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Oahu. One of the most popular islands in Hawaii, there are an abundance of epic things to do, from swimming with sharks to skydiving. However, those tend to cost money (money a broke backpacker like me doesn’t have). So, if you’re a budget traveler (like me) or a nature enthusiast (like me), then the one thing you’ll adore doing in Oahu is hiking. And, while I have already written an article on the best hikes in Oahu, some of Oahu’s finest trails lead to waterfalls. So today, I’m going to list the 10 best waterfall hikes in Oahu!

One of the most stunning waterfall hikes in Oahu - the majestic Manoa Falls, peacking through the foliage.

From the classic Manoa Falls to some hidden gems on the North Shore, these Oahu waterfall hikes will take you around the island.

So, as a small disclaimer, some of these hiking trails require a vehicle. Additionally, many of these hikes tend to get muddy, slippery, and as a result, dangerous. So please, please, please be careful on the trails! Prepare for them, wear the right shoes, bring lots of water, and hike at your own risk!

With that disclaimer aside, let’s get to the good stuff. Let’s begin!

The 10 Best Waterfall Hikes in Oahu

Manoa Falls

First, one of the best (and most famous) waterfall hikes in Oahu is the spectacular Manoa Falls hike.

  • Distance: 1.67 miles (2.7 km)
  • Elevation Gain: 633 ft (193 m)
  • Accessible by Bus: Yes

The Manoa Falls receive tons of foot traffic, greatly due to its close proximity to Honolulu. Nevertheless, this hiking trail is stunning. Climbing through the lush Hawaiian rainforest, it quickly reaches the base of the towering Manoa Falls.

While some claim the Manoa hike is of moderate difficulty, it’s actually pretty easy. It’s therefore perfect for kids and beginners! However, it can get pretty muddy, so wear proper footwear. I also recommend checking the weather forecast before attempting the Manoa Falls Waikiki hike, to avoid potential flash floods.

View of the towering Manoa Falls from its base; one of the Best Waterfall Hikes in Oahu

Overall, while the Manoa Falls hike is an easy, short, and muddy trek, it is definitely one of the best Honolulu waterfalls! If you want to learn more, check out this All Trails article.

Waimano Falls

The next on my list of stunning Oahu waterfalls are the Waimano Falls.

  • Distance: 2.8 miles (4.5 km)
  • Elevation Gain: 771 ft (235 m)
  • Accessible by Bus: No

Like the Manoa Falls hike, the Waimano Falls trail receives heavy foot traffic, and gets pretty muddy. It is also a difficult and challenging hike, so wear proper footwear and be careful!

Nevertheless, the Waimano Falls is one of the cheapest and best adventures in Oahu (perfect for budget travelers). There are multiple ropes and jump-off points, so it is the perfect place to go swimming! Not only is it a ton of fun to swing around in the pools, but the waterfalls themselves are spectacular to look at.

Overall, the Waimano Falls is a hiking trail you don’t want to miss. If you want to learn more, check out this All Trails article!

Lulumahu Falls

Next, let’s talk about the breathtaking Lulumahu Falls.

  • Distance: 1.67 miles (2.7 km)
  • Elevation Gain: 1040 ft (317 m)
  • Accessible by Bus: Yes
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The Lulumahu Falls trail climbs through dense bamboo forests and over streams, before reaching the towering Lulumahu waterfall, reaching over 50 feet tall. It is definitely one of the best waterfalls in Honolulu!

While there’s heavy foot traffic, this moderate Honolulu waterfall hike is marvelous. However, it is on private government property, so you have to be respectful. It also gets pretty muddy, so remember to wear good shoes!

Overall, the Lulumahu Falls hike is definitely worth a visit. If you want to learn more, check out this All Trails article.

Maunawili Falls

Next on my list of the best waterfalls in Oahu is the stunning Maunawili Falls.

