Oahu Waterfalls
Discover Hidden, Sacred & Secret Spots

There are lots of hidden and tucked away Oahu waterfalls to visit but the 3 main ones are Manoa valley, Waimea valley and Sacred Falls. They all have different experiences too depending on what you're up for.

I say do all 3. You can hike Manoa, stroll to Waimea or visit Sacred Falls via a helicopter. The choice is yours. For those who are more adventurous and want to get off the beaten track to more hidden and "secret" places there are some options here too.

waimea waterfall oahu

 

Options and General Information


 

Manoa Valley Waterfall

First up on my list of favorite Oahu waterfalls is Manoa waterfall in Manoa valley located above the University of Hawaii at Manoa at the top of a ridge.

If driving just take University Avenue all the way up until it dead ends at the parking lot by the jungle. manoa waterfall The bus #5 will take you here. This is a dirty, probably muddy hike depending on how much it rains.

The waterfall is located at the back of the rainforest so expect that it's probably been raining at least overnight.

The hike is about 1.5 mile and consists of some inclines but nothing major or too strenuous.

I would wear closed toe shoes because there are some exposed roots on the trail and the dirt and mud.

If you are going on an organized hike with a guide the professional companies will require it.

I suggest mosquito repellant too. The sun isn't much of a problem since it's mostly blocked out by all of the trees.

I felt like a kid on an amazing fieldtrip. I saw plants with leaves as big as my head and bamboo that stretched up as far as I could see.

BOOK A TOUR


Rainforest in Manoa ValleyCreek Running Through ManoaHiking Terrain in Manoa
Rainforest in Manoa ValleyCreek Running Through Manoa Hiking Terrain in Manoa


It looked like something out of a cartoon or National Geographic. They've actually done some filming for the tv show Lost back here.

The hike takes about 30 minutes to get to the 150ft waterfall.

Once there you'll be treated to an incredible thundering rush of water cascading down the side of rocks and into a natural pool.

I don't recommend swimming in it because of the possibility of leptospirosis and it is cold to me. Manoa valley is about 20 minutes above Waikiki and is actually a series of valleys with waterfalls but the first one is the free one that is open to the public.

There is one company with private granted access if you would like to tour with them for a less-crowded, unique experience.


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Waimea Valley Waterfall

Waimea valley waterfall is also very pretty and calming. It's number 2 on my list of Oahu waterfalls. I wouldn't call it a hike though since you could push a baby stroller on its path and wear everyday sandals. waimea valley waterfall

The stroll to the waterfall through the "Valley of the Priests" is about 0.75 mile and takes about 30 minutes to do and has a small pond and swimming hole.

Run by the audubon society the 1,875 acre park is immacutely maintained with peacocks running about spreading their plume, ducks and swans and beautiful native Hawaiian flowers.

There are little ponds, side paths, beaches and concession stands.

Throughout the day are activities, lei making and hula lessons. Also for your comfort is a souvenir shop, restaurant and restrooms.

Within Waimea valley is a collection of 35 gardens spread over 150 acres showcasing one of the most extensive varieties of Polynesian plants and flowers in the world.


waimea valley peacockwaimea valley gardenwaimea valley red ginger
Peacock in the ValleyTropical Gardens to Walk ThroughGinger Seen in the Valley


Waimea valley is a very sacred and ancient valley bordering the famous Waimea Bay on the north shore you can feel this special presence of spirit or mana as you make your way to the waterfall.

Though not as tall as Manoa the 45ft waterfall is no less beautiful in its own way.

The amount of rain they've been getting will determine how full and lush the waterfall is.

I enjoy the walk to Waimea valley waterfall more but like the actual waterfall at Manoa more due to its height and lushness.

I wouldn't even call it a hike, it is more a pretty walk.

If you're not the rugged hiking path type and don't want to get dirty this is the perfect option.

Waimea Valley is open daily from 9am-5pm. Get free admission with the Go Card.

Also consider seeing it as part of a Circle Island, Waterfall & Shrimp Truck Tour OR do a North Shore Snorkel & Waterfall Safari combo.


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Oahu Waterfalls-Sacred Falls

Last but not least of Oahu waterfalls is the mouth-dropping 1100ft Sacred Falls waterfall. sacred falls

No one is allowed to hike to it anymore due to a landslide in 1999 on Mother's Day that killed and injured many.

For this reason you must now take a helicopter and I can't imagine any other way to see it.

You will be high above Sacred Falls on the windward coast near Kualoa Ranch.

That view peering down the steepest, tallest, greenest valley you could imagine with a waterfall cascading down makes you truly marvel at all that is possible on this planet earth.

It is as if you are a living, breathing part of that poster showing a similar image of Hawaii and NOW YOU ARE FINALLY HERE experiencing it first hand.

It's one of those I could die and go to heaven tomorrow moments because you have done something incredible on the bucket list...You get the idea.

 

PRICING & AVAILABILITY

 


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Oahu Waterfalls-Kapena Falls

This waterfall has been featured in the Hollywood movie "The Rundown" with The Rock and in the tv show "Lost". Super close to town and can be easily be done on a day with other activities planned.

