Two people swimming in Waimea Falls

Waimea Falls: A Complete Guide to Hiking Waimea Valley

Are you considering going to Waimea Falls but unsure what to expect? If so, you’ve come to the right place! In this blog post, we’ll provide an overview of this natural wonder so you can plan your trip accordingly.

Waimea Falls is perfect for those who love nature and outdoor activities. The falls are set deep in the lush Waimea Valley, surrounded by a tropical paradise. The refreshing pool of water at its base is perfect for swimming and relaxing after a short hike. Visitors will also appreciate the vibrant flora and fauna that make up this stunning area.

The walk to Waimea Falls is one of the best hikes on the North Shore of Oahu, and it’s perfect for all skill levels.

If you want to experience something new, we highly recommend visiting Waimea Valley! There are many things to do there, such as taking a short hike to the waterfall, swimming, picnicking, attending the Toa Luau, and more!

The Waimea Falls and pool with clear blue water

Waimea Valley Entrance Fees

Below is a breakdown of the general admission costs as of March 2023. Please visit the Waimea Valley website directly for updated pricing.

Note that the below breakdown is only for general admission (non-resident). If you are a Hawaii resident and/or military, check out the Waimea Valley Website for admission fees.

Adults: $25.00

Seniors: $18.00 (62+)

Student: $18.00 (Preset student ID)

Children: $14.00 (4-12 years old)

Group Rate: $18.00 (per person for groups of 10)

Waimea Falls Facilities and Amenities 

  • Free parking available for Waimea Valley guests
  • Restrooms
  • Snack bar and coffee shop on-site
  • Gift shop
  • Life jackets provided for swimming in the waterfall’s pool
  • Lifeguard on duty
  • Changing rooms
Cars parked at the parking lot outside of Waimea Valley
The parking lot was empty around 8:45 am when we got there
Cody walking towards our car in the full parking lot at Waimea Valley
This was the parking lot when we were about to leave
Bathrooms at Waimea Falls
Bathrooms at Waimea Falls
the restaurant at Waimea Valley
We stopped here after the hike/waterfall to get some coffee and food
Cody looking at flowers right by the payment system at Wailmea Valley
This is where you get your tickets to enter the waterfall hike
Map of the Waimea Falls Botanical garden and a sign that says trail starts here

Waimea Falls Map

Waimea Falls Hike: Important Information

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: About 1.9 miles (round trip)

Elevation Gain: 272ft

Route Type: Out & back

Duration of Hike: 45 minutes to 1 hour round trip

Highlights of the Trail: Waimea Falls and Botanical Gardens

Hiking to The Waimea Falls

The Waimea Falls Hike to the waterfall is one of the easiest hikes to do in Oahu and one of the best waterfall hikes on the island.

The trail is well-marked and only takes about 20-30 minutes to get to the waterfall. It’s an excellent hike for all ages and is mostly shaded, making it a perfect choice on a hot day. The trail is paved all the way and also wheelchair accessible.

Trail markers pointing to the waterfall

The hike starts at the Waimea Valley entrance and follows along the Waimea River. You will pass by ancient Hawaiian hale structures and various beautiful plants and flowers. There is so much to see on this trail, so it’s definitely not a boring hike.

Cody hiking on the paved section of the Waimea Falls hike

If you love botanical gardens, Waimea Valley is the place for you. The botanical gardens are absolutely stunning and worth exploring.

Gorgeous shot of the botanical gardens at Waimea Falls

Waimea Falls botanical gardens made our list of the top botanical gardens in Oahu, so be sure to spend some time exploring here.

The trail leading to Waimea Falls with gorgeous trees on both sides
Various flowers in the botanical garden at Waimea Falls

After walking for about 20-30 minutes, you will reach the majestic Waimea Falls. Be sure to take the time to admire the waterfall and enjoy a refreshing swim in the pool below.

