14 Oahu Waterfalls That Are Open in 2024 + Map

14 Oahu Waterfalls That Are Open in 2024 + Map

Oahu, the third-largest Hawaiian island, is home to some of the most breathtaking waterfalls attracting visitors from around the world. These waterfalls on Oahu not only provide breathtaking views but also offer incredible experiences for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

The island features a wide variety of waterfalls, differing in height, unique characteristics, and accessibility. Some are easily reachable, while others require an adventurous hike through dense forests and steep ridges. Many of these waterfalls provide a refreshing swimming opportunity, making them perfect spots for a relaxing dip or even thrilling cliff jumping.

From the majestic ones to the lesser-known hidden gems, each waterfall presents a unique charm that leaves visitors in awe. So pack your hiking gear, venture into Oahu’s verdant scenery.

For more ideas on how to make the most of your Hawaiian adventure, check out our comprehensive guide on things to do in Hawaii. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or a beach lounger, Hawaii offers a plethora of activities to suit every taste.

Waterfalls of Oahu with a map

The island’s lush landscape and abundant rainfall give birth to these magnificent cascades. There’s a wide range of waterfalls available for all types of visitors. An added bonus is the captivating surrounding fauna that enhances the beauty of these natural wonders.

Map of Oahu with pins for each waterfall listed.
Visuals: Emese Maczko, Eco Lodges Anywhere.

Manoa Falls stands as the highest and most popular waterfall on Oahu. With a majestic height of 150 feet (not as high as the waterfalls of Maui), it captivates visitors with its impressive cascade, nestled in the lush Manoa Valley. This waterfall is not just a sight to behold but also a testament to the island’s natural beauty.

For those looking to combine a waterfall visit with a refreshing swim, Oahu has several options. Waimea Falls, Maunawili Falls and Ginger Pool are popular choices where visitors can enjoy a dip in the natural pools formed at the base of these falls. These waterfalls are perfect for a rejuvenating swim in a picturesque setting.

Families visiting Oahu with children can enjoy easy hikes to several beautiful waterfalls. Waimea Falls, Manoa Falls, and Waikahalulu Falls offer relatively easy trails that are suitable for kids. These hikes lead to stunning waterfalls and provide a great opportunity for families to enjoy nature together.

For those seeking a different kind of waterfall experience, Oahu offers a series of small cascades. Waimano Falls and Kapena Falls each present a unique charm. These spots are perfect for visitors who appreciate the subtle beauty of smaller waterfalls.

Oahu is home to several hidden gems that offer serene and less crowded experiences. Laie Falls and Koloa Gulch Waterfall are among these lesser-known treasures. Each of these waterfalls provides a tranquil escape, ideal for explorers looking to venture off the beaten path.

Manoa Falls – The highest waterfall in Oahu

Tall waterfall flowing on grey rock surrounded by moss.
Photo credit: Benjamin R. via Unsplash.

Nestled in the lush Manoa Valley, Manoa Falls is a breathtaking 150-foot waterfall, a mere 1.6 miles hike from the nearest road. Surrounded by a tropical rainforest, the trail to the falls offers hikers a glimpse of Hawaii’s diverse flora, including bamboo and eucalyptus. The hike, mostly flat with a slight incline, is considered easy, making it popular among families and casual hikers. While the pool at the base is not suitable for swimming, the scenic view of the cascading water is a rewarding sight. Manoa Falls’ accessibility and natural beauty make it a must-visit spot on Oahu.

How to get there? – Manoa Falls Trail, about 1.6 miles round trip. Parking is available for a fee at the trailhead. The nearest city is Honolulu, with a drive time of approximately 15-20 minutes to the trailhead.

Waimea Falls

A thick waterfall is flowing down on grey rocks to a pool where people are swimming.
Photo credit: Rosby Murga, Rose Bee and Reya Adventures.

Located in the verdant Waimea Valley, Waimea Falls is a picturesque 45-foot waterfall, just a 0.75-mile walk (approx. 30 minutes) from the Waimea Valley Visitor Center. This family-friendly hike, through a well-maintained botanical garden, is easy and accessible. The falls feature a large, welcoming pool at the base, perfect for swimming in a serene setting. Popular among tourists, Waimea Falls offers both natural beauty and cultural significance, making it a highlight of the North Shore.