While hiking there are also hidden petroglyphs that can be discovered. You won't believe you're still in the city which is cool.

Size-About 15 ft; if jumping from the highest cliff about 35-40ft.

TIP: You will probably see man-made & natural ropes to swing from. I wouldn't do it. It's probably not sturdy enough.

Distance-Maybe .5 mile. About 5 minute walk to the pool, 10-15 min to highest cliff

Conditions-Jungle, dirt, trail, some hidden roots, watch step. If crossing the stream to access the cliff jump off point you must balance yourself on wet, slippery rocks. Can be REALLY muddy if it's been raining a lot.

Difficulty-Easy to Moderate. I wouldn't take Grandma or a toddler but most folks in reasonable condition should be fine. Crossing the stream is for the more agile but is not necessary to reach the falls.

TIP: I wouldn't jump from the high cliff unless you're an experience diver. Honestly, I tend to be a scaredy cat about that sort of thing if truth be told.

Regardless, scope out the bottom of the pool first to see where the rocks are. Sometimes they shift depending on weather conditions.

Time Needed-15 minutes in and out plus however long you want to hang out at the waterfall. Will take about 20 minutes from Waikiki if traffic is normal.

Location-It's about 3-5 minutes east of downtown. It is bordered by the Pali Highway and the Nuuanu Memorial Park & Mortuary. Nuuanu Stream is also nearby. You will also be able to spot the 3-tiered pagoda in Kyoto Gardens.

Enter the Memorial Park and drive around the circular driveway and then veer to your far left into a nondescript looking area. To your left at the far end is the start of the forest.

This is the start of the trail. It's probably not marked.

Hours-It's not professionally managed so just go during daylight.

Parking-I think it's technically illegal to park at the start of the hike unless you have a permit but I've seen people do it.

If one of the maintenance workers for the cemetery says something to you then leave and go park out on the street and walk back in.

I've heard of some people parking on the side of the Pali Hwy and climbing down over the guard rail. I don't know about that. Sounds sketchy and to each his own.

Getting There-You need a car or to be part of a tour taking you there.

Suggestions

Wear a shoe with a sole that has good grip such as hiking shoes or closed toe hiking sandals. Sneakers will do but don't wear ones you care about getting dirty. I would avoid rubber slippahs-too slippery and you'll probably stub your toe.

Don't swim in the pool if there has been a lot of rainfall or enter with open wounds. You run the risk of getting leptospirosis.

Don't drink the water.

Don't leave valuables in your car (or at least visibly).

Wear mosquito spray


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Oahu Waterfalls-Maunawili Falls

maunawili waterfallVery remote and hidden in the jungle. Weekdays will be better than weekends for avoiding crowds. Fortunately when I went I saw people on the way in and out so it was nice.

This is definitely for those who love hiking and don't mind doing a lot of it to get to the waterfall.

To me the waterfall was just ok (for Hawaii) but I felt like GI Jane trying to get there and back so if you love adventure you will not mind.

Size-15-25ft

There is a cliff about 30 ft above the pool if you hike up to jump in.

Distance-Depends on the approach. I went with someone who had access to a shortcut through a family member's land so that cut the distance. For you it will be 3.2 miles

Conditions-Dirt trail, jungle, hiking through, over, up and around a creek, wet rocks, some narrow ledges, possible mud if it's been raining.

Jungle, forest, expect to get wet before reaching the waterfall. Your feet will be submersed in water.

I personally found it to be a pain in the a** and don't wish to do it again. The people I was with LOVED it and that's the general sentiment.

I was just over it after awhile and am not the most surefooted with slippery surfaces and needed some assistance.

Difficulty-Hard Moderate-Difficult. Not difficult in the sense of being scared for my life but it takes a lot of effort and time. There are long sections of crab-crawling over rocks and boulders in a stream. There's some crawling along narrow ledges too.

Time Needed-Again, depends on the approach. I went with someone who had access to a shortcut through a family member's land so that cut the time.

It took us about 3.5 hours roundtrip including hanging out at the falls.

Location-Near the Pali Highway Kailua bound past Kamehameha Hwy (83). You'll be turning right on Auloa and driving down little country roads.

Hours-This one takes awhile so I would go earlier in the day such as the morning.

Getting There-Car. There is noooo way Jose that you will be able to access this via public transportation. Tours don't go here either. I'm guessing it's because of the liability.

Parking Situation-It's at the end of a residential neighborhood that borders the forest. Don't park at the trailhead.

TIP: Be respectful and don't block anyone's driveway or you may return to find that your car has been towed. Be quiet and don't leave trash around. It's been a problem in the past and the residents can get irritable with hikers who don't follow the rules.

Suggestions

Choose footwear that can handle muddy conditions & getting really wet.

Mosquito spray, water and snacks

This is a 2 handed hike at times so make sure you have a backpack. It should be small and light enough to not throw off your balance.


