The best waterfall hike in Oahu; Waimea Falls

9 Spectacular Waterfall Hikes on Oahu for Every Fitness Level

If you’re looking for a fantastic hike to take in Oahu, look no further!

We’ve compiled a list of the best waterfall hikes on the island. You’re sure to find one that’s perfect for you.

All of these hikes are beautiful and offer a unique experience. You’ll be able to see some of the most stunning waterfalls on Oahu. And be sure to bring your camera – you will want to capture these views!

The waterfalls in Oahu are spectacular and I can assure you that no matter which ones you decide on, you will not be let down. 

1. Manoa Falls

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 1.7 miles (round-trip)

Elevation Gain: 633 feet

Route Type: Out & Back

Parking/Entrance Fee: $10.00 parking fee

If you’re visiting Oahu, then you have to visit Manoa Falls. They’re located 15 minutes from Waikiki, making them very accessible and probably the most popular falls on Oahu.

One of my favorite things about this hike is that it’s a relatively short and very easy hike.

View of the 150 ft Manoa Falls with people standing by the pool below the waterfall
Manoa Falls, Oahu

The hike up to the waterfall is very scenic and it ends with a very picturesque and tall waterfall.

The waterfall itself is gorgeous, standing at about 150 feet tall. It empties into a small pool of water, but swimming is not recommended due to the threat of becoming infected with leptospirosis and because there’s a risk of falling rocks.

If you decide to swim in any of the waterfalls we mention in this post, please be sure not to have any open wounds and do not drink the water. Also, be very careful of falling rocks in and around the falls.

Why we love this trail: This is one of the easiest hikes on Oahu, and it doesn’t require a lot of effort to reach. The waterfall at the end is a very pleasant treat too.

Tip: This waterfall gets very crowded. If you do not like crowds, go early in the morning, right after opening, or towards the end of the day. The last time we went to Manoa Falls, we went around 2:00 PM and it was like the zoo. It wasn’t as enjoyable as our previous visits when we got there much earlier in the day.

2. Waimea Falls

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 1.9 miles (round-trip)

Elevation Gain: 272 feet

Route Type: Out & Back

Parking/Entrance Fee: $20 per person

Waimea Falls are located within the Waimea Valley about 26 miles from Waikiki. The trail to the waterfall is entirely paved and is an easy hike up to the falls.

If you love walks in nature, you will love the walk up to this waterfall. It’s filled with many beautiful plants and offers some of the best views.

We recommend taking some time to explore some side trails and experience the beauty this place offers. If you love botanical gardens, you will love this area.

The waterfall is about 45 feet tall and is very picturesque. It is one of the most popular waterfalls on Oahu, and it’s easy to see why.

There is a swimming area at the bottom of the waterfall, but it can get quite crowded. If you don’t like crowds, go early in the morning or towards closing time. Life jackets are required to swim in the pool, but they’re included in your admission fee.

Why we love this trail: This is a very easy and scenic hike with a beautiful waterfall at the end. It’s perfect for those who want an easy hike with stunning views. Waimea Falls is also one of the few waterfalls on Oahu where swimming is allowed.

Tip: If you plan to go to Waimea Bay after visiting Waimea Falls, you can leave your car at Waimea Falls and walk over to the beach. Parking at Waimea Bay can be hectic and is limited.

3 people swimming in Waimea Falls after hiking the short trail.
Waimea Falls, Oahu

3. Waimano Falls

Difficulty: Intermediate

Distance: 2.9 miles (round-trip)

Elevation Gain: 810 ft

Route Type: Out & Back

Parking/Entrance Fee: Free parking in a residential neighborhood

Waimano Falls are located near Pearl City in Oahu, about 15.6 miles from Honolulu.

It took us 45 minutes to get to the waterfall and about the same time to get back. We also spent about 30 minutes relaxing at the waterfall.

View of the pool at Waimano Falls and the dry waterfall due to multiple weeks of no rain.
We hiked this trail after a period of no rain, so the waterfall was completely dry and the pool unrecognizable.

Overall, the hike is not too challenging, but there are some steep areas to hike through. There are also ropes in some sections to help you descend if needed.