Please note that life jackets are a requirement before swimming in the falls. They will be provided to you at no additional cost. It’s included in the admission fee.

Life jacket station located near the waterfall at Waimea Falls
This is where you will get your life jackets by the waterfall and pool
Cody watching people swim in the Waimea Falls pool
The first few people to get into the pool about 10 minutes after we arrived at the falls

After spending some time at Waimea Falls, head back the way you came for an easy and enjoyable hike.

More Information About the Waterfall

The waterfall at Waimea Valley is about 45 feet high and is worth admiring. If you are expecting an extremely tall and unbelievable waterfall, Waimea Valley is not the place for you.

However, the waterfall is still delightful and definitely worth a visit.

Swimming in the Pool at Waimea Falls: Tips & Important Information

1) Try to get there early (9:00 am) or late in the afternoon

Waimea Falls is a very popular tourist attraction in Oahu, and the pool can get pretty crowded during the middle of the day. This is a top hike in Oahu so make sure you plan accordingly to avoid the crowds.

If you are not a fan of huge crowds, try getting there before the big groups arrive around 10:00 -10:30 am.

We got there around opening time (9:00 am) and we were one of the first few people there. No one was even in the pool yet. 

Thirty minutes later, there were more people in the pool and by the time we hiked back down (around 10:30 am), we saw many people hiking up to the waterfall.

We also did this hike late afternoon, and there weren’t many people at the waterfall. See the below picture. If you are not a morning person, this is another great option to beat the crowds.

People swimming and sitting by Waimea Falls in Oahu with the flowing waterfall.
This was taken after our most recent trip to Waimea Falls.

2) The Flow of the waterfall will depend on how much it’s rained

Be advised that the more rain the island gets, the more the waterfall will flow.

I have seen many disappointed tourists (including myself) state that the waterfall wasn’t flowing heavily when they got there.

People swimming in Waimea Falls in Oahu. There is a view of the waterfall
The waterfall was still nice when we visited, but it wasn’t flowing as much due to no rain in the days prior. This was during our first trip to Waimea Falls.

To avoid this letdown, keep in mind that waterfalls are greatly affected by the weather. If you want to see a powerful waterfall, try going when it has rained recently.

3) Be aware of Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that you can get from swimming in contaminated water. It’s not very common, but it is something to be aware of before swimming in any waterfall or river on the island. Do not attempt to swim in the waterfall if you have any open wounds or cuts.

With that being said, one of the employees working around the waterfall said they haven’t heard of any cases of leptospirosis reported from this location.

How to Get To Waimea Falls

1) Drive

The best way to get to Waimea Falls is to drive there. If you are coming from Waikiki, the drive should take about 1 hour.

You will need to take I-H-1 West, then take I-H-201 West, I-H-1 W, and I-H-2 N to HI-80.

Take exit 8 from I-H-2 N, then take HI-99 N and HI-83 E to Waimea Valley Road.

2)Take the Bus

Another option would be to take the bus, but we discourage this option if you are coming from the Waikiki area. The bus from Honolulu can take up to 2 hours one way with the multiple stops that buses tend to make.

If you must take the bus from the Waikiki area, you will need to take bus #52 to Haleiwa Town then transfer to bus #60. 

Get off at Waimea Falls Park and walk about 200 yards to the entrance. You can check out the Moovit app for alternate bus routes.

There is so much to do on the north shore of Oahu, and you will be missing out if you have limited time due to taking the bus. If possible, We recommend driving there to maximize your time.

If you are already staying on the north shore of Oahu, you can take bus number 32 or 60 to Waimea Falls. The time it takes to get there will vary depending on your starting point. We mainly use the Moovit app for bus schedule information while on the island.

Things to Do in the Area

There are so many things to do in the area, but here are some of our favorite things to do while on the north shore of Oahu:

Attend the Toa Luau at Waimea Valley

If you are looking for one of the best luaus in Oahu, then the Toa Luau at Waimea Valley is a great option. Toa Luau is one of the most intimate luaus on the island. Guests will enjoy traditional Hawaiian cuisine, storytelling, and music while taking in the beauty of Waimea Valley.

