Waterfalls on Oahu

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The island of Oahu offers a wealth of waterfalls and nature hikes, showcasing the beauty of Hawaii while giving you a chance to explore. Most of the waterfalls on the island are accessible by easy hikes. If you’re looking for a break from the beach, tie on your hiking boots and head into the beautiful Hawaiian mountains to catch a glimpse of water cascading over the moss covered rocks.

For your own safety, always hike with one or more people in the party and tell someone where you will be and when you expect you back. Always bring water and food with you. Follow all posted signs and state laws. If you’re ever uncomfortable or unsure, do not continue and turn back. DO NOT drink the water in streams as it carries a potentially fatal bacteria. Do not leave valuables in your car. Hike at your own risk.


Manoa Falls:
Manoa Falls is a spectacular site as it tumbles down a near vertical cliff for approximately 150-feet into a small pool. The hike travels through a bamboo forest, rainforest, and base of the Ko'oau Mountains. The trail is approximately a 1 ½ mile hike. The small pool at the bottom of the falls is filled with boulders and the bottom of the pool cannot be visualized making it unsafe for swimming or diving. Swimming violators may be cited.
Directions: From Waikiki: Take McCully Street out of Waikiki toward the mountains. Turn right onto Kapiolani Blvd. Turn left onto University and drive through the University of Hawaii campus. Turn right onto Manoa Road. This will dead end at the trail head. Parking is approx. $5-ask for military rates.

Lulumahu Falls:
Lulumahu Falls is 1 of 5 popular waterfalls in the Pali region! This waterfall a lot as it resides close to the Kaniakapupu Ruins, better known as King Kamehameha III's summer home. This waterfall has a great Indiana Jones advenure-like trailto get there. It will take you about 30 to 40 minutes to reach the 50 ft plus Lulumahu waterfall, and I promise you that you will not find yourself bored hiking into a dense bamboo forest, climbing up old waterwork structures, and wandering into the mystical Hawaiian jungle!

Be sure to get a permit before hiking this trail because the land is owned by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply and passes by the Nu’unanu Reservoir.

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Lua’alaea Falls 
The hike to Lua’alaea Falls starts from the same trailhead as Manoa Falls. The trail is much lesser traveled, wilder, and more interesting to traverse. Once you crossed the bridge, veer off  left of the Manoa Falls trail into the stream to make your way to Lua’alaea Falls. The hike is a short two miles through muddy jungle with slippery moss covered rocks and tree roots. The lower falls are no more than 10 feet tall with a small pool at the base. Upper Lua’alaea Falls are much higher, falling some 60 feet over a rock face.
Directions: From Waikiki: Take McCully Street out of Waikiki toward the mountains. Turn right onto Kapiolani Blvd. Turn left onto University and drive through the University of Hawaii campus. Turn right onto Manoa Road. This will dead end at the trail head. Parking is approx. $5.

Waimea Falls 
Waimea Falls is located in the beautiful 1,800-acre Waimea Falls Park. In ancient times, the Hawaiians believed that Waimea had healing powers and they would bring their wounded soldiers to the waterfall and lay them in the water for healing. The water has a reddish tint due to the iron oxide found in the volcanic soil that flows down from the mountains by the Waimea River.
Directions: Take H1 west bound to H2 heading to the North Shore. Take the Wahiawa Exit and get on Kamehameha Highway. Turn right into the Park just past the Waimea Bay Beach Park. Waimea Valley is located at 59-864 Kamehameha Highway. Admission is $8 for military adults and $5 for military children, ages 4-12.

Kapena Falls
Kapena Falls is a tiny waterfall tumbling around 20-30ft. Even though it is right in the middle of urban Honolulu, it is not visible from any roads and as a result gets few visitors on weekdays. This is not a tall waterfall but the pool is large and the short walk to it is pretty and features some nice little cascades and small pools. The area was used to film some scenes of the TV show "Lost". The water is quite often very dirty and not appealing for swimming; the best time to visit this waterfall is in the late summer when there is less runoff and the water is clearer.
Directions: From H1, take the Pali Hwy. going towards Kailua. Take the Wyllie St. exit, which comes soon after the beginning of the Pali. After crossing over the highway, turn left on Nuuanu St. and then turn left into the Nuuanu Memorial Park and Mortuary.  Go all the way to the back, turning right and then left and down, and park in the last parking area. You'll see a grassy trail to the left of a building. That is the trailhead, and it takes you almost immediately to the stream.



