Discover the Majestic Waterfalls of Oahu: Nature’s Cascading Wonders (updated 2023)
The waterfalls of Oahu is varied with some easy trails or more challenging and muddy with falls that are a fun destination that you can swim or just view from a distance. You’ll enjoy being outdoors, exploring lush tropical jungle to open trails and amazing mountain and valley views exploring these wonderful waterfall experiences around Oahu.
There are so many fantastic hikes to do in Oahu but when you combine them with a waterfall in the end, that makes it even more special.
When it comes to waterfalls in Hawaii, Oahu has its fair share of them that is accessible or mostly viewed from afar. But we are sharing our favorite waterfalls here that you can actually enjoy, hike and explore around them.
Before you visit the waterfalls around Oahu
Hiking to a waterfall and enjoying it is a wonderful experience. But if you do intend on getting into the water, there are precautions and things you need to be aware of.
Cuts or bruises – do not attempt to go into the water if you do have any open cuts or bruises due to the fact that many streams, ponds and lagoon areas contain bacteria and Leptospirosis disease may be present in these situations. Avoid going into the water if you do have cuts, open sores or even bruises.
Always wear water shoes or gripping sandals that help in navigating slippery rocks, rushing water and help to keep your balance in the water.
Do not attempt jumping off rocks or using swings – If you have no gauge on the water levels below like locals, you can get hurt quickly
Do not drink or swallow any water due to bacteria living in the water which can make you sick.
** some of these waterfalls may be closed during times of Covid so do a search on the waterfall to see if it is still open presently
Ultimately, the best time to visit Oahu depends on your interests. If you prefer less crowded beaches and lower prices, consider the shoulder seasons. For ideal beach weather and water activities, summer is excellent. However, Oahu’s year-round pleasant climate ensures that you can enjoy the island’s beauty and attractions no matter when you choose to visit.
Best Waterfalls of Oahu to explore from easy to more challenging
Located in Waimea Valley on the North Shore of Oahu, this botanical garden and educational center with a family friendly hike to Waimea Falls. One of the safest family oriented 40-foot waterfall and pond area, there is a lifeguard stationed here and you are required to wear life vests to enter the water. There is a paved road and trail that is 1.5 miles roundtrip and relatively flat and a great way to see the gardens and visit some of the reproduced ancient villages if you want to do a detour and learn more about early Hawaiian culture and daily life in this valley.
Entrance – there is a fee to visit the gardens and enjoy the waterfalls. Adults are $20/$12 Kids and you can take a docent tour and visit the rest of the area at your leisure. You can also do a luau experience and then enter the gardens and waterfall for free.
Good to know – across the street is Waimea Bay which is one of the nicest and iconic beach areas to visit along the North Shore and worth spending time in.
Check this post on visiting Waimea falls below
Located on the windward side of Oahu in the Maunawili Estates neighborhood, the hike to the falls is 3 miles roundtrip, it’s all about the journey here. Walking through lush jungles and often muddy areas brings you directly to a smaller waterfall 20-30 feet in height with a deep pond and surrounded by beautiful tropical plants and scenery.
Good to know – the trail is often very muddy and slippery so wear stable shoes and keep a watch for muddy areas that you can walk around. Locals jump through the rocks into variable water levels and hidden objects in the water so it is not advised to also jump on the rocks for your safety.
** Note – Maunawili falls is now closed and will be closed for the next two years to control trash, vandalism and massive crowds visiting these waterfalls.
Check out the video highlights to visiting Maunawili falls below
One of the most accessible falls to visit from Honolulu, Manoa Falls is an easy 20-minute drive from downtown Honolulu. Depending on the season the waterfall is spectacular and dropping over 150 feet to the bottom. The trail to the waterfall is about 2 miles roundtrip passing through the lush tropical terrain and jungles of Manoa which is well kept and a family friendly site to hike to and enjoy.
Good to know – Swimming is not allowed at Manoa Falls, please do not try to enter the pond area. Also, the photo op at the waterfalls is the main effort so do take your pictures and let others take a photo. afterwards.
Check out this easy video tour to visiting Manoa Falls and some tips to visiting
Also located on the windward side of the island and close to Maunawili Falls, Likelike is a short 25-minute hike and about 1.6 miles roundtrip. The hike has gorgeous forested views, valley lookouts, mountain vistas and lush tropical plants and flowers. You can combine both the falls and lookout visit at the same time. The waterfalls are less than 15 feet in height and the pond area of the waterfalls is very shallow and not really swimmable and more just for cooling down and wading around. You will be crossing streams and muddy areas so be prepared with water shoes.
Good to know – parking is available at the Ko’olau Golf Club and it is $10 to park. Make sure you do not leave any personal effects inside the car exposed and can be broken into.