How to get there? – Waimea Valley Trail, an easy 0.75-mile walk. Entrance fee to Waimea Valley is required, which includes parking. The nearest city is Haleiwa, North Shore with a drive time of around 10-15 minutes to Waimea Valley Visitor Center.

Laie Falls

Laie Falls, a serene 15-foot waterfall, is the reward after a challenging 6-mile round-trip hike near Laie. The trail, offering views of the windward coast and native flora, is moderately difficult with some steep sections. This less-crowded path leads adventurers through lush landscapes to a tranquil spot, ideal for relaxation. Swimming is possible in the small pool, but caution is advised. Laie Falls is a hidden gem for those seeking a more rugged experience.

How to get there? – Laie Falls Trail, a 6-mile round trip. Requires a hiking permit, but there is no parking fee.The nearest city is Laie, with a drive time of about 5-10 minutes to the trailhead.

Maunawili Falls

Small cascading waterfall to a pond.
Photo credit: Lana Canada via Canva Pro.

Tucked away in Kailua, Maunawili Falls is a charming 20-foot waterfall, accessible via a 3-mile round-trip trail. The path, surrounded by tropical greenery and streams, is moderately challenging with muddy conditions. This popular spot, known for its picturesque setting and swimming hole, attracts both locals and tourists. The pool’s depth varies, making it a favorite for cliff jumping, though safety should always be a priority.

How to get there? – The nearest city is Kailua, with a drive time of roughly 10-15 minutes to the trailhead. Please note that Maunawili Falls Trail is closed since 2021, but visitors can still reach via the Maunawili Demonstration Trail.

Likeke Falls

Likeke Falls, a hidden oasis near the closed Ko’olau Golf Club, offers a scenic 2-mile round-trip hike from the Pali Lookout. This relatively easy trail passes through lush forest, unveiling a modest (35-ft) yet enchanting waterfall. The area, rich in island flora, provides a peaceful retreat. While the pool is small, the tranquil surroundings make Likeke Falls a delightful escape from the city’s hustle.

How to get there? – The nearest city is Kaneohe, with a drive time of approximately 10-15 minutes to the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout or Ko’olau Golf Club. No entrance or parking fee.

Kapena Falls

Small cascading waterfalls among rocks.
Photo credit: Greg Olsen via Canva Pro.

Just a short distance from downtown Honolulu, Kapena Falls is a small yet charming waterfall, accessible by a brief 0.5-mile hike. This local favorite, known for its cliff jumping spots, is surrounded by tropical foliage. The pool, deep enough for swimming, is a popular spot for a quick, refreshing dip. Kapena Falls offers a unique blend of natural beauty and urban accessibility.

How to get there? – Short trail, less than 0.5 miles. There is no entrance or parking fee, and parking is available along the road. The nearest city is Honolulu, with a drive time of just 5-10 minutes to the trailhead.

Koloa Gulch Waterfall

Koloa Gulch Waterfall, in northeastern Oahu, is a remote and stunning 70-foot waterfall, requiring a challenging and lengthy hike through the gulch. The exact distance varies, but the journey is rewarded with a breathtaking view of the falls, set amidst lush, tropical scenery. This less-visited location is ideal for experienced hikers seeking a rugged and less-trodden path.

How to get there? – A challenging 8-mile round trip hike. No entrance or parking fee, but you need a hiking permit. The nearest cities are Laie or Hauula, with a drive time of approximately 15-20 minutes to the trailhead.

Papali Falls

Located in the Koolau Mountains, Papali Falls is a hidden waterfall requiring a challenging hike on Maakua Ridge Trail through rugged terrain. The distance varies, but the path leads through dense forest, offering a glimpse into Oahu’s wild beauty. This less frequented spot is a haven for experienced hikers looking for a peaceful escape.

How to get there? – You can reach it as part of the Maakua aka Papali Trail. No entrance or parking fee.The nearest city is Kaneohe, with a drive time of about 20-30 minutes to the trailhead in the Koolau Mountains.

