From twin falls to multi-tiered cascades, Hawaii happens to have the most incredible and awe-inspiring waterfalls of all time, thanks to its piercingly eroded, serrated mountain peaks and bountiful rainfall. The falls are framed with lush valleys, volcanic mountains, and tropical jungles in an epic landscape like no other.
From short and tranquil to tall and powerful falls, there are all kinds of waterfalls throughout the islands. I grew up on Honolulu and have traveled all the islands of Hawaii. I’ve selected the best waterfalls to visit on your next visit:
1. Manoa Falls, Oahu
The 1-mile trail leading to this waterfall is among the most recommended hikes for beginner hikers and those looking for a short up-and-back hike. The hike gives explorers lots of independence to take in the wondrous scenery and leads up to a spectacular waterfall that cascades 150 feet down the mountain ridge. I’ve visited Manoa Falls several times with friends visiting and they all loved it.
The waterfalls are much more vicious during the winter months than during the summer. If you’re a movie buff, you’ll stop and wonder why the lush rainforest environment looks so familiar. The reason is because many of the scenes from the TV series “Lost” and some of the scenes from the original “Jurassic Park” were filmed along the trail.
If you’re looking for a huge payoff for little effort, then this is the place to go.
2. Sacred Falls, Oahu
This is one of the most extraordinary waterfalls in Hawaii. The 4.5-mile trip will require you to walk for 2-3 hours through a narrow gorge and unstable cliffs which make it extremely dangerous to hike on foot. Due to the dangerous nature of the trail leading to the waterfalls, the area is closed to the public. Anyone caught hiking along the trail is subject to significant fines and possible jail term.
The good news is that even though this 1100-foot fall is closed to the public, there’s still an easy, safe and legal way to catch a glimpse of this extraordinary waterfall. There are several companies that treat explorers to the ride of their lifetime by flying above Sacred Falls.
Related: You may also like my guide on the best hidden gems in Hawaii.
3. Wailua Falls, Kauai
Wailua or “2 waters mingling” is one of the most popular waterfalls in Kauai. Its most incredible feature is the two parallel tiers of water that fall and pour down into the Wailua River.
When heavy rains come, the two falls at times merge into one giant gushing torrent of water, which is another natural spectacle to behold.
During ancient times, Hawaiians used to take the 83-foot drop as a test of bravery and adulthood. Today, Wailua Falls can be safely viewed from the road, about three miles up Maalo Road, north of Lihue.
4. Olo’upena Falls, Molokai
This is unofficially branded one of the most magnificent and outstanding waterfalls in all of Hawaii, and the 4th tallest waterfall in the world.
This 2953-foot tall waterfall is found on the northeastern side of Molokai. It is a tiered razor-thin stream flowing along Haloku cliffs, which has been so far marked as one of the tallest seaside cliffs in the world.
The remote Olo’upena Falls has numerous sets of mountains surrounding it making it highly inaccessible, meaning it can only be accessed by air and ocean. Guided cruises and aerial excursions provide you with a breathtaking view of falls.
5. Waialeale Waterfalls, Kauai
Waialeale means “rippling, overflowing water” in Hawaiian, a name that inspired its English nickname “the Weeping Wall.” The waterfall cascades down the magnificence of Mount Waialeale, which is the 2nd highest peak on Kauai.
The mountain goes as high as 5,148 feet and has been marked as one of the wettest parts of the earth, averaging 452 inches of rain annually.
The epic Mount Waialeale has more than 335 rainy days a year, giving rise to endless rainbows and waterfalls streaming down the cliff.
One of the best ways to access the falls is by taking a helicopter tour. However, if you are the adventurous type, you can get there after a long and treacherous hike.
6. Waimoku Waterfalls, Maui
At the head of Ohe’o Gulch, right above Seven Sacred Pools on the road to Hana, lies the mind-blowing Waimoku which happens to be Maui’s tallest waterfall.
The water that gushes down highly depends on the weather. When it rains, the falls are much larger, flowing down a smooth lava rock wall and dropping 400 feet into a boulder-stern pool.
This is a spot worth the hike, but be sure to wear sturdy shoes since there is a high probability of muddy conditions. This fall can be accessed through the Haleakala National Park.
7. Waiilikahi Falls, Hawaii Islands
At the core of Waimanue valley sits the 1080-foot epic Waiilikahi fall that lives up to its hype. It might be one of those highly inaccessible falls, given that you are required to descend into the Wai’pio valley and then find the Muliwai Trail.
