9x Waterfall hikes on Oahu that will leave you speechless

Are you an adventurous soul who’s planning a trip to Oahu? This list of amazing Oahu waterfall hikes is exactly what you need to complement your Hawaiian travel itinerary. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a novice, we’re here to help you find the perfect trail.

After all, when visiting Oahu, you really don’t want to spend all your precious vacation time at one of the Waikiki beaches. The island is home to some incredible scenery that you don’t want to miss. The spectacular Oahu waterfall hikes in this article are just one example. There’s much more to explore, from verdant botanical gardens to hidden bays teeming with tropical fish. Oahu truly is the best island to visit in Hawaii if you’re looking for a combination of beaches, adventure, city vibes and ono food.

Psst… Is your stay on Oahu part of a Hawaii island-hopping trip? Then you might want to check out our articles on the most awesome hiking trails on Maui and the Big Island too.

Here’s our selection of the best waterfall hikes on Oahu.

One of the best waterfalls in Oahu
Oahu hikes with waterfalls” data-pin-title=“Epic waterfall hikes on Oahu Hawaii


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Hiking essentials

When hiking on Oahu, there’s no avoiding the mud and you’ll inevitably get your feet wet. You need sturdy hiking shoes with a good grip to tackle the slippery parts of the hike. But that’s not all. Here are some hiking essentials that will proof to be useful when exploring the Oahu waterfalls:

Dirt trail for waterfall hiking Oahu

Oahu waterfall hiking tips

Before we dive in, a word on hiking safety. Hawaii’s nature is breathtakingly beautiful but it can be dangerous too.

Only hike on maintained and well-marked trails, such as the best Oahu waterfall hikes mentioned in this article, because only marked State trails and those on private land but for which you manage to get a permit are considered legal. Don’t trespass on private property without permission and don’t wander off the trail. You don’t want to find yourself in a hunting zone.

In reality, not all waterfall trails are well-marked. Always make sure to have a hiking app installed on your phone. If you’re lost, then look for pink ribbons or pink flagging tape tied to the trees. This indicates the path of the trail. When you arrive at a fork, you might notice two ribbons or double flagging tape which, in theory, is placed on the side of the trail you want to turn to.

It goes without saying that all mesmerizing Oahu waterfalls are the result of frequent rain. That means that most of the waterfall trails in this list tend to be muddy and slippery. Check the weather before starting your hike because the sunshine can quickly turn into a downpour.

As a result of the unpredictable weather, rockslides and sudden flash floods occur regularly.

Hawaii’s latitude means that it gets dark quickly after sunset.

Don’t go hiking alone. If you’re staying at a hotel or resort on Oahu, then inform the front desk of your hiking plans and when you expect to be back. If you’re staying at one of the many Oahu vacation rentals, then inform the home front.

Are Oahu waterfalls swimmable? Some are and, for your convenience, we’ve indicated this for every Oahu waterfall in this list. If swimming is not allowed then that’s for your own safety. Not only could the access point be dangerous to reach, but waterfall pools on Oahu are known to contain the leptospirosis bacteria. If you find yourself swimming in a swimming hole after all, then be sure to avoid contact with open cuts and with the eyes. In case you would exhibit any flu-like symptoms after swimming in the Oahu waterfalls, then you should seek medical attention immediately.

Secret waterfall hikes Oahu

“Emerald slopes became so tall they touched the clouds, and showers painted diamond waterfalls that sluiced down cliff sides.” by Victoria Kahler is one of our favorite waterfall quotes.

Best waterfall hikes on Oahu

Now, without further ado, let’s have a look at the best waterfall hikes in Oahu. For every hike mentioned, you’ll find a detailed description of the trail and waterfall as well as an indication about the length of the trail, the elevation gain, difficulty, parking, trailhead coordinates, entrances fees and whether the Oahu waterfall is swimmable.

After the list, you’ll also find a map indicating the trailhead for all waterfall hikes that are mentioned.