Located on the eastern side of the island at La’ie, you need a permit to hike to the falls. Permit are available at the La’ie shopping center at Hawaii Reserves Office. The hike is challenging and around 8 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 15 feet. It can be very rocky and slippery and takes an average of 4 hours or so to complete. You will find amazing vistas and lush forest visiting this beautiful hike on the eastern side of the island.
Good to know – You need to get a permit to hike the falls from the Hawaii Reserves Office in La’ie
Located on the eastern side of the island at Kaneohe, Hamama Falls is off the beaten from the other waterfalls above and located in a small neighborhood on Kaikee road to the end where the trail head starts . Less than a 4-mile roundtrip hike which takes about 45 to 50 minutes. It finally ends at a 40-foot striking waterfall which is quite spectacular and not crowded. The trail gets muddy in the lush part and also rocky at serveral points and you’ll pass through a cool fenced in area that looks like a gate that was used for filming a segment of the movie, Jurassic Park.
The trail and falls are on state land and a permit is required technically but most locals and visitors don’t bother doing this to access the falls.
Located at the Lyon Arboretum the waterfall is sweet and less than a two-mile roundtrip trail, but the walk-through forested area and a visit to the gorgeous arboretum, wonderful landscape and mountain valley views makes this a wonderful visit. There is a fantastic trail map of the gardens and trails that you can visit to this wonderful garden that is an easy drive from downtown Honolulu. To find out more about visiting, check out the Lyon Arboretum website here for more information and also visiting Aihualama Falls. There is no swimming allowed here, you can only view and photograph the falls.
Good to know – the trail is well marked with fantastic signage that shares the biodiversity, plant identification and indigenous plants of Hawaii.
With a 20 foot waterfall that is a local spot, Kapena Falls is a typical favorite spot for locals to enjoy. Located a short drive 10 minute drive from Honolulu to the Nu’uanu Valley. You drive through a service road at the Nu’uanu Cemetery to a shed and parking located in the back area where the trail head starts. The trail is relatively short and under 10 minutes walk to the waterfalls passing through lush tropical jungle and stream to the side and a set of smaller waterfalls until you get to the main waterfall area further down.
Many swim in the pond fronting the small waterfalls which on average is about 12 feet deep. You’ll see locals jumping into the pond from the rocks and boulders which is dangerous and not advisable. Enter the Falls area at your own risk.
A very popular waterfalls to hike to from the Manana trail. You take Koma Mai Drive in Aiea to the end of the residential area. The valley hike is picturesque with gorgeous valley views and takes about 2.9 miles round trip or 1 1/2 hour to two hours and is mostly downhill towards the falls. A combination of paved and then dirt road the closer you get to Waimano Falls. Once you arrive at the waterfalls, there are several pools some very deep that you can jump or swim around. It is very slippery around the falls areas so be careful hiking around the switchback trail.
Check out this fun video tour of Waimano Falls
Waipuhia Falls is one of the shortest waterfall hikes on Oahu. It’s just about 0.6 miles to get to their through mostly paved road. The hike is gorgeous with a variety of indigenous plants that the state maintains in the area. Be careful on wet, rainy days, this hike gets slippery with rocks and boulders you have to traverse to get to the waterfall face.
Check out this video tour of Waipuhia Falls below.
Weather and best times to visit Oahu
Oahu, one of the Hawaiian Islands, boasts a tropical climate, making it an attractive destination year-round. However, the best time to visit Oahu can depend on your preferences for weather, crowds, and activities. Here’s a breakdown of Oahu’s weather and the best times to visit:
- Summer (June to August): Oahu’s summer months are warm and relatively dry, with temperatures typically ranging from 75°F to 88°F (24°C to 31°C). These months offer plenty of sunshine and are ideal for beach activities and water sports. However, it’s also the peak tourist season, so expect larger crowds and higher prices.
- Fall (September to November): Fall on Oahu is still warm, with temperatures ranging from 73°F to 87°F (23°C to 31°C). Rainfall begins to increase slightly, but the island remains relatively dry. This is a great time to visit if you want to avoid the summer crowds while still enjoying pleasant weather.
- Winter (December to February): Oahu’s winter is mild, with temperatures averaging between 68°F and 80°F (20°C to 27°C). This is the rainy season, especially on the windward (eastern) side of the island. While you might encounter some rain, it’s still possible to enjoy Oahu’s attractions, and you’ll find fewer tourists during this time.
- Spring (March to May): Spring is similar to fall, with pleasant temperatures ranging from 69°F to 82°F (21°C to 28°C). The island starts to dry out from the winter rains, and the landscape becomes lush and green. Spring is an excellent time to visit for both weather and smaller crowds.
Best Times to Visit:
- April to June: This period offers great weather, with warm temperatures and minimal rainfall. It’s an excellent time for outdoor activities and exploring the island without the peak summer crowds.
