12 Stunning Waterfalls on Oahu
Author Meagan Drillinger explored Oahu's waterfalls as part of her adventures across the Hawaiian islands in January and February 2023.
Like Hawaii's many islands, Oahu is one that is rich in stunning waterfalls. The mountainous, volcanic island is veined with rivers and streams that wind their way through thick jungle before spilling over the side of rocky cliffs. The sheer number of waterfalls is part of the allure of the island of Oahu.
For an island so saturated with waterfalls, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Some are easily accessible — quite literally gushing along the side of a highway or in the heart of Honolulu— while others take a bit more legwork to reach. Whether you're looking to spend the day hiking to hard-to-reach waterfalls, or you simply want to snap a quick Instagram shot while driving the Pali Highway, Oahu has a waterfall for you.
Are you ready to begin your quest for falls? Read on to discover our guide to the best waterfalls on Oahu.
1. Manoa Falls
Ask anyone from Honolulu what their favorite local falls are, and they'll likely say Manoa Falls. This dramatic waterfall can be found at the end of a beautiful hike through the lush, tropical rainforest within the Round Top Forest Reserve.
The hike to the falls is like stepping into a Jurassic Park set. Thick trees cocooned in hanging vines create a dense overhang across the trail. If you're looking for that iconic tropical rainforest backdrop, the hike to Manoa Falls is it.
The entire hike is less than two miles out and back, but before you turn around, you will be blessed with the 150-foot drop of Manoa Falls. The intensity of the falls is heavily dependent on how much rainfall there has been. The amount of rainfall also dictates how muddy the trail will be. Hint: It can be very, very muddy.
Manoa Falls has been a favorite waterfall for resident Hawaiians long before the tourists ever heard about the trail. Today it is still a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of downtown Honolulu.
2. Waimea Falls
Up on Oahu's North Shore, the Waimea Valley is one of the most beautiful slices of nature you'll find anywhere on the Hawaiian islands. The extremely historic and important valley has been transformed into a center of discovery and learning.
Within the valley are gorgeous botanical gardens, spectacular mountain scenery, and Waimea Falls. The journey to the falls is labeled a hike but, in reality, it's more of a mile-long stroll through the gardens that ends at the plunging waterfall.
The waterfalls drop 45 feet and, depending on the season, visitors can swim in the pool at the base of the waterfalls. The water comes from the Kamanui Stream, which comes from the Koolau Mountains down to the Waimea River and out into the ocean.
Today visitors need to pay an entrance fee of $25 per person in order to access the Waimea Valley. In addition to the falls are cultural programs, a farmers market, workshops, and other seasonal events.
Address: 59-864 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, Hawaii
3. Lulumahu Falls
What's special about Lulumahu Falls is that it's a little bit of a scavenger hunt to find it. The trail to the falls starts at an unmarked parking lot off the Pali Highway outside of Honolulu, and the trek through the thick forest is full of stream crossings and rock scrambling before you reach the impressive waterfall.
Lulumahu is certainly one of the best falls on Oahu thanks to its remote, rugged location, as well as its impressive height. The actual length of the trail is 1.5 miles round trip, but within that period, you'll gain 900 feet of elevation while crossing streams, meandering through bamboo forest, hopping over rocks, and navigating muddy paths.
The trail can be a bit confusing to follow, but the easy answer to that is to keep following the stream. The waterfalls are at the end of the trail and cascade down in several tiers. Climb up the rocks, and you'll see the origin of the falls, which is quite mesmerizing and worth the adventure.
Address: 4459 HI-61, Honolulu, Hawaii
4. Likeke Falls
An easy 25-minute hike through the thick jungle will lead travelers to Likeke Falls. This beautiful waterfall is one of the best waterfalls to find near Honolulu. The stunning waterfall can be accessed from the parking lot of the Ko'olau Golf Club.
The trail winds up into the forest for about 25 minutes before emerging at the cascading falls. An alternative option is to hike down from the Old Pali Highway from the Pali Lookout, which takes about an hour and a half.
If you're short on time, the easy way is still a lot of fun and ensures you'll see the falls with plenty of time to spare for the rest of the day. Just be sure to watch the trail. A blue arrow painted on a tree will guide you to the right. If you miss the arrow, the trail starts to climb up into the mountains and can be rather confusing.
Just remember that the trail to Likeke is pretty easy and does not have much incline. If you start to feel like you've climbed too high, you've probably missed the turn.
Address: 45-550 Kionaole Road, Kaneohe, Hawaii
5. Kapena Falls
You won't have to go far from Honolulu to discover Kapena Falls. In fact, the waterfalls are located right in the city. The very short trail to the falls is only a third of a mile out and back and leads directly to the beautiful waterfall.
Compared to other Hawaii waterfalls, Kapnea may seem small at only 20 feet high, but it's definitely a lovely one. A small pool at the bottom is great for a dip, too. This is a perfect waterfall to take kids to, as the trail is really easy, and it's a safe swimming opportunity. You don't even have to pay for parking, which is a rarity on Oahu.