Manoa Falls hike

Some scenes of Jurassic Park were filmed on the 1.6 mile roundtrip to Manoa Falls
Manoa Falls hike
(Source: Daniel Ramirez via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

The hike to Manoa Falls is quite intensive. Then again, it’s one of the shortest waterfall hikes, making it perfectly suitable for hikers of all skill levels. It’s also one of the best family-friendly waterfall hikes on Oahu and, located in the in the Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve, it’s just a short drive from Waikiki.

A gravel trail with a moderate elevation gain and a number of steps leads you through a spectacular dense forest dotted with banyan and eucalyptus trees. A bamboo grove and the occasional tropical flower complete the captivating setting. This was actually one of the filming locations for movies such as Jurassic Park and The Hunger Games – Catching Fire.

At the end of the trail, you’ll be treated to a misty view of 150-ft Manoa Falls cascading over a steep rock face. As with all flowing waterfalls, Manoa Falls is most impressive after a day (or more) of rain.

Make sure to avoid weekends and arrive early since the trail can get very busy. If you’re not ready to leave Manoa Valley after your hike to the falls, then be sure to visit the nearby Lyon Arboretum.

This waterfall trail is open every day from sunrise to sunset.

Specifics about this Oahu waterfall hike:

  • Difficulty:
  • Length:
  • Elevation gain:
  • Trailhead GPS coordinates (decimal):
  • Parking:
  • Swimmable:
  • Entrance fee:

Moderate
0.8 mi (1.29 km) one way
800 ft (243.84 m)
Latitude: 21.332446411058413 – Longitude: -157.8005540932533
Available at Paradise Park ($7)
No
No

Waimea Falls hike

With its 1.5 miles round trip, the hike to Waimea Falls is one of the easy waterfall hikes Oahu
Waimea Falls
(Source: Thomas Shahan via Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0)

Next on our list is one of the most accessible waterfalls on Oahu. Waimea Falls is a 45-ft waterfall located on the North Shore of the island.

The Waimea falls trail doesn’t really qualify as a hike but rather a relatively easy walk along a paved pathway. Not only is it family-friendly but it’s even stroller-friendly. You can even get away with wearing flip flops on this trail.

And the best part is that this Oahu waterfall is swimmable. Of course, all depends on the daily conditions so it’s recommended to inform ahead of time (as of 9 am. the same day). Life vests are provided and lifeguards are there to keep an eye on the swimmers as they experience the 30-ft deep swimming hole.

Much to the dislike of some hikers, there’s an entrance fee to visit to Manoa Valley. That’s because, in Hawaiian culture, this is a sacred place. Plus, there’s much more to see than just Waimea Falls. Make the most of your visit by joining one of the guided tours to learn more about the valley, its history and natural abundance or visit the on-site botanical collection and cultural sites.

Note that that Waimea Valley is closed on Mondays (except during summer) and after 4 pm.

Specifics about this easy hike on Oahu:

  • Difficulty:
  • Length:
  • Elevation gain:
  • Trailhead GPS coordinates (decimal):
  • Parking:
  • Swimmable:
  • Entrance fee:

Easy
0.75 mi (1.21 km) one way
272 ft (83 m)
Latitude: 21.636572 – Longitude: -158.054705
Available
Yes
$25 (adult) and $14 (child) but included in the Go Oahu card

Lulumahu Falls hike

Three miles round trip hike to the 50 foot waterfall Lulumahu makes for one of the best waterfall hikes Oahu
Lulumahu Falls
(Source: Andrew Wong via Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This popular hike leads to one of the most beautiful waterfalls on Oahu. The Lulumahu Falls trailhead is located right next to the Pali Highway. The slippery rock path winds through dense bamboo forest, over a series of stone steps and crosses several stream. It’s a one of the most muddy trails in this list and offers some spectacular views of the Ko’olau mountain range. At the end, you’ll be find Lulumahu Falls which cascades 50 ft into a small pool (too small for swimming).

The trail is not well maintained and has no trail markers, except for some pink ribbons. So, make sure to have a hiking app installed before you leave. Compared to some other Oahu waterfall hikes in this list, such as the ones leading to Manoa Falls and Waimea Falls, this hike is less touristy.

