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MAKALEHA FALLS HIKE ON KAUAI, HAWAII

MAKALEHA FALLS HIKE ON KAUAI, HAWAII

Makaleha Falls Hike is a jungle waterfall adventure on the island of Kauai. This hike will leave you covered in mud but with no regrets. The 2.6 miles out and back trail follows a stream for the entirety of the hike with a reward of multiple epic waterfalls at the end.

This hike is a great fit for those capable of bouldering, weaving in and out of roots and vines, and dealing with slippery mud and mossy rocks. I spent an entire month hiking on Kauai and this was one of my favorites. You can find all fifteen of my top hikes inside my Kauai Hiking Guide and for more hiking inspiration you can read my Oahu Hiking Guide also!

Makaleha Falls Hike Details

  • Distance: 2.6 miles out and back
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Incline: 280m
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Makaleha Falls Hike

Makaleha Falls Hike Trailhead Map

At the trailhead, there is a parking lot next to a giant water tank. A road then leads you towards the mountains and eventually the trail.

 

Makaleha Falls Hike

Makaleha Falls Hike on Kauai takes about two hours round trip if you don’t stop for photos or spend too long at the falls. Otherwise, allow for three hours if you want to enjoy the falls at the destination.

The hike begins along the Makaleha Stream and follows it the whole way up to the falls. I lost count of the river crossings and many of them left no option other than to wade through the water. I managed to keep one shoe dry!

The trail isn’t necessarily well defined throughout but as long as you follow the stream and stick close to the water’s edge you will find you the way to the falls. The trail is worn enough so that if it gets too thick you have probably gone off the track.

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The bamboo forest

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.
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The first river crossing

The trail was incredibly diverse and the trees, flowers, plants, and roots captivated me throughout the trail.

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Tangled on the trail

The Makaleha Falls Trail finally ‘ended’ with views of multiple falls gushing down the side of the mountain. However, this isn’t the ‘real’ end of the trail.

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A wall of falls

Continue on along the stream and you will arrive at the two-tiered falls. This spot was nestled in a narrow canyon and the water was beyond freezing! It’s a handy little area for cliff-jumping but definitely check the water for debris or rocks first! This was a pretty sweet jump spot but there were lots of higher cliff jumps on Kauai aswell.

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Cliff jumping on the Makaleha Falls Hike
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Scaling to the second tier of Makaleha Falls
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Nico sending a backflip

I hope you enjoyed this guide to the Makaleha Falls hike and have a great adventure on Kauai.

Where to stay on Kauai

I’m going to recommend five places to stay on Kauai. All five of these spots are in great locations but each one is a little different. Two are a luxury pick, one is a family choice, the other is a value selection. For more accommodation recommendations you can check my favorites in the Kauai Where to Stay Guide.

Kauai Shores HotelLuxury (but value also): A luxury feels with the resort-style property, palm trees, and a beautiful pool area. However, it is less than $300 a night. The best part about this hotel is that it is right on the beach. The restaurant literally looks out to the waves, which is an awesome spot to start your day with breakfast.

Koloa Landing ResortLuxury (high-end): I was lucky enough to spend three nights reviewing Koloa Landing Resort and honestly the place is just phenomenal. It has the LARGEST pool on all of Kauai with beautiful, natural-style landscaping throughout the pool areas.

The Grand Hyatt ResortBest Family Resort: With the best kids’ club on the island, wildlife talks in the lobby, and a five-acre pool complex that includes an enormous lazy-river pool, a waterslide, and a saltwater lagoon big enough for kayaking, the Grand Hyatt is unbeatable for keeping kids busy and parents happy.

Hilton Garden InnValue Pick: The Hilton Garden Inn is your number one choice if you are on a budget but still need comfort. The Hilton has a beautiful pool, has private beach access and hot tubs so you are still getting an awesome value and the resort experience.

1 Week in Kauai - Hiking, Beaches, and Waterfalls - Ruhls of the Road

Saturday 19th of October 2019

[…] the Journey Era team made it and you can check out their adventure! We ended up at a different waterfall that was incredible […]

Jordyn

Sunday 25th of August 2019

Thank you for this post. This was not even on the plans, then we saw your pictures and just had to see for ourselves. You advice that said that the trail is near the river helped us stay on trail majority of the time. It took us about 2 hours to get to the falls. Absolutely breathtaking.

Julie and Brenton

Monday 27th of April 2020

Could you possibly provide details on the route you took (landmarks, things to watch for, etc.) To help us find our way? We're going August 2020!

Travis

Tuesday 11th of September 2018

Really rewarding hike but be warned, this is not a casual hike through the woods on a well defined trail. Beginner or casual hikers will be very frustrated by the challenging terrain but adventure junkies will love the challenge and diversity. The falls are simply gorgeous and jumping into that cold,refreshing mountain water makes the trek worth it. You'll get off the trail a lot faster than going up it once you are familiar with the path and terrain. Dont wear new shoes, they will be ruined. Old shoes, some water, but repellant and your camera and you'll be glad you did it.

12 Best Hikes on Kauai | Live the Tough Life

Monday 28th of May 2018

[…] Reward: Waterfalls, seclusion, feeling like you are isolated in the middle of nowhere…which you are…Here is a great link to more details on the trail. https://www.journeyera.com/makaleha-falls-hike-kauai/ […]

Jennie Roos

Wednesday 16th of May 2018

Thanks for the information, it was very helpful. We did this hike yesterday and it was amazing. For those looking into going, be advised that it has changed due to the floods. To cross the river at the beginning, you'll be in waist deep water. A good portion of the trail has been washed away. We ended up walking up the river for a big portion of the hike. We do a fair amount of hiking and it took us 6 hours! Walking sticks and bug repellent were very useful. And bless the person who put orange flags and stacked rocks leading to the waterfall.

Sunshine

Friday 14th of August 2020

Did it take you 6 hours roundtrip or was that how long it took just to get to the waterfall?