Waterfalls - 9 min read

12 Best Waterfalls in Oahu (Highest & Most Beautiful)

Becky Vordermann

Becky Vordermann, Updated October 23, 2022

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Oahu is a popular place to vacation and explore. It is part of the islands of Hawaii. This island is full of lush vegetation, that create a beautiful jungle. Television shows and movies, including Lost and The Rundown have been filmed on the island.

In the lush forests of Oahu, there are many magical waterfalls. They range in size and shape. Many of them are near excellent swimming holes and areas to have a picnic or play with friends.

Some of Oahu’s waterfalls are only accessible by hiking. Others are visible from roads like the Pali Highway. No matter how much time you have to check out waterfalls in Oahu, there is a waterfall worth seeing. This list includes waterfalls that you have to hike to and others that are easily accessible.

1. Manoa Falls

Manao Falls is a beautiful 150-foot fall. It’s located on the Manoa Falls Trail in Honolulu. This is a very popular waterfall to visit in the area. The waterfall is accessible by hiking. It is a 1.7 hike to and from this waterfall through the lush jungle forest.

The trail is closed seasonally when it is too muddy. Be aware mosquitos also love this area. If you plan on hiking to Manoa Falls bug repellant is a must. If rain is in the forecast, you may also want to bring rain gear.

The fee to park at the trailhead to hike to Manoa Falls. This fee is for non-residents and non-military visitors. The hike to Manao Falls is not easy. It is rocky and can be slick at times.

You will want to wear proper footwear if you visit this waterfall. Older children should not have an issue hiking this trail. It is not the best for young toddlers though.

2. Waimano Falls

Credit: Matt Wilensky / Flickr

Waimano Falls is a pretty waterfall near Pearl City. The waterfall is not the easiest to reach, but those that tackle the challenging hike, agree it’s worth the effort to reach. The hike is 2.9 miles out and back. The trail is open year-round.

Dogs are allowed on the trail, but they must be leashed. The trail is frequently muddy and buggy. You will want to wear proper footwear and bug spray, to visit Waimano Falls.

Once highlight of visiting Waimano Falls is the two pleasant swimming pools that are located by the waterfall. The swimming holes here are quite refreshing. If you want to swim and hike in one day, Waimano Falls is a great place to spend time.

Related Read: 10 Best Snorkeling Spots in Oahu: The Ultimate List & Guide

3. Aihualama Falls

Credit: Kaleomokuokanalu Chock / Flickr

Honolulu is home to Aihualama Falls. This waterfall is near the Manoa Falls Trail. To reach the falls you must hike a total of 1.2 miles. This makes the trail easy for most to tackle.

Aihualama Falls is best after it rains. The waterflow in the area can be sparse, if it hasn’t rained in a while. The trail to this waterfall is usually not as muddy as other trails in area. The areas surrounding the falls is lush and attractive.

One benefit of this hike is it is well-shaded, but you will still have to deal with the bugs. Like many other waterfalls in Oahu, you will want to wear bug spray on your hike to it. This area is where parts of the television show Lost was filmed.

4. Kapena Falls

Credit: Jennifer Boyer / Flickr

Kapena Falls is a beautiful waterfall that is easy to access. The hike to this lovely waterfall is only 0.5 miles round trip. This waterfall is near the Pali Highway.

Parking to access Kapena Falls is at back of Nuunu Memorial Park and Mortuary. The hike from the parking area to the waterfall takes less than ten minutes to complete for most people.

This waterfall is a popular place to cliff jump. The jump is about 35 feet. The pool below can be shallow at times so it’s important to check the water depth before jumping from cliffs here.

This area is very forested. Many describe it as having a Jurassic vibe. This may be why it is a location that Lost and the film The Rundown were both filmed.

Related Read: The 10 Best All-Inclusive Hawaii Resorts for Families

5. Likeke Falls

Credit: Jon / Flickr

Likeke Falls is located in the jungle, near Kaneohe. This waterfall is a gorgeous multi-tiered waterfall. Likeke Falls is accessible by taking a short 0.8 mile out and back hike and is open year-round.

The hike to the waterfall is a popular area for birding, hiking, and trail running. This waterfall is secluded compared to others on Oahu. Dogs are allowed on a leash. If you are looking for a peaceful hike to a waterfall with your furry friend then you will love Likeke Falls.

Parking for this waterfall is on the road, before the entrance to Ko’olau Golf Club. It is also accessible from the Pali Lookout parking lot on the the Pali Highway. If you park near the golf club, ensure you are legally parked. The police are known to ticket visitors to this area, for improper parking.

