TOURS

If you’d prefer to tackle these hikes along with a few other sights in the company of a trained local guide, check out one of these great guided adventures. 

Waterfall Hike, Sightseeing, and East Side Beach Day

Head out on a moderate 1.5-mile hike through lush forests to one of Oahu’s beautiful waterfalls. After this scenic trek, refuel with a tasty lunch before hitting the beach for an afternoon of tropical beach fun. This is a small group tour but can be booked as a private excursion. 

Oahu Hidden Gems and Waimea Beach Botanical Garden/Waterfall Tour

Explore Oahu, visiting famous landmarks in the company of a local expert guide to learn more about the history and culture of the island. In addition to exploring the botanical gardens and swimming at the waterfall, the tour stops at a variety of popular and lesser-known places of interest. 


Hawaiian Waterfall Hike

Explore lush tropical rainforests in this 2-mile guided hike. Along the way, you’ll pass by local flora and fauna, as well as the remains of ancient Hawaiian terraced farms. Your efforts are rewarded when you reach a spectacular 150-foot waterfall. Snacks and water are provided. 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is the etiquette when hiking on Oahu?

When parking on local residential roads, make sure to respect the parking rules and not block any driveways. Make sure any garbage you bring in is taken out. Also keep the noise to a minimum especially if there are houses nearby.

Is it safe to go swimming in a natural pool?

In most cases it is. The water is swimmable but with how murky it is, it is not recommended to drink any of the water. Also, if you have any open wounds, you should not be entering the water as it may cause leptospirosis through bacteria.

Is it safe to go cliff jumping at these waterfalls?

You'll see many people go cliff jumping or jumping off ropes at these natural pools at the waterfalls. In most cases the water is deep enough but is still dangerous so be careful. There are plenty of stories of people getting injured from jumping so use your best judgement.

When is the best time to go waterfall hiking in Oahu?

For the best hiking experience, go hiking early in the day when there are fewer people and also after days of dry weather so it is less muddy. For those wanting to see full and flowing waterfalls, going after rainfall will be be the best but the tradeoff is difficult terrain.

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