  • Distance: 2.8 miles (4.5 km)
  • Elevation Gain: 1007 ft (307 m)
  • Accessible by Bus: Yes

One of the best waterfall hikes in Oahu, the Maunawili Falls trail receives heavy foot traffic. Located near Kailua, Maunawili is a moderate hike with spectacular views. This is another great place to go swimming, with multiple jump-off points!

Furthermore, the Maunawili hike is worthwhile even if you can’t swim, as the trail provides magnificent views of the Koolau Mountain Range, Kailua, and the dense Hawaiian tropical rainforest. But, the trail does tend to get muddy, and you will have to cross the river a few times, so be careful!

As the Maunawili Falls hike begins in a residential area, you have to be respectful and park legally. If you want to learn more about Maunawili Hawaii, check out this All Trails article!

Diamond Head Hike - One of the best hiking trails on Oahu

Want to learn more about the hikes in Oahu (not just the ones with waterfalls)? Then read my article, where I list the absolute best hikes near Honolulu!

Waimea Falls

If you’re looking for the best family-friendly waterfall hikes on Oahu, then I definitely recommend the Waimea hike.

  • Distance: 1.99 miles (3.2 km)
  • Elevation Gain: 236 ft (72 m)
  • Accessible by Bus: Yes

Located near Haleiwa, the Waimea Falls hike is the only hike on this list with an entry fee ($20 for adults and $12 for children). For that reason, it’s not one of my favorites on this list. However, this hike is perfect for children, and is also wheelchair and stroller friendly.

The Waimea Valley hike receives tons of foot traffic, and is more of a pleasant stroll than a hike. However, it features stunning botanical gardens, so if you’re interested in flora and fauna, then it is definitely worth a visit!

The Diverse Flora and Fauna of Waimea Falls and the tropical rainforest of Oahu, Hawaii

However, the Waimea Valley waterfall itself may be dry, unless there has been recent rainfall. I recommend reading up reviews before going. If you want to learn more, check out this All Trails article.

And hey, if you’re a beginner hiker looking for some tips and tricks for hiking safely, check out my article on the 15 essential beginner hiking tips!

Jackass Ginger Pool Falls

Also referred to as the Judd trail, the Jackass Ginger Pool Falls is one of the best waterfalls on Oahu.

  • Distance: 1 mile (1.6 km)
  • Elevation Gain: 157 ft (48 m)
  • Accessible by Bus: Yes

Another perfect hike for children, the trail ends at the Judd Falls. Not only are these waterfalls beautiful, but you can also go swimming in the Jackass Ginger Pool!

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However, note that the trail does get pretty slippery and muddy, so wear proper shoes. Additionally, there’s only side street parking available, and theft is not uncommon. So, don’t leave any valuables behind in your car!

Overall, if you’re hiking in Honolulu for waterfalls, I recommend Jackass Ginger. If you want to learn more, check out this All Trails article!

Likeke Falls

Next on the list is the marvelous Likeke Falls.

  • Distance: 0.8 miles (1.3 km)
  • Elevation Gain: 207 ft (63 m)
  • Accessible by Bus: No

Located near Kailua, the Likeke Falls trail is an easy and muddy trek to a small set of waterfalls. While the Likeke waterfalls themselves are a bit unimpressive, the hike through the lush Hawaiian rainforest is extremely pleasant. Overall, the Likeke Falls are one of the best waterfalls in Oahu.

However, note that finding legal and safe parking can be a bit difficult. If you want to learn more about the Likeke Falls hike (or if you want some tips on where to park), check out this All Trails article.

Laie Falls

Out of all the hikes in Oahu with waterfalls, the Laie Falls trail is one of the most challenging but rewarding ones.

  • Distance: 7.89 miles (12.7 km)
  • Elevation Gain: 1883 ft (574 m)
  • Accessible by Bus: Yes

The Laie Falls hike is a long, moderate hiking trail that provides a plethora of breathtaking views and great spots for photographing Oahu. From incredible ocean views that reminded me of the movie Moana to the diverse flora and fauna of the tropical Hawaiian rainforest, the Laie Falls trail is filled with beauty.

