Looking for the best waterfalls on Oahu, Hawaii? This list covers all of the top waterfalls, best waterfalls to swim in and best waterfalls for cliff jumping. There are actually hundreds of waterfalls on Oahu but most of them are deep in the forest or inaccessible amidst the steep ridges of the island. However, there are many beautiful waterfalls on the island within reach four tourists and hikers to explore and enjoy.
There are a few popular waterfall tours on Oahu that will give you a guided experience to 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
11 AMAZING WATERFALLS ON OAHU, HAWAII
Manoa Falls is one of my most suggested hikes to 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.
If you feel yourself looking around wondering why everything looks so familiar, don’t worry you aren’t going crazy. Some of the scenes from the original “Jurassic Park” were filmed along the hike. More recently the TV series “Lost” filmed many of its scenes in the lush rainforest environment.
The hike leads up to a breathtaking waterfall cascading 150 feet down the mountainside. The water might not be as warm as the Pacific Ocean but it sure is refreshing to stand under the natural shower.
The beauty the Manoa Falls Trail is that it’s only a $10 cab ride from Waikiki, yet you will feel miles away from the hotels, restaurants, and beaches. The trail winds next to a small stream, passing many different species of plants and trees that will definitely have you stopping for a closer look.
During the winter months, the falls are a lot more ferocious than the summer as pictured below. The hike is still a fun one in the summer but don’t expect Niagara Falls in June.
Read my full blog post: Manoa Falls Trail
Waimea Falls, also known as Waihi falls is on the north shore of Oahu. It’s one of the most accessible waterfalls on Oahu and is found in Waimea Valley. Within the valley, you can explore the botanic gardens and historic sites.
Waimea Falls is 45 foot high and you can jump into the water. Be sure to check the depth and conditions before doing so. I wrote a blog post about the 11 best cliff jumping spots on Oahu you might want to check out as well.
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.
Theres 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
A 2.5-mile roundtrip waterfall hike through beautiful, lush forest and at times muddy trails ends at Mauna Wili falls. It’s one of the most popular waterfalls on Oahu and can get quite busy on the weekends. The falls are just off of the Pali Highway.
Cliff jumping is also possible at this location and there are a number of different heights to jump from. I personally know several people who have been injured jumping at this spot so check your depth and for debris if you plan to jump.
The waterfall is 20ft and has a great jungle vibe to the spot with thick foliage and vines surrounding the falls.
Waimano Falls involves a 3-mile round trip hike. At the end of the trail is the free-flowing falls and two pools to swim in. The route begins at the Manana trail and will take about an hour. The trek to Waimano falls is through the canopy of the forest and is a great build up to the waterfalls, where you will need a refreshing dip in one of the less popular waterfalls on Oahu.
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. The jump is about 15-20 feet. As always check for debris first and check the landing area. Just because your friend did it safely last week doesn’t mean a rock hasn’t moved since or a log is wedged beneath the surface.
Waimano Falls is the perfect spot for a short trail hike and hangout area for a day trip with friends.
Sacred Falls (Closed)
**Anyone caught hiking sacred falls must appear in court and will face significant files and possible jail time according to the Department of Land & Natural Resources.
Sacred Falls is a bit of a mysterious place. To reach the falls you have to walk through a narrow gorge. Unstable cliffs frequently drop rocks and even helicopters overhead can generate enough wind to dislodge instead boulders and rocks sending them hurtling down into the ridge. Several fatalities have occurred in the gorge of Sacred Falls when huge boulders fell from above. 8 people were killed and over 50 people were injured in 1999. It has been closed to the public ever since. Many places on Oahu are closed to the public and people still visit them. I’ll be the first to say that many of the ‘illegal’ places aren’t very dangerous but this is one place that is closed for a very good reason.
Plenty of people still defy the law and risk huge consequences to see one of the most impressive waterfalls on Oahu. It’s a 2-3 hour round trip of 4.5 miles.
Despite the hike being illegal and dangerous, there is still a great way you can see one of the biggest waterfalls on Oahu, which is on a helicopter tour. There’s one great tour that will fly above Sacred Falls, which is actually the best view of the waterfall anyway. I have linked it here so you can check out the tour prices and availability: North Shore & Sacred Falls Waterfall Helicopter Tour
Lulumahu Falls is just off the Pali and a great half-day adventure. The 2-mile trail is relatively flat and only takes about 30 minutes before you reach the stunning, tiered waterfall. There is a small pool at the bottom of the waterfall you can swim in.
On the hike to the waterfall, you will pass an epic (illegal) cliff jumping spot. Well, in fact, it’s not a cliff it’s a giant water tower. I don’t advise jumping here as the only people I know who have sent it from the water tower are very experienced divers. However, it’s a beautiful little lead up before you enter the jungle vibes along the trail to Lulumahu waterfall.
