O‘ahu Hike of the Month: Mānoa Falls Trail

This popular hiking destination is a favorite among dog owners and families.


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Editor’s Note: We love hiking! Fortunately, O‘ahu is full of great hikes. With this new web series, we bring you our favorite O‘ahu trails—a new one every third Wednesday of the month.  
 

TRAIL NAME: Mānoa Falls Trail
DIFFICULTY: Easy
LENGTH: 1.6 miles round trip
FEE: $5 parking fee
WHERE: 3737 Mānoa Road

 

DISCLAIMER

Hiking can be dangerous, and not every trail is a good idea for every person. Keep your personal fitness and skill levels in mind, and always take proper precautions when venturing off road. Heed “no trespassing” and other warning signs.

 

THE EXPERIENCE

Manoa Falls Trail.

Photo: Catherine Toth Fox

 

If you’re a novice hiker, Mānoa Falls Trail is a good place to start. The rocky terrain gives a decent workout, but it’s one of easiest trails in the Honolulu Mauka Trail System, which is an interlocking system of 18 trails that includes Tantalus Arboretum Trail, Nu‘uanu Trail, Judd Trail to Kalawahine Trail. 

 

Manoa Falls Trail.

PHOTO: CATHERINE TOTH FOX

 

Mānoa Falls Trail is 1.6-miles long or about an hour round trip that includes a rewarding view of a cascading waterfall. Take your time to soak in fragrant smells of Eucalyptus trees and the views of the lush bamboo forest and the majestic green rainforest featured in the original blockbuster Jurrasic Park. You won’t see any dinosaurs, but you will encounter tropical birds, giant ferns, ginger plants and banyan trees. 

 

PHOTOS: DIANE LEE

 

The trail is undergoing a renovation, which includes installing four interpretative signs along the trail and expanding the viewing area at the falls. But, when we hiked the trail on a recent Saturday, we noticed the signs have already been defaced with graffiti. It looks like the Mānoa Falls Trail Improvement Project has stalled since the project’s website was last updated in 2012. 

 

Manoa Falls Trail parking sign.

 

If you’re hiking with a group, it’s best to carpool. There’s a private parking lot owned by Paradise Park at the base of the trailhead, where you can park your car for a flat $5 fee. If there’s no parking attendant on duty, stop by the Rainbow’s End Snack Shop next door to pay for your parking. You can also pick up other snacks, drinks, mosquito repellant and even water shoes ($12.75). Otherwise, save money by parking in the lower neighborhood for free. After parking, head up the hill towards Lyon Arboretum. The road splits between the entrance of the botanical garden and the Mānoa Falls Trail. Take a right towards the trailhead sign. You’ll cross a footbridge and pass a small stream into the rainforest. Be sure to wear sturdy hiking shoes, because the trail often gets slippery and muddy. 

 

THE PAYOFF

Manoa Falls Trail waterfall.

 

After a half-hour hike through the rainforest, you’re rewarded with a view of a cascading waterfall spilling into a small pool below. The waterfall is thin during the summer months, so go during the rainy season (November through March) for the most impressive view. The danger sign warning of landslides didn’t stop a handful of people from wading in the pool directly below the falls. Should it stop you? Depends on how worried you are about leptospirosis.

 

TIPS

  • Don’t venture beyond the marked trail. Landslides are common after heavy storms. The popular trail closed in early 2002 after state officials discovered at least three different landslides at the waterfall.

  • Leave your mountain bike at home, because it’s not allowed on this trail. 

  • Bring mosquito repellant to keep the bugs away. 

  • Wear a good pair of hiking shoes you don’t mind getting dirty. 

  • There’s an ongoing pig control hunt in the area of the trail on Wednesdays and Sundays, so watch out for off-leash hunting dogs. 

  • Dog owners need to keep their pooches on a leash at all times. Bring a baggie to clean up after them. 

 

MAP & DIRECTIONS


Drive until you hit the end of Mānoa Road past Treetops Restaurant. You can park your car at the privately owned Paradise Park lot for $5 per space. The trailhead is located straight ahead on the right of Lyon Arboretum

 

READ MORE STORIES BY DIANE LEE

 

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