Lulumahu Falls is located just a short drive from Oahu and on the property of the Hawaii Board of Water Supply. You’ll often read that this is an unsanctioned trail but that’s not entirely true. But you do need a permit from the Hawaii’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife to enter the land. You can get it here.

Specifics about this Oahu waterfall hike:

  • Difficulty:
  • Length:
  • Elevation gain:
  • Trailhead GPS coordinates (decimal):
  • Parking:
  • Swimmable:
  • Entrance fee:

Moderate
1.61 mi (2.6 km) one way
932 ft (284m)
Latitude: 21.353549 – Longitude: -157.811538
Yes (small and not the safest one)
No
$2.5 per person

Maunawili Falls hike

2.5 miles round trip Maunawili Falls trail is one of the best Oahu hikes with waterfall
Maunawili Falls hike
(Source: Brad Smith via Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Next on our list of best waterfall hikes on Oahu is the Maunawili Falls hike. The trailhead for is located at the end of Kelewina Street in Kailua. This is a residential neighborhood so please be mindful. Keep your voice down, don’t go blocking people’s gates and refrain from littering.

Right behind the yellow entrance gate, you’ll see a paved and a dirt road. The paved road is private, the dirt road that deflects towards the right is the hiking trail.

The Maunawili trail’s lush canopy, enchanting banyans and curling fern branches create a magical decor. There are some stairs to climb and a couple of streams to rock hop. Your trek will give you stunning views on the Kailua coast and the verdant Ko’olau mountains before reaching the majestic Maunawili Falls. The tranquil swimming hole is an excellent place to cool off.

The trail to Maunawili Falls is closed until July 2023. But there’s an alternative route, the Maunawili Connector Trail, that allows you to reach the waterfall after all. It starts at the trailhead for the Maunawili (Devastation) Trail. The parking and trailhead are located at the scenic overlook just beyond the hairpin turn on the Pali Highway. More information can be found on the website of the Hawaiian Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Specifics about this waterfall hike on Oahu:

  • Difficulty:
  • Length:
  • Elevation gain:
  • Trailhead GPS coordinates (decimal):
  • Parking:
  • Swimmable:
  • Entrance fee:

Moderate
1.2 mi (1.9 km) one way
900 ft (274 m)
Latitude: 21.35929039390873 – Longitude: -157.7635602581029
Limited roadside parking in a residential area
Yes but the water may be contain the leptospirosis bacteria
No

Waimano Falls hike

One of the best intermediate hikes in Oahu with waterfalls leads to Waimano Falls
Waimano Falls
(Source: Leonard S Jacobs via Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0)

The Waimano Falls hike is one of the most popular waterfall hikes on Oahu. It’s a slippery and muddy trail that takes you through lush forest and across a steep root-covered hill nicknamed Cardiac Hill. You go downhill first and uphill on the way back.

Waimano Falls, also known as Waimano Pools, is a two-tiered waterfall spilling into a swimmable pool. And yes, it’s deep enough to jump in. You’ll even find rope swings for that extra dose of fun. It’s also a popular spot for cliff-jumping. So, if you’re looking for a unique outdoor experience on Oahu, then this is a great waterfall hike to add to your list.

The trailhead for Waimano Falls is located in a residential Pacific Palisades neighborhood. So, again, be respectful and know that street parking is limited. Two trails start in this neighborhood: the Waimano Ridge trail and the Manana trail but make sure to start at the trailhead for the Manana trail. There’s a sign that points off to the right after about 3/4 mile. Follow it to reach Waimano Falls.

Oh, and just so you know: This is a recreational hunting area so you might encounter an occasional feral pig or goat on this trail.

Specifics about this Oahu waterfall hike:

  • Difficulty:
  • Length:
  • Elevation gain:
  • Trailhead GPS coordinates (decimal):
  • Parking:
  • Swimmable:
  • Entrance fee:

Intermediate but with a steep uphill section upon returning
1.5 mi (2.35 km) one way
810 ft (247m)
Latitude: 21.430317535837343 – Longitude: -157.93869531818208
Limited roadside parking in a residential area
Yes but the water may be contain the leptospirosis bacteria
No

Laie Falls hike

Beautiful scenery along this 6 miles round trip Oahu hikes to waterfalls
Laie Falls hike
(Source: Leonard S Jacobs via Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0)

Next on our list of best hikes on Oahu is the Laie Falls trail. This one is a bit longer than the previous ones mentioned but offers some spectacular scenery along the way.

