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10 BEST WATERFALL HIKES ON OAHU

10 BEST WATERFALL HIKES ON OAHU

The volcanic island of Oahu is home to hundreds of waterfalls, scattered throughout its rugged ridges and mountainous terrain. With so many beautiful trails, why not combine hiking and waterfall chasing for some beautiful waterfall hikes on Oahu?

In this guide, I will share with you some of the best waterfall hikes on Oahu so you can plan some adventures. Not all waterfall hikes are equal though. Some require much more effort to reach while others are short and accessible. Some have pools for swimming and others are far too shallow. I’ll fill you in on all the details for each of the top waterfall hikes on Oahu so you can choose which trail you will accept as your challenge.

Oahu Waterfall

WATERFALL TOURS ON OAHU

There are a few popular waterfall tours on Oahu that will give you a guided experience of some of the most scenic waterfalls on the island. I’ve listed the three most popular waterfall tours below and you can click those links for more information but they are all well-reviewed and top-rated tours.

Tour 1 – Want to chase waterfalls and take a dip: Private North Shore Oahu: Swim in a Tropical Waterfall Tour

Tour 2 – Check out the waterfalls from above: North Shore & Sacred Falls Waterfall Helicopter Tour

Tour 3 – Circle island tour & waterfall experience: Waimea Waterfall & Circle Island Adventure Tour

BEST WATERFALL HIKES ON OAHU

In this guide, I have included the details about each waterfall hike. However, if you want more information and my full review of that hike, simply click on the link taking you to my full blog post about that specific hike. I’ve also added in a few links to guided tours for some of the waterfall hikes although it is possible to do most of them by yourself if you are confident out on the trails. Beyond waterfalls, I’ve created a massive guide for all the 80 Top Things to do on Oahu.

MANOA FALLS

  • Distance: 2.7 km
  • Duration: 1.5 hours
  • Elevation: 193m

Let’s start with the most popular hike, which is also the closest to Waikiki and Honolulu. It’s the short, easy and beautiful Manoa Falls hike. This hike is great for a quick adventure as it is set in the lush forest but the trail is defined and easy to manage for all ages.

While the actual waterfall is the main attraction, the lush surroundings are also incredible. The trail runs alongside a small stream, passing many different species of captivating, native plants. In fact, this area was the film set for the original Jurassic Park and also the TV series Lost.

The waterfall itself is a 150ft giant that towers down inside the depths of the valley. The great part about this waterfall hike is that you can actually swim in the water although it is freezing!

There’s actually a pretty cool tour that combines two of the most popular hikes on Oahu in one day. If you’re up for the challenge, this tour includes both the hikes of Diamond Head Crater and Manoa Falls in one day.

Read my full blog post: Manoa Falls Trail

Book your tour: Manoa Falls/ Diamond Head Hike Combo Tour (with hotel pick/up)

Manoa Falls

MAUNAWILI FALLS

  • Distance: 4.5 km
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Elevation: 307m

One of the most popular waterfall hikes on Oahu is the Maunawili Falls Hike. This one is also quite close to Waikiki and just a 2.5-mile round trip, which is why it’s so popular.

The trail can get quite muddy at times but the reward is worth it with the beautiful Maunawili Falls waiting to be explored. There are a few rope swings and cliff jump at the waterfall, which is also why this has become one of the most fun waterfall hikes near Honolulu.

The waterfall is 20ft and has a great jungle vibe to the spot with thick foliage and vines surrounding the falls.

Maunawili

KAAU CRATER HIKE

  • Distance: 7.5 km
  • Duration: 5 hours
  • Elevation: 600m

Okay, those first two were easy hikes but the next one is a tough route. The Kaau Crater hike takes about 4-5 hours and has a mixture of waterfalls, rope climbing, a huge volcano crater, and panoramic views. It’s probably one of the best all-around waterfall hikes on Oahu for those looking for a tough challenge.

It’s not too far from Waikiki and still on the south side of the island. From the very first moment on this trail, you are thrown into a dense forest while following the river to the first of many waterfalls. Kaau Crater is one of the hikes on Oahu that does have waterfalls you can swim in along the way and in fact, at one stage you will have to climb up the side of the waterfall at a 30-degree angle.

