7 Best Oahu Waterfall Hikes for an Unforgettable Experience
What Are the Best Oahu Waterfall Hikes?
When visiting Oahu, many people love to explore Hawaii’s natural beauty. Here are the best Oahu waterfall hikes, Manoa Falls, Likeke Falls, Waimea Falls, Waimano Falls and Pools, Aihualama Trail, Maunawili Falls, and Jackass Ginger Pool.
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The enchanting island of Oahu has many waterfall hikes to explore. From the famed Manoa Falls to hidden gems like Maunawili Falls, there’s no shortage of breathtaking trails for all skill levels.
So slip on your hiking boots, pack some sunscreen, and grab a water bottle as we embark on a journey through the best Oahu waterfall hikes.
What to Know Before Embarking One of the Best Oahu Waterfall Hikes
- Oahu, Hawaii is home to some of the best waterfall hikes in the world, including Manoa Falls, Likeke Falls, Waimea Falls, Waimano Falls and Pools, Aihualama Trail, Maunawili Falls, and Jackass Ginger Pool.
- When embarking on a waterfall hike in Oahu, wearing proper footwear and clothing suitable for challenging terrain is essential. Hikers should also bring adequate hydration and snacks while checking weather and trail conditions beforehand.
Best Oahu Waterfall Hikes to Explore
Explore the stunning beauty of Oahu with these top waterfall hikes, including Manoa Falls, Likeke Falls, Waimea Falls, Waimano Falls and Pools, Aihualama Trail, Maunawili Falls, and Jackass Ginger Pool.
1. Manoa Falls
Manoa Falls Trail is hands down one of the best waterfall hikes in Oahu, especially for those visiting Honolulu. This enchanting and accessible trail takes hikers through a lush Hawaiian forest with bamboo groves and tropical plants that give you a true taste of paradise.
The reward of this hike is, without a doubt, reaching Manoa Falls itself. Standing at an impressive 150 feet tall, these cascading falls are breathtaking.
If you’re traveling with kids or just beginning your hiking adventures, don’t worry – this trail caters to all levels!
Be prepared for some mud along the way as it’s common on most Oahu trails but trust me when I say that it will be totally worth it once you reach that stunning waterfall vista.
Tips: Manoa Falls presents an ideal setting for capturing memorable photos, yet be prepared for potential crowds, as others will likely have the same notion. It’s important to note that swimming is strictly prohibited at Manoa Falls.
Please honor this policy, regardless of the actions of fellow visitors, in order to maintain the conservation and safety of the area.
Location: Manoa Falls Trail, Honolulu, HI 96822
2. Likeke Falls
One of the top Oahu waterfall hikes is Likeke Falls Trail, a two-tiered waterfall below the Pali Lookout. The hike to Likeke Falls is generally regarded as moderately challenging, with an average completion time of around 26 minutes.
It is a popular destination for birding, hiking, and running, so expect to encounter other individuals during your exploration. The trail remains open year-round and offers scenic beauty regardless of the season. While dogs are allowed on the trail, keeping them leashed at all times is important.
The trail is approximately 1.8 miles long (out and back), making it one of the shorter trails on our list, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in beauty or adventure.
Tips: To reach Likeke Falls on Oahu, there are two options available. One approach involves hiking down the Old Pali Highway from the Pali Lookout, which typically takes around an hour and a half.
Alternatively, you can opt for the easier and shorter route by starting from the base of the Ko’olau Golf Club and walking uphill for about 15 minutes to reach the waterfall.
Both routes provide access to the scenic beauty of Likeke Falls, allowing hikers to choose the path that best suits their preferences and abilities.
Location: 45-550 Kionaole Rd, Kaneohe, HI 96744
3. Waimea Falls
Waimea Falls, located within the Waimea Valley Botanical Gardens on the North Shore of Oahu, is a beautiful waterfall known for its accessibility, safety, and swimming opportunities.
It is considered an easy hike and a perfect destination for families, particularly those with young children. To get to the falls, you set off on a paved walking trail that spans 1.5 miles round trip, ensuring an easy and convenient journey to the waterfall at the end.
For those seeking additional convenience, a shuttle service is available for a round-trip cost of $8, offering direct transportation from the visitor center to the falls.
There are lifeguards on duty at the swimming area, and lifejackets are both provided and mandatory, ensuring a secure and enjoyable experience for all visitors.
Tips: Visitors must enter Waimea Valley Park before accessing the trail and pay an admission fee, which varies based on age and student status.
Waimea Falls is a popular spot for swimming, offering a refreshing experience. It is recommended to allocate at least 2 hours or more to fully enjoy the journey, including any stops along the way.
The trail is scenic, adorned with beautiful trees, tropical plants, and even inhabited by peacocks within the botanical garden.
While the hike is relatively easy with wide, paved pathways, it’s important to note that certain sections of the path can be steep and may pose challenges for individuals with mobility issues or those using wheelchairs.
Location: 59-864 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712
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4. Waimano Falls and Pools (Mānana Trail)
Setting off on one of the most rewarding hikes on Oahu takes you to Waimano Falls. Over time, its popularity has soared, attracting a diverse crowd of hikers.