Your Toal Luau admission ticket also gives you free access to the falls. We love this luau because it’s the only Luau on Oahu that offers a day and evening show.

If you have kids, this is a great option. We recently attended this luau, and we started our day by hiking to the falls, then we participated in the day luau.

Me wearing a lei at the Toa Luau in Oahu during the Umu Ceremony.

Cliff Jumping at Waimea Bay Rock

If you’re looking for some more adventure while in the area, check out Waimea Bay Rock for some cliff jumping. The Waimea Bay Beach is located across the street from Waimea Valley, and it’s one of the best cliff jumping spots in Oahu.

Snorkel at Sharks Cove

Sharks Cove is one of the best snorkeling spots on Oahu, so make sure to check it out while you’re in the area. Be sure to bring your snorkeling shoes, and wear reef-safe sunscreen or a snorkeling shirt before heading out in the hot sun.

Visit Some of the Best Beaches on the North Shore

Beaches such as Sunset Beach and The Banzai Pipeline are some of the most beautiful beaches in Oahu, located within a short drive from Waimea Valley.

Visit the North Shore Food Trucks

If you’re looking for some delicious food, check out the best food trucks on the north shore.

Hike Some of the Best Trails on the North Shore

If you have time to spare, make sure to spend some time hiking on this side of the island. Our favorite intermediate hike here is the Ehukai Pillbox Hike. It’s definitely a must if you are in the area.

Visit the Dole Plantation

If you have kids or are just looking for a fun place to go, the Dole Plantation is a great option. It’s located about 27 minutes away from Waimea Falls and has a lot of activities for the whole family.

Hike Ka’ena Point Trail

If you are looking for an easy but spectacular hike, look no further than the Kaena Point hike. This is one of our favorite hikes on Oahu.

Waimea Falls Frequently Asked Questions

Can you swim at Waimea Falls?

Yes, swimming is allowed at Waimea Falls. Please note that swimming conditions might change based on the weather, so check out the Waimea Valley Website for updates.

Is Waimea Falls Open?

Yes, the falls are now open at the writing of this post.

What Other Waterfalls Can You Swim in While on Oahu?

Waimano Falls is another great option if the waterfall is flowing. We recently did this hike and found the waterfall in its glory!

Waimea Falls vs. Manoa Falls: Which Is Better?

This depends on many different factors. Manoa Falls is located within a short drive or bus ride from Waikiki, and they are a great option if you’re short on time.

If you don’t have a car and can’t make it to the north shore, consider going to Manoa Falls.

Also, Manoa Falls is about 150 feet tall compared to Waimea Falls, which is about 45 feet tall. You can swim in Waimea Falls depending on the conditions of the water, but swimming is not permitted at Manoa Falls. We did, however, see quite a few people swimming at Manoa Falls when we visited.

The pool is also much smaller at Manoa Falls, which means anyone who swims in it will inadvertently be dangerously close to the actual falls. This can be risky because the stream leading to the falls can actually push rocks over its edge onto unsuspecting swimmers below.

Waimea Falls are located on the north shore, and it’s a great option if you don’t mind making the drive up there or if you are already staying in the area.

While both hikes are considered easy waterfall hikes in Oahu, Waimea Valley is shorter and easier than Manoa Falls.

In our opinion, both options are great and if possible, be sure to visit both.

The Wrap Up

If you’re looking for an easy waterfall hike to do in Oahu, Waimea Falls is a perfect option. The trail is beautiful, with many plants, flowers, and trees, and the waterfall is worth seeing.

Just be aware of things to consider before visiting (weather, fees, other activities in the area), and have a great time!

Mahalo for reading our post. Until next time, aloha and happy exploring the Waimea Valley!


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