10 Spectacular Waterfall Hikes on Oahu

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I have done dozens of hikes on the islands of O’ahu, Maui, and Kaua’i, and enjoy doing my favorites over and over. Waterfall hikes on Oahu are not only popular with locals but they are also a unique experience many visitors seek out.

Oahu is indeed a tropical paradise, known for its pristine beaches but also for its magnificent and picturesque waterfall hikes. Imagine trekking through lush rainforests, hearing the soothing sound of water cascading down the rocks, and taking a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear pools.

For all my hikes I use the Alltrails app to get the latest reviews and additional information. This app is included in my essential Hawai’i travel apps list and I used the paid version for my hike to Kalalau on Kauai.

Intrigued? Let me guide you through some of the most spectacular waterfall hikes Oahu has to offer, perfect for every adventurer, whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just looking for a leisurely stroll to enjoy nature’s wonders.

10 Spectacular Waterfall Hikes on Oahu

Manoa Falls

The most popular among tourists and only a short 15-minute drive from Waikiki.

If you are looking for the best things to do on O’ahu and want to get in a quick hike, this is the one I recommend.

Nestled in the heart of Oahu’s lush rainforest, Manoa Falls is an easily accessible and popular hike, perfect for nature lovers of all ages. The 1.6-mile round-trip hike to Manoa Falls takes you through a dense forest filled with bamboo groves and native plants, culminating in the breathtaking sight of a 150-foot waterfall.

10 Spectacular Waterfall Hikes on Oahu

The paved walking trail is well-maintained, but be prepared for some mud – it’s all part of the adventure!

Here’s what you should know:

WEATHER-RELATED CLOSURES: Due to the weather, this area might be closed sometimes. For updates, check https://hawaiitrails.hawaii.gov/trails/#/.

Parking at the trailhead requires a fee.

The Manoa Falls Trail is a brief journey to Manoa Falls in Honolulu’s Manoa Valley, Oahu. This trail takes you through a vibrant Hawaiian rainforest, famous for being featured in movies like Jurassic Park and LOST.

The path can get quite muddy, so it’s best to wear shoes that cover your toes. While you can’t swim in the waterfall’s pool, the scenic views make the hike worthwhile. Since the area often gets heavy rain, it’s wise to check the weather to avoid flash floods.

You can easily reach the trailhead, which is just a short drive from downtown Honolulu, at the end of Manoa Road. Remember, parking is paid. Nearby attractions include the Lyon Arboretum and Botanical Garden, a haven for rare Hawaiian plants.

Don’t forget to follow the “Leave No Trace” rule to help preserve nature, and consider starting your journey early to avoid the crowds. For added comfort, bring a light rain jacket, as the weather in the area can be unpredictable.

Waimea Falls

Waimea Falls is a great place for families to visit. It’s on the North Shore of Oahu and an easy walk on a smooth path. There’s a place to swim with a lifeguard watching, and it’s right in the beautiful Waimea Valley Botanical Gardens. You’ll see a big 40-foot waterfall there! It’s a safe and fun way to see nature.

I had the opportunity to volunteer here and I recommend if you have the time to try it out. You can schedule online and then get free access to the park afterward.

Don’t forget to bring your swimsuits for a fun time and make special memories with your family.

10 Spectacular Waterfall Hikes on Oahu

Here is what you should know:

Waimea Falls offers a 1.5-mile round-trip hike that caters to all ages and skill levels. The trail is mostly paved and has plenty of attractions along the way. To get into Waimea Valley, you need to pay. Find out more at https://www.waimeavalley.net/admission

Waimea Falls has a pretty hiking trail that’s good for families. It’s paved, but sometimes it’s wet and foggy. You have to pay to hike here, and this is for everyone, including adults, kids, and people in the military. If you want to swim in the falls, you’ll need to wear a life vest.

Remember, the waterfall might not have much water if it hasn’t rained lately.