Waikahalulu Falls

In the heart of Honolulu, Waikahalulu Falls is a small but charming waterfall within Lili’uokalani Botanical Garden. Easily accessible with minimal walking required, this waterfall offers a tranquil oasis amidst the city’s bustle. The garden’s lush setting enhances the beauty of the falls, making it a perfect spot for a leisurely visit.

How to get there? – No hiking. No entrance or parking fee. It is inside the Botanical Garden in Honolulu, with minimal driving required within the city.

Palolo Falls

Located in the back of Palolo Valley, Palolo Falls is a hidden gem, accessible through a hike of varying distance. This less-traveled path takes adventurers through lush landscapes to a secluded waterfall. The area’s natural beauty and tranquility make it a rewarding destination for those seeking a peaceful hiking experience.

How to get there? – Accessible via a hike in Palolo Valley. No entrance or parking fee. The nearest city is Honolulu, with a drive time of roughly 15-20 minutes to the trailhead.

Lulumahu Falls

A medium range waterfall in lush jungle. Two people are sitting on the rocks below and watching it.
Photo credit: CrisRG via Canva Pro.

Nestled near the Pali Highway, Lulumahu Falls is a hidden 50-foot waterfall, reached by a 2-mile round-trip hike through enchanting bamboo forests and over babbling streams. This moderately challenging trail, rich in natural beauty, leads to a picturesque waterfall and a small, inviting pool suitable for a refreshing swim. The falls, surrounded by lush greenery, offer a serene escape from the bustling city.

How to get there? – It is along the Lulumahu Falls Trail, which is approx. 2 miles round trip. Parking is generally along the roadside, no fee. The nearest city is Honolulu, with a drive time of about 15-20 minutes to the trailhead.

Pali Twin Falls (Waipuilani Falls)

Pali Twin Falls, also known as Waipuilani Falls, are located off the Pali Highway, offering a unique twin waterfall experience. Accessible via a relatively short but often muddy and slippery hike, these falls are a hidden gem. The falls, each with their own distinct character, cascade into shallow pools, creating a picturesque and tranquil setting.

How to get there? – It is located off the Pali Highway, accessible via a short hike. No entrance or parking fee. The nearest city is Honolulu, and the drive to the trailhead is approximately 15-20 minutes, making it a convenient nature getaway.

Waimano Falls

A thick waterfall is flowing down on grey rocks to a pond.
Photo credit: Trysta Thocco, This Travel Dream.

Situated in Pearl City, Waimano Falls features a series of small cascades and pools at the end of a 3-mile round-trip hike. The trail, moderately difficult with some steep areas, winds through dense forest, leading to a popular local swimming spot. The falls and the surrounding area offer a peaceful retreat, ideal for a day of exploration and relaxation. The natural beauty and relative seclusion of Waimano Falls make it a worthwhile adventure for those seeking tranquility.

How to get there? – The Waimano Pool Trail is an around 3 miles round trip. There is no entrance or parking fee. The nearest city is Pearl City, with a drive time of roughly 10 minutes to the trailhead.

Ginger Pool

It is named as Jackass Ginger Pool. This lovely waterfall is surrounded by lush greenery, and its clear waters make for a great swimming experience. The height of the waterfall is relatively modest, making it more accessible for swimmers of all levels. The surrounding fauna is diverse, with many native plant species thriving in the area.

How to get there? – To visit the Ginger Pool, you can hike a mile-long round trip of Judd Trail. It is an easy path that leads to this refreshing swimming spot.

A photo from a helicopter viewing the sacred falls
Photo credit: Nate Johnston via Unsplash.

Sacred Falls, also known as Kaliuwaa Falls, is a majestic 110-foot waterfall in Hauula. However, it’s important to note that access to Sacred Falls is legally prohibited due to safety concerns following a tragic rockfall in 1999. The falls remain a significant part of Oahu’s natural heritage, but visitors are urged to respect the closure and explore other safe and legal waterfall options on the island.

The Kalihi Ice Ponds, located in the Kalihi Valley, are a series of small waterfalls and pools, about 2 miles from the nearest road. This less-known spot, surrounded by dense forest, offers a quiet retreat for those willing to navigate the moderately challenging trail. However, the falls and the hiking trail is closed since April 2020 since it is on private property.

Huge rock with gentle waterfall from below.
Photo credit: Tianna Chantal via Canva Pro.

