1. Mānoa Falls Trail
Round-trip: 1.7 miles
One of O‘ahu’s most well-trod paths, the Mānoa Falls Trail reopened in June 2021 following a 2-year closure to make improvements such as graveled, widened paths and rockfall-mitigation fences. Visitors walk through an open shipping cargo container and later emerge into a lush, picture-perfect valley.
You’ll head up a gradual slope past bamboo forests, banyan trees, and giant ferns to a 150-foot waterfall. The stream width depends on recent rainfall. TV and movie buffs might recognize the iconic waterfall from movies such as Jurassic Park and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and TV shows like Lost and Hawaii 5-0.
If you go: $7 parking ($5 for kama‘āina) at the Paradise Park lot, which is open 8 a.m.–6 p.m.
2. Waimea Valley
Round-trip: 2 miles
The North Shore’s Waimea Valley Trail is a family-friendly trek to a cascading, rain-fed, 45-foot waterfall and a 30-foot-deep swimming hole. Stroll along the wide, paved path that winds through the botanical gardens and historical sites, including an AD 1470 heiau and pōhaku (stone) shrines dedicated to the fishing god Kū‘ula.
Swimming might be allowed, depending on the waterfall conditions (call 808-638-7766 to check before visiting). Life vests are required.
If you go: Open 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Adults, $25 (kama‘āina, $10).
3. Waimano Falls Trail
Round-trip: 2.9 miles
Hit the trail to this waterfall with a bathing suit and towel. Located near Pearl City, the trail starts off relatively easy, with a wide, even path that wraps around the summit and offers expansive views of the ‘Ewa Forest Reserve.
The track eventually narrows into a challenging, steep, downhill section, with rope guides for some of the sharper drops. The payoff for weary hikers is a tiered waterfall that flows into 3 inviting pools.
If you go: If you want to swim in a full pool, plan your hike for a day after a rain.
4. Waipo‘o Falls via Pu‘u Hinahina
Round-trip: 2.8 miles
Even before you begin this hike, you can enjoy a panoramic view of Waimea Canyon (also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific) from the Waimea Canyon Lookout. A dramatic 800-foot waterfall is visible in the distance. But don’t let the epic appetizer dissuade you from taking the hike itself.
After stopping at the overlook, drive about 3.5 miles north to the trailhead at the Pu‘u Hinahina Lookout, which connects a new half-mile Spur Trail to the Canyon Trail. The hike takes you through a tree-shrouded rain forest and passes a couple of smaller waterfalls before arriving at the top of Waipo‘o Falls.
If you go: Park at the Pu‘u Hinahina lot. Parking, $10 (free for kama‘āina). Entrance fee, $5 (free for kama‘āina). Credit card only.
5. Uluwehi Falls via Wailua River
Round-trip: 6 miles
You’ll paddle upstream along the usually calm Wailua River for about 2 miles. You’ll then veer right at the fork and paddle along the river, flanked by lush vegetation, for 5 to 10 minutes, before reaching a bank where you can park your kayak.
The roughly 0.75-mile trail crosses a typically shallow section of North Fork Wailua River and passes through the dense jungle toward a wooden walkway. Climb the short, steep embankment before arriving at the towering waterfall.
If you go: Guided tours: Adults, approximately $120.
6. Waimoku Falls via Pipiwai Trail
Round-trip: 3.8 miles
Located within Haleakalā National Park, Waimoku Falls—one of Maui’s tallest—is a must-stop along the Road to Hāna. The Pipiwai Trail features 4 highlights: a majestic banyan tree, a bridge overlooking a smaller waterfall, a boardwalk through an enchanting bamboo forest, and, of course, the captivating 400-foot waterfall. This well-maintained trail is easy to follow.
If you go: $30 per vehicle, or $15 if you’re on foot. The Haleakalā National Park entry fee is good for 3 consecutive days.
7. Pua‘a Ka‘a Falls Trail
Round-trip: 0.4 mile
Near mile marker 22.5 on the Road to Hāna, you’ll find a quiet park with a refreshing oasis: a pair of 25-foot waterfalls. A paved trail takes you to the first waterfall, which is visible from the road, and leads to a stream and the second waterfall. The 5-acre park is a great place to have a picnic lunch with views of the waterfalls (swimming not allowed).
If you go: The Pua‘a Ka‘a State Wayside includes parking, bathrooms, and picnic tables.
8. Waihe‘e Ridge Trail
Round-trip: 5 miles
You’ll feel like you’re on the top of the world when you hike the Waihe‘e Ridge Trail in the West Maui Forest Reserve. The trek starts off on an uphill path and leads through the flourishing forest.
At the overlook, there’s a bench where you can rest and admire the grand, multitiered 270-foot Makamaka‘ole Falls in the distance. The ridgeline trail, with an elevation gain of more than 1,500 feet, has expansive views of the ocean, Mauna Kahālāwai, and the Waihe'e Valley. By the time you reach the summit, you’ll almost be in the clouds.
If you go: There’s a gravel lot at the trailhead.
9. ‘Akaka Falls Loop Trail
Loop: 0.4 mile
‘Akaka Falls is a tourist favorite for good reason. At 442 feet, it’s the tallest sheer-drop waterfall on Hawai‘i Island. This family-friendly loop trail starts off on concrete stairs and leads to a paved path flanked by fanned-out ferns and tropical rain forest foliage. There are lookouts with views of the smaller 300-foot Kahuna Falls, as well as the ‘Akaka Falls that plunge into a stream-eroded gorge.
If you go: Parking, $10 (free for kamaʻāina, bring driver’s license). Entrance fee, $5 (free for kama‘āina).
10. Kohala Waterfalls Adventure
Round-trip: 1.5 miles
On this guided Kohala Waterfalls Adventure by Hawaii Forest & Trail, visitors ramble off-road to an exclusive trailhead and hike through a private nature reserve containing trickling streams, native trees, wooden bridges, stone steps, and several waterfalls. You’ll also journey through a restored ancient Hawaiian agricultural site.
The elevation gain on this hike is about 200 feet. The excursion includes a swim under one of the cascading falls. At the end of the hike, guests will enjoy a picnic lunch at an overlook with views of the sea cliffs.
If you go: This is a daylong excursion that lasts about 6 to 7 hours. Adults, $215.
Features editor Rachel Ng loves living within walking distance of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.
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What to know before you go on a waterfall hike
- Always check the weather report before a hike. Flooding can occur if there’s heavy rainfall.
- Some trails can be wet, muddy, and slippery. Wear shoes that have good traction and dry quickly.
- Hiking poles can come in handy for steeper, more challenging hikes.
- Be respectful when driving and parking in residential neighborhoods.
- Keep noise levels to a minimum, and don’t litter.
- Avoid getting into the water if you have an open cut or sore.
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