If you’re an avid hiker looking to explore some of Oahu’s most breathtaking waterfalls, then you’re in for a treat.
The island of Oahu boasts an abundance of cascading waterfalls nestled within its lush rainforests and valleys, providing both seasoned and beginner hikers with unforgettable experiences and breathtaking views.
1. Manoa Falls Trail
The Manoa Falls Trail is one of the most popular and busy waterfall hiking trails on the island of Oahu.
This is predominantly due to the location of the waterfall, which is just a 20-minute drive from Honolulu, and how relatively short this hike is.
What makes this hike moderately difficult is the elevation gain and the rocky terrain towards the end.
While this is manageable during the summer, it can be increasingly muddy and subsequently difficult if the area has experienced heavy rainfall.
The waterfall itself is 150 feet and is set against a backdrop of lush vegetation, which makes it well worth the effort to get here.
2. Waimea Valley Trail
While the Waimea Valley Trail is slightly longer than the Manoa Falls Trail, it’s also easier, making it a great choice for beginner hikers looking to explore a waterfall when visiting Oahu.
Located on the North Shore of Oahu in Waimea Falls Park & Botanical Gardens, this waterfall can be accessed through a beautiful, scenic trail.
This hike is in an area that is managed by Hi’ipaka, a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of Hawaiian nature and culture.
As such, it’s one of the only waterfall hikes on the island to require paid entry;
- Adults: $25
- Students & Seniors: $18
- Children: $14
This isn’t ideal for those visiting Oahu on a budget, but means that the area is well-maintained and has a number of facilities that you otherwise wouldn’t find at most other waterfalls on the island.
This includes free life jackets, which are required to be worn by those looking to swim in the pool beneath the 45-foot waterfall.
3. Maunawili Falls via Old Pali Highway
If you’re looking for a challenging yet rewarding waterfall hike on Oahu, the Maunawili Falls via Old Pali Highway trail is a must-visit.
This 10.1km out-and-back hike takes you through lush forests along picturesque streams and finally culminates at the stunning Maunawili Falls.
The trailhead begins just off the Old Pali Highway and is easily accessible from Honolulu or the Windward side of the island.
Parking here is free for residents and military or otherwise paid. As such it may be worth getting someone to drop you off where possible.
Maunawili Falls is a 20-foot waterfall that is surrounded by incredible foliage. Swimming beneath the waterfall is permitted and the perfect way to refresh after your hike.
Related: Things to do on Oahu With Kids
4. Likeke Falls Trail
The Likeke Falls Trail is one of the shortest in Oahu, which makes it an incredibly popular choice for families with children and beginner hikers looking to visit a waterfall.
There are two parking locations to choose from when visiting this waterfall;
- Ko’olau Golf Club: Park on the road before the gate, but use caution as tickets are regularly issued for vehicles not parked correctly.
- Pali Lookout along Pali Highway (Route 61): The route from here to the waterfall is slightly longer and has more adaptations for those looking to extend their hike further.
The waterfall itself is 20 feet tall, and swimming is permitted.
Keep in mind that given how short the hike from the Ko’olau Golf Club is this waterfall can be incredibly popular, which can make the swimming pool crowded during the summer months.
5. Lulumahu Falls Trail
Lulumahu Falls Trail is one of the more difficult waterfall hikes in Oahu.
The out-and-back 2.6km trail has limited markings and passes through a dense bamboo forest. This, combined with muddy and treacherous terrain after heavy rainfall, can make this hike difficult for some.
However, this difficulty has a benefit: It makes the waterfall less popular and subsequently quieter than some of the other options on this list.
Vehicle break-ins are notorious here. Please proceed with caution!
The hike is located on private property and subsequently requires a permit from the Hawaii Reserves to visit. This costs $2.50 and is easy to obtain online.
Meanwhile, the waterfall itself is stunning, more than 50 feet tall with a pool at the bottom for swimming in. As such it’s well worth the expedition if you’re able.
6. Laie Falls Trail
Situated a short distance from the town of Laie on the North Shore of Oahu is the Laie Falls Trail.
This is a challenging day hike with an incredible waterfall at the end. In order to access the trail, you’ll need to park at Laie Park, roughly 0.5 miles away, and then walk along Poohaili Street.
This hike takes you up a ridge with an elevation gain of 1,400 feet. As such, given the duration and difficulty of this hike, it’s only recommended for experienced hikers.
Like the Lulumahu Falls Trail, this waterfall is also located on private property and requires a $2.50 permit from Hawaii Reserves to access it.
The waterfall itself is located at the top of the ridge and also boasts an impressive vantage point which provides a view of the ocean out in the distance.
7. Kapena Falls Trail
Kapena Falls Trail is situated in Honolulu and is just 0.5km, making it perfect for those looking for a quick hike.
Of course, the waterfall’s location and the duration of the trail mean that this waterfall is one of the most popular on the island of Oahu.
Great for those looking for a quick Oahu waterfall experience not so great for those looking for a relaxing one.
This isn’t the largest or most impressive waterfall in Oahu.
However, there is a large swimming hole at the base (which can get muddy if it’s been raining) and a platform for cliff-jumping. As always, please check the water levels and jump with caution.
8. Waipuhia Falls Trail (Private Property)
Waipuhia Falls Trail is on private property owned by the Board of Water Supply. Unlike other private property hikes on this list, permits can not be obtained, and public access is forbidden.
Of course, this doesn’t stop some intrepid hikers from going to Waipuhai Falls.
The trail itself is unmarked and overgrown, and you may be stopped for trespassing. We recommend driving down Pali Highway to see the waterfall instead.
Waipuhia Falls is one of the most unique waterfalls in Hawaii due to the “reverse waterfall” phenomenon.
This is caused by the wind occasionally making it look as though the water is flowing up instead of down.
Seeing this phenomenon in action is rare, so personally, we don’t think it’s worth going out of your way to attempt to visit this waterfall unless you happen to be driving around the area.
9. Manana Trail
The Manana Trail is one of the most intense waterfall trails in Oahu.
This 15.8km hike takes roughly 6 to 8 hours and should only be attempted by experienced hikers due to its difficulty.
The start of the hike is relatively fun and relaxing; it’s heavily marked, and the underbrush provides a reasonable challenge.
However, after a couple of miles, the path begins to narrow, and the underbrush thickens. As such, it’s highly recommended you wear pants to protect your legs.
We highly recommend starting this hike at sunrise, bringing plenty of water, snacks, electro lights and multiple pairs of socks.
Due to its difficulty, we would only attempt to complete this hike on dry days.
Although the waterfall is impressive, on a hike this long and difficult, the reward is really the hike itself, not the peak.
Related: The Best Oahu Itinerary for Families
10. Aihualama Falls
Aihualama Falls is located near the popular Manoa Falls, and as such you can use part of the same Manoa Falls Trail to get to Auhualama Falls, making it ideal for those looking for a longer trek.
However, in our opinion, Aihualama Falls isn’t as impressive as Manoa Falls, so if you’re only looking to pick one waterfall to visit, we’d recommend skipping this one.
Situated just a 20-minute drive from Honolulu, this trail was used during the filming of the popular TV show LOST and takes you through a lush forest with tropical foliage and flowers.
Visiting the waterfall requires a reservation at Lyon Arboretum, which is part of the University of Hawaii. However, entrance is still free.
11. Koloa Gulch
Koloa Gulch is one of the best-hidden waterfalls in Oahu. Situated on the North Shore, this 11.1km out-and-back trail is incredibly difficult and therefore, only recommended for experienced hikers.
To begin this day hike, you will need to sign a waiver with Hawaii Reserves. You can park at Kokololio Beach Park and then walk down Aakahi Gulch Road to the trailhead.
The trail to Koloa Gulch is difficult but rewarding. You’ll need to be prepared to cross streams and scramble over rocks in order to reach the waterfall.
At Koloa Gulch, you’ll actually encounter three waterfalls. Two side-by-side falls and the larger Koloa Falls. There’s a natural swimming pool at the base of the falls, which is perfect for cooling off.
12. Hamama Falls Trail (Private Property)
Hamama Falls Trail has been closed to the public since 2021.
The waterfall is on land owned by the Board of Water Supply, and it’s currently unknown whether or not this trail will reopen to the public.
Trespassing on this land could result in fines or even prosecution, so attempts to visit this waterfall should be done at your own risk.
While Hamama Falls is a beautiful waterfall, there are, in our opinion, many other beautiful waterfalls in Oahu that don’t come with the risk of a fine or prosecution.
13. Waiakeakua Falls via Pu’u’pia Trail
In our opinion, Waiakeakua Falls isn’t the best waterfall on the island of Oahu. However, this trail may still be ideal for those looking to experience a short, challenging hike.
The hike begins on the Pu’u Pia Trail on Alani Drive and descends into Manoa Valley.
Once in the valley, you will cross a stream several times and trek your way through the (likely) muddy forest before arriving at the falls.
Given that this waterfall is also located in the Manoa Valley, it’s possible to combine this hike with hike(s) to other waterfalls in the area: Manoa Falls and Aihualama Falls.
14. Waimano Falls Trail
Waimano Falls Trail is located in Pearl City and takes roughly half an hour to complete each way, depending on your pace.
This hike is considered by many to be hard, given the steep decline into the valley and how muddy gets, so be sure to bring a change of clothes for the drive home.
The cascading waterfall is one of the most beautiful on the island. It has two natural pools, rope swings, and cliff-jumping areas (marked with white spray paint).
15. Judd Trail
The Judd Trail is located right in Honolulu in the neighborhood of Nu’uanu. This fantastic location, combined with the distance of the trail, means that it can get crowded during the summer season.
However, it’s still one of our personal favorites.
On the trail, you’ll encounter diverse flora and fauna ranging from a bamboo forest to tall pine trees before reaching the Jackass Ginger Pool waterfall.
This small waterfall stands just 10 feet high, but there’s a large swimming hole beneath it.
This waterfall boasts a number of rope swings hanging from the trees as well as a natural rock slide leading into the pool.
16. Pali Twin Falls (Waipuilani Falls)
The Pali Twin Falls hike is one of the most beautiful on Oahu. This moderately easy trail takes you through a beautiful tropical landscape to two magnificent waterfalls.
Located in the town of Pali, just a short drive from Honolulu, the trailhead can be a bit tricky to find, so be sure to use a GPS or follow the signs closely.
Note that this hike can be closed (access gate locked) due to dangerous conditions as such, it’s important to plan accordingly.
As you make your way along the trail, you’ll be treated to stunning views of towering bamboo forests and towering trees. However, the last part of the trail (100 yards or so) is a bit of a scramble on rocky terrain, so be sure to watch your footing.
There are two waterfalls here. The first is a small yet picturesque cascade waterfall; however, the second is the main attraction. This 40-foot waterfall is surrounded by lush greenery and a tranquil pool that’s perfect for swimming in on a hot day.
17. Aihualama Falls Trail
Situated in Manoa Valley, just a short drive from Honolulu, Aihualama Falls Trail is one of the best hikes in Oahu and easily accessible for hikers of all skill levels.
The trail is well-maintained and clearly marked, taking you through a diverse landscape of tropical foliage, bamboo groves, and stream crossings.
This waterfall is subject to seasonal closures depending on the weather. More information can be found on the Hawaii government website.
As you make your way along the trail, you’ll encounter several small waterfalls. However, the highlight of the hike is Aihualama Falls.
This 50-foot waterfall is set on a beautiful rock face and surrounded by lush vegetation, making for a serene and tranquil atmosphere.
18. Ka’au Crater Trail (Private Property)
The Ka’au Crater Trail is situated on Restricted Watershed managed by the Board of Water Supply and is therefore not open to the public.
However, this doesn’t stop all adventurous hikers from taking on this challenge. If you are found to be on the hike, you may be stopped for trespassing, fined, and or prosecuted. So please only do so at your own risk.
The hike itself is both rough and technical. There are several stream crossings, slippery roots, and a lot of mud. Even in the height of summer, expect to get muddy.
With that being said, the highlight of the hike is the 3-tiered waterfall at the end of the trail, which stands at an impressive 35 feet tall.
Cora is the Inside Our Suitcase trip planner. She books the flights, reserves the hotels and speaks directly to some fantastic brand partners. She's super analytical and likes to ensure you, the reader is given every possible detail from all first-hand experiences.