View the full blog post: KA’AU CRATER HIKE: 3 AWESOME WATERFALLS

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LIKEKE FALLS HIKE

  • Distance: 1.3 km
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Elevation: 63m

Li’keke Falls is one of the shorter waterfall hikes on Oahu but has an impressive tiered flow. The largest level of the cascade is well over 15 feet creating a stunning scene. The 1.3km roundtrip hike to the waterfall begins at the Pali Lookout parking lot.

There is a longer loop that also visits this waterfall. The Likeke Loop waterfall hike is a 9.3km route with 660m of incline. Both routes take you to the falls but it just depends on how much of an adventure you are looking for.

Other hikes nearby include the Pali Notches and the Pali Puka hikes, which are both great for sunset.

Likeke Falls

ALAPENA POOL AND KAPENA FALLS TRAIL

  • Distance: .5 km
  • Duration: 30 minutes
  • Elevation: 30m

This is one of the coolest waterfall hikes on Oahu with some serious Jurassic Park vibes. Despite it being one of the shortest waterfall hikes on Oahu. You’ll come across dangling vines, huge boulders, giant plants, and dense, lush surroundings. This isn’t the biggest or most impressive waterfall on this list but it should be one of the less trafficked so you can have a peaceful time.

The 15-foot waterfall flows from a strong stream and pours down into a large pool. This is another of the waterfalls on this list where you can swim and cool off after your hike.

Kapena Falls

LAIE FALLS TRAIL

  • Distance: 12.7 km
  • Duration: 4-5 Hours
  • Elevation: 574m

Laie Falls is one of the least trafficked waterfall hikes on Oahu. This is because it is quite a long effort with a 6-mile trek out and back to reach the falls. This is a bit much for many visitors so only the committed adventurers can reach this waterfall, which will give you a great sense of satisfaction if you get there.

The waterfall is not massive but pours down into a nice pool surrounded by the forest scenery so it’s quite a beautiful little spot. This is an adventure for those seeking an off-the-beaten-path adventure rather than a huge, spectacular waterfall. This is one of the top waterfall hikes on the north shore of Oahu.

laie falls

WAIPUHIA FALLS

  • Distance: 1.0 km
  • Duration: 30 minutes
  • Elevation: 137m

Waipuhia Falls is a famous waterfall for quite a strange reason. At the end of this very short hike on Oahu, you will find the waterfall known as the ‘Upside-down falls’ because the strong winds blow the water with such force it gives the illusion the water is actually flowing up the falls.

The trail is Just off the Pali Highway and is one of the lesser trafficked waterfall hikes on Oahu but definitely worth checking out on a windy, stormy day!

Waipuhia Falls

LULUMAHU FALLS

  • Distance:2.6 km
  • Duration: 1 Hour
  • Elevation: 284m

Lulumahu Falls is one of the most popular little waterfall hikes on Oahu. The 2.6 km, out and back trail is relatively easy although it does have a few steep sections. As far as the actual waterfall, it is one of the most impressive waterfalls on the island. After a couple of days of rain, this waterfall is always pumping and an incredible force.

There is a small pool at the bottom of the waterfall you can swim in to cool off after your short walk in.

Lulumahu Falls

WAIMANO FALLS

  • Distance: 4.7 km
  • Duration: 1.5 Hours
  • Elevation: 247m

Waimano Falls Hike is a 4.7km trail leading to a free-flowing fall with two pools to swim in. The route starts off at the Manana Trail and takes most hikers about 45-minutes to reach the falls. The hike into Waimano falls leads you through the canopy of the forest before you break out to find the falls.

Waimano Falls is one of the top waterfall hikes on Oahu for those who want to do a little cliff jumping. The jumps are about 15-20 feet. Make sure to always check for debris, rocks, and depth as it can change from one day to the next at a waterfall. The other awesome part about Waimano Falls is that it is one of the waterfalls on Oahu that is a great place for cliff jumping.

Waimano Falls is the perfect spot for a short trail hike and hangout area for a day trip with friends.

DSC_6754

WAIMEA FALLS HIKE

  • Distance: 3.1 km
  • Duration: 1 Hour
  • Elevation: 83m

Waimea Falls, also known as Waihi Falls is found on the north shore of Oahu. With a visitor center, botanical garden, and huge parking lot, it’s one of the most accessible waterfalls on Oahu and is found in Waimea Valley. Within the valley, you can explore the botanical gardens and historic sites.