6. La’ie Falls

La’ie Falls is a lovely 15-foot waterfall. This waterfall is not the easiest to access. It is located on private land, owned by Hawaii Reserves, Inc.

If you wish to hike to this waterfall you will need to obtain a permit from Hawaii Reserves, Inc offices. Their office is at the local mall.

The hike to waterfall is six miles total. It is not an easy hike, but it is peaceful. Cook pine trees line the trail in many places. There are also Strawberry guava trees along the trail.

The spur trail off the main trail leads to La’ie Falls. This spur to the falls is steep and muddy. If you visit La’ie Falls it’s important that you wear proper hiking shoes and are prepared to be out for several hours.

Related Read: How Much Does A Trip To Hawaii Cost?

7. Lulumahu Falls

Lulumahu Falls is located in a pretty bamboo forest. To reach this waterfall, hiking is required. The trail to the falls is 1.6 miles. It is an out and back trail. The area near this 50-foot waterfall is home to Kaniakapupu ruins.

King Kamehameha III had a summer home here. This waterfall is located on government property, near the Pali Highway. Unless you obtain permission to hike here, you are trespassing.

8. Maunawili Falls

Maunawili Falls is a pretty waterfall in Oahu, that you must hike into. The hike to the falls is about 3.5 miles long. Currently the hiking to the waterfall is closed for realignment. It will reopen in 2023.

The area surrounding Maunawili Falls is filled with lush rainforest vegetation. It can be muddy at times. Swimming is popular at this waterfall. There are boulders in the pool below the falls. If you choose to jump into the water here, use caution.

Maunawili Falls is a popular place to visit when it’s open. This is why overtime the trails have degraded and currently require rehabilitation.

9. Waipuhia Falls

Credit: TripAdvisor

Waipuhia Falls are accessible by completing a 0.6 mile out and back trail. Access to these trails is restricted by the Board of Water Supply. It’s recommended you seek permission to access the trail to the waterfall before visiting it.

Waipuhia Falls is actually best viewed from afar. Many who have tried to hike to this waterfall that is also known as the “upside down waterfall” have been disappointed what they find up close.

During the rainy season, when the northeasterly trade winds are in full force. The water appears to blow upward, and the waterfall goes the opposite direction of most here. This is how it got its name.

Waipuhia Falls can be viewed driving eastbound toward Kailua, on the right-hand side of the Pali Highway. If you are traveling the Pali Highway during this short window of opportunity to view the waterfall, keep your eyes open. This is a sight that you won’t want to miss.

10. Waimea Falls

Waimea Falls, also sometimes referred to as Waihi Falls is located in a culturally and historically significant location. The waterfall is accessible by taking a 3.5-mile hike on a flat paved trail.

The Audubon Society once managed this archeological site. Currently is known as Waimea Valley and no longer an Audubon Center. A fee is needed to visit this rich historical and cultural site managed by Hi’ipaka LLC.

The waterfall is 45 feet. If you prefer not to hike, there is a shuttle to the falls. This shuttle is recommended for families with young children and elderly visitors. Swimming is allowed in the park and at the falls. You are required to wear a life preserver to swim here, for safety.

The hike to Waimea Falls is very dense and lush. This makes the area prime for mosquitoes to thrive. If you are visiting this waterfall in Oahu, bug spray is highly recommended.

11. Koloa Gulch

Koloa Gulch is a hidden waterfall that is great for those looking for a full day adventure. The hike is 8-10 miles depending on if you choose to hike past the main waterfall that stands over 60 feet tall.

The hike is not for the unfit. In addition to being 8+ miles, there are over 24 stream crossings required to reach the falls. Rock hopping is part of the adventure to reach this waterfall, as well.

If it rains on your hike, you must be aware of flash flood risks. To avoid getting caught in a flash flood, check the weather before you go.

If you are looking for a remote hike, away from population, during your visit to Oahu, Koloa Gulch is an excellent stop. It allows you insight into the natural world of Oahu and offers visitors an adventure!

Related Read: Top 10 Volcanoes in Hawaii

12. Waikahalulu Falls

Waikahalulu Falls is an urban waterfall. It’s on Nu’uanu Stream in Honolulu. It’s near the gorgeous Lili’uokalani garden. The waterfall is not very tall, compared to others in the region. Waikahalulu Falls is only about 10 feet tall.

It is known for the gardens surrounding it. This waterfall is a great place to have a picnic. Swimming is not recommended here. Pollution is an issue in the waters due to its urban setting.

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