When you think of Oahu, you may imagine scenes of sun-kissed surfing and luaus laden with Mai Tais. But beyond the beaches and mountain scenery are some of the island’s hidden gems: beautiful waterfalls.
Oahu is home to an array of waterfalls, each one unique and scenic. And while some require expert-level hiking, others are only a few easy steps away.
How do I know about these are some of the best waterfall hikes Oahu has to offer? I lived in Hawaii for over a decade, and was able to experience some of these waterfall hikes myself!
Here are 13 waterfall hikes Oahu has to offer, that you should explore the next time you visit this extraordinary island in Hawaii.
You’ll walk less than a mile to reach Lulumahu Falls, but it’s a pretty challenging trek due to the creek crossings, exposed tree roots, and oversized boulders. You’ll go through a bamboo forest, which opens up to reveal incredible views of the Koolau mountains. This hike is a great adventure for kids who are old enough to walk to the falls and back.
Want to explore this tall, shady waterfall for yourself? Be sure to get a permit through the state first. It’s a minimal fee that covers your entire group and ensures you’re legally accessing the trail.
Parking for Lulumahu Falls is located right off Pali highway. If you’re driving from Honolulu, look for it before you reach the Pali Lookout. This is one of the best waterfall hikes Oahu has to offer.
The Hamama Falls Trail was once one of Oahu’s most popular and easy hikes. Much of the walk is a gravel pathway, and a swimming hole is a short distance along the trail. Before long, hikers end up at the beautiful Hamama Falls.
The state has closed the trail to restore the area’s water supply. There’s no word on whether it will open back up, so be sure to adhere to any posted signs.
MAUNAWILI FALLS TRAIL
Maunawili Falls Trail is less than 4 miles round trip. It’s a hike that will take you to a stunning waterfall and swimming hole surrounded by lush, green foliage.
When the trail is open, hikers can walk alongside the stream and should plan to get muddy. Once there, the swimming hole will invite you for a swim – you may even see some playful souls jumping off the rocks into the water.
Maunawili Falls Trail is closed for improvements until summer 2023, so make a note to return here in the future to experience this fantastic hike.
If you’re an experienced hiker looking to escape on a long hike, Laie Falls should be at the top of your list. The 8-mile round trip expedition leads you uphill to a small waterfall, and its strength is dependent on recent rainfall.
But what Laie Falls lacks in height, it makes up for in serene beauty. Once you reach the falls, it’s a tricky and steep descent to access it, but there’s a rope to help you make it down and back up.
Be sure to get a permit for the Laie Falls Hike. You can email the application and carry the permit as you hike.
The peaceful trail teems with Guava trees, Cook Pines, and tropical greenery, and the various scenery keeps you captivated throughout the long hike.
JACKASS GINGER POOL
Jackass Ginger Pool is great for anyone looking for a small adventure. It’s a loop hike that’s just a mile long, and it’s conveniently located in Honolulu. Look for roadside parking on Nuuanu Pali Drive off the Pali Highway and follow the trail to the small swimming hole, which features a 10-foot waterfall.
This area’s Hawaiian place name is Kahuailanawai, and it’s rich in Hawaiian history. These days, families gather here to play and cool off in the pond. A natural flume slides into the cool water below, and sunshine peeks through the clearing.
The ease of access makes this a busy spot, but it’s still an enjoyable place to spend an afternoon in Paradise. True adventure seekers can continue on the Nuuanu-Judd Trail, which is 5 miles of switchbacks on a gorgeous ridge.
Waimea Falls is one of the most accessible waterfall adventures on Oahu, and it’s a place brimming with history, culture, and nature. The private park charges an entrance fee, which is well worth it for the experience of visiting such a significant and well-maintained location.
Once you’ve arrived at the park, it’s about ¾ mile to the waterfalls, where you can swim and relax. Lifejackets are required and provided by the park, and there’s even a changing room near the swimming area so you don’t have to walk back in wet clothes.
The short walk to the falls is incredible – the nonprofit Hi’ipaka LLC maintains the Waimea Valley property as a botanical garden. The paved pathway is wheelchair and stroller friendly, but you can also purchase a spot on the shuttle, which will drive you from the parking lot to the waterfalls. So this is a magical experience that visitors of all ages and abilities can enjoy.
Likeke Falls is a fun little adventure along the jungle slopes of the Koolau Mountains. Access the trail near the Koolau Golf Club and embark on the 1-mile round trip trek that’s family-friendly and relatively easy (just prepare for some mud and bugs).
Likeke Falls doesn’t offer much of a swimming hole, but it’s a pretty setting that allows for a bit of creek stomping if you’re careful.
Make sure you park entirely off the road or pay to use the church’s parking lot if it’s open. Then look for the trailhead in the back corner of the Koolau Golf Club parking lot. When you get to the water tank, turn left and go up the hill. You’ll see arrows along the rest of the trail leading to the waterfalls.
There is also a longer trail to Likeke Falls that passes the Nuuanu Pali Lookout, but it’s often closed due to mudslides. The Koolau Golf Club access is now the best way to reach the falls.
ALAPENA POOL AND KAPENA FALLS TRAIL
This is an excellent option If you want a quick and easy waterfall sighting in Oahu. It’s only a quarter-mile to reach Alapena Pool and Kapena Falls. And as soon as you begin your hike, you’ll find yourself surrounded by lush tropical scenery.