It’s also a lot of fun to trek! The hike ends at the Laie Falls, which includes a deep pool to swim in. But remember to bring lots of water, and wear proper shoes!

However, note that you need to get permission from the Hawaii Reserves before you can access the trail. Click here for the application. And, if you want to learn more about this incredible Oahu waterfalls hike, check out this All Trails article!

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Kapena Falls

Now, let’s talk about one of the quickest and easiest hikes on Oahu with waterfalls: the Kapena Falls.

  • Distance: 0.62 miles (1.0 km)
  • Elevation Gain: 98 ft (30 m)
  • Accessible by Bus: Yes

Located in Honolulu, the Kapena Falls consist of a small but charming waterfall. The trek is easy and short, and it’s a lot of fun to jump into the pool at the base of the falls! However, there does tend to be a lot of trash on the hiking trail. If you want to learn more, check out this All Trails article.

Waipuhia Falls (Upside-Down Waterfall)

Finally, let’s talk about one of the most challenging and frustrating waterfall hikes: Waipuhia Falls.

  • Distance: 0.62 miles (1.0 km)
  • Elevation Gain: 450 ft (137 m)
  • Accessible by Bus: No

Also known as the Upside-Down Waterfall, the Waipuhia Falls, when seen at the right moment, gives the illusion of a waterfall upside-down. However, while witnessing this phenomenon is utterly magical, there is no guarantee that you’ll see it (I, unfortunately, didn’t).

Furthermore, the Waipuhia Falls trail is practically non-existent. With no real path, you’ll essentially be bushwhacking for 0.62 miles… which is no fun at all. But, once again, this effort would totally be worth it if you get to see the upside-down waterfall phenomenon. If you wish to attempt it, it’s best to go when there’s strong rain and wind.

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If you want to learn more, check out this All Trails article.

Overall,

There are an abundance of stunning waterfall hikes in Oahu, each offering something different and unique. I hope this list helped you decide which Oahu waterfall hike you want to embark on!

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Safety Tips for Hiking in Oahu

There are always risks with hiking; it’s an inevitability with the outdoors. But, there are ways to mitigate these risks. Here are my top tips for staying safe on Oahu’s hiking trails:

  • Bring lots of water and sunscreen. I suggest bringing more than you think is needed; excessive sun and heat exposure can cause dehydration, so it’s best to be ultra-prepared.
  • As a solo traveler, I know this can be difficult, but it is more dangerous to hike alone, so try to hike with another person. If you are traveling alone, you can try inviting others at your hostel to go hiking with you.
  • If you are hiking alone, let others know about your plans. Don’t be like the guy in 127 hours! If something bad happens, you’ll want someone to notice your absence, and send help in the right direction.
  • Bring a cellphone, so if you are injured or lost, you can call for help.
  • Check the weather forecast prior to departure. Flash floods and rains are not uncommon in Hawaii, so it’s best to check for them in advance. However, regardless of the weather forecast, always be prepared for the rain!
  • Wear proper shoes! Oahu’s waterfall hiking trails tend to be super muddy and slippery, so to prevent injury, it’s best to wear the right shoes.
  • Don’t drink untreated stream or lake water. While this is a good rule of thumb in general, this is especially the case in Hawaii, as many of its streams and waterfalls contain Leptospira bacteria.
  • Carry bug spray. Especially since these Oahu waterfall hikes venture deep into the lush Hawaiian rainforest, you’ll need some mosquito repellent.

Thanks for reading the article! If you have any questions, feel free to comment down below, and if you want to see more travel and hike-related content, make sure to check out my other articles.

Cheers,

Mia

Photos by the author and Pixabay.


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Planning a trip to British Columbia? If so, read my article on the absolute best hikes in Vancouver! And for more hikes near Vancouver, refer to my list on the most epic hikes in Whistler!

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