Welcome to the best waterfalls in Honolulu, Hawaii awards show!
I’ve spent the last month exploring the beautiful waterfalls of Hawaii with my boyfriend, trying out different trails and taking in the stunning views. We visited during the rainy season, which made for even more breathtaking falls and a refreshing break from the beach.
We are always looking for new and exciting adventures on our vacations, and I know all too well that you can easily spend weeks researching the best places to see. So, we decided to take a trip to Honolulu to explore the gorgeous waterfalls the island has to offer.
My goal with this article is to save you time and help you make the best choice for your waterfall adventure.
After all the hiking, swimming, and sightseeing, I’ve ranked these seven waterfalls according to the beauty of the falls, the accessibility, the difficulty of the trails, the surrounding forestry, and their value.
These are the best of the best, so you can have a truly unforgettable experience no matter which one you choose.
Let’s see those waterfalls already!
Manoa Falls – Best Waterfall in Honolulu, Hawaii
Manoa has one of the most famous falls in Hawaii for its easy trek and gorgeous flow. The path to these falls is easy and accessible for people of all ages. We even saw young children accompanying their parents on the trail, so it’s great for families.
Since the trail is only 1.6 miles long, it’ll take a two-hour round trip. But we recommend staying for a while when you reach the falls and enjoying the breathtaking view. The waterfall is a 150 ft drop that flows majestically, especially after the rains.
To get there, you’ll want to take the number 5 bus from downtown Honolulu, which leads to the trail. From there, you can walk up the track for free, or if you bring a rental car, there’s a small paid parking lot for $7 per car.
Also, wear sturdy shoes as the rocky trail can get muddy after a rain shower.
During the trek, you’ll get rewarded with sights of a bamboo forest, massive root trees, streams, and a variety of tropical flowers. The viewing area is very close to the falls, and you can get fantastic photos. We brought film cameras along and took many pictures along the way.
Manoa Falls were the first ones we visited on our trip, and I consider them one of the best waterfalls in Honolulu. Here’s why you’ll agree:
- The trail is very well-maintained and busy, so you won’t get lost.
- At the base of the trail, there’s a building with washrooms, a food shack, and a snack truck.
- The gorgeous backdrop of Manoa Fall was used as a filming site for ‘Lost’ and ‘Jurassic Park.
Kapena Falls – Best Hidden Waterfall in Honolulu
People looking to enjoy a small and secluded waterfall with beautiful surroundings need to visit Kapena Falls. As it has one of the shortest and easiest trails, these falls are ideal for novice hikers. Also, since Kapena isn’t visited as much as other famous waterfalls, they’re great for people looking for some isolation.
Around the falls are vines, giant leaves, and huge boulders that give the impression of being tucked away in a jungle. The trail is heavily wooded and has an enchanting banyan tree forest.
However, the trail is littered with garbage and shredded glass along the way, because of the homeless populations living there. So we took some bags with us and picked up the litter. And it’s recommended that people visiting do the same to restore the trail’s natural beauty.
Fortunately, the falls remained unaffected by these conditions and consisted of a small but powerful 15-foot stream of water with a big pool for swimming.
Many people try a daredevil jump from the highest point (40 ft) into the pool, which seems dangerous, but locals can guide you on how to do it safely. We didn’t take the risk and instead dipped our feet in the water, which was refreshing!
Kapena Falls is a great place to unwind and spend a few hours of peace away from the bustling Honolulu streets. We consider it the best waterfall in Hawaii for a secluded stay. Some things to consider before you visit them:
- You can get here from the Pali highway, park your car in the church graveyard, then walk to the boulder and hop over a small stone wall.
- Wearing good shoes is necessary here because the trail is rocky.
- Plenty of mosquitos are on the trail, so wear lots of bug repellant.
- The backdrop of the falls provides a great photo op!
Likeke Falls – Secret Oahu Waterfall Easy Access
Likeke offers another great waterfall for novice hikers exploring the breathtaking sceneries of Oahu’s forests. To get to these falls, there’s an easy hike through a tropical jungle, with a secret waterfall at the end.
Even though Likeke stands at only 15 ft, the falls have a roaring and pouring drop that spreads out, with mossy rock walls on both sides. The water isn’t for swimming, but we enjoyed sitting on rocks next to it and taking in the glorious views.
