O‘ahu may be known for its beaches, but its waterfalls are just as stunning. Most of the island’s photo-worthy falls can be combined with an easy to moderate hike, making this a great way to spend an afternoon. So pack a picnic, lace up your hiking boots and head to one of these five great waterfalls:
1. Mānoa Falls
Mānoa Falls is one of the most popular sightseeing destinations on the island, and for good reason. A relatively easy 1.5 mile hike takes you from Mānoa Road, across a bridge, and through the rainforest valley toward the falls. Surrounded by bamboo, banyan trees, guava and eucalyptus, the hike itself is just as enchanting as the destination. Cinema buffs will recognize the famous scenery as backdrops used for filming scenes of Jurassic Park and Lost. Unfortunately a big rock slide in 2002 left the pool strewn with large rocks that make swimming dangerous and prohibited.
2. Maunawili Falls
The 2.5 mile hike to Maunawili Falls covers more challenging terrain, but the payoff is being able to swim in the pools under these stunning falls. Be sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes that you don’t mind getting wet, as you’ll be hiking along a wide, shallow stream that can be rocky and slippery from mud. A couple of stream crossings and a somewhat steep staircase takes you to the scenic Maunawili Falls. Cool off in the pools of this 25-foot waterfall for a refreshing reward for your efforts. There’s also plenty of great photo opportunities along the way with the Ko’olau Range as a beautiful backdrop.
3. Waimea Falls
The hike to Waimea Falls is really more of a pleasurable stroll through a well-kept botanical garden, making this a great hike for families with young children. Maintained by a nonprofit LLC dedicated to preserving the rich cultural history of Waimea Valley, this 1,875 acre valley is the former home to the island’s high priests, who lived and cared for the land through the 1800s. Today the beautiful valley attracts visitors not only to the falls, but also to its botanical gardens, cultural activities, and ancient Hawaiian archeological sites.
4. Sacred Falls
While Sacred Falls State Park has been closed since a major rockslide in 1999 and hiking is strictly illegal, you may want to consider a helicoptor tour to view the stunning 1,000 foot falls from above. Viewing O’ahu’s impressive topography by helicopter is an unforgettable vacation activity that often tops visitors’ lists.
5. Ko’olau Range
The Ko’olau mountain range dominates the eastern half of the Island. When it rains, you can see a spectacular set of parallel waterfalls cascading over the range from the eastern side of O‘ahu. Of course the Ko’olau Range is spectacular on sunny days, too!