- September to mid-December: Fall is another fantastic time to visit Oahu. The weather is still warm, and you can enjoy the island’s beauty without the high summer prices and crowds.
- Peak Tourist Season: If you don’t mind larger crowds and higher prices, visiting during the summer (June to August) can still be enjoyable, especially if you plan well in advance.
- Water Activities: If you’re interested in surfing or watching big waves, the North Shore’s big wave season occurs from November to February.
- Whale Watching: Humpback whales migrate to Hawaii from December to April, making it an excellent time for whale watching excursions.
- Festivals and Events: Oahu hosts various cultural events and festivals throughout the year, so check the event calendar to see if any align with your travel dates.
Ultimately, the best time to visit Oahu depends on your preferences, but with its pleasant climate year-round, you can find an ideal time to experience this beautiful Hawaiian island.
Other things to know on these waterfall hikes
Some of these waterfalls may be closed during COVID times, please keep to your social distance which is still mandated by the state.
Bring bug spray – you will be walking through lush jungle areas and will be eaten alive with insects and bugs.
Bring water and snacks for breaks in between and the end when you want to take some time to nourish yourself
Having a rain jacket – if you want to see more dramatic falls after a rain, also bring a jacket for intermittent rain in the area.
Many of the trails are rocky and also muddy so wear sturdy shoes and also water shoes if you plan on hiking through some of the trails especially after a wet rain in the area.
Do track the weather for the day you are hiking, and do not attempt to hike on extremely rainy or windy days to any of these waterfalls which are unpredictable during stormy weather in Hawaii.
Some of these trails to the waterfalls are accessed through home neighborhoods, please be respectful to where you visit and park before you hike.
Please take out what you bring with you to the falls, let’s leave everything as natural as possible.
Best way of visiting the many waterfalls of Oahu
The best transportation option for visiting the waterfalls of Oahu is by renting a car. Here’s why it’s recommended:
Flexibility: Renting a car gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace. You can customize your itinerary, visit multiple waterfalls in a day, and spend as much time as you like at each location. It allows for a more personalized and independent experience.
Accessibility: Having a car provides easy access to the waterfalls, especially those located off the beaten path or in more remote areas. Public transportation may not reach all waterfall locations, and relying on taxis or rideshares can be costly and less convenient.
Convenience: With a rental car, you can conveniently store your belongings, carry snacks or picnic supplies, and have a comfortable space to relax in between waterfall visits. It also gives you the option to adjust your plans on the go, stopping at scenic viewpoints or other attractions along the way.
Scenic drives: Oahu’s landscapes are incredibly scenic, and having a car allows you to enjoy the breathtaking drives between waterfalls. From lush mountains to picturesque coastlines, you’ll have the opportunity to soak in the island’s natural beauty during your journey.
Time-saving: Renting a car can save you time compared to relying on public transportation or waiting for rideshares. It enables you to maximize your time at the waterfalls and potentially visit more attractions in a day.
Off-the-beaten-path exploration: Oahu has hidden gems and lesser-known waterfalls that may not be easily accessible without a car. Having your own transportation allows you to venture off the main tourist routes and discover these tucked-away treasures.
Convenience for families or groups: If you’re traveling with family or a group, renting a car offers convenience and cost-effectiveness. It provides ample space for everyone, eliminates the need to coordinate schedules with public transportation, and allows for a more comfortable and enjoyable experience together.
Renting a car provides the flexibility and convenience needed to fully experience the waterfalls of Oahu. It allows you to create your own itinerary, explore at your own pace, and access both popular and hidden waterfalls with ease. Just remember to familiarize yourself with local traffic laws and parking regulations before setting off on your adventure.
Check out these other Oahu travel and topics
That’s all for our visit and guide to Waterfalls of Oahu. Do tell us if you found the post helpful and drop in any questions in the comments section below. We also appreciate any social media shares below, mahalo.
Conclusion on Waterfalls of Oahu
Oahu is one of those places that once you set your foot in, you’re taken by the thrill of the tropical landscape, outdoor activities and attractions around the island.
the waterfalls of Oahu offer a captivating and awe-inspiring natural experience that shouldn’t be missed. Whether you choose to embark on a guided tour or rent a car for independent exploration, these cascading wonders will leave you breathless. From the lush greenery surrounding the falls to the invigorating rush of water, each waterfall carries its own unique charm and beauty.
The journey to these enchanting destinations not only showcases Oahu’s natural splendor but also provides an opportunity to connect with the island’s rich cultural heritage. Whether you’re seeking adventure, tranquility, or a sense of wonder, the waterfalls of Oahu will deliver an unforgettable experience that will stay with you long after you’ve returned home. So, immerse yourself in the natural majesty, let the waterfalls cascade over you, and create lasting memories amidst Oahu’s picturesque landscapes.
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