I’ve added a video of Devin Supertram, a famous youtuber and cliff jumper, doing some awesome flips from the water tower with his mates.
Li’keke Falls is one of the lesser known waterfalls on Oahu but has an impressive tiered flow. The largest level of the cascade is well over 15 feet. The 3.5-mile roundtrip hike to the waterfall begins at the Pali Lookout carpark. Other hikes nearby include the Pali Notches and the Pali Puka hikes, which are both great for sunset.
This is one of the coolest hikes on the island, with a Jurassic Park vibe throughout the hike. Vines, giant leaves, and huge boulders make you feel like you are deep in the jungle, far away from civilization. However visiting this waterfall on Oahu is just a fun day trip.
The waterfall is a small but powerful 15-foot stream of water with a big pool for swimming. There are several spots to jump from and there even used to be a rope swing at Kapena Falls.
The hike is just off Nuuanu Avenue and is less than a mile so it's a great way to start off your morning with a short trek through the jungle and a dip in some icy waterfall water.
Laie Falls is one of the least trafficked waterfalls on Oahu. This is because it is a lengthy 6-mile trek out and back to reach the falls, which are beautiful but not huge in scale. This is an adventure for those seeking an off the beaten path adventure rather than a huge, spectacular waterfall. The hike is in Laie, which is on the north shore of Oahu.
Kalihi Ice Ponds (Closed)
Kalihi Ice Ponds is a short trek just under 2 miles out and back. A small waterfall flows into a large pool but you need to keep exploring. Climb the tope up the falls and discover several other falls and pools beyond the first pool. This is an awesome adventure spot for a day out with friends that doesn't involve too much hiking like some of the waterfalls on Oahu. The trail is closed therefore making it illegal but it is still commonly frequented, especially on weekends.
Waipuhia Falls is a famous spot for a unique reason. This waterfall is also 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. Just off the Pali highwa,y this is one of the lesser hiked waterfalls but definitely worth checking out on a windy, stormy day!
MY FOUR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES ON OAHU
If you aren't sure about the Stairway to Heaven, there are lots of other adventurous things to do that are equally as epic. Here are four of my favorites.
- Oahu scenic helicopter flight: My number one recommendation is to do a heli-flight (doors off). You will be absolutely blown away when you see Oahu from the sky! Click to book your tour: Doors-Off Helicopter Flight Tour
- North Shore Shark Cage Adventure: The biggest adrenaline rush you can have in Hawaii is beneath the surface with sharks! Click to book your tour: North Shore Shark Cage Experience
- Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Half-Day Cruise: One of the best experiences I had on Oahu was swimming with the beautiful spinner dolphins. A once in a lifetime experience. Click to book your tour: Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Tour
- Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran: One of my favorite memories of Hawaii is floating in the water with a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. On this tour that is exactly what you will do! Click to book your tour: Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran
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. Luxury rooms overlooking the beach, a private lagoon and a free fireworks and dance performance show. Hilton is easily the most recognizable hotel on the Island. Kids can kayak, swim and snorkel with no worries.
Sheraton Waikiki (Luxury): A luxury resort with the most amazing infinity pool on the island, which overlooks the beach. The bar and nightclub at the Sheraton is a great place to relax after a long day of island adventures.
Ewa Hotel Waikiki: (Value): Hotels in Waikiki can be expensive. Deciding where to stay on Oahu can be difficult if you don’t have much cash. Luckily, there is an accommodation option on the edge of Waikiki that is excellent value. Ewa Hotel is just one block back from the beach and is just over $150 USD. If you are like me, I never swim in the hotel pool anyway.
Waikiki Beachside Hostel (Budget Choice): A budget alternative, which is still in an amazing location. Walking distance to Waikiki beach and a central location to base yourself for a week of adventures. You can grab a dorm room for under $35 a night within walking distance to Waikiki surf beach.
Disney Aulani Resort (Family Choice): This is a resort your kids will never forget. It honestly feels like a theme park at times with just how many pools and activities are available. If you can afford it, this is the #1 place to stay for families on Oahu. A huge lazy river/tire tube lagoon is probably the highlight of the resort although the water slides and private beach aren’t too far behind.
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 AND WHY
A helpful guide to choosing accommodation: WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU: WHICH REGION IS BEST FOR YOU?
Most epic hike on Oahu: THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN OAHU, HAWAII: UPDATED 2018
The best Waterfalls: 11 AMAZING WATERFALLS ON OAHU, HAWAII
Ultimate Cliff Jumping Guide: 11 BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS ON OAHU, HAWAII
Guide to Swimming with Sea Turtles: WHERE TO SEE TURTLES ON OAHU, HAWAII
The Best Hikes on Oahu: 10 BEST HIKES ON OAHU, HAWAII
My favorite experience on Oahu: AMAZING DOORS OFF HELICOPTER TOUR OF OAHU, HAWAII