The Waimea Falls is a 45-foot waterfall where you can jump in and swim in the giant pool. It’s a popular hangout for families and tourists to the North Shore of Oahu. I wrote a blog post about the 11 best cliff jumping spots on Oahu you might want to check out as well if you are looking for more cliff jumping action.

This is also a great waterfall for swimming as the pool at the bottom is a great place to relax and hang out with friends. Just across the road from Waimea Falls is Waimea Bay Beach Park, which is famous for its huge surf in the winter and beautiful swimming, snorkeling, and rock jump in the summer.

There’s a pretty cool tour that includes visiting this waterfall but also a full-island tour around Oahu. You can check it out here: Waimea Waterfall & Circle Island Adventure Tour

Waimea Falls

THE FOUR MOST POPULAR OAHU TOURS

HAWAII HIKING PACKING LIST

Many people come unprepared for hiking on Oahu and that’s why there are so many rescues. Make sure you at least have the basics and you will be prepared for bad weather or any mishaps on the trail. A headlamp, rain jacket, and good hiking boots or shoes are the three main pieces of gear you need.

What are my favorite pieces of hiking gear?

There are four pieces of gear that I simply never forget when I go on a hike. These are four items that I using right now and this list gets updated every year! Here are my hiking essentials.

  • Arcteryx BETA AR Rain Jacket: This is my go-to rain jacket. It’s super light, folds down into a tiny ball, and protects brilliantly in a storm. This one never leaves my backpack.
  • Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots: For the best ankle support, waterproofing, and durable exterior I’m a fan of tough but light hiking boots like these Salomons for my adventures.
  • Black Diamond Head Torch: I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve arrived back from a hike unexpectedly late. I always keep this lightweight but strong headtorch in my bag for the unexpected.
  • Darn Tough Socks: These are the most comfortable hiking socks I’ve ever worn and last for years. They also have a lifetime warranty and you just send them in with a hole and they replace it no questions asked.

What are my favorite pieces of gear for waterfall adventures?

There are four pieces of gear that I simply never forget when I go on a waterfall adventure. These are four items that I using right now and this list gets updated every year! Here are my waterfall adventure essentials.

  • Arcteryx BETA AR Rain Jacket: This is my go-to rain jacket. It’s super light, folds down into a tiny ball, and protects brilliantly in a storm. This one never leaves my backpack.
  • Osprey Ultralight Dry Sack: Waterfalls get wet and wild so having this ultralight dry sack for cameras, phones and valuables means you don’t have to hold back!
  • PackTowl Quick-Dry Towel: A quick-dry towel is a must for travelers. It hardly takes up any room and dries in seconds.
  • GoPro Hero 10: The best and easiest way to capture your underwater and snorkeling adventures.

HOLD UP! Are you sure you’re ready to start hiking and traveling? GET INSURED FIRST!

If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Don’t wait for an accident to happen, Get insured. I fractured an ankle halfway through a multi-day trek and had THOUSANDS covered by through insurance claim.

I’ve been using World Nomads and SafetyWing for the past 6 years. I’ve made successful claims with both and found them professional, helpful, and reliable but most importantly.. cheap! I trust them both. World Nomads is great for travel up to two months and SafetyWing is perfect for long-term travel.

To find out why I choose World Nomads and SafetyWing, check out my review: Best (Cheap) Travel Insurance or get a quote below.

WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU

  • Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort (Overall Favorite): In the heart of Waikiki, this high-end resort is right on the beach with a private lagoon.
  • Sheraton Waikiki (Luxury): A luxury resort with the most amazing infinity pool on the island, which overlooks the beach.
  • Ewa Hotel Waikiki: (Value): Ewa Hotel is just one block back from the beach and is just over $150 USD.
  • Waikiki Beachside Hostel (Budget Choice): A budget alternative, which is still in an amazing location.
  • Disney Aulani Resort (Family Choice): This is a resort your kids will never forget. It honestly feels like you are living in a theme park.

MORE OAHU BLOG POSTS

I lived on Oahu for two years and loved adventuring from the beaches to the mountains to the waterfalls! These are my most popular blog post and guides from the beautiful island of Oahu to help you plan your trip!