15 Best Waterfall Hikes in Oahu 2023: Oahu, often referred to as the “Gathering Place,” is a Hawaiian island that beckons adventurers with its breathtaking landscapes and rich natural beauty. While the island boasts an array of attractions, it’s the hidden waterfalls and the hikes leading to them that truly capture the essence of Oahu’s allure. In this blog, we’ll take you on a journey through fifteen captivating waterfall hikes that showcase the island’s diverse terrain and pristine beauty. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a novice, these trails offer a slice of paradise that everyone can enjoy.
List of 15 Best Waterfall Hikes in Oahu
- Manoa Falls Trail
- Waimea Falls Trail
- Lulumahu Falls Trail
- Maunawili Falls Trail
- Waikane Falls and Pali Puka Trail
- Waimano Falls Trail
- Likeke Falls Trail
- Jackass Ginger Pool Trail
- Ka’au Crater Trail
- Makapu’u Tide Pools and Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
- Papali Ridge Trail
- Aiea Loop Trail
- Moanalua Valley Trail
- Sacred Falls Trail (Kaluapuhi Trail)
- Kalihi Ice Ponds Trail
1. Manoa Falls Trail: A Gentle Introduction to Oahu’s Waterfall Wonders
Our journey begins with the Manoa Falls Trail, a true gem nestled within the lush Manoa Valley. What sets this trail apart is its accessibility—perfect for hikers of all skill levels. As you embark on this adventure, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a vibrant tapestry of tropical foliage, with towering banyan trees and fragrant ginger blooms lining your path. The easy, well-maintained trail gradually leads you to the 150-foot Manoa Falls, whose cascading waters glisten like liquid silver in the sunlight. It’s no wonder that Manoa Falls is one of the most popular waterfall hikes on the island.
2. Waimea Falls Trail: A Botanical Oasis with a Refreshing Reward
Our next destination is the Waimea Falls Trail, situated in the enchanting Waimea Valley. Unlike many hikes, this trail begins with a stroll through a botanical garden, treating hikers to a symphony of colors and scents. Meander through a vibrant array of tropical flora, including hibiscus, heliconia, and indigenous Hawaiian plants. As you follow the path, the sound of rushing water grows nearer, heralding your arrival at Waimea Falls. Here, you can take a dip in the crystal-clear pool beneath the falls, offering the perfect opportunity to cool off and rejuvenate.
3. Lulumahu Falls Trail: A Short Trek to Hidden Paradise
Venture into the Nu’uanu Valley and you’ll discover the Lulumahu Falls Trail, a relatively short hike that rewards intrepid explorers with a glimpse of paradise. The trail begins with a sense of mystique, as you navigate through bamboo groves and towering trees. The emerald-hued landscape gives way to the crown jewel: Lulumahu Falls, concealed like a secret in the heart of the valley. The enchanting pool at the base of the falls invites you to take a refreshing dip while basking in the serene surroundings.
4. Maunawili Falls Trail: A Rainforest Escape with a Pool Oasis
If you crave a more immersive rainforest experience, the Maunawili Falls Trail beckons. This moderate hike takes you deep into a tropical rainforest, where towering trees create a natural canopy, providing shelter and a sense of awe. Your journey culminates at Maunawili Falls, where a secluded pool awaits. Feel the mist on your face as you cool off in the pristine waters beneath the falls, surrounded by the symphony of nature.
5. Waikane Falls and Pali Puka Trail: Challenging Trails for Epic Rewards
For those seeking a more challenging adventure, the Waikane Falls and Pali Puka Trail offer a thrilling ascent into the Ko’olau Mountains. As you ascend, be prepared for steep terrain and rocky paths, but rest assured, the breathtaking views of Waikane Falls and the iconic Pali Puka, a natural arch in the mountains, make every step worthwhile. The sense of accomplishment at the summit is unparalleled.
6. Waimano Falls Trail: A Refreshing Oasis
Tucked away in Waimano Valley is a hiking trail that’s nothing short of enchanting. The Waimano Falls Trail takes you on a scenic journey through lush tropical landscapes, leading you to the stunning Waimano Falls. This moderately challenging hike is suitable for hikers of various skill levels, making it a fantastic family-friendly option.
The reward at the end of the trail is nothing short of spectacular – the Waimano Falls, a serene oasis surrounded by vibrant greenery. After your hike, take a refreshing dip in the cool, clear waters beneath the falls. The tranquility and natural beauty of this spot make it a perfect place for a picnic or simply basking in the serene atmosphere.
7. Likeke Falls Trail: A Hidden Gem
While Oahu has no shortage of waterfall hikes, some remain hidden gems known mainly to locals. The Likeke Falls Trail is one such treasure, nestled in the town of Kaneohe. What sets this hike apart is its relative obscurity compared to some of the island’s more popular trails, ensuring a quieter and more intimate experience with nature.
This short and easy hike leads you through a verdant forest, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself at the picturesque Likeke Falls. With fewer crowds and a serene ambiance, this spot is perfect for those seeking a tranquil escape into nature’s embrace. Don’t forget your camera – you’ll want to capture the beauty of Likeke Falls to share with friends and family back home.