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Mazur
The path from the Manana Trail unfolds, leading to Waimano Falls. While this medium-to-challenging hike may be better suited for older children or those with prior hiking experience, its stunning sights are worth the effort.
The journey commences from the trailhead on Koma Mai Drive in Aiea, located at the fringes of the residential district.
In consideration of the local residents, mindful parking is advised to avoid obstructing driveways.
This scenic trail spans approximately 2.9 miles, with an estimated round-trip time of between 1 and 2 hours to reach the waterfall. Initially, the path is quite accommodating, however, it gradually inclines, challenging your stamina and footing.
Tips: Watch for the “Waimano Falls Spur” sign and take a right turn. Then, you’ll be greeted by the relaxing sound of the waterfall, even before it comes into sight.
A picturesque viewing spot awaits you from where you can admire the falls and the pool from an elevated perspective, or alternatively, you can descend the trail to the pool’s edge. Multiple pools, in fact, are scattered throughout the area.
From below, the view of Waimano Falls is awe-inspiring, with moss-draped rocks providing a stunning backdrop to the serene waterfall. The pool at the base is surprisingly deep, featuring a rope swing for those daring enough to take the plunge.
Location: Oahu Hawaii, USA, Pearl City, HI 96782
5. Aihualama Trail
Nestled in the verdant Manoa Valley, Oahu’s Aihualama Trail promises an invigorating hike through one of the island’s most captivating landscapes. Spanning a manageable 2.4 miles, this trail leads explorers to an elusive waterfall, a sight as majestic as it is serene.
Photo courtesy of Julia Hammer
As soon as you start on the trail, you’re surrounded by bright colors from the trees and ferns, making a beautiful display of tropical plants. The trail twists and turns through changing landscapes and dense greenery, showing off Oahu’s nature.
The best part of this hike is definitely the hidden waterfall. Away from crowded tourist spots, the Aihualama Trail takes you on a fun hike to this secret spot, giving everyone who goes a unique and exciting experience.
Tips: Starting the Aihualama Trail is super exciting, but getting ready ahead of time helps a lot. The trail might be muddy, especially if it’s been raining, so it’s good to wear strong, waterproof hiking shoes to keep from slipping.
The ground can have tree roots and rocks, so watch where you step. Also, it can get hot in Oahu’s tropical weather, so bring water and light snacks to stay energized.
The trail is full of life, and we need to take care of it – always follow the ‘Leave No Trace‘ rule to protect the plants and animals.
Using bug spray can make the hike more comfortable because there can be a lot of bugs in this area.
Starting the hike early can make it better. It can help you avoid the busy times and gives you good light for beautiful pictures. Oahu can have surprise rain showers, so a light rain jacket can keep you dry.
The trail has many different paths, so keep an eye on the signs to stay on the right path to the waterfall. But remember, the Aihualama Trail is not just about the waterfall at the end.
Enjoy everything along the way, like the sound of the birds and the colorful rainbow eucalyptus trees.
Location: Na Ala Hele: Aihualama Trail, Honolulu, HI 96822
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6. Maunawili Falls
Maunawili Falls, situated near Kailua, is a premier destination on the island of Oahu. It offers an ideal setting for adventurous hikers seeking an exhilarating experience.
The entrance to the falls is in a neighborhood off Kelewina Street. You can park in the neighborhood, being careful not to block anyone or driveways, and then walk through a gate to start your hike.
This wonderful waterfall hike is almost 3 miles long and mostly follows a stream. The well-used dirt path is a round trip and can be finished in a few hours.
But remember, the path can get muddy, and there are tree roots and steps to watch out for.
Tips: The trail is a moderate hike if you pay attention to where you’re going. While the waterfall is beautiful, remember to enjoy the journey as well. There’s plenty to see on the trail, including a variety of plants and possibly some wildlife.
Without a doubt, Maunawili Falls is one of the best waterfall hikes in Oahu. Make sure to add this special experience to your family’s trip plan.
Location: 1201-1209 Kelewina St, Kailua, HI 96734
7. Jackass Ginger Pool
The enchanting path leading to Jackass Ginger Pool is known as the Judd Trail. Although slightly more demanding than the popular Manoa Falls trail, it promises an equally exhilarating experience.
Photo courtesy of Bradley Retherford
The Judd Trail is about a mile long with extra paths you can explore. To start your hike, park on Nu’uanu Pali Drive, where the trailhead is, in a beautiful bamboo forest.
The trail might be a little tough because it’s rocky and roots and branches are in the way, but it takes you through some amazing nature.
You’ll be excited to see big pine trees, thick monstera plants, a peaceful bamboo forest, and huge banyan trees along the path if you love plants.
Tips: When you get to the pool, natural rock formations look like water slides, letting you slide into the cool water.
There’s also a small waterfall and a rope swing if you want to jump into the water for a fun thrill.
Including enough time to enjoy Jackass Ginger Pool, the trail hike usually takes about 90 minutes. It’s definitely worth it to enjoy the beautiful nature around you.
