The Mānoa Valley is a quiet, peaceful community that is home to the University of Hawai‘i’s main campus, idyllic pre-war homes, lush valley walls, a historic cemetery, and a nature preserve. As the valley walls converge on the central spine of the towering wall of the Koolau Mountains, they give birth to countless waterfalls with every extended rainfall. One of the most permanent and most visited is the towering cataclysm of Mānoa Falls, a 100-foot high single-tailed waterfall that can be a raging torrent during the wet season (November through March) or a stately trickle down the rock face during the summer.
The waterfall is located at the back of the valley, in the heart of a lush forest beside the Lyon Arboretum. It is an easy walk (though it can be muddy at times), topping out at 1.6 miles roundtrip, a portion of which is on a raised wooden boardwalk. There is parking on the last residential street (a 0.4-mile hike to the trailhead) or you can pay $5 to park at the trailhead itself. After applying liberal coats of insect repellant, follow the read and bear right (there are signs) until you can disappear into the green void and start walking toward the mountain.
The initial portion of the hike has been recently covered in gravel to mitigate the muddy conditions (it can be quite wet back here; it is a tropical forest and a waterfall, after all). The gravel path gives way to a bridge that leads you over a streambed and into bamboo groves and clumps of fruit trees. The air is thick with the scent of the jungle, from wild ginger to guava to lilikoi. After a massive bamboo thicket you will know you have arrived when you hit a section full of banyan tree roots and hear the sound of the gushing stream and tumbling falls ahead.
Manoa Falls Honolulu
Mānoa Falls is the culmination of the collected rainfall high above on the Ko`olau Mountains. The final plummet is over 100’, and during periods of high flow it is quite impressive. Visitors can get fairly close to the falls and the collecting pool, though it has been cordoned off at the base since a rockslide in 2002.
Getting to Mānoa Falls is relatively easy, simply take the H1 East and exit at University. Proceed to the back of Mānoa Valley as University Ave. turns into O‘ahu Ave. Veer right onto Mānoa Ave. at the 5-way intersection, and continue back until you pass Waakaua Street; once there, you will see signs for parking. Drive time from Ko Olina is approximately 40 minutes.