Make the most of your time on the islands with this list of the four best Oahu waterfalls. Don’t miss your chance to see these natural beauties!
The Best Waterfalls in Oahu
Although you’ll have to hike to reach several of the falls on this list, the waterfalls in Oahu are some of the most accessible in the world. Many of these waterfalls have trails that lead right to the base.
These must-see Oahu’s waterfalls include:
- Manoa Falls
- Ko’olau Waterfalls
- Waimea Falls
- Lulumahu Falls
Hopefully, you’ll have time to visit several of the falls on this list. But if you only have time for one, make sure to check out the “Flowing to an End” section of this post for our top-pick, best-of-the-best waterfall in Oahu.
Manoa Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls on Oahu and is certainly the most visited waterfall in Honolulu. The hike leading to the waterfall is short and well marked.
Ease of Access: Very accessible for seniors and children when conditions are dry. Two-mile hike
Location: From Waikiki, make your way to Punahou Street. Punahou becomes Manoa Road as you leave the inner city. The waterfall hike begins at the very end of Manoa Road, about 20 minutes outside of Waikiki.
Best Times To Visit: This waterfall gets extremely crowded on weekends and weekdays from 9:30 – 3:30. Your best bet for beating the crowds is early on weekdays.
Cost: $5.00 parking, trail free
Swimming Allowed: Not recommended (If crowds kill your fun… 👨👨👧👧👨👩👦👨👩👧👦👨👩👦👦 = 😖)
You’ll definitely want to go on a weekday or early in the morning. This is an extremely popular Honolulu waterfall hike which means it’s always crowded on weekends, peak hours, and sunny days.
When you arrive at the waterfall, you’ll probably notice two things: signs saying no swimming and a lot of people swimming. While you’re not likely to get a ticket for swimming here, Shaka Guide still wouldn’t recommend swimming at the base of this waterfall.
On dry days the sediment holding rocks in place can crumble and cause large boulders to fall. In addition, dry conditions cause stagnation. When stagnation occurs the base of the fall does not flow which allows bacteria to multiply.
Rain isn’t your friend here, either.
Heavy rain can also cause this pool to flow rapidly without warning, so wet days are also a serious hazard that can result in injury.
There’s a dedicated parking lot for Manoa Falls which costs five dollars. Alternatively, if you have a bus pass and would like to avoid the fee, you can take the Five bus and get off at the Manoa Road and Kumuone Opp stop.
If you continue along Manoa Road on foot you can get to the trail head in about fifteen minutes. If you’re lucky, you might see some local wildlife along the way such as the invasive mongoose or the car-less University of Hawaii student. Fascinating.
There’s plenty of cultural fascination, as well.
The Manoa Falls trail is extremely old and has roots in Hawaiian culture as an ancient travel route. Moana Falls are also of more contemporary cultural significance as a popular film set. Jurassic Park and The Hunger Games both have scenes filmed at Manoa Falls.
These falls aren’t easy to hike to, but they’re super easy to enjoy from afar right from the highway.
Ease of Access: Visible from main roads
Location: Ko’olau Mountain Ranges, seen easiest along H3
Shaka Guide Tour: Circle Island Tour
Best Times To Visit: Rainy winter season (November – March), preferably during or immediately after a heavy rain
Swimming Allowed: Not accessible
Timing is everything if you want to see the Ko’olau Falls. More often than not, they’re completely dry. But if you are able to time a viewing of these falls right, they are really something special.
One sure fire way to see them is to drive along the H3 highway during a heavy downpour. If you take Shaka Guide’s Circle Island Tour during the wet season you should also have a solid chance of seeing them!
Enjoy the easy hike to these waterfalls and take dip in the pools when you reach the falls.
Ease of Access: Easy for the whole family
Location: Traveling along Highway 83, turn onto Waimea Valley Road just before or after the bridge near Waimea Bay Beach Park. Waimea Valley Park is at the end of the road. The GPS address is Waimea Valley Road, Haleiwa, Hawaii 96712.
Shaka Guide Tour: Circle Island Tou
Best Times To Visit: Open from 9:00 to 5:00 seven days a week
Cost: $17 for nonresidents of Hawaii
Swimming Allowed: With life vest
The Waimea Valley was once a drive-in experience. Tourists would drive right up to the fall and watch entertainers perform stunts and dances. Over the years, this experience fallen out of fashion and closed.
But the community turned things around! 🙌🏼👍🏼🙏🏼
The valley suffered from neglect and liter for years before being repurposed as a non-profit natural and cultural experience. The proceeds from this park all go toward protecting and promoting Hawaiian culture and the Native Hawaiian community.
Your entrance fee includes a beautiful stroll through the Waimea Valley Botanical Gardens as well as several talks and tours that are held throughout the day.
The hike is about 1.9 miles round trip along the gardens. If you wish to swim at the base of the fall, you’ll be asked to wear a life jacket by park staff.
If you’re looking for a real adventure, this unofficial, little-marked waterfall hike across several terrains might be exactly what you’re looking for!
Ease of Access: Unofficial, unmarked, muddy, mostly flat but still somewhat difficult
Location: Trailhead on Pali Highway before the Pali Lookout, you’ll see a large gravel parking lot.
Shaka Guide Tour:
Best Times To Visit: Lulumahu is best visited during the dry summer season because the trail gets extremely muddy and the streams become dangerous during heavy rains. Go early to avoid the crowds!
Swimming Allowed: Yes
How do you find these glorious Oahu waterfalls?
You should park at the gravel parking lot off of Pali Highway that’s often used to access Kaniakapupu Ruins. You’ll notice an opening in the fence at the back end of the lot with a sign that says property of Board of Water Supply. That’s your trailhead.
Although the trail is heavily trafficked, you’ll still want to do a fair bit of research online before you set off since it’s easy to get turned around.
Looking for landmarks?
You should go through a bamboo jungle, across an open field with rolling hills, up stone steps, past a bridge to a fenced-in tower, by a beautiful wall of graffiti, through a muddy jungle, and across a rocky stream all before you arrive at the gorgeous 50-foot waterfall.
There are pink ties that mark the way, so keep close to those and you shouldn’t have a problem!
Flowing to an End: Final Thoughts on the Best Waterfalls In Oahu
You might also want to check out Waimano Falls, Sacred Falls, Laie Falls, and Waipuhai Falls, each of which brings something unique to the world.
Which Oahu waterfall is best?
As promised, the number-one overall best waterfall in Hawaii is…
Drum roll, please 🥁🥁🥁
Lulumahu for its variety, sense of adventure, and sheer height! If you only have time for one waterfall adventure, we’d recommend this one.
If you aren’t able to make it to any of the waterfalls in Oahu during your stay, don’t worry, you’re sure to see some waterworks in the mirror just before you leave for the airport. 👋🏼🏄🏼♀️😢
For a more immersive experience, download the Shaka Guide Oahu Tours. We actually visit a few of the falls listed above, as well as some hidden gems including hikes and other fun adventures!