For the adventurous and for hiking lovers, here is a chance to veer through the 9-mile stretch along multiple switchback trails to the mind-blowing fall.
Unlike other falls sitting on dry land, this one is green and lush, supporting wild vegetation. If you are an experienced hiker and a lover of adventure, then Waiilikahi will be a ride or die experience for you.
8. Waimea Falls, Oahu
Also locally referred to as Waihi falls, Waimea is a beautiful nature walk located on the North Shore of Oahu. The best part of the fall is that it is not so deep, meaning you can hop into the water. However, be sure to do a test drive on the depth first.
For the experienced swimmer, you can relax and take advantage of the pool at the bottom of the fall. Just next to the falls is the Bay Beach Park which presents its fame for surf during winter, and snorkeling and rock jumping during summer.
Also, be sure to take a pleasurable stroll across the lush botanical gardens and explore hundreds of plant species.
9. Waimano Falls, Oahu
Soak yourself in the 3-mile round trip hike towards Waimano falls, and get the pleasure of soaking off your sweat in the free-flowing falls and two pools at the end of the trail. Here, you find your way to the astounding falls through a canopy of evergreen forest.
Of all the waterfalls Oahu presents, this is the best for cliff climbing. For adrenaline hunters and high-spirited people who love to push their limits, the 15 to 20-foot jump that ranges from easy-medium to hard awaits.
Tap into the pleasure of the soft-bottomed watering hole after your hike. If you are looking for a short trail hike with friends, then this is the place to be.
10. Lulumahu Falls, Oahu
The trail leading to the best-known secret in the Pali area is unmarked and unofficial, veering through a bamboo forest and to the core of your pleasurable adventure. Despite being difficult to follow at times, it is perhaps one of the most impressive spots you will see in Oahu, especially due to the adventure involved in trying to access the falls.
It is secretly tucked away in the Pali Hwy, and your getting there could be considered trespassing since it is located on private government property. Improve your odds by obtaining a permit first, and the meander through concrete steps and old hunting grounds along the Nu’uanu Reservoir.
11. Li’keke Falls, Oahu
Sitting below the Pali lookout is the Li’keke Falls, which comes packed with a multi-tiered cascade. Expect to step on mud, mossy rocks and branches along this very wet yet slightly slippery trail.
There are two through ways to the falls, both of which depend on your love for hiking. You could opt for the longer Pali Lookout route which takes about an hour, or take the shorter hike from the Ko’olau Golf course which takes about 15 minutes.
Read also: A guide on Where to Stay in Hawaii
12. Kapena Falls, Oahu
Tumbling about 20 feet and hugged by giant leaves, vines, and huge boulders, the Kapena fall is tiny and happens to be the most accessible waterfall in Oahu.
The trail that leads to it is used for nature trips, hiking, and birding. For a more sweaty and fun-filled hike, head for the right of the metal building, then hike for about 7 minutes to the fall.
At the top of the fall is a cliff-jumping spot. Have more fun by jumping off the rope into the plunge pool just beneath the waterfall.
13. Waipuhia Falls, Oahu
This is a very unique spot to visit. Locally, it is referred to as the Upside Downfalls because each time a strong wind blows, the water on the fall appears as though it is flowing backward. When watched from a distance, this appearance of defying gravity is one of the most profound on the island.
It might be worth giving this 1442-foot waterfall an adventurous visit on a stormy day. The good thing is that you can watch the magic from the comfort of your car. However, why not be a little more adventurous and head for the hidden cave at the core of the cliff?
14. Hiilawe Falls, Hawaii Islands
Bearing an approximate height of 1450 feet and home to the king who united the islands back in 1795, Kamehameha the Great, Hiilawe has been marked as one of the tallest falls in the Hawaiian Islands.
In the 20th century, Lalakea stream, which lies just above the falls, was diverted for irrigation and cultivation, and this is believed to have affected the strong flow of the falls.
Today, the falls are drier and lighter than was the case before this diversion.
15. Honokohau Islands, Maui
This beautiful spot in Maui is considered the tallest in the region, plunging in a double tier of about 1119 feet.
Since the falls are located in a highly inaccessible valley in the West of Maui, you will probably not get here by car or hike, but you certainly will through a helicopter tour.
Don’t miss out on viewing this mesmerizing water cascade on the island.
Hawaii boasts some of the world’s most amazing waterfalls. However, visitors are advised not to drink what may look like fresh water since it may contain leptospirosis bacteria.