8. Jackass Ginger Pool Trail: A Serene Oasis
If you’re in search of a lesser-known hike that offers a unique experience, look no further than the Jackass Ginger Pool Trail. This hidden gem leads you to a serene swimming hole nestled amid a lush forest of bamboo and ginger plants.
As you traverse the trail, you’ll be immersed in the sights and sounds of Hawaii’s rich biodiversity. The trail is relatively short, making it accessible for hikers of various fitness levels. When you arrive at Jackass Ginger Pool, you’ll discover a tranquil oasis where you can take a relaxing swim or simply savor the tranquility of nature.
9. Ka’au Crater Trail: Challenging and Rewarding
For the adventurous souls seeking a more challenging hike, the Ka’au Crater Trail offers a thrilling and rewarding experience. Located in the heart of Oahu, this trail takes you on a journey through dense rainforests, across streams, and past not one, but multiple waterfalls.
The pièce de résistance of this hike is undoubtedly the Ka’au Falls, a majestic three-tiered waterfall that cascades down the mountainside. Be prepared for a demanding trek that involves steep inclines and stream crossings, but the effort is well worth the breathtaking natural beauty that awaits you at the end.
10. Makapu’u Tide Pools and Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail: Coastal Wonders
While not a traditional waterfall hike, the Makapu’u Tide Pools and Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail are a must-visit for anyone exploring Oahu’s natural beauty. Located on the island’s eastern shore, this trail offers awe-inspiring coastal views and the opportunity to swim in tide pools created by the powerful crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean.
As you hike along the trail, you’ll be treated to panoramic vistas of the rugged coastline and the iconic Makapu’u Lighthouse perched on the cliffs above. Once you reach the tide pools, take a dip in these natural wonders, surrounded by the beauty of the ocean and the sound of waves crashing against the rocky shore.
11. Papali Ridge Trail – A Hidden Gem with a Secluded Waterfall
Nestled away from the more popular trails on Oahu, Papali Ridge Trail offers a challenging yet rewarding adventure. As you navigate the rugged terrain, you’ll be treated to sweeping panoramic views of the Windward Coast that will leave you breathless. The culmination of your journey is a hidden waterfall, a well-kept secret that adds a touch of serenity to your hike. Surrounded by the untouched beauty of nature, Papali Ridge Trail is a must-visit for those seeking an off-the-beaten-path experience.
12. Aiea Loop Trail – Panoramic Views of Halawa Valley
While not primarily a waterfall trail, the Aiea Loop Trail offers an enchanting experience of its own. As you traverse this 4.8-mile loop, you’ll be immersed in the lush, tropical landscape of the Halawa Valley. Towering trees and vibrant flora create a magical atmosphere, making you feel like you’ve stepped into a different world. Along the trail, you’ll be treated to breathtaking panoramic views of the valley below, a sight that’s sure to make your journey worthwhile.
13. Moanalua Valley Trail – The Enchanting Valley Experience
Moanalua Valley Trail is your gateway to one of Oahu’s most captivating natural wonders. While the famed “Stairway to Heaven” (Haiku Stairs) remains closed for safety reasons, the valley itself is a beauty to behold. As you venture deeper into the valley, you’ll be surrounded by lush greenery and vibrant flora. The serene atmosphere and the soothing sounds of nature make this trail an enchanting experience for hikers of all levels. Keep your camera handy; you’ll want to capture the sheer magnificence of Moanalua Valley.
14. Sacred Falls Trail (Kaluapuhi Trail) – A Reminder of Untamed Beauty
It’s essential to note that Sacred Falls State Park has been closed due to safety concerns since 1999. However, it’s worth mentioning in our list because of its historical significance and stunning waterfall. The Sacred Falls Trail, also known as the Kaluapuhi Trail, led to a mesmerizing 80-foot waterfall that was a testament to Oahu’s untamed beauty. Although the trail is inaccessible today, the memory of Sacred Falls lives on in the hearts of those who have witnessed its splendor.
15. Kalihi Ice Ponds Trail – Discovering Hidden Pools and Cascades
For those seeking a less-trodden path, the Kalihi Ice Ponds Trail is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. This trail takes you on a journey through the Kalihi Valley, where you’ll encounter a series of small pools and cascades. These natural wonders offer a refreshing and serene escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The tranquillity of Kalihi Ice Ponds Trail makes it an ideal spot for a quiet picnic or a peaceful afternoon in the midst of nature’s wonders.
Oahu’s waterfall hikes are a testament to the island’s diverse and captivating natural beauty. Whether you’re in search of an easy stroll to a tranquil waterfall or a challenging trek to a mountain summit, Oahu has something to offer every adventurer. These hikes provide a unique opportunity to connect with nature, immerse yourself in the island’s rich biodiversity, and create unforgettable memories. So, lace up your hiking boots, grab your camera, and embark on an unforgettable journey through Oahu’s stunning waterfall trails. Nature’s treasures await, and you’re invited to uncover them.