On rainy days, the hike to the waterfall is very muddy and slippery, making it quite challenging to hike. However, this is when the waterfall is the most beautiful. Wear proper hiking shoes with good grip if you go after heavy rainfall. I chose to wear my Keen hiking sandals and they did great.

While Waimano Falls might not be the easiest hike on Oahu, the waterfall is stunning and totally worth the hike.

Why you should hike this trail: This is an excellent hike for those who want to see a beautiful waterfall but don’t mind a little bit of a challenge. You will be hiking through a beautiful forest leading to a gorgeous waterfall.

Tip: If your goal is to see the waterfall in its glory and potentially swim in the pool, make sure to watch the weather and go after it rains for multiple days. The waterfall will be flowing more, and the water will be clearer.

4. Likeke Falls

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 0.8 miles (round-trip)

Elevation Gain: 206 ft

Route Type: Out & Back

Parking/Entrance Fee: You can park at the Pali Lookout for a $15 parking fee if you decide to take the long route. Or you can park at the Ko’olau Golf Course parking lot for a $10 fee.

Another one of our favorites, Likeke Falls, is located right below the Pali Lookout. It encompasses a two-tiered waterfall that offers gorgeous views.

There are two main ways to get to the waterfall, and the route you take will mainly depend on the amount of time you have or how strenuous of a hike you’re looking for.

You can take the easy route (like we did) from the bottom of the Ko’olau Golf Club and walk up to the waterfall, which takes about 20 minutes.

It can take less time if you don’t make as many stops as we did. We took our time to “stop and smell the roses,” as we were in no rush.

The second way you can hike to the waterfall is by going down from the Pali Lookout, which takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes. If you decide to go this route, make sure you are prepared as it’s said to be very strenuous.

Why we love this trail: This hike is a good mixture of easy with a little challenge. Its short distance also makes it a great option if you don’t have much time.

Tip: If you park at the Pali Lookout, do not leave valuables in your car. This is one of the island’s most popular tourist spots, and there have been multiple reports of break-ins.

5. Kahekili Trail

Difficulty: Hard

Distance: 2.8 miles (round-trip)

Elevation Gain: 1,781 ft

Route Type: Out & Back

Parking/Entrance Fee: Free beach parking

The Kahekili Trail is located 15 miles from Honolulu on the east side of Oahu. The trek to the waterfall is a scenic ridge hike that takes about 2.5 hours to complete.

The trail itself is very short, but it’s still a challenging hike. There are sections with uneven terrain and other parts where you have to hike over tree roots and muddy clay stairs. There are also sections with ropes to help you descend if needed.

Be extremely cautious when hiking this trail. Since this is a ridge hike, there are multiple sections where one side of the ridge is exposed. Also, please do not attempt to hike this trail when it’s windy.

We would not recommend this hike for inexperienced hikers, as it’s very steep.

The reward at the end is worth it though, as you can swim in the refreshing waterfall pool. Be careful of jumping into the water as there have been reports of injuries.

Why we love this trail: This is an excellent option for experienced hikers looking for a challenge and incredible views. Here you will be greeted with some of the best views of the windward side of Oahu, such as Kahana Bay, Chinaman’s Hat, and Kualoa.

Tip: Make sure to wear good hiking shoes as this trail gets very slippery when wet. The trail is also overgrown in some areas, so wear pants. Also, do not entirely trust the ropes; test them before using them. Never put all of your weight on the ropes.

6. Alapena Pool and Kapena Falls

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 0.5 miles (round-trip)

Elevation Gain: 98 ft

Route Type: Out & Back

Parking/Entrance Fee: We parked at the back of the Nu’uanu Memorial Park and Mortuary.

Kapena Falls is located a few steps from the Pali Highway and is considered one of Oahu’s most accessible waterfalls. The trail is also an excellent option for those of you that have kids, as it’s a very easy hike.

The hike is about 0.5 miles long round-trip and offers beautiful views. You can literally see the waterfall a few minutes into the hike since it’s so short.

The trail will lead you to the pool’s edge, which offers a view of the 20-foot waterfall.

A local cliff jumping spot is located at the top of the falls. Kapena Falls is one of our top places to cliff jump on Oahu. Be careful if jumping into the water though, as injuries have been reported before.