The trail is smooth, but some parts are pretty steep, more than 8% uphill. If you’re using a wheelchair, scooter, or pushing a stroller, you might need help on this trail.

After a day filled with adventure, take a refreshing dip in the lifeguarded swimming area at Waimea Falls and relax in the tranquil surroundings.

If you want to be shuttled out from Waikiki you may want to consider a well-reviewed tour that includes lunch and light breakfast.

Maunawili Falls

This trail has undergone some major work recently and was completely shut down for a period of time. There is now a legal way to get to the falls even though portions are still closed.

For the most current information visit the official Hawai’i.gov website and make sure you understand how to legally hike this trail. If you are unsure, do not go.

Nestled near Kailua, this Oahu waterfall hike offers a unique experience for those seeking an off-the-beaten-path adventure, combining the beauty of nature with the excitement of a waterfall.

10 Spectacular Waterfall Hikes on Oahu

Make sure to wear appropriate footwear and take extra caution on the trail to fully enjoy the breathtaking scenery along the way.

Here is what you should know:

“The portion of the Maunawili Falls trail that goes over private land is closed, however, the portion that goes over Forest Reserve is open. You can get to the trail via the Maunawili Trail to Maunawili Connector Trail to a short portion of the Maunawili Falls Trail that drops down to the falls itself. There is no exit out the private land so hikers need to go back the way they came.

Directions: From Honolulu, head towards Kailua on the Pali Highway. Just after going through the tunnels, there is a hairpin turn. Begin to look for the parking area (marked scenic overlook), which is just after the hairpin turn. Park in this turnout. Note: Parking at the scenic lookout is now limited to 2 hours. The trailhead is adjacent to the parking area.

To get to the falls you will need to hike for approximately two (2) miles on the Maunawili trail until you come to the Maunawili Falls connector trail junction. Proceed down the trail for approximately one (1) mile to another trail junction. Take the trail going down to get to the falls. Do not proceed forward at this point as the trail leads to private land where the trail is currently closed.”

https://hawaiitrails.ehawaii.gov/trails/#/trail/maunawili-falls-trail-portion-of-trail-on-state-land-is-open/271

10 Spectacular Waterfall Hikes on Oahu

Waimano Falls

Waimano Falls is a medium-to-challenging hike for those seeking a more demanding adventure. This 3-mile round trip hike offers stunning views, and multiple pools.

Located in the south of Oahu, Waimano Falls is the perfect destination for experienced hikers looking to challenge themselves while enjoying breathtaking scenery.

Here is what you should know:

Head to this 2.9-mile trail near Pearl City, Oahu, for an adventure. It’s known to be a bit tough, but it’s also a popular spot for hiking, so expect to see other people on your journey. The trail is open all year and offers a beautiful experience whenever you visit. You can bring your dog along too, as long as they’re on a leash. The path is steep, leading to an exciting hike that ends at a stunning waterfall and swimming area.

To ensure a safe and comfortable hike, it’s important to wear appropriate footwear, as trails can often be wet and muddy, particularly after it rains. It’s also essential to bring along sufficient water, high-energy snacks, and insect repellent to maintain comfort throughout the hike. Considering the unpredictable weather carrying a light rain jacket is advisable.

Lastly, always exercise caution when you’re near the waterfall and carefully assess your swimming abilities before deciding to take a dip.

Likeke Falls

Tucked away in Oahu’s lush landscape, Likeke Falls is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. This serene waterfall hike takes you on a short 1-mile journey from the Koolau Golf Club to a serene cascading waterfall.

10 Spectacular Waterfall Hikes on Oahu

Here is what you should know:

This waterfall hike is also accessible from the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout but I recommend for first-timers that you go from the Koolau Golf Club.

This 0.8-mile hike takes you through a lush rainforest and leads to a beautiful waterfall near Kaneohe, Oahu. Start your journey by parking on the road before the gate to Ko’olau Golf Club, but be careful to park correctly as you might get a ticket otherwise.