Location: 4072-, 4156 Nuuanu Pali Dr, Honolulu, HI 96817
Tips for a Safe and Enjoyable Waterfall Hike in Oahu
Wear proper footwear and clothing, bring adequate hydration and snacks, check weather and trail conditions beforehand, respect the environment by staying on designated trails, and don’t forget to bring a camera to capture your unforgettable Oahu waterfall hike experience.
Proper Footwear and Clothing
As you plan your Oahu waterfall hike, one of the most important things to consider is proper footwear and clothing. You’ll want shoes that provide excellent grip because some trails can be slippery or rocky.
Our recommendation would be hiking boots or sturdy trail running shoes; they will keep your feet dry and comfortable on all terrains. Pack extra clothes in case you get wet while crossing streams or standing close to waterfalls.
Remember: Hiking in Hawaii is minimalistic – any regular clothing is suitable for a hike as long as they are appropriate for the activity and climate.
Adequate Hydration And Snacks
Staying hydrated and nourished is paramount when hiking to waterfalls in Oahu. The tropical climate makes it easy to get dehydrated quickly, especially during a strenuous hike.
Drinks like coconut water can also help replenish lost electrolytes. Additionally, packing some snacks with protein and carbohydrates can help keep your energy levels up during the hike.
It’s important not to underestimate how much fluids and food you’ll need for a waterfall hike in Oahu. The lush landscape may make it seem like an effortless walk through nature but the heat and challenging terrain can quickly take their toll on your body without proper hydration and nutrition.
Checking Weather and Trail Conditions
Before setting out on any waterfall hike in Oahu, it’s important to check the weather conditions and trail updates. Hawaii is known for its unpredictable weather patterns, which can quickly turn a sunny day into a torrential downpour.
Additionally, checking the trail conditions ahead of time can help ensure a safe and enjoyable hiking experience. Some trails may be closed due to maintenance work or hazardous conditions, while others may require permits or reservations before starting your trek.
Respecting the Environment and Staying on Designated Trails
As you embark on your Oahu waterfall hikes, respecting the natural environment and preserving its beauty for future generations is essential. One way to do this is by staying on designated trails during the hike.
Straying from the trail can lead to erosion, damage to plants and wildlife habitats, and even safety hazards for yourself and others.
Taking shortcuts or creating your own trail may be tempting, but remember that every step counts in preserving these natural wonders. Sticking to designated trails will minimize your chances of getting lost or encountering potentially dangerous obstacles along the way.
Bringing a Camera
Don’t forget to bring your camera on your waterfall hike in Oahu! The stunning waterfalls and lush scenery make for incredible photo opportunities.
Whether you have a fancy DSLR or just your phone, capturing these breathtaking views will be worth it. You can snap pictures of the cascading waterfalls, the pools at the bottom, and even the unique plants and animals that call Hawaii home.
One tip is to bring waterproof or water-repellent gear for your camera, as some hikes may require crossing streams or getting close to the falls. Another option is to consider bringing a small tripod for stable shots.
Remember, safety should always come first when taking photos – don’t take unnecessary risks to get a shot.
Oahu Waterfall Hikes FAQs
1. What is the best waterfall to hike Oahu?
Manoa Falls is arguably the best waterfall hike on Oahu, offering a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the island’s stunning natural beauty.
The trail to Manoa Falls is a well-maintained, 1.6-mile round trip hike that is known for its lush, green, and diverse vegetation. It’s located in the verdant Manoa Valley and the trail will take you through a bamboo forest and a rainbow eucalyptus grove, which makes for an enchanting hike.
2. What is the easiest hike to a waterfall in Oahu?
The easiest hike to a waterfall in Oahu is the hike to Waimea Falls. This hike is about 1.5 miles round trip on a well-maintained, paved path, making it accessible for all fitness levels and ages. The trail is situated within the botanical gardens of Waimea Valley, and the destination is a serene waterfall with a swimming hole at the bottom.
3. How long is the Manoa waterfall hike?
The Manoa Falls trail in Oahu is approximately 1.6 miles long round trip. Depending on your pace and how long you spend at the waterfall, it can typically be completed in 1 to 2 hours. Please note that the trail can get muddy and a bit slippery, especially after rain, so be sure to wear appropriate footwear and take your time for safety.
4. Is Manoa Falls a hard hike?
5. Can you hike Manoa Falls in flip flops?
It’s not advisable to wear flip-flops on this trail as the risk of slipping or falling is quite high due to the trail’s slick and steep nature. The path, though less than a mile to the waterfall, is challenging due to the uneven rocks and it traverses directly through the verdant forest. So, prepare accordingly for a tough but rewarding hike.
Final Thoughts About Oahu Waterfall Hikes
Exploring the best Oahu waterfall hikes is an absolute must for any Hawaii traveler. With so many options, you won’t run out of breathtaking scenery and challenging trails to conquer.
Whether it’s Manoa Falls Trail or Waimea Falls Trail, each hike offers unique experiences that will leave you in awe.
Remember to come prepared with proper footwear and clothing, adequate hydration and snacks, and a camera to capture those picture-perfect moments.
And while hiking these trails can be truly rewarding, always respect the environment by staying on designated paths and leaving no trace behind. A hui hou!
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