Things to do in Honolulu

Must-Visit Oahu Waterfalls

Visit Oahu’s best waterfalls and absorb the island’s natural beauty.

With hills, valleys, and steep cliffs, Oahu has a number of spectacular waterfalls, and exploring them is one of the most popular things to do in Honolulu.

Hiking enthusiasts of varying skill levels can find trails for every skill set. From serene lakes to beautiful waterfalls, these trails offer breathtaking views and scenic hikes, some of which have been featured in films. Some trails offer opportunities for swimming and divers to plunge from cliff faces into the refreshing waters.

If you’re visiting Oahu, you may wish to leave some room in your itinerary to visit these natural wonders. Their beauty knows no bounds.

Waterfalls in North Shore, Oahu

Oahu's northern shores offer stunning beaches and outdoor adventures. Venture deep into the wilderness for beautiful waterfalls on these Oahu hikes.

1. Waimea Falls

At Waimea Valley, breathtaking views and lush greenery are sights to behold. This cultural destination houses ancient archaeological sites alongside farmlands employing traditional Hawaiian agricultural techniques.

Labels near plants showcase Hawaii's diverse flora. Venture deeper, following the paved path along the Waimea River to reach Waimea Falls. When rain heavily falls, they're an impressive sight. If it hasn't rained recently, the falls trickle or may appear completely dry.

Bring your swimsuit and a towel. Purchasing a ticket grants you access to swim with a life jacket provided. Lifeguards are on duty.

Photographer: Kaitlin Kelly

2. Lulumahu Falls

Visiting Lulumahu Falls in Nuuanu Valley involves 1.5 mi. round-trip hike up 900 ft. This waterfall is on private property, and you need a permit from the Division of Forestry and Wildlife to visit legally. Though it’s worth the view, being mindful and respectful of the surroundings is paramount.

Unfortunately, there is no parking available at this location. The DOFAW recommends getting dropped off to experience this adventure. The entrance is located at an old hunting station off Pali Highway. You can access the trail from there, which leads you to stairs and a narrow path through a bamboo forest.

Keep your eyes open as you go along the path for a small trail that veers off to the left. Follow this trail until you reach a set of stony steps. At the top, you’ll see a dirt path that winds toward the mountains past a reservoir. Continue until you reach a graffiti-covered wall, where you’ll find another set of stone steps leading to yet another trail. This trail will eventually fade to a thin, dirt pathway marked with red ribbons tied to trees.

After following the stream for about 15 minutes, you'll see Lulumahu Falls towering 50 ft. overhead. It runs down a canyon wall webbed with vines and other greenery.

Waterfalls in Windward Oahu

Known as Windward Oahu, the eastern coast boasts deep valleys and verdant cliffs. Climbing to higher elevations takes you away from the beaches and into lands with awe-inspiring waterfalls.

3. Maunawili Falls

The path to Maunawili Falls begins in a quiet neighborhood, with a hand-painted sign. The hike crosses rugged terrain, which is often quite muddy due to regular rainfall.

Be prepared to cross streams by walking through them or hopping from rock to rock. The trail is surrounded by greenery, with winding trails that eventually lead to a 100-yard flight of stairs. As you climb, you will be greeted by stunning jungle and valley views.

Once you reach the top, another flight of stairs brings you back down the other side. They can be rough in places, but you're in the homestretch. Continue along the trail over the boulders and one more stream crossing to reach Maunawili Falls' pool.

Daring adventurers may swim across the pool and climb the rocky cliffs to reach the top. If you'd rather stay dry, another trail winds around the cliff to the top, and you don't have to climb over rocks to get there.

Photographer: Sean

4. Likeke Falls

Two waterfall tiers cascade down the stunning cliffs at Likeke Falls. Depending on whether you depart from the Pali Lookout or the First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu, the journey varies from a 1.5-hour hike to a leisurely 15-minute walk.

The route from the church is the easiest of the two paths, but starting from the lookout provides unforgettable scenic vistas. From the church's parking lot, follow the chain-link fence behind the stop sign and take the trail on your left.

Tropical foliage lines the trail. About five minutes into your trek, you'll reach a T-intersection. Follow the direction of the arrow carved into the tree trunk. Traverse the muddy path, and Likeke Falls comes into view.

Some people climb to the upper pool. However, if you try it, exercise caution. The rocks are often slick with wet moss, and the pool below is too shallow to jump into.

5. Kapena Falls

Kapena Falls sits just outside the city. It's a simple 0.5-mi. hike to the falls, which are nestled between the Pali Highway and the Nuʻuanu Memorial Park & Mortuary.

