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Oahu Waterfalls
Discover Hidden, Sacred & Secret Spots

waimea waterfall oahuThere are lots of hidden and tucked away Oahu waterfalls to hike but the 3 main ones are Manoa valley, Waimea valley and Sacred Falls. They all have different experiences too depending on what you're up for.

Manoa valley waterfall is a jungle, rainforest hike, Waimea valley is a paved walk through a manicured and tamed but beautiful valley and Sacred Falls is a super-high, steep, vertical-drop waterfall that can only be experienced by air from a helicopter.

I say do all 3. You can hike Manoa and Waimea on your own or go with a guide but unless you know how to fly a helicopter you'll have to go on a helicopter tour.

 


Manoa Valley Waterfall

First up on my list of favorite Oahu waterfalls is Manoa waterfall in Manoa valley located above the University of Hawaii at Manoa at the top of a ridge.

If driving just take University Avenue all the way up until it dead ends at the parking lot by the jungle. manoa waterfall The bus #5 will take you here. This is a dirty, probably muddy hike depending on how much it rains.

The waterfall is located at the back of the rainforest so expect that it's probably been raining at least overnight.

The hike is about 1.5 mile and consists of some inclines but nothing major or too strenuous. I would wear closed toe shoes because there are some exposed roots on the trail and the dirt and mud.

If you are going on an organized hike with a guide the professional companies will require it.

I suggest mosquito repellant too. The sun isn't much of a problem since it's mostly blocked out by all of the trees.

I felt like a kid on an amazing fieldtrip. I saw plants with leaves as big as my head and bamboo that stretched up as far as I could see.

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Rainforest in Manoa ValleyCreek Running Through ManoaHiking Terrain in Manoa
Rainforest in Manoa ValleyCreek Running Through Manoa Hiking Terrain in Manoa


It looked like something out of a cartoon or National Geographic. They've actually done some filming for the tv show Lost back here. The hike takes about 30 minutes to get to the 150ft waterfall. Once there you'll be treated to an incredible thundering rush of water cascading down the side of rocks and into a natural pool.

I don't recommend swimming in it because of the possibility of letospirosis and it is cold to me. Manoa valley is about 20 minutes above Waikiki and is actually a series of valleys with waterfalls but the first one is the free one that is open to the public.

There is one company with private granted access if you would like to tour with them for a less-crowded, unique experience.

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Waimea Valley Waterfall

Waimea valley waterfall is also very pretty and calming. It's number 2 on my list of Oahu waterfalls. I wouldn't call it a hike though since you could push a baby stroller on its path and wear everyday sandals. waimea valley waterfall

The stroll to the waterfall through the "Valley of the Priests" is about 0.75 mile and takes about 30 minutes to do and has a small pond and swimming hole.

Run by the audubon society the 1,875 acre park is immacutely maintained with peacocks running about spreading their plume, ducks and swans and beautiful native Hawaiian flowers.

There are little ponds, side paths, beaches and concession stands. Throughout the day are activities, lei making and hula lessons. Also for your comfort is a souvenir shop, restaurant and restrooms.

Within Waimea valley is a collection of 35 gardens spread over 150 acres showcasing one of the most extensive varieties of Polynesian plants and flowers in the world.


waimea valley peacockwaimea valley gardenwaimea valley red ginger
Peacock in the ValleyTropical Gardens to Walk ThroughGinger Seen in the Valley


Waimea valley is a very sacred and ancient valley bordering the famous Waimea Bay on the north shore you can feel this special presence of spirit or mana as you make your way to the waterfall.

Though not as tall as Manoa the 45ft waterfall is no less beautiful in its own way. The amount of rain they've been getting will determine how full and lush the waterfall is. I enjoy the walk to Waimea valley waterfall more but like the actual waterfall at Manoa more due to its height and lushness.

I wouldn't even call it a hike, it is more a pretty walk. If you're not the rugged hiking path type and don't want to get dirty this is the perfect option. Waimea Valley is open daily from 9am-5pm. Get free admission with the Go Card.

Also consider seeing it as part of a Circle Island, Waterfall & Shrimp Truck Tour OR do a North Shore Snorkel & Waterfall Safari combo.


Sacred Falls

Last but not least of Oahu waterfalls is the mouth-dropping 1100ft Sacred Falls waterfall. sacred falls

No one is allowed to hike to it anymore due to a landslide in 1999 on Mother's Day that killed and injured many.

For this reason you must now take a helicopter and I can't imagine any other way to see it. You will be high above Sacred Falls on the windward coast near Kualoa Ranch.

That view peering down the steepest, tallest, greenest valley you could imagine with a waterfall cascading down makes you truly marvel at all that is possible on this planet earth.

It is as if you are a living, breathing part of that poster showing a similar image of Hawaii and NOW YOU ARE FINALLY HERE experiencing it first hand. It's one of those I could die and go to heaven tomorrow moments because you have done something incredible on the bucket list...You get the idea.

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Other Waterfalls

There are other hidden Oahu waterfalls but I'm not necessarily going to recommend that you go out of your way to see them. I've given you the best 3.

I've done Maunawili waterfall and that hike was incredible through the rainforest but it is hard in the sense that there was a lot of crab-crawling over boulders and rocks through the creek to get there and crawling along narrow ledges and such. maunawili waterfall

I'm glad I did it but don't wish to do it again as the amount of drama and time (@ 3.5 hours roundtrip) I had to go through to get to a so-so waterfall by Hawaiian standards wasn't worth it.

I did like the seclusion of it. Anyway, save that kind of effort for Kauai.

If you decide to go ahead and do it go with a guide because it is soooo easy to get lost.

I recommend hiking sandals like the Teva for that because you feet will get wet-very wet. You're hiking through and up streams at certain points.

As far as I know there is nowhere to officially pull over to observe it.


Another of Oahu's waterfalls worth a mention is the Upside Down waterfall off of the Pali expressway in the eastbound direction towards Kailua.

You'll probably have to be on a tour with a guide to point it out because it's easy to miss. oahu waterfalls Most people don't go to it but merely observe it on the way to somewhere else from the car window.

Falling over the edge of a cliff off of Mount Konahuanui for a few feet the wind blows it back upward thus giving the impression that it is upside down.

It's very creative name is Upside Down Falls.

My other honorable mention of Oahu waterfalls around the corner from the Pali lookout. It's only gushing and going off really after super-heavy rain but so worth it.

As you're facing the view at the Pali lookout there is a little path that continues off to the right. If you follow this path for about 15 minutes eventually you will come to where the waterfall is gushing under the road where you are standing and down into the valley below.

You'll pass another waterfall on the way but this one which needs no explanation is THE one. It is so pretty and unexpected and usually not there but if it's a very rainy day or has been raining for days you're in for a treat.

If you were driving on the Pali Highway headed back into Honolulu and looked off to the side it would look like one of the many wild, cascading Oahu waterfalls down the side of the mountain that form after excessive rain but this one you can get up close to. It'll make you cheer and shout and you can take pictures with it right behind you!

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