Hidden in Waihe’e Valley, Hamama Falls, also known as Waihe’e Falls, is a 40-foot waterfall at the end of a 3.5-mile round-trip hike. The trail, moderately challenging, is less frequented, offering a peaceful journey through lush landscapes. However, entering is not permitted since 2021.

On the windward side of Oahu, Kaipapa’u Falls is a secluded 90-foot waterfall at the end of a challenging hike through Kaipapa’u Valley. The distance and difficulty vary, but the trail offers an immersive experience in Hawaii’s natural landscape. The nearest city is Hauula, with a drive time of roughly 10-15 minutes to the trailhead. However, it is a private property and access is denied.

Hiking preparations

When preparing to hike Oahu waterfalls, it is essential to consider the rainforest environment. Wearing appropriate attire, like lightweight clothing and sturdy hiking boots, is crucial since trails can get muddy and slippery. Additionally, it is highly recommended to bring insect repellent, sunscreen, a hat, a rain jacket, and plenty of water for hydration.

Consider packing a swimsuit if the waterfall you are visiting has a swimming area. Lastly, always be aware of your surroundings and weather conditions as flash floods can occur in certain areas.

Oahu offers a variety of waterfall hikes catering to different skill levels. Some trails might be more challenging than others, so it is essential to research the specific trail you plan to hike beforehand. Consider your hiking experience and fitness level when choosing to hike to a waterfall in Oahu to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Safety considerations

When visiting the waterfalls of Oahu, it’s important to prioritize safety while enjoying the natural beauty. One of the most essential safety aspects is being cautious around the waterfalls, given that they might have slippery surfaces and unexpected rocks under the water. It’s always a good idea to wear appropriate footwear and exercise caution when swimming or hiking near the falls.

  • Stay on designated trails
  • Wear proper footwear with good grip
  • Avoid climbing on wet, slippery surfaces
  • Observe posted warning signs
  • Keep an appropriate distance from cliffs or steep drops

To plan your waterfall adventures, I recommend using the Hawaii Trail and Access System and Department of Land and Natural Resources. These resources provides valuable information on trail locations, conditions, and accessibility. Weather conditions on Oahu can significantly impacting trail accessibility and waterfall visibility. By staying informed about current conditions, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Remember, the beauty of these natural wonders is matched by their power and unpredictability, so always prioritize safety during your visits.

FAQs

How many waterfalls are on Oahu?

There are at least 18 waterfalls on Oahu, many of which are accessible through hiking trails. Some of the popular waterfalls include Waimea Falls, Manoa Falls, Lulumahu Falls, and more. The number of waterfalls on the island can vary depending on rainfall and other environmental factors.

What is the largest waterfall in Oahu?

One of the largest waterfalls in Oahu is Manoa Falls, located close to Honolulu. This stunning waterfall has a height of approximately 150 feet and is surrounded by lush vegetation. It is easily accessible through a 1.6-mile hike, making it a popular destination for visitors of all fitness levels.

Which are the most scenic waterfalls on Oahu?

Some of the most scenic waterfalls on Oahu include Waimea Falls, Manoa Falls, Lulumahu Falls, and Maunawili Falls. However, there could be a vast difference in depending on the season you visit there. They can ran dry, but in the rainy season it may have heavy flows.

Is it safe to swim at Oahu’s waterfalls?

Swimming at Oahu’s waterfalls is generally safe, but it’s essential to be aware of potential hazards, such as slippery rocks, strong currents, and flash floods. It is advisable to check for any warning signs and respect local guidelines for swimming in these areas.

Are there any restricted waterfalls on Oahu?

Yes, there are restricted waterfalls on Oahu, such as Sacred Falls, where access is prohibited due to safety concerns following a deadly rockslide in 1999. Also, the Maunawili Falls Trail is closed since 2021, but visitors can still reach it via the Maunawili Demonstration Trail.

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Emese Maczko is a travel blogger behind Eco Lodges Anywhere. Having explored several destinations around Europe, the US, Indonesia, and Australia, and resided in Germany, the United Kingdom, and Luxembourg, Emese possesses a keen understanding of diverse cultures and an appreciation for the beauty of each destination she visits. She advocates for sustainable travel and ecotourism.