Maunawili Falls
The trail begins with a pleasant meander through a forest of bamboo trees, ginger and coffee plants. It crosses the stream in a few places and slowly climbs above the treetops to gorgeous views of the Ko'olaus, Mount Olomana, and surrounding Kailua and Kaneohe. After reaching the top of a brisk flight of stairs, the trail divides. The trail on the right connects to the Maunawili Demonstration Trail, which goes from the Pali Highway to Waimanalo, about 8 miles long. To proceed to the falls, turn left and climb down the stairs to the stream below. Head straight back, and with one final stream crossing you'll be sure to hear the gentle rush of the falls ahead, roughly an hour or so after your hike began. The best time to go is in the morning. Beware, this trail can get very muddy!
Directions: Take the Pali Highway towards Kailua. Turn right onto Auloa Road, stay left at the fork on Maunawili Road and follow the signs to a residential neighborhood. At the end of Maunawili Road turn right on Keewina Street and park on the street. The trailhead is past a gate, down a short road and on your right.

Laie Falls:
Laie Falls is a two-tiered waterfall cascading into a deep sapphire-hued pool below. Located on the northeastern shores of Oahu in between the towns of Hau’ula and Kahuku, this intermediate-level trail, lush surroundings, and jeweled waterfall create a simple getaway when you’re craving a more serene atmosphere. The15-foot falls are visible after a two to four hour hike. The hiking trail offers glimpses of the ocean and views of different aspects of Oahu’s wildlife. Divided into two tiers of waterfall, the falls may vary from a small stream to a substantial downfall of water, depending on the current amount of rainfall. The trail may also be confusing at times, so closely follow the markers on the trail and pay attention to the map.
Directions: A permit is required to hike this trail. Just north of the Polynesian Cultural Center (on Hwy 83), stop in the Laie Shopping Center (Foodland supermarket), which houses the Hawaii Reserves, Inc. office issuing permits for the Laie Ridge and Laie Falls hikes. From the Laie Shopping Center, continue north on Hwy 83 for just under half a mile (roughly four blocks long) until you see the small street called Naniloa Loop on the left. Turn left onto Naniloa Lp, and take the second exit on the roundabout (Po'ohaili St). Park in one of the public spaces adjacent to La'ie Park. Beyond La'ie Park, the road is private and unavailable for parking. You'll have to walk this stretch before getting to the official trailhead.

Pools at Waiakeakua
Waiakeakua Stream consists of pools and waterfalls tucked against the Koolau Mountains behind Puu Pia, the prominent cinder cone on the east-side of Manoa Valley. The Na Ala Hele Trail leads Puu Pia in Manoa Valley, which brings you to the pools. The water is incredibly clear and descends through a series of pools as it makes its way downstream.  In ancient times, the pools at Waiakeakua were reserved for bathing by alii (chiefs). 
Directions: From Waikiki: Take McCully Street out of Waikiki toward the mountains. Turn right onto Kapiolani Blvd. Turn left onto University and drive through the University of Hawaii campus. Turn right onto Manoa Road. This will dead end at the trail head. Parking is approx. $5.

Likeke Falls
Likeke Falls is a pretty 15ft waterfall that is a well-hidden gem known mostly to locals. It is well worth the effort to get to this waterfall. There aren’t many signs indicating the presence of this waterfall, but it is spectacular once you reach it.
Directions: Park at the Pali Lookout car park, off of Hwy 61(Pali Hwy).  From the car park, walk towards the Pali Lookout. Then, follow the paved road (Old Pali Road) downhill to the right past the gate for about 3/4-mile. From this point, leave the road and follow an apparent fork alongside the "new" Pali Highway (Hwy 61). The trail then disappears beneath the graffiti-laden concrete walls of Hwy 61, requiring a descent on a set of rickety wooden steps. After descending the wooden steps, squeeze between the concrete walls supporting the Kailua-bound lanes of Hwy 61. Once you emerge from the highway’s structural underbelly, the weedy trail widens as it went underneath the Honolulu-bound lanes of Hwy 61. Eventually, you regain the normal hiking trail on the other side of the freeway and start to walk beneath the tall columns supporting the highway. The trail veers away from the noisy highway and rejoins the Old Pali Road.  The trail continues downhill on Old Pali Road to the junction with A'uloa Road, which was closed to vehicular traffic in this area. There a trail leaves the pavement at a hairpin turn between the end of a concrete railing and a power pole. This is the official trailhead of the Likeke Trail. At first the trail ascends several switchbacks before undulating through a humid, jungle-like canopy. Go straight at the four-way intersection. The trail turns into a stone road. Here, take a left turn to leave this road and eventually (probably about 10 minutes) cross right in front of Likeke Falls.