Is cliff jumping not your thing? No problem, you can still enjoy the views from the bottom.

Why we love this trail: This hike is very short and easy. It’s an excellent option if you are limited on time or have kids.

Tip: There have been multiple reports that the water can be murky at Kapena Falls. If the water is dirty during your visit, we do not recommend swimming in the pool. Use your best judgment before jumping in the water.

View of the gorgeous waterfall at Kapaena Falls Hike in Oahu with jungle views all around.
Kapena Falls, Oahu

7. Maunawili Falls

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 2.8 miles (round-trip)

Elevation Gain: 1,007 ft

Route Type: Out & Back

Parking/Entrance Fee: Residential neighborhood parking

The Maunawili Falls are located near Kailua, about 30 miles from Waikiki. The hike is moderate and offers some of the most spectacular views of Kailua, Three Peaks, and the Ko’olaupoko Watershed.

The trail to the waterfall can get very muddy after heavy rainfall, so exercise caution. Wear proper shoes as your shoes will most likely be soaked in mud. You will also have to cross multiple streams to get to the waterfall. Doing this hike in flip-flops is not recommended.

There are two jumps at the end, and the waterfall is stunning.

Why we love this trail: This hike has some of the best jungle views. You hear the birds chirping the entire time. The waterfall and pool are also spectacular. 

Tip: Make sure to bring bug repellent! There are tons of mosquitos on this trail. 

View of the two waterfalls at Maunawili Falls in Oahu  with lush scenery all around.
Maunawili Falls, Oahu

8. La’ie Falls

Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult

Distance: 7.9 miles (round-trip)

Elevation Gain: 1,883 ft

Route Type: Out & Back

Parking/Entrance Fee: Free parking at La’ie Park

La’ie Falls is a two-tiered waterfall located near the town of La’ie.
The hike is about 7.9 miles round-trip and can take 4+ hours, depending on your pace and how often you stop.

The hike to the falls will take you through pine forests and bamboo forest-lined cliffs. The hike is steep in some areas, so be prepared for that. Like many trails mentioned in this article, La’ie Falls can be very muddy after rainfall. Plan accordingly.

We do not recommend this hike for those with kids or inexperienced hikers. This is definitely one of the more difficult waterfall hikes on Oahu.

Once you get to the end of the trail, you will be rewarded with gorgeous views of the two falls and the pool below it.

Why we love this trail: This hike has some of the most beautiful views of La’ie. Also, if you’re a strawberry guava lover like us, you will enjoy this trail during their season.

Tip: A permit is required to do this hike. Visit the Hawaii Reserves website for more information.

9. Jackass Ginger Pool

Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Distance: 1 mile (round-trip)

Elevation Gain: 170 ft

Route Type: Loop

Parking/Entrance Fee: Free (unofficial) street parking

The Jackass Ginger Pool is located in the Waimanalo District of Oahu and is about a 30-minute drive from Waikiki. It is also located a few minutes from the Pali Highway and is easily accessible.

Many people consider the Ginger Pool to be more of a swimming hole than a waterfall attraction, but we still believe it belongs on this list.

This small pool has 10-foot waterfalls and is about 8 feet deep. There is a rope for swinging into the water, and we saw at least three locals take the plunge.

If you are an adventure-seeking person, jump at your own risk and always exercise caution.

Why we love this trail: This trail will take you through multiple unique spots; you will hike through a bamboo forest and gorgeous pine trees. The jungle vibes of this trail are some of our favorite.

Tip: Do not leave valuables in your car; there have been break-ins reported in the past.

FAQs on Oahu Waterfall Hikes

Is swimming safe at Waimea Falls?

Yes, it’s safe to swim in the falls. Be sure to call (808) 638-7766 to confirm the status of swimming as it changes throughout the day depending on the weather.

The swimming conditions can range from regular swimming to limited swimming, and no swimming.

One thing to note about Waimea Falls is that all guests are required to wear a life vest before swimming here. The cost of the life vest is included in your admission fee.

Is there an entrance fee at Waimea Falls?

Yes, an entrance fee is required to enter. Below is a breakdown of the fees (at time of publishing). Be sure to check updated pricing directly at the Waimea Valley admission website.