If you want these gorgeous falls all to yourself (trust me, you do), then go early on the weekend, around 8-9 am. The roundtrip will take an hour since the hike is only 30 minutes long. We parked our rental at the Ko’olau Golf Course, then started on the trail at the back of the entrance.
You’ll find the Kapena Falls trail is pretty straightforward, but make sure to follow the blue arrows on the trees leading the way.
Another great thing is that these secluded falls are great for families with younger children. Just make sure to wear water-safe shoes because there are streams flowing along the way that can get your shoes pretty muddy.
Overall, we consider Likeke Falls the best falls in Honolulu for exploring a stunning trail. Here’s why you’ll love them too:
- There’s free parking at the golf course and plenty of space.
- You’ll meet a lot of tourists and locals on the trail later in the day, who can guide you if you get lost.
- The falls are safe, so you can get close to the pouring water and dip your feet in the pools.
Anyone looking to visit the Lulumahu Falls needs to consider two things; first, you need to get a permit from the Hawaii Division of Forestry & Wildlife for a small fee to hike the trail. Secondly, the hike is not easy, so be sure to come with an experienced hiker.
All of that aside, Lulumahu has a waterfall you can’t afford to miss!
These majestic falls cascade down a 50 ft drop and collect in a small pool and even a stream after heavy rains. The pools are shallow and not for swimming, but try dipping your feet in them to enjoy fresh, rushing water!
In addition, the trail passes through a dense bamboo forest, including climbing up old waterwork structures and wandering into the gorgeous Hawaiian jungle. Since we went right after it rained, the trail was pretty slippery with wet mud, which made the hike all the more fun.
You’ll want to start your hike from the trailhead at the intersection of Pali Highway and Nu’uanu Pali Drive. Parking is on the side of the road, and you can enter the trail through a barbed-wire gate. Then most of the hike is through the thick bamboo forest and involves crossing over a creek using the rocks in the water.
Any obstacles aside, the hike is a fun challenge, and you get to walk through a gorgeous forest for the 30-40 minutes it lasts.
Lulumahu Falls has the best hike on all of Hawaii’s trails, and you’ll agree once you’ve tried it. Some things you need to consider before going:
- Since the trails and falls can get crowded, expect to bump into people along the way.
- They’re a great challenge for new hikers looking for a moderately difficult trail.
- There are plenty of rocks around the pools to lounge on after the hike.
Maunawili Falls – Best Honolulu Waterfall You Can Swim in
The Maunawili Falls are very famous in Oahu but be forewarned; the Maunawili Falls Trail is closed due to a landslide. However, this doesn’t stop Hawaii’s nature lovers from trekking to these stunning falls from an alternate route through the Pali Highway.
You’ll understand why once you see them for yourself. The falls include 10, 30, and 60 ft drops into a deep pool, perfect for swimming. Thrill–seekers attempt a dive from the higher cliffs, and after trying cliff-diving at Maunawili, we definitely recommend it! Make sure to see a local try it first, so you know the right path.
As for the hike, it’s through a rainforest and has views of the Oahu mountain range and the Pacific Ocean along the way. You’ll have to hike with some steep ups and downs, cross steps built into the trail, and cross the river several times by stepping over rocks.
However, the outcome of the falls is too beautiful to miss out on!
We got to wade in the water after cliff-jumping and stayed near the falls for a few hours. The experience of being so close to nature is fantastic, and the falls make you feel like there’s only a forest around for miles.
We consider Maunawili Falls the best falls in Hawaii for a demanding hike. Here’s why you need to try them out:
- The trail has a shaded walk most of the way through a lovely apple grove.
- Although it’s rocky underwater with boulders, the falls are refreshing, so don’t hesitate to take a dip!
- The cliff jumps are safe since the water below is pretty deep, so even youngsters can try them.
- The hike will be much easier if you; wear good hiking shoes, bring towels to wipe mud afterward, and hike during daylight hours.
La’ie Falls – The Most Beautiful Waterfalls in Honolulu
Expect to find the trail leading to Laie Falls nearly empty because it’s a 7-mile round trip that keeps most tourists away. But that’s exactly why you must visit these falls and set your sights on the most beautiful trail in Oahu.