The first part of the hike takes you along taro fields, grasslands, strawberry guava trees, dense forests, a bamboo patch as well as a grove of Cook pines. After about 2 miles in, the trail gets scenic and you get to enjoy both mountains and ocean views. The exposed ridges and beautiful blues of the Pacific make it worth the effort.

The final descent to the waterfall can be a bit tricky and requires some rock climbing but there are ropes to help you keep your balance. This is a great hike for scenic views and also gives a glimpse of the island’s natural diversity. The two tiered Laie waterfall is only about 15-ft tall but the setting is pretty idyllic.

To get to Laie Falls, take Highway 83 towards the North Shore, pass the Polynesian Cultural Center and turn left into Naniloa Loop and exit at Poohaili street. There’s a parking lot next to Laie Park. From there, it’s another 3/4 of a mile to reach the trailhead.

This Oahu waterfall hike is located on private property. You need a permit from the Hawaii Reserves to enter the land, which you can get here.

Specifics about this waterfall hike on Oahu:

  • Difficulty:
  • Length:
  • Elevation gain:
  • Trailhead GPS coordinates (decimal):
  • Parking:
  • Swimmable
  • Entrance fee

Intermediate but with a challenging descent to the waterfall
3.1 mi (5 km) one way
1 400 ft (426 m)
Latitude: 21.644756545896378 – Longitude: -157.93866215190252
Laie Park
Yes but the water may be contain the leptospirosis bacteria
No

Likeke Falls hike

Likeke falls is a gorgeous small waterfall located near Kaneoho, the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens and the popular Pali Lookout.

This is a short hike but rewarding since the trail leads through mud, under branches, along fragrant flowers and on mossy rocks. It’s one of the few waterfall hikes on this list that are highly family-friendly. The reward is the 15-ft Likeke falls.

The hike is pretty straightforward. Keep left once you get to the water tank covered with graffiti and don’t miss the right hand turn in the middle of the trail.

Specifics about this waterfall hike in Oahu:

  • Difficulty:
  • Length:
  • Elevation gain:
  • Trailhead GPS coordinates (decimal):
  • Parking:
  • Swimmable
  • Entrance fee

Intermediate
2 mi (3.2 km) one way
207 ft (63m)
Latitude: 21.37291285081515 – Longitude: -157.79174725126768
Pali lookout parking lot or Koʻolau Golf Club parking lot ($10)
No
No

Judd trail

1.5 mile round trip Judd trail is one of the most scenic hikes to waterfalls in Oahu
Jackass Ginger pool on the Judd Trail
(Source: Eric Tessmer via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

On the Pali Highway, turn right on Nu‘unau Pali Drive until you reach a concrete bridge. Immediately to your right, you’ll see an open area in the ironwood trees. This is the trailhead for the Judd Trail.

This loop trail was named after Charles S. Judd, the Territorial Forester during the 1930s when the Cook pines, in their turn named after Captain James Cook, were planted. It’s a muddy hike over a root-covered trail. But the forest is so beautiful, with bamboo, eucalyptus, guava and even a large banyan tree. There’s one occasion at which you have to rock hop over the Nuuanu stream to cross it.

The reason why the fun Judd trail is so popular, is the access to the Jackass Ginger pool. The stream that feeds it, only drops about 10-ft and so it’s a really small waterfall. But the Jackass Ginger pool is about 8-ft deep and equipped with a rope swing and an all-natural mossy rock slide.