Admission Fees:

Adult        $25

Senior       $18 (age 62+)

Student     $18 (college student must present ID)

Child          $14 (ages 4-12)

Group Rate $20 per person (group of over 10 adults)

How long does it take to Hike Waimea Falls?

Depending on the person, it might take anywhere between 20-30 minutes to hike to the falls. This is about ¾ of a mile (or 1.5 miles round-trip). 

Shuttle rides are also available for those that might need them. Pick-up starts at 9:45 AM and they cost $10 per person each way.

Is there an entrance fee for Manoa Falls?

Entry to the falls is free, but there is a $10 parking fee if you choose to park at the start of the trail.

Is it easy to hike Manoa Falls?

Yes, Manoa Falls is one of the easier hikes we have ever done. The hike is very short (about 1.6 miles round-trip) which makes it great for kids as well. The trail has a lot of shade and it’s very well-maintained.

Be sure to bring proper hiking shoes for Hawaii as it can get very muddy, and you’ll most likely find loose rocks everywhere.

Is Manoa Falls still closed?

No, Manoa Falls are now open.

How long is the Lulumahu Falls hike?

The Lulumahu Falls hike takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes round-trip. This hike is not an easy hike like Manoa Falls.

You will have to hike through the river, mud, and a bamboo forest to get to the waterfall. With that being said, the waterfall is beyond beautiful and totally worth it.

What to wear on a waterfall hike?

Be sure to bring some good hiking shoes suitable for Hawaii. We recommend water shoes since they are made for this type of terrain, and they dry off easily.

Are Hamama Falls closed?

Unfortunately, as of March 2021, the gorgeous Hamama Falls are closed indefinitely. This is now considered private government property and it’s no longer legal to hike here. 

This would have made my list as one of the best waterfall hikes on Oahu, but unfortunately, things have changed.

There are numerous “no trespassing” signs all over so be sure to respect the land and obey all laws. There are other hikes to do that are legal.

Gorgeous view of the Hamama Falls with lush scenery.
Hamama Falls, Oahu

What are some kid-friendly waterfall hikes on Oahu?

Manoa Falls and Waimea Falls are my top picks for kid-friendly waterfall hikes on Oahu. Both hikes are considered relatively easy and are well-maintained. 

Tips For Hiking to Waterfalls on Oahu

Wear proper shoes: This cannot be emphasized enough; proper shoes are key when going on any waterfall hike (or any general hike). Waterfall hikes can often be muddy and slippery, so you’ll want to ensure you have proper footing.

Pack a lunch and plenty of water: Never hike without water or food. Hiking can be strenuous, and you want to ensure you have enough energy to finish the hike. 

Wear sunscreen or a rashguard: Oahu is known for its sunny days. Wear your reef-safe sunscreen or a rashguard to protect your skin from the sun.

Do not hike alone: Hiking alone can be dangerous, so always make sure to hike with a friend or family member.

Check the weather conditions: Checking the weather conditions is always a good idea before any hike. You don’t want to be caught in a flash flood or thunderstorm while hiking.

Leave no trace: Always practice Leave No Trace principles when hiking. This means packing out your trash, being respectful to other hikers and nature, and leaving the area better than you found it.

Know your limitations: It is important to know your limits when hiking. If a hike is too difficult, there is no shame in turning back. The most important thing is that you are safe and enjoying yourself.

The Wrap Up: What are the Best Waterfall Hikes on Oahu?

To sum it up, Oahu has so many incredible options when it comes to waterfall hikes. If you’re looking for easy but beautiful hikes, check out Manoa Falls and Waimea Falls.

If you’re looking for intermediate-strenuous hikes, go for the Waimano Falls and Likeke Falls using the Pali Lookout route. 

Regardless of which hike you decide on, your adventure will be filled with beautiful nature and you will be rewarded with gorgeous waterfalls!

Mahalo for reading our post! Until next time, Aloha!

If you’re on the Big Island of Hawaii and want to visit waterfalls, you can check out our other article on the Top 9 waterfalls to visit while on the Big Island.

If you’re wanting to hike in the North Shore of Oahu, make sure to check out our favorite hikes in the area.


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