You might spot some adventurous cliff jumpers at the falls, but most people find the pool too murky and trash-ridden to enter. Want a really unique sighting? Look for a small cage near the pond that features ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs.
Between the historical artifacts and unique plant life, you’ll truly feel transported in place and time, even though you are only steps away from the highway.
To access the trailhead to Alapena Pool and Kapena Falls trail, look for Nuuanu Memorial Park and Mortuary. There’s a small parking lot at the end of the drive.
Koloa Gulch is an all-day hike with a 2,000+ feet elevation gain. It’s not for the faint of heart or those short on time, but the destination is stunning: a hidden waterfall that you may have all to yourself.
Be sure to get a permit to hike Koloa Gulch and be prepared for a strenuous, yet scenic hike. You’ll trek along the creek, which frequently features small waterfalls and boulders you’ll need to climb over. Ribbons mark the trail, which is over 9 miles round trip.
All waterfalls feature hazards, but this long, narrow hike elevates the risks of flash floods, falling rocks, and twisted ankles. Turn around immediately if you experience any rain or simply change your mind about navigating this trail.
KA’AU CRATER HIKE
Ka’au Crater Hike is a big adventure that will take you through deep jungles, scenic peaks, and some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Oahu. It’s a difficult six-mile loop that is best for experienced and fit hikers.
The trailhead for Ka’au Crater Hike is at the end of Wai’oma’o Street in Honolulu. Once you reach a fork in the path, veer right to take the more challenging hike leading to the waterfalls. Taking a left will be a more leisurely hike that’s nice, but does not feature falls.
The first waterfall you access is gorgeous, and many turn around here, satisfied with their journey and the waterfall sighting. But adventure-seekers who want to spend a full day hiking can venture on to see two more falls.
The trail is unmaintained and often tricky, but really breathtaking. Hiking Ka’au Crater is such a unique way to see some of Oahu’s hidden beauty.
MANOA FALLS TRAIL
Manoa Falls Trail is less than 2 miles round trip, and it’s an easy in-and-out trail that leads to a stunning 100-foot-high waterfall. Its easy access and close proximity to Waikiki means it stays pretty busy. Still, it’s a nice little hike for anyone wanting to take in the sights and sounds of Hawaii’s natural landscape without venturing far out of the city.
Swimming in the pond is prohibited, and signage bans visitors from going to the foot of the falls. But the sight is enjoyable from the overlook, especially if recent rainfall strengthened the water’s flow.
There is a fee to park at Manoa Falls, but sometimes this is nice because it ensures you’re parking legally. You can enter Manoa Falls in your GPS to find the right spot.
WAIMANO FALLS TRAIL
A true jungle experience awaits hikers on the Waimano Falls Trail. It’s about 3 miles round trip, much of which is a wide paved path. Eventually, the trail gets narrow and muddy, and you’ll soon be rewarded with a refreshing dip in a natural pool.
There’s usually a rope swing here for playful adventurers, though be mindful of the depth of the pool, which can vary depending on rainfall, and the risk of leptospirosis, the waterborne bacteria found in most of Oahu’s streams. The waterfall is just past the swimming hole, but it can sometimes dry up in the summertime.
The trailhead for Waimano Falls Trail (also called Manana Trail) is at the end of Komo Mai Drive in Pearl City. There is limited parking, so come early to ensure you can park and enjoy this hike, which is just tricky enough to keep experienced hikers captivated.
Kaipapau Falls is a really challenging hike that takes you deep into Oahu’s jungly gulches and ends at a breathtaking waterfall. This trek is over 8 miles round trip, and it’s only for experienced hikers who are comfortable crossing streams with no trail markings.
The slick rocks will slow down and tire even expert hikers, so never hesitate to turn around, and be sure to begin your hike early in the morning to give yourself plenty of time to complete it before dark.
The trailhead of Kaipapau Falls is at the end of Kawaipuna Street in Hauula.
Abandoned bunkers, unique wildlife, and peaceful streams are some of the noteworthy sights you’ll see along the Kaipapau Falls hike. But the waterfall at the trail’s end is certainly the main attraction. It’s nearly 100 feet high and surrounded by pristine emerald vegetation.
Kaipapau Falls is a hidden gem that awaits anyone daring enough to travel the difficult path to its feet.
WATERFALL HIKES OAHU FAQ
What is the easiest hike to a waterfall in Oahu?
The Mānoa Falls Trail is one of the most accessible waterfall hikes on Oahu. The hike is easy to get to, and the views from this trail are spectacular.
What is the most popular waterfall on Oahu?
One of the most popular waterfalls on Oahu is Manoa Falls. This spectacular waterfall has been seen in the TV show Lost, and in the Jurassic Park movies.
Is Manoa Falls a difficult hike?
Manoa Falls is a fairly easy hike, and is not considered difficult. At 1.6 miles round-trip, this fun hike can be done by hikers of all skill levels.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO HAWAII
- YOUR HAWAII VACATION
- MAUI WATERFALLS: 18 Maui Waterfalls On The Road To Hana And Beyond
- WAIKIKI: 24 Best Things To Do In Waikiki You’re Gonna Love
WHERE TO STAY IN OAHU
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