The trail might be muddy if there’s been a lot of rain recently, which is quite common in this area. This hike is considered moderately challenging and usually takes about 30 minutes to complete.

It’s a popular spot for both hiking and running, so expect to meet other people on your adventure. Open all year, the trail is always a great place to visit. If you’re bringing your dog, just make sure they are on a leash.

To fully appreciate the beauty of Likeke Falls, it’s best to visit during the rainy season when the water flow is at its most spectacular. The trail is often wet and slippery due to frequent rain over the Ko’olau Mountains, so make sure to wear footwear with good traction for a safe and enjoyable hike.

Checking the weather forecast before visiting is also highly recommended to make the most of your experience at Likeke Falls.

Lulumahu Falls – Permit Required

For those willing to plan ahead, Lulumahu Falls is a must-visit. This 1.6-mile moderate hike on private land takes you through a lush forest to a stunning 50-foot waterfall. To access this beautiful and secluded spot, hikers must obtain a permit.

Here is what you should know:

You need to submit an online application for day-use permit access to Hawaii’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DLNR) trails, access roads, and restricted watersheds. Here is the link.

Located next to the Pali Highway, the Lulumahu Falls trail takes you on a 1.6-mile round-trip hike through a dense forest landscape. This trail is not clearly marked in areas but keep an eye out for the pink ribbons and stay along the creek.

This area gets a lot of rain and is usually slippery, especially during the winter months. Wear proper footwear and be ready to get wet along the way. If it is raining do not attempt this hike.

The permit is required because the trail is located on private property owned by the Honolulu Board of Water. Ensure you have your permit handy when embarking on this exclusive adventure.

Jackass Ginger Pool – Judd Trail

Just down the road from Lulumahu Falls is another short trail with a small pool and “waterfall” that is easily accessible.

For those who love water adventures, Judd Trail is a must-visit destination. This mile-long hike takes you through a mesmerizing bamboo forest and beneath towering banyan trees, leading to a beautiful swimming hole with natural water slides, a small waterfall, and a swinging rope.

10 Spectacular Waterfall Hikes on Oahu

What you need to know:

The Judd Trail hike is a mile-long adventure that takes around 25-30 minutes to complete, making it an enjoyable and accessible trail for everyone.

This trail is subject to seasonal closures so be sure to check the official Hawai’i government website before heading out, especially during the winter months. This is a popular hike with very limited street parking so be prepared to look for a legal parking spot when busy. Also, never leave valuables visible in your car.

The trail hike offers a unique experience, with natural water slides, a small waterfall, and a swinging rope waiting to be enjoyed.

Laie Falls: Reservation Required

Laie Falls is a remote and serene waterfall hike located on the North Shore of Oahu. This 8-mile round trip hike takes you through the breathtaking Koolau Range, featuring a 15-foot waterfall and unique views of the North Shore.

A permit is required and you can apply here.

If you’re looking for a more secluded and challenging hike, Laie Falls is the perfect destination.

What you need to know:

Taking approximately 4-5 hours to complete, the Laie Falls trail encompasses an 8-mile round-trip hike. on the beautiful North Shore of Oahu.

The hike offers a challenging experience, with mostly uphill sections and stunning views of the Ko’olau Mountains and the ocean.

10 Spectacular Waterfall Hikes on Oahu

Koloa Gulch: Reservation Required

Koloa Gulch is a challenging 8-mile hike through the Koolau Range, featuring a 100-foot waterfall and requiring a permit for access. This remote and rugged hike is perfect for experienced hikers seeking a more demanding adventure, as the trail includes rock scrambling and stream crossings.

With its breathtaking scenery and challenging terrain, Koloa Gulch is a must-visit for thrill-seekers. The permitting for this hike is run by the same organization as the hike at Laie Falls (above) so take that into consideration when planning.