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Upside Down Waterfall

 

oahu waterfallsAnother of Oahu's waterfalls worth a mention is the Upside Down waterfall off of the Pali expressway in the eastbound direction towards Kailua.

It's very creative name is Upside Down Falls.

Also known as Waipuhia Falls.

Falling over the edge of a cliff off of Mount Konahuanui for a few feet the wind blows it back upward thus giving the impression that it is upside down.

You'll probably have to be on a tour with a guide to point it out because it's easy to miss.

Most people don't go to it but merely observe it on the way to somewhere else from the car window.

I've never tried to hike to it and honestly this one needs certain conditions to line up just right in order for it to "fall" just right.

There needs to be a lot of rain and there needs to be a lot of wind.

The formation of the mountain ridge right there along with the way the wind shoots up the shaft causes the falling waterfall water to blow back up or fall upside down so to speak.

The actual waterfall itself is inaccessible because it is located at the top of a rugged mountain range.

Conditions-Jungle, dirt trails, SOME CLIMBING & CRAWLING INVOLVED

Difficulty-Moderate to Hard Moderate; the hardest part will be not getting lost

Location-Near the Pali Hwy in the eastern part of the upper Nuuanu area

Getting There-Need a car and then a hike.

Parking Situation- Will need to park off the side of the Pali in a remote, random area.

Suggestions-Mosquito repellant, good, sturdy soled hiking shoes

I wouldn't attempt to do it without a local who knows where he or she is going. It's way, way off the beaten track and is for those feeling a little Indiana Jonesish.


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Wild Sudden Waterfalls

My other honorable mention of Oahu waterfalls is around the corner from the Pali lookout. It's only gushing and going off really after super-heavy rain but so worth it.

As you're facing the view while at the Pali lookout there is a little path that continues off to the right.

If you follow this path for about 15 minutes eventually you will come to where the waterfall is gushing under the road where you are standing and down into the valley below.

You'll pass another waterfall on the way but the main one which needs no explanation is THE one.

It is so pretty and unexpected and usually not there but if it's a very rainy day or has been raining for days you're in for a treat.

If you were driving on the Pali Highway headed back into Honolulu and looked off to the side it would look like one of the many wild, cascading Oahu waterfalls down the side of the mountain that form after excessive rain but this one you can actually get up close to.

It'll make you cheer and shout and you can take pictures with it right behind you!


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Oahu Waterfalls-Likeke Falls

 

Size-I'm not sure. I've seen estimates ranging from 15ft to 65ft. It looked a lot bigger than 15 ft to me.

TIP: No pool for swimming in. The pool that's there is pretty shallow. This is a good one to pose next to. You can get pretty close to the waterfall.

Distance-From the Pali lookout about 2-2.5 miles one way; from the Koolau Country Club about 1/4 mile.

Conditions-Forest, dirt trail walking, roots to be aware of. Can be muddy.

Difficulty-Easy to Low Moderate. Very easy from the Koolau Country Club. I even saw a bride and her wedding party there. From the Pali Hwy it's moderate. Nothing hard, a couple of places to watch your balance; mostly a forest hike.

Time Needed-From the Pali lookout about 2 hours roundtrip; from the Koolau Country Club about 15 minutes

Location & Hours-Between the Koolau Country Club upper parking lot and the Pali Lookout. The Pali lookout parking lot is open during daylight hours and costs $3 to park.

Getting There-Car or tour. Located about 30 minutes from Waikiki near the end of the Pali Hwy.

Parking Situation-$3 at the Pali Lookout; free at the Koolau Country Club upper parking lot. This lot is owned by the First Presbyterian Church there.

Suggestions-Mosquito spray, have money to buy a cold drink and maybe some snacks at the concession from the golf club afterwards. When I did it we went in one way and came out by the parking lot of the club.

TIP: I would do a tour on this one. If I had it to do it again by myself I would get lost. We took a couple of twists and turns through the forest after we left the Old Pali Road.

If you're going in and out the quick way from the country club parking lot you don't need a tour.


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Oahu Waterfalls-Laie Falls

This waterfall is not a big one and needs a fair amount of rain to make it nice. It's a long hike for what you get. A permit is needed to do this waterfall hike.

Go to the Hawaii Reserves at Laie Shopping Center. The address is 55-510 Kamehameha Hwy, Laie, HI 96762. The phone # is 808-293-9201, web address is http://www.hawaiireserves.com/index.htm

Distance-7 miles roundtrip

Conditions-Forest, fields

Location-North shore near Polynesian Cultural Center

Getting There-Hwy 83 north, then turn toward the mountainside onto Naniloa Loop. Follow Naninola Loop until Poohaili Street. Take Poohaili Street to the parking lot next to Laie Park.

Parking Situation-Park in the parking lot at Laie Park.

Suggestions-Mosquito repellant, good, sturdy hiking shoes or boots


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oahu waterfalls By Area

Honolulu Area

Manoa Falls
Kapena Falls

East Side

Likeke Falls
Maunawili
Upside Down

North Shore

Waimea Falls
Laie Falls

Windward Coast

Sacred Falls

 


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