Manoa Falls Trail



NOTE: Don’t wear your nice shoes because the trail gets very muddy after the rain!


The Manoa Falls Trail is a 1.5 mile out and back trail near Honolulu and is just about as crowded as Diamond Head, except instead of gorgeous views of the Pacific you get to explore the lush rainforest and chase waterfalls. I decided to tag along with some of my friends to this hike on Saturday even though I was feeling pretty sick — you can’t just skip Hawaiian adventures because you aren’t feeling well. And I am so happy that I went! The only other “waterfall hike” I’ve been on since I’ve been on Oahu was the Laie Falls Trail and that one was a little underwhelming to be honest. This waterfall flows 150 feet into a swimmable pool and is a very popular tourist attraction. Always be aware of leptospirosis before jumping in the water, especially in Hawaii. The water was flowing very well and we weren’t really too worried about it anyway.. plus I was already sick so like how bad could it get right?

If you follow the address to the location above, it’ll bring you to the main parking lot which will cost you $5 and might be full. We ended up parking alongside the road in the residential neighborhood before the curvy drive up because we’re cheap. Luckily, our friends pulled up in a truck and we hopped in the back because honestly we’re too lazy to walk that far and the $5 might have been worth it. We parked and quickly started the journey through the rain forest. The beginning of the trail was paved as it curved its way around to the start of the hike. Muddy gravel paved the rest of the trail since it had recently rained – apparently this happens often since it’s a rainforest and all. That rain is what makes it so green and lush and alive. The light humidity and faint mist made it feel as though we were walking right through Jurassic Park and that a Brachiosaurus might just reach out its long neck and snack on some vines from the tallest of the trees.

The trail started to get pretty muddy as we made our way closer to the waterfall, so be sure to watch your step because it can get slippery in spots. We were walking pretty fast on the way up and the humidity made me sweat a bit, but it felt good to get some of my sickness out and breathe in the fresh natural air. It a pretty easy hike that almost anyone can explore! Supposedly they do tours of the trail (aka major tourist attraction), but I suggest just exploring on your own.


We made it to the waterfall and I was impressed that water was actually flowing, and at 150 feet?! It started raining while we were there which was very cleansing and soothing. The only down-side to the hike is that it was a little crowded at the falls and the area was pretty small. We took a few group pictures, observed the beauty and moved on.



My friend Joe mentioned that there was an “Upper Falls”. (Again, remember that I am horrible and never actually research the hikes before I do them…) I still had the impression that this waterfall might be as small as the one in Laie. We decided to follow the instructions from some site Joe found on how to reach the upper falls. It was a little obscure though, and we ended up taking the Aihulama Trail for like half a mile before realizing we probably went way too far. However, that trail is also very beautiful and very very muddy!

Once we realized we were not even close to the right spot, we turned back and retraced our steps. The path to the upper falls is literally right next to the falls on the left side. You will follow the sign to the Aihulama Trail (which we did) but only take like 15 steps rather than like 2,000. There’s an old moss covered sign that says “Restricted Watershed Do not enter without permit” sign marking the (I guess, illegal) route to the top. Some how we ended up getting confused again on the way up, but it really isn’t that difficult. Follow the fence up (watch out because the rocks are unstable) and stay to the right as much as possible. If you’re not confident in your ability to reach back into your childhood tree climbing skills or you don’t trust the stability of the tree roots, I’m sorry but you won’t be able to enjoy the serenity that the upper falls has to offer. We were literally climbing up the tree like Tarzan and Jane. I’m still in awe of how quickly we climbed straight up to the top because the way down took forever as we had to help each other find a good foothold.

The upper falls were incredible. It was just us and the falls, no extra tourist groups or little kids splashing around. Since this waterfall was directly above the lower falls, the water was flowing so quickly and I could more easily justify swimming in the water. I’m glad I didn’t skip out on that experience. We spent a solid half hour up there taking pictures and soaking up the deep greens of the jungle. It took us a bit longer to get down because we had to watch every step, but we all made it out alive!




I definitely recommend this hike to everyone visiting Oahu! It was a beautiful, strong-flowing waterfall and only a short drive from Waikiki. I will definitely be going back to explore some more!



It’s a quick escape from the urban vibe of Honolulu and definitely worth the trip!

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Hawaii Heart - North Carolina Living

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