There are a few uniquely Hawaiian experiences everyone should have in the islands – whether you’ve lived here for years or are just flying over for a short vacation. One of those experiences is the liberating feeling of standing near a cascading waterfall only accessible on foot. Though the trails vary in length from 1.5 miles to more than ten, these12 awe-inspiring waterfalls all require a bit of hiking to reach the ultimate reward.
1. Lulumahu Falls
Located off Pali Highway is this extraordinary waterfall hike – complete with a trek through a bamboo forest, views of a stunning field and reservoir, the beauty of the Hawaiian jungle, and – of course – the jaw-dropping, 50-foot Lulumahu Falls.
2. Hanakapi’ai Falls
Situated on Kauai’s fabled Na Pali Coast is Hanakapi’ai Falls, accessible only by a strenuous day hike. The trail is, in fact, the beginning of the 11-mile Kalalau Trail, but only takes you four miles in, past Hanakapi’ai Beach and up to the valley and approximately 300-foot cascading waterfall.
3. Twin Falls
Also known as Hololawa Falls, these twin waterfalls are the first notable attraction on Maui’s Hana Highway coming from the north. Many guidebooks will argue that the falls are not worth the hike, but we tend to disagree. While the falls are short, the picturesque pools are quite lovely.
4. Maunawili Falls
This 3-hour hike is quite muddy after it rains, and hikers will need to cross the riverbank several time during the hike, though the resulting waterfall and swimming hole is quite refreshing – and there are several spots perfect to jump into the pool below.
5. Uluwehi Falls
Known to locals and visitors as Secret Falls, this is a popular day adventure on Kauai’s east side. The trailhead is located up the Wailua River, so you will need to either book a guided tour or rent kayaks or canoes. Once you reach the trail, it is a muddy, and often slippery, 45-minute hike to the falls, but it is worth every second. And the journey is half the fun, right?
6. Hiilawe Falls
With a main drop of more than 1,200 feet, Hiilawe Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in Hawaii. Cascading into Wapio Valley, the waterfall flows only after period of heavy rain, and is accessible via hike or horseback ride.
7. Waipoo Falls
Located in the heart of Waimea Canyon is this 700-foot waterfall that only flows during the rainy season. The falls are viewable from the Waimea Canyon Trail, a 3.4 mile hike that offers stellar views of Waipoo Falls and the jaw-dropping Kumuwela Lookout.
8. Likeke Falls
Located off of Oahu’s Old Pali Road is an impressive waterfall in the heart of the Ko’olau Mountains. The 5-mile hike begins at the Pali Lookout and, if you can find directions online, should only take about two hours.
9. Makahiku Falls + Waimoku Falls
Both of these stunning waterfalls are located off Maui’s popular Pipiwai Trail, a 4-mile hike through lush rainforest, and bamboo jungle. Makahiku Falls, just half a mile from the trailhead, cascades 180 feet down a fern-lined gorge, but Waimoku Falls is the true gem here: a 440-foot waterfall plummeting down a sheer lava rock wall into a boulder-strewn pool below.
10. Kalihiwai Falls
This multi-tiered waterfall near Princeville is technically only accessible via private excursion, or visible from the Kalihiwai River Bridge, so proceed at your own risk towards the falls.
11. Manoa Falls
Just miles away from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu is the lush Manoa Valley, and in it, the gorgeous Manoa Falls - a 150-foot tall waterfall accessible after a short 1.6-mile round trip hike.
12. Wai’ilikahi Falls
Located in the Waimanu Valley is this impressive, and extremely difficult to get to, 1,000-foot waterfall. For those who are advanced hikers, the falls is accessible via the 9-mile Muliwai Trail, which requires hiking a series of switchback trails to reach the serene valley.