Manoa Falls is a short, but moderate hike near Honolulu on Oahu. Since we’d already hiked the more famous Diamond Head, we decided to try Manoa Falls. We loved the hike, but found that many of the sites on the Internet underestimate the difficulty of this hike for families.
First of all, the hike is beautiful. It is through a lush, green tropical rainforest, which is the exact opposite of Diamond Head. This hike also requires a fee, though parking was just $7 when we visited in 2022.
- Distance: 1.7 miles RT
- Election Gain: 633 feet
- Rating: moderate
- Fee: Yes
- Dog-friendly: No
As soon as you get out of the vehicle, you’ll notice the screeching calls of the ghostly white cockatoos. Like almost every animal on the Islands, these birds are non-native, but they are beautiful. If you look up as you walk, you’ll see cockatoos and green parakeets high in the canopy. It is about a hundred yards up the road from the parking lot to the trailhead, which is clearly marked, and the birds seemed to disappear after that, so look for them before you get too far.
The Manoa Falls trailhead is opposite a parking lot for the university. Don’t park there, or you could be towed, so you have to walk up the road to this point. There are actually three parking lots, but they can fill quickly, especially on the weekends.
Pass the trailhead sign, and you will be on a narrow trail. The trail is very rocky, and because of the humidity in the rainforest, there are places that are always wet. Do not wear flip-flops on this trail, or you will almost certainly go down at some point along your hike. This hike is slick and steep, and the rocks are very uneven. It’s just under a mile to the waterfall, but it is a tough mile.
The trail to Manoa Falls climbs steadily, but the last quarter mile, the gradient steepens even further. It seems as if you are walking up a set of stairs. There is plenty of shade along the way, but the humidity is cloying. For those who say this hike is easy, we put it squarely in the “moderate” range. Still, if you take it slowly, your family of able hikers should make it to the waterfall.
At the end of the trail is a lookout point for Manoa Falls. Some people go past the warning signs to the base of the waterfall, but that can be treacherous, so we don’t condone it. The waterfall is narrow and small, at least when we visited in October. But it does cascade an impressive 150 feet. Since it is mostly a freefall, it is very beautiful, and you can see it from the viewpoint rather well.
Be careful on the return trip as it is quite slippery going down. We saw one hiker with a turned ankle being helped down the mountain with her group. Take it slowly, and you’ll be fine. Manoa Falls in Oahu is a great place near Honolulu to enjoy the green scenery of Hawaii.
Tips for Manoa Falls:
- Go early to avoid full parking lots.
- Wear good walking shoes.
- Plan on going slow because of the climb.
- Bring cash or card for the parking fee.
- Obey signs and stay on the trail.