Specifics about this Oahu waterfall hike:

  • Difficulty:
  • Length:
  • Elevation gain:
  • Trailhead GPS coordinates (decimal):
  • Parking:
  • Swimmable
  • Entrance fee

Intermediate
0.75 mi (1.2 km) one way
170 ft (52 m)
Latitude: 21.34723862988322 – Longitude: -157.8207678238168
Roadside
Yes but the water may be contain the leptospirosis bacteria
No

Koloa Gulch hike

Koloa Gulch is the most challenging Oahu waterfall hike mentioned in this list. It starts out pretty straightforward and just a bit muddy and then goes into the forest. Soon after, the trail becomes a stream and you’ll find yourself rock-hopping. There are about 2 dozen stream crossings but if the stream depth is low enough, you could walk in the ankle to-knee deep water. As you follow the pink ribbons upstream, the boulders get larger.

Right after you pass a huge sandy rock wall, you’ll see a split in the trail where it descends into the gulch. Take a right to reach the main Koloa waterfall and left to hike deeper in the Koolau mountains to another waterfall (which requires an even longer hike). Once you reach the bottom of the gulch, there is a beautiful waterfall waiting for you to cool off in.

To get to the Koloa Gulch from Honolulu, head north on Highway 83. Park on the Kokololio beach parking or Pounder’s Beach parking lot on your right just before reaching the Polynesian Cultural Center. From there, walk about half a mile to the end of the Aakahi Gulch road. A few steps down the path, you’ll see a sign indicating the Koloa Gulch trail.

This Oahu waterfall hike is located the same private property as the Laie Falls hike. You need a permit from the Hawaii Reserves to enter the land, which you can get here.

Specifics about this Oahu waterfall hike:

  • Difficulty:
  • Length:
  • Elevation gain:
  • Trailhead GPS coordinates (decimal):
  • Parking:
  • Swimmable
  • Entrance fee

Hard
3.5 mi (5.6 km) one way
1000 ft (305m)
Latitude: 21.627104 – Longitude: -157.926616
Laie Park
Yes but the water may be contain the leptospirosis bacteria
No

Other hikes that didn’t make the list are the Kapena Falls hike (near a mortuary and a homeless camp), the upside-down Waipuhia Falls hike (which hardly any flows and is severley overgrown) and the Kaau Crater hike (since it’s not clear whether this challenging hike for experienced hikers is actually illegal or not).

Other Oahu waterfall hikes that you may find online are the Sacred Falls hike, the Hamama Falls hike and the Makaha and Kalihi Ice Ponds hikes. These are illegal hikes! The Sacred Falls trail has caused many fatalities in the past and the other three are located on the property of the Hawaiian Board of Water Supply. If you get cited, you’ll have to make a court appearance and may face fines up to $2,000, community service, and/or up to six months in prison.

Oahu waterfall hikes on the map

For your convenience, we’ve created a map indicating each of the spectacular waterfall hikes on Oahu that we described. The location pinned represents trailheads rather than the waterfall for better planning.

Bonus: Secret Oahu waterfall retreat

If you can’t get enough of the soothing sound of a waterfall, then you’re in for a treat. Combine your Oahu waterfall hiking adventures with a stay at a gorgeous vacation home overlooking your own private waterfall. Located on Old Pali Road, this tranquil retreat is just a stone’s throw away from bustling Waikiki. How amazing is that?

Rental home overlooking a private waterfall and with multiple waterfalls in the area to hike to
Image courtesy of VRBO Waterfall Villa

DISCOVER THIS VACATION RENTAL ON VRBO

Oahu waterfall hiking tours

If you’re new to hiking or you don’t feel comfortable tackling your favorite waterfall on your own, then you’ll be pleased to learn that there are guided waterfall tours available for you to join. Alternatively, you could admire Oahu’s best waterfalls from the comfort of a helicopter. Here are some suggestions:

Which of these Oahu waterfall hikes is your favorite?

Each of the Hawaii waterfalls mentioned offers beautiful scenery and plenty of opportunities for adventure. Whether you prefer a short and easy hike or a long, more challenging one, the island of Oahu is sure to have something perfect for you. No matter which waterfall hike you choose to explore, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience. So get out there and start exploring these amazing trails today!

Hikes on Oahu with waterfalls
Hike to this Oahu waterfall

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