10 Spectacular Waterfall Hikes on Oahu

What you need to know:

Encompassing an 7-mile round trip, the Koloa Gulch trail takes around 4-5 hours to complete. The trail is located on the beautiful windward side of Oahu, offering stunning views of the Ko’olau Mountains and the ocean. Be prepared for rock scrambling and stream crossings, as the trail can be more adventurous than other hikes on the island.

Kapena Falls Trail

If you’re looking for a short and sweet hike with a beautiful reward, look no further than Kapena Falls Trail. This easy hike takes you through lush surroundings to a waterfall that flows into a large pool. At .3 miles it’s not really a hike and more of a pond with easy access.

Kapena falls is one of the best waterfall hikes on oahu

What you need to know:

Comprising a short hike, the Kapena Falls trail can be completed in approximately 15-20 minutes. You can see cool petroglyphs to the left of the trail. It’s a popular spot for hiking and walking, but it’s still nice and quiet at certain times of the day. You can go there any time of the year, and it’s always beautiful. If you have a dog, you can bring it along, but make sure to keep it on a leash.

With its lush surroundings and beautiful waterfall, Kapena Falls offers a serene spot for visitors to unwind and enjoy nature’s beauty.

Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the stunning scenery and create lasting memories of your adventure.

FAQ’s

Is it safe to swim in Waimea Falls?

Swimming at Waimea Falls is safe and enjoyable for all ages, as it is accessible via an easy 1/3-mile paved path that takes you through the botanical gardens. Swimming at Waimea Falls is dependent on daily waterfall conditions. Lifeguards make the swim call for the day at 9 am

Do I need a permit to hike all the waterfall trails on Oahu?

You do not need a permit for the majority of hikes to waterfalls on O’ahu but as noted above some do require approval to cross private property.

Can I swim at all the waterfalls mentioned in this blog post?

Yes, you can swim at most of the waterfalls mentioned in this post. However, make sure to check the water conditions and follow any safety restrictions, laws, rules, or regulations. If you are unsure, don’t go.

Are all the waterfall hikes in Oahu suitable for families and inexperienced hikers?

Not all of these hikes are suitable for families with inexperienced or out-of-shape individuals. Do your research and make an informed decision. If you are unsure, don’t go.

What should I wear and bring for a waterfall hike in Oahu?

Pack your most comfortable clothes, sturdy shoes, a hat, sunscreen, bug spray, a daypack with snacks and plenty of water, and you’ll be ready to explore the spectacular waterfalls of Oahu! Don’t forget a swimsuit, light rain jacket, or permit if needed.

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Brandon Hughes
Brandon Hugheshttp://www.suitesandlobbies.com/
Aloha, as the founder and chief editor of Suites & Lobbies, I enjoy offering unique perspectives on hotel accommodations, airline services, dining experiences, and the evolving travel landscape of Hawai'i. Raised in the town of Ka'alaea on O'ahu, a native Hawaiian, and a lifelong learner. My extensive travels across Hawai'i ensure that readers receive accurate and up-to-date information, from emerging hotel projects to the latest in restaurant openings and travel-related concerns. My commitment is to provide unbiased, thorough insights stemming from first-hand knowledge of current affairs here in Hawai’i. I further showcase this on my YouTube channel, where I present detailed visual reviews and updates. Connect with me there or find me on LinkedIn engaging with industry peers and fostering meaningful discussions on Hawai'i travel. Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCS1xESm74twX__Iw9ESs5BA LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/brandon-hughes-hoku-marketing/

2 COMMENTS

  1. Are mosquitoes a problem in Hawaii?. I once hiked a short distance in Southeast Asia and immediately turned around due to mosquitoes.

    • Hi Derek, Yes, we definitely have mosquitos here, and depending on how shady or covered the hike is they can be quite bothersome. Most of these waterfall hikes would fall into that category so I would apply generously before and take some with you as sweat will dilute the effectiveness. Consider a long sleeve if needed. Enjoy!

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