This popular waterfall has been featured in movies and TV shows, such as The Rundown and Lost. Start at Nuʻuanu Memorial Park's parking lot and follow the Kapena Falls Trail. You'll pass some smaller cascades, including the Alapena Pool.

You'll know you've reached Kapena Falls when you see the two-tiered waterfall pouring into a large pool. Surrounded by jungle foliage, it's a scenic retreat from the nearby urban streets.

A rope invites daring swings and cannonballs into the pool below. As much as we enjoy a good aerial trick, swimming here isn't recommended due to potential leptospirosis contamination.

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6. Waikahalulu Falls

Waikahalulu Falls sits in the Lili'uokalani Botanical Garden in Honolulu's center. Although this urban waterfall is only about ten ft. tall, its history makes it a must-see destination. This was one of Queen Lili'uokalani's favorite picnic spots during her reign. After she passed away in 1917, the city transformed this private garden into a public sanctuary along the Nu'uanu Stream.

After a leisurely 0.5-mi. trek through the botanical garden, Waikahalulu Falls greets you next to sprawling green spaces and native flora. Its gentle trails make it optimal for people looking for things to do in Oahu with kids.

7. Lāʻie Falls

Lāʻie Ridge has a hidden waterfall among its towering trees and steep slopes. However, you need a permit for authorized access to the trails, and you have to park at Lāʻie Park, which is around 0.5 mi. from the trailhead.

A sign marks the entrance point; if you follow this trail, the marked signs point you in the right direction. The path primarily cuts through lush greenery, although expanses of dirt offer stunning vistas.

Eventually, Cook pine trees overtake the path—a sign you're heading in the right direction. Follow the signs along the narrowing trail to reach a downward slope with a drop-off on one side. It's lined with a rope handle. You can hear Lāʻie Falls before you see it, but the blue tint to the pool lets you know when you're in the right place.

Central Oahu Waterfalls

The fertile valleys in central Oahu offer breathtaking scenery with ancient trees and massive waterfalls.

8. Mānoa Falls

Manoa Valley's splendor comes from ethereal banyan trees and verdant undergrowth that transport you into an ancient world. As storytellers, we appreciate the local lore that permeates these lands.

Legend has it that two men lied about having a romantic relationship with Princess Kahalaopuna. Her partner, Kahui, believed the rumors and took the Princesses’ life. In an act of vengeance, Kahalaopuna’s father transformed the two men into the twin peaks located in Manoa, while Kahui ( her partner ) was turned into a shark.

The 100-ft. Mānoa Falls shoots down a sheer cliff face. Its strength depends on recent rainfall, but even if you don't see much on the day you visit, Mānoa Valley's idyllic beauty still inspires awe. Iconic scenes from Jurassic Park have been filmed here.

Photographer: CraigJ

9. ‘Aihualama Falls

Experienced hikers consider the trek to 'Aihualama Falls a worthy challenge, but beginners might want to skip it. Before beginning, you need to make reservations at Lyon Arboretum and sign in at the visitor center.

From the visitor center, two trails eventually lead to the falls. The quickest way takes you along the garden's main trail. Numerous offshoots from the trail wind through other gardens, ripe with rare, native plants.

Stay on the main path until the signs indicate the direction for 'Aihualama Falls. This behemoth's currents depend on recent rain conditions. While you can follow trails beyond 'Aihualama Falls, they're not well-marked, and it's easy to get lost.

10. Waimano Falls

Waimano Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in Oahu, featuring two tiers with their own pools.

The trail is only about three mi. round trip, but it can be muddy and slippery. Tree roots create a natural staircase across many areas, but they're often covered in mud puddles, posing tripping and slipping hazards. -

The trail begins following the same one marked for Mānana Ridge, but nearly one mi. in, a split takes you down a steep slope to the right. Signs guide your way to Waimano Falls.

The lower swimming hole attracts jumpers seeking splashing thrills. Ropes dangle from overhead branches, but they aren't maintained. The upper pool isn't as deep and has a higher drop from the ledge, so it isn't suitable for jumping.

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Une publication partagée par Jonathan Tamayo (@cincotamayo_)

Embracing Oahu's Natural Splendor: A Journey Through Its Enchanting Waterfalls

When you're done exploring Oahu's natural wonders and waterfalls, our shows in Honolulu present a new opportunity for whimsical adventures. Featuring daring performers and stunning feats of artistic athleticism, our tales delight and intrigue viewers.

Discover a world where fantasies become reality. There are no limits on our stage, and we dare to dream big. When you come to see us, you visit a world where nothing is impossible.

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