You may see some people at the falls jumping from the 35-foot cliff into the pool below. If you're an experienced jumper, go for it! But it's a tricky spot to jump into, so only do so if you have experience or have a local with you to show you where to jump.
Address: Alapena Pool, Honolulu, Hawaii
6. Ginger Pool
On your way back from Lulumahu Falls, you can make an easy stop at the Ginger Pool. This small, 10-foot waterfall is located just off the side of the road as you leave from the Pali Highway and head back to Honolulu. You can park along the side of the road and walk down the small path towards the falls.
What's great about the falls is that it plunges into a swimming hole that is about eight feet deep — perfect for jumping into, and safe to do so. If you see the rope swing, definitely use it. Surrounding the falls are beautiful trees, including bamboo and eucalyptus.
It's a quiet, serene spot that, legend has it, was popular among Hawaiian royals who came to relax and listen to the sounds of the cascading water. It's easy to see why. Close your eyes, and you'll forget that a city of steel skyscrapers is just a quick shot down the road.
7. Waikahalulu Falls
Surrounded by the busy streets of Honolulu is the tranquil urban oasis of Lili'uokalani Gardens. Within the gardens, you'll find Waikahalulu Falls. Legend has it that the falls were a favorite spot of the Queen when she needed a moment in nature.
The waterfalls are small at 10 feet high but beautiful, as they are surrounded by lush, tropical greenery. The water spills over the lip of the rocks and plunges into a beautiful pool below.
Most visitors to the falls come to have a picnic alongside the Nu'uanu Stream and to enjoy the tropical scenery of the beautifully landscaped gardens.
When you're done admiring the falls, all you have to do is hop back out to the streets of Honolulu and continue on with your day. It's a perfect spot to take a break from sightseeing that doesn't require much navigation to find.
Address: 300 Wai Nani Way, Honolulu, Hawaii
8. Kaipapau Falls
Many of Oahu's great waterfalls take a little extra effort to access. Kaipapau Falls is one of them, but worth the adventure for a gorgeous payout.
Kaipapau Falls is at the end of an 8.5-mile trek with lots of boulder hopping and stream crossing along the way. The trail follows along the Kaipapau Gulch through the thick, verdant jungle before reaching the impressive 90-foot waterfall.
Keep in mind that this is a difficult trail and the entire out-and-back adventure can take up to seven hours. What makes it so long is that the trail is quite challenging, with lots of rocks to scramble over and periods where you'll have to cross the stream. Be sure to do this hike on a dry day to avoid any risk of flash flooding. Proper footwear is a must, as well.
9. Waimano Falls
One of the most popular falls to visit on Oahu is Waimano Falls. Hidden away in a residential section of Oahu, near Pearl City, this waterfall is at the end of a 2.9-mile out-and-back trail.
Because the waterfall sits at the end of a hike that starts in a quiet neighborhood, you won't find much foot traffic. It's a great waterfall to visit if you're looking for a quiet afternoon to yourself. Waimano Falls is also perfect for those who want to take a swim or practice their cliff jumping.
The trail for Waimano Falls starts at the Manana Trail. Keep in mind that the waterfall actually has two separate falls, and the deeper pool is the higher-level pool.
10. Koloa Gulch
While you're emailing Hawaii Reserves, you may want to shoot them a second email to ask about Koloa Gulch. This waterfall on a private reserve is also at the end of an intense trail. Starting at the Koolau Range, the eight-mile out-and-back trail has tons of boulder scrambling and more than 30 stream crossings.
It's not for the faint of heart, but those who do attempt will be rewarded with a 100-foot-tiered waterfall. Keep in mind it does take about five hours to do the hike in its entirety, but the waterfall is absolutely a prize to chase after. Just be sure to watch the weather, as flash floods along the stream do occur.
11. Laie Falls
If you're hooked on longer hikes that lead to amazing waterfalls, Laie Falls will serve up exactly what you're looking for. This eight-mile round-trip hike is seriously dreamy when it comes to surroundings, covering a lot of terrain from jungle to pine forests, undulating red mounds, and lots of intense inclines.
After passing through all these different types of gorgeous terrain, you'll eventually emerge at the 15-foot-tiered waterfall that plunges down into a pool (perfect for swimming, by the way).
The only caveat with this waterfall, though, is that it is on private property, so you will need to request a free permit. You can do so at https://www.hrihelp.com/hiking-camping.
Address: 55-261 Poohaili Street, Laie, Hawaii
12. Waipuhia Falls
Don't worry — not all waterfalls on Oahu are at the end of really long hikes. Waipuhia Falls is one of the easiest waterfalls to access, with a trail that is just over half a mile long.
That said, the trail is a bit hard to find, so beware that you don't get lost while searching for the falls. You'll find the trailhead on the Pali Highway.
Another name for the falls is "upside-down falls" because when the wind blows, it whips the water up into the air giving the illusion that the water is falling up instead of down. While that sounds exciting, the downside (no pun intended) is that when there has not been any rainfall, the waterfall does dry up.