The island of Oahu is home to dozens of breathtaking waterfalls tucked away in lush valleys and along rugged cliffs. For those looking to chase these cascading beauties, I’ve compiled this guide to the top 6 best waterfalls in Oahu. From roadside gems to challenging multi-hour treks, these waterfalls showcase the incredible natural landscapes of the island.
6 Amazing Waterfall in Oahu, Hawaii to Visit
Manoa Falls is likely Oahu’s most popular and accessible waterfall, making it a must-visit. The well-defined 2.7km trail takes about 1-2 hours round trip with 210m of elevation gain. Sections of the jungle hike will look familiar to Jurassic Park fans since scenes were filmed along the route.
The 150ft waterfall cascades down a sheer rockface covered in moss and ferns into a crystal clear pool, perfect for taking a brisk dip. The short, moderate hike and gorgeous payoff make Manoa Falls ideal for families and those short on time.
Arrive early, as the small parking area fills up. Or consider a guided hike that also includes nearby Diamond Head. This convenient pairing shows off two quintessential Oahu sights in one day.
For a taste of Oahu’s rugged wilderness just minutes from downtown Honolulu, head to Waimano Falls.The trail begins innocuously enough in a green space nestled among suburbs. But soon the sounds of the city fade as the route plunges into dense forest.
Streams crisscross the muddy trail leading to the waterfall’s twin pools. Look up in awe at the 150ft falls as the water thunders down in a narrow chasm. Be ready to get wet on the final slippery approach. The dark natural pools are irresistible on a hot day.
At just under 2 miles round trip, this is a quick but adventurous hike suitable for fit beginners. Go during the week to avoid crowds clambering over the boulders around the pools.
On Oahu’s windward side, Maunawili Falls is tucked within a broad valley. Though popular, the 2.5 mile round trip hike feels surprisingly wild and isolated. Follow red-dirt trails cutting through emerald foliage, sloshing through mud and stream crossings.
As the trail nears the falls, the valley narrows between vine-strewn cliffs. From here, a short spur trail leads to the base of the lovely 20ft falls. Gather the courage to join locals cliff jumping from one of the lower ledges into the pool below.
Arrive early on weekends when limited parking fills up fast. Consider leaving the crowds behind by continuing 1.5 miles further up the valley to supply refreshing dips at the smaller upper falls.
Families flock to Waimea Falls and for good reason. Instead of a strenuous hike, it’s just a short paved walk from the main entrance to the waterfall viewpoint. Continue on another 10 minutes to the base of the 45ft falls, spilling into a large swimming hole. Lifeguards watch over the popular spot.
The falls are part of a botanical garden and cultural center in Waimea Valley. Explore traditional Hawaiian sites and structures spread amongst the lush vegetation. Try a guided canoe tour down the river ending under the Waimea Falls for a fun perspective from below.
With so much to see and do, you can easily spend half a day at Waimea Falls. Arrive in the morning to enjoy both natural scenery and cultural exhibits.
Waiāhole Valley Waterfalls
Two lesser-known falls hide within Oahu’s Waiāhole Valley, promising a day of adventure away from crowds. Reaching them takes effort over 7 total miles of hiking, but the payoff is immense.
Uwauka Falls tumbles 200ft over a sheer cliff, collecting in crystal clear pools ideal for swimming. Continue further up the valley to the taller Waianu Falls, plunging 335ft in a thin ribbon.
Finding the falls takes route finding and stream crossings, making a guide advisable. Expect muddy conditions after rain. The challenging trek showcases Oahu’s untamed valleys perfect for experienced hikers seeking solitude.
A family-friendly hike on Oahu’s eastern coast leads to the delicate tiered cascade of Lulumahu Falls. Though the falls are modest compared to some on this list, their graceful beauty makes the 2 mile round trip worthwhile.
The first section follows a wide gravel road, crossing a scenic rim overlooking the coast. Lush vegetation surrounds the trail as is passes through forest dotted with guava trees. Listen for the falls before catching sight of them tumbling 50ft into a shallow pool.
Visit this peaceful spot on a sunny morning before clouds blot out views. Or for more adventure continue another mile uphill beyond the falls to a swimming hole at the base of summiting the ridgeline.
Experience Oahu’s Waterfalls
This covers Oahu’s top waterfalls from family-friendly roadside attractions to challenging treks deep into secluded valleys. By picking the waterfall hike that matches your interests and fitness level, you’re guaranteed an incredible experience. Just come prepared with proper footwear, water, and snacks. Oahu’s tropical environment can turn rough quickly. But take care and the island’s cascading falls will provide memories that will last a lifetime.