Also, the trails need a free permit to hike on them, so make sure to get yours at the Hawaii Reserves, Inc. office in the Laie shopping center.
Along the trail, you’ll be greeted with the smell of pine trees from a dense, cook pine forest. The long hike won’t get you hungry because you can pick fresh fruit from strawberry and guava trees. There’s also a bamboo grove, and thick trees provide lots of shade, making this 4-hour trip easier.
The falls have a gorgeous backdrop of the Laie Point and offer a 15 ft drop into a pool that’s great for swimming. Because we went there early in the morning, we had the whole place to ourselves and could relax in the water before making the trek back.
Access to these falls is simple enough. About 3 miles into the trail, a sign points to the falls. The trails are steep and muddy, and someone has put in a rope to assist in working down to the falls.
You’ll love Laie Falls for its laid-back atmosphere. They’re the best falls in Hawaii to enjoy a secluded time and refreshing swim. Here’s why you’ll love them too:
- The trail is good for families to trek, and the swimming pool is pretty safe.
- Since the hike is long, start early so you can return during daylight hours and avoid getting lost.
- The hike can get exhausting, so make sure to bring water and a light snack to picnic at the falls.
- Follow the blue ribbon on the trail, and you won’t get lost.
Waipuhia Falls – The Upside-Down Falls
Getting to see a wonder of nature is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that Waipuhia Falls can give you. Also known as Upside-down Falls, the water seems to flow backward in them during wind and rain, and you actually can’t see it hit the ground when it’s windy.
Because our trip was on a rainy day, we saw this breathtaking view. And if you’re in Honolulu during winter, you can’t miss it!
The hike is simple and short, just 25 minutes long. But since it’s uphill and the path is overgrown, make sure to trek carefully.
Once you arrive at the falls, you’ll get a life vest for going in the water. The falls were flowing pretty fast when we went in to swim. Luckily, lifeguards are on duty at all times. Despite the water pressure, swimming in these magic waters was an amazing experience.
Waipuhia Falls were the best falls in Hawaii for swimming and experiencing the miracle flow. Here’s why you need to visit them too:
- A tram offered at the trail takes you to the falls for $10 if you want to avoid the hike.
- The falls are on private property and secluded, so you can beat the crowds.
- Make sure to get a free permit from the Hawaii Reserve before going.
- For a quick fix, you can see the waterfall from the Pali Highway when it’s raining.
Every trip to Hawaii is a complete vacation experience. After visiting the magnificent waterfalls in Honolulu, we can honestly say Hawaii has it all.
You won’t want to leave Hawaii after seeing its waterfalls and end up trying a new trail every day (which is what we did). The falls in Honolulu were the most accessible for people of all ages, compared to other falls in Hawaii, and had the best sceneries.
Want to see the biggest fall in Honolulu? You’ll love Manoa Falls.
Need a few hours of seclusion away from the bustling city? Try Likeke and Laie falls.
Looking for refreshing water to swim in? You can’t miss out on Maunawili and Waipuhia Falls.
You’ll get smitten by the best waterfalls in Honolulu, Hawaii!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
What waterfall can you swim in on Oahu?
Most commonly, you can swim in the Maunawili Falls, Waimea Falls, Waimano Falls, Lulumahu Falls and Laie Falls for a safe and refreshing swim. Try the Jackass Ginger Pool for its rope swing that lands you right in the pool.
What are some Honolulu waterfalls you can swim in?
Kapena Falls, Lulumahu Falls, and the Jackass Ginger Pool are fun swimming falls in Honolulu. Their pools aren’t too deep, and the water is always plenty in them, even during the dry season.
What are some waterfalls in Oahu you can drive to?
Almost all the waterfalls in Oahu are accessible via road. You can visit Manoa, Kapena, Waikahalulu, Lulumahu, Waipuhia and Maunawili Falls easily to their trailhead by driving to them.
What are the best waterfall hikes in Oahu?
After doing a fair share of hikes ourselves, we recommend the Manoa Falls Trail, Kapena Falls Trail, and Maunawili Falls Trail as the best waterfall hikes in Oahu. They’re easy enough for all levels of hikers, and locals are always around to guide you on the trails.
Last Updated on January 12, 2023 by Brigitte