The Manoa Cliff Trail is a 4-mile round-trip hike that winds through the lush tropical rainforests of the Manoa Valley on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. It’s a great route for a short morning hike or some exercise after work in the forest. The unique feature of this trail is the bamboo hallways, which are an incredibly beautiful part of the Manoa Cliff Trail.
MANOA CLIFF TRAIL
In this blog post, I’ll share everything you need to know about the Manoa Cliff Trail including directions, which direction to hike, and my experience on the trail
MANOA CLIFF TRAIL DETAILS
- Hike Distance: The total distance of the Manoa Cliff Trail is 4 miles (6.5 kilometers), round trip.
- Hike Duration: The hike usually takes around 2-3 hours to complete, depending on your pace and how long you stay at the scenic viewpoint at the top.
- Hike Difficulty: The Manoa Cliff Trail is considered a relatively easy hike although it does have some inclines and narrow paths. Hikers should be in decent physical condition and have proper footwear and equipment.
- Hike Incline: The total incline for the Manoa Cliff Trail is around 900 feet (274 meters), making it a challenging climb but well worth the effort for the stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
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HOW TO GET TO MANOA CLIFF TRAIL
To reach the Manoa Cliff Trailhead, visitors can take the H-1 freeway west from downtown Honolulu to the University of Hawaii at the Manoa exit. From there, follow the signs to Manoa Road and continue on Roundtop Drive until reaching the Manoa Valley. Once in the valley, drive towards the residential area and look for designated parking areas at the Manoa Cliff trailhead. It’s important to be respectful of the local community by not blocking driveways or restricting access to the neighborhood. Once parked, the trailhead is easily accessible by foot, marked by a signpost. It’s recommended to check the trail conditions and weather forecast before heading out and to bring appropriate hiking gear, including sturdy shoes and plenty of water.
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MY EXPERIENCE ON THE MANOA CLIFF TRAIL
While Manoa Falls is the famous hike in the Manoa Valley, the Manoa Cliff Trail is a quiet alternative to immerse yourself in the lush forests higher up the mountain. The Manoa Cliff Trail can be completed in two directions as it is an out-and-back route or you can link it up as a loop by walking 1.5km on the road to get back to your starting point.
The trail either starts at the Manoa Cliff Trailhead or the Pu’u Ohia Trailhead just beneath Tantalus. There is no right or wrong way to start but I prefer starting at the Pu’u Ohia Trailhead and then finishing at the Manoa Cliff Trailhead before looping back along the road rather than an out-and-back route.
We parked at the Pu’u Ohia Trailhead and I advise to leave nothing valuable in the car at this parking lot.
The trail begins with a moderately steep, dirt trail through the forest. Winding over roots and beneath the canopy, it isn’t long before you leave Roundtop Drive behind and immerse yourself amongst the lush forest.
Within the first kilometer, the highlight of the entire trail will appear. A bamboo hallway completely surrounds the trail. The walls of bamboo are so dense you can hardly see any gaps of light through to the other side. It’s a beautiful section of trail that I always enjoy when I’m on this hike.
The trail continues on a moderate slope winding underneath the Tantalus Lookout. You may even hear the voices from those visitors up at Tantalus, but don’t expect to meet too many hikers on this route.
After almost two kilometers, the trail reaches a paved intersection. Here you will see a small sign pointing to the right. Follow the paved path down the road.
Carry on hiking until you reach this gate, which you will pass through. This is when the hike becomes a little bit more wild and can be relatively muddy depending on the rainfall in the previous days and/or weeks.
Now we are walking through a more wild trail with small glimpses of the mountain ranges to our left. On. a clear day the Koolau Mountain Range provides a stunning backdrop alongside the trail.
After about three kilometers, you will find a beautiful vantage point with a bench. Here you can take in the Koolau’s and listen to the birds as you soak up the beautiful atmosphere of untouched nature beyond the trail.
The final aspect of the trail is a forested area. The trail widens and you will walk beneath the giants. The canopy lifts and we start to feel very small of a sudden. The tropical undergrowht adds to the magic of this area, which is a stunning way to finish off the route.
After 3.5 kilometers we meet the end of the trail, which is actually the ‘start’ of the Manoa Cliff Trail. It is marked by a sign similair to the other end of the route. You can simply turn around here and head back the way you came or turn right onto the road for a shorter 1.5km walk along the road. Be careful of cars, although you have a small space to the side of the road in most spots.
I hope you enjoyed this article about the Manoa Cliff Trail, one of the easier and shorter hikes on Oahu, Hawaii. For more easy hikes you can read this blog post: 10 Easy Hikes on Oahu or if you want to challenge yourself check out my favorite hikes in this blog post: 35 Best Hikes on Oahu
THE FOUR MOST POPULAR OAHU TOURS
- Doors-Off Oahu Helicopter Flight Tour: My number one recommendation is to do a heli-flight (doors off) and be blown away when you see Oahu from the air.
- North Shore Shark Cage Tour: The biggest adrenaline rush you can have in Hawaii is beneath the surface with sharks!
- Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Tour: One of the best experiences I had on Oahu was swimming with the beautiful spinner dolphins on this exact tour.
- Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran: The number 1 MOST POPULAR snorkel tour on Oahu. GUARANTEED Turtles!
THE ‘OTHER’ HIKE IN MANOA
Less than fifteen minutes drive from Waikiki, you will find the stunning Manoa Falls Trail. Here you can enjoy a short hike at the filming locations of Jurassic Park and the television show LOST before reaching the massive waterfall.
Manoa Falls Trail is one of my most suggested hikes for visitors looking for a short adventure. The trail is defined for the entire route, which gives you plenty of freedom to take in the wondrous scenery.
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. Below are my four Hawaii 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.
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!
- What to pack for Hawaii: THE HAWAII PACKING LIST: WHAT TO PACK
- A helpful guide to choosing accommodation: WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU
- Most epic hike on Oahu: THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN OAHU, HAWAII
- The best Waterfalls: AMAZING WATERFALLS ON OAHU, HAWAII
- Ultimate Cliff Jumping Guide: 11 BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS ON OAHU
- Guide to Swimming with Sea Turtles: WHERE TO SEE TURTLES ON OAHU
- The best Waterfall Hikes: TOP WATERFALL HIKES ON OAHU
- Best Tours: 20 BEST TOURS ON OAHU
- The Ultimate Guide to Oahu: 80 AWESOME THINGS TO DO ON OAHU