Hiking Waimano Waterfall
RASA’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURES: The Best, Most Family-Friendly Trails on Oahu
By RASA FOURNIER
What goes down, must come up. That’s what I’m thinking with every sheer step I take downward at the Manana Trail.
The first mile or so of the trail lulls unweary hikers into a false sense of ease. It starts off on wide, level jeep trail that gradually peters off into a thin path. Only when it’s time to begin the descent to the valley floor does the adventure factor ramp up. At a signed junction, I make a mental note to someday plan for the left fork that will lead me on a nearly six-mile journey to the Koolau Summit. Today, I’m revisiting the bittersweet right fork which leads down, down, down to wonderful Waimano Waterfall, but oh the treacherous journey!
At first the slanting switchbacks are nothing outrageous, but then I arrive at Cardiac Hill, as it’s been dubbed. The nickname proves suitable. Nearly vertical, the root-veined, red dirt slope is devoid of bushes or branches to grab for stability. To get down unscathed, ginger-footed sprightliness is required. Today, I’ve arrived at the hill just as a helicopter lifts off, carrying an elderly man who tripped and injured his knee on a root.
Despite the hazards, entire families, including young children, all make their way down. I have no qualms about sitting and sliding at the steeper stretches. Once at the foot of the beast, my challenge has still only just begun. The remainder of the trail is a tight ribbon, lined with slender guava saplings that aid me from step to downward step.
The weather out here offers a paradox. Go in the winter and the path is pure ankle-deep, red slosh, making for precariously slick terrain. But the waterfall will be rushing and the series of three neighboring pools, wondrously inviting. Go in the summer and though you're still clamoring at a sheer angle, the ground under your feet is solid. However, you’ll arrive at a tall cliff offering a mere water-trickle. The lowest pool is still plenty deep for swimming and just as refreshing.
All the thrilling splashing over, I relish the sureness of the rock my body is resting on. I try not to glance at the rope and cliff where I will begin my ascent back up the tangled path, where like a monkey, I’ll cling from guava branch to guava branch, only to arrive at the foot of Cardiac Hill. This is where I’ll realize how it got its name. A few steps up, pant, pant. A few more steps. Pant, pant.
The trek to Waimano Falls is only three miles roundