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Five of the Best Waterfall Hikes on Oahu

Waterfall Hikes on Oahu Waimano Falls

If you’ve been keeping up with “Borders & Bucket Lists” for a bit, you’ll know that I absolutely love waterfalls. On Oahu, we don’t have the pull-up-and-take-a-picture waterfalls that many of the other Hawaiian Islands do. No, you have to go on a bit of a hike to reach any of our waterfalls on the island.  That said, the waterfall hikes on Oahu are definitely worth a little bit of extra exercise.

What Should I Bring to These Waterfall Hikes on Oahu?

Before you get to any of the hikes, there are some items that you should bring with you (for waterfall hikes specifically).

Bug repellent is highly recommended. Sometimes I get lazy and don’t use bug repellent and I end up with bites on my arms and legs that don’t go away for a month.  There are both traditional and natural options.

Athletic shoes that you can get VERY muddy. Your shoes will never fully recover from these hikes.  Sometimes they will not make it out. (I once was on one of these waterfall hikes and the literal soles of both of my shoes came off!)  However, intense, professional hiking boots are not at all necessary.  Recently, I’ve been putting my Fila Women’s Day Hiker Shoes to good use, and they’ve held up quite well.  And there’s also a men’s version.

A plastic bag to put your muddy athletic shoes in after you’re done hiking. You don’t want to get that all over your car.  If you’re trying to be more eco-friendly, try this reusable plastic bag and give it a good wash when you get back to where you’re staying.

A pair of flip-flops (a.k.a. slippers – click here for a post on more local lingo) to wear after you shove your muddy athletic shoes into that plastic bag.

Swimwear. If possible, you want to swim at these waterfalls, don’t you?

Water shoes to avoid sharp rocks (especially for the kiddos!)

A towel (although, in all honesty, you can leave this in the car instead of adding the extra weight).

Water, of course!

A snack. Perhaps something from either Part 1 or Part 2 of the Hawaii food bucket list.

A waterproof camera, if you’ve got one. The GoPro HERO5 is a great option!  However, if that’s a little too much money, the AKASO EK7000 is a pretty good alternative.

For a more comprehensive Hawaii packing list, click here.

A Bit of Warning

When you start these hikes, you will probably come across a sign that’ll tell you that you’ll get infected by a strain of bacteria called “leptospirosis” if you so much as touch the water.  After further research, this is not exactly the case.

Leptospirosis can only be harmful if it enters the body through an open cut (so if it’s scabbed over, you’re fine) or by drinking it. While some cases of leptospirosis may have bad flu-like symptoms, others have no symptoms at all.  Personally, I have not heard of anyone actually getting leptospirosis on any of these hikes.  Once I even got a small cut from a rock in a waterfall pool and did not have any signs of leptospirosis.

If you would like to read a bit more on the bacteria, here’s a page from the CDC.

And now, onto the best waterfall hikes on Oahu.

Waterfall Hikes on Oahu Manoa Falls

Manoa Falls

If you’ve done one of the waterfall hikes on Oahu, odds are you’ve done Manoa Falls.  The path is nice and obvious, there is a ton of shade (as with all of our waterfall hikes), and the falls themselves are absolutely stunning.  It’s not too difficult, so it should take you around 45 minutes to reach the waterfall (the trail is less than a mile one-way, but there will be quite a bit of pausing to let other hikers going in the other direction pass).  Unfortunately, you cannot swim in the pool at the bottom of the Manoa Falls hike.

There is parking available for this hike for $5.

P.S. Even though it was a fun experience at the time, I would not recommend doing this hike in the rain, as my friends and I did.

Waimea Falls

I’ll admit.  This isn’t one of my favorite waterfall hikes on Oahu, simply because it is not really a hike.  So if you are looking for the least physically challenging and least confusing experience to see a waterfall on Oahu, Waimea Falls is the hike for you.  As a matter of fact, “hike” is a strong word for the path you take to see Waimea Falls.  To put this in perspective, I, along with my entire kindergarten class at the time, did this so-called “hike” to see this waterfall.  So not much danger or effort with this choice.

It should take about 30 minutes to reach the waterfall, as the trail is only around three-fourths of a mile. Depending on the weather, swimming may be allowed at Waimea Falls.  If you do wish to swim under the waterfall, you are required to wear a life jacket.

Given that this hike is within the more accessible Waimea Valley area, there are changing areas, showering areas, and lifeguards.  This means that this is one of the busiest waterfalls on Oahu as well.

There is parking available for this hike.

Maunawili Falls

The 2.5-mile roundtrip hike to Maunawili Falls actually requires a couple of stream crossings, so be prepared to get your feet wet!  While the waterfall on this hike is not as large as some of the others on this list, Maunawili Falls is also known for being home to a few native plants, as well as the (non-native) beloved lilikoi (passion fruit) plant.  If you’re lucky enough to be there while it’s in season, feel free to snag a couple of the bright yellow or purple spheres to munch on later.

 Limited street parking is available for this hike. Be courteous to those who live in the area and do not block the driveways.

Waterfall Hikes on Oahu Likeke Falls

Likeke Falls

Likeke Falls is one of my favorite waterfall hikes on Oahu, because it does not take much effort to get a great reward and it is relatively unknown.  Within twenty minutes, you can reach a relatively small, yet stunning waterfall. Please be careful while doing this hike though, because the path veers off from where you expect it to be at a couple crucial points.  I previously wrote a post with a bit more detail on the directions.  While the pool at the end of this hike is much too shallow for swimming, I’ve seen a few kids enjoy splashing around in them.

Parking for this hike is available at the Koolau Ballrooms.

Waimano Falls

The Waimano Falls hike (shown at the very top of this post) is the most physically difficult hike that I’ve put on this list (granted, it’s not actually that difficult.  I’m just not the best at hiking lol).  I did this nearly three-mile trail in about three hours, round trip.  In contrast to the rest of the hikes on this list, you go downhill first and uphill on the way back.  While this doesn’t seem like much, this was a real mental block for me.  I mean, I already saw the waterfall (my reward), so why did I have to work so hard to get back to my car?

Nevertheless, Waimano Falls is still one of the best waterfall hikes on Oahu.  First of all, the waterfall itself is stunning.  Second of all, there are two rope swings!  While both of them are fun, I will admit that the jump from the higher of the two rope swings can be a little painful.  The pools at these falls are quite shallow (with the exception of the rope swing area), so they aren’t ideal for swimming around.

DO NOT FORGET: GO LEFT, not right.  There will be a point in the trail with a clear fork in the road (not the one that says, “Manana Falls to the left, and Waimano Falls to the right.” It’s quite a bit after that.).  Both paths will seem well-trodden.  You MUST go to the left, not the right.  The first time I did this hike, I went to the right and got very lost.  So I don’t care how you remember this.  Come up with some sort of acronym.  Make up a song.  Take a screenshot of this page.  But be sure to go left.  Then, you’ll be able to make it to the lovely waterfall and have a great time.

Limited street parking is available for this hike. Be courteous to those who live in the area and do not block the driveways.

 

While I try my best to update this list whenever I become aware of a change, please check to see if these trails are still legally open before you do them.  The statuses of trails in Oahu do change, so any of these trails could become illegal, either temporarily or permanently, at any time.

 

What is your favorite waterfall on Oahu?  Tell me about your experience in the comments!

 

I hope you enjoyed this post!  If you did, pin it!

Five of the Best Waterfall Hikes on Oahu #oahu #hikes #hawaii #waterfall #oahuhike #oahuwaterfall

Disclosure: I use referral links in this post, and I might make a commission on my recommendations.

44 Comments Five of the Best Waterfall Hikes on Oahu

  1. NAMRASTAN

    I love waterfalls, but I’m not sure I’m the hiking type. However, for waterfalls I might do it 😂 Needless to say, if I had to choose I would pick Waimea falls, not only beacuse it’s not really a hike, but mostly beacuse I love swimming and this one felt like the best swimming option. However, would be my typical bad luck that the weather would change and turn bad. Hopefully not.

    1. Borders & Bucket Lists

      I love waterfalls too!! And lol trust me, these hikes aren’t too bad (with the exception of Waimano Falls). You could definitely do them :).

  2. Michelle

    Thanks for the informative post. I have wanted to go to Hawaii for so long, but have yet to make it. You can be guaranteed that when I do I will definitely visit some of the waterfalls that you have listed here for us!

  3. Ruth

    So wonderful! I am a big fan of waterfalls. I have been to Oahu and booked a tour to hike to a secret waterfall. Guess what? There was no waterfall when we arrived. Supposedly, it had not rained in four days. That is a rarity but it happened during my visit. Hope to go back to the island and do a proper waterfall hike.

    1. Borders & Bucket Lists

      WHAT?! NO. THAT’S AWFUL! I’m curious which waterfall they were trying to take you to, because four days without rain is like nothing. Unless they were trying to take you to a random, unnamed one that only pops up during the rainy season? I’m a little baffled by your situation lol. Hopefully you’ll have a better experience next time!

  4. Jasmine

    Great post as we’re planning on doing Oahu and a bit of the Big Island next year – we were actually looking at some of the wayerfakl hikes you had mentioned.

  5. Mama Travels Earth

    Fantastic tips! So useful to know the difficulty etc especially if you might have kids in tow. I would LOVE to go to Hawaii, one day!

    1. Borders & Bucket Lists

      So glad this post helped! You can definitely do most of these with kids (with the exception of Waimano Falls).

    1. Borders & Bucket Lists

      Aw man! Hiking is one of the three things I do when I’m home in Hawaii (along with go to the beach and eat good food lol). Maybe next time!

    1. Borders & Bucket Lists

      Ooh so this was perfect for you! Feel free to search around my site if you’re looking for any more Hawaii-related tips :).

  6. Aimee Horgan

    Hawaii is a dream destination, I’ve been years ago but can’t remember too much. I do love exploring waterfalls too, and these are some great tips to ensure you’re prepared for the day.

  7. Annika

    These look amazing! It has been ages since I have seen a good waterfall, I think I need to book a trip to Hawaii finally – looks so beautiful and picturesque. I shall start saving and getting in shape for the hikes 😉

  8. Anna

    I would love this as I love both hiking and waterfalls. So rewarding to jump into a pond after a good hike. Plus all the fab pictures that you get to take along the way. So far, Kanchanaburi in Thailand has been my favourite. Would love to visit Oahu one day!

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