Kaipapa’u Gulch
The stream bed may very well be dry, if so proceed mauka up the right branch. There should be a number of ribbons along the entire trail to show you the way. If the stream is flowing heavily and above mid-shin level, reconsider this hike. Surely the water will be higher and faster as you proceed and become eventually dangerous, not a good idea for a stream hike. the trail which will spend most of the time on either the left or right bank of the stream, and crossing the stream to get to the other side. You will pass through groves of hau, lots of christmasberry, guava, rose-apple (the fruit is excellent eating), and some very old and large mango trees. Like most gulch hikes you can expect to cross and re-cross Kaipapa’u stream a number of times as the trail leads you along either bank finding the most passable route upstream. The last mile or so the walls of the gulch will begin to get higher and closer in. You will spend a lot more energy “rock-hopping” up the stream bed. Remember, stream rocks, when wet are VERY slippery, step slowly and carefully. Eventually, you will arrive at the end of the gulch hike. Hopefully, you will be greeted by a flowing 90’ high waterfall and plunge pool that is well over your head if you choose to go in. Depending on your skills and the trail conditions you can expect a two to three hour hike out following the same trail you used coming in.
Directions: Drive north up the windward coast to the town of Hau’ula along Kamahamaha Highway (#83). Just before the Hau’ula Shopping Center is a KFC, and the street just before the KFC is Kawaipuna Street. Turn on it and follow until you come to the chained road. Park and proceed up the concrete road. You will pass a large water tank on the right and the road will turn to gravel and then dirt. You will pass a grove of Hau trees on the right that hides the trail that leads up to a grove of Ironwood trees and the start of Kaipapa’u Ridge hike. Ignore this temptation and very soon you will notice an obvious turnoff to the left. Continue past this to the second even more obvious turnoff and follow it to Kaipapa’u stream and the beginning of the hike.

Manana Trail to Waimano Pool:
High above Pearl City, at the top of Pacific Palisades, a 3-mile round trip hike leads to two small pools backed by a fine waterfall. Although short as distance goes, the route drops steeply enough down into Waimano Valley to require caution, especially in wet weather, or when previous rains have made the trail slick with mud. However, there are no dangerous drop-offs or exposed places, which makes the outing suitable for hardy families. Keep in mind, though, that the steep trail must be climbed back up at the end of the hike (a 700-foot gain), and it has earned its nickname, “cardiac hill.” The route follows a narrow paved road until it reaches a water tank. It then becomes the Manana Trail. After passing a utility tower on the left, the trail continues along the ridge. Ignore a small side trail to the right, keeping to the main route, which bears right just below a wide hill. The trail drops downhill slightly, and a brown-and-yellow trail marker soon appears, pointing left, indicating the route of the Manana Trail. Do not turn here, but keep right and downhill. You may see a small hand-lettered sign “Falls,” just before descending along a wide ridge, covered with exposed roots. Entering a thicker forest, the trail narrows, and the going becomes steeper and rocky in places. For a time, the route contours along the side of the valley, but soon drops sharply again. A fixed rope helps in one of the more difficult places.
Directions: The trailhead is the same as that for the Manana Trail, which begins at the end of Komo Mai Drive. (From Kamehameha Highway or Moanalua Road, turn mauka on Waimano Home Road, then left on Komo Mai, and follow it to the end). The trail begins behind the walk-around gate, at the Public Hunting Area sign.

Malaekahana Pool and Falls
Malaekahana is about 8 miles round trip, gains about 1,200 feet in elevation, and is a fairly strenuous trail. Malaekahana Trail traverses private property, and the hike requires permission from Hawaii Reserves. The permit must be picked up in person at their office in the La'ie Shopping Center, between the Country Doctor and the Pharmacy.
Directions: To reach the trailhead, take Kamehameha Highway to La`ie and turn mauka at Naniloa Loop. Entering a small traffic circle, take the second turn to the right, onto Po`ohaili Street, drive to the ballfield on the left, and park on the grass, well off the road. Continue mauka on foot on Po`ohaile, passing through two successive gates. If the gates are closed, walk around them. After the second gate the pavement ends. Continue down the road, past a small green pumping shed, to another junction with a sign indicating the La`ie Trail. Do not turn left and uphill here, but continue along the main road, ignoring several side roads right and left. At a point where a stream crosses the road (it may be dry), cross the streambed and take a rough dirt road on the left, leading uphill. Bear right at two junctions, and the road soon becomes an eroded path. The path reaches a copse of ironwood trees and then breaks out onto a long, grassy ridge. The trail narrows to single-file width as it enters a field of native uluhe fern. Once through the uluhe, the forest begins. As the trail passes through the woods, it continues to follow the ridge line. Watch for a small, green sign on the right attached to a tree (see photo below). This trail descends to the pool and waterfalls. The main trail continues up to the top of the Koolau, joining the Summit Trail. The trail soon becomes very steep, with ropes providing assistance. Reaching the bottom of the gulch, go straight across the small stream and follow the path on the other side to a small pool.

Sacred Falls
Due to a rockslide in May, 1999, Sacred Falls is closed and considered very dangerous. DO NOT HIKE. If caught hiking on the trail, you will face a fine and misdemeanor charges. However, Sacred Falls can be seen by helicopter. A spectacular waterfall nestled at the end of a narrow valley, Sacred Falls once sat at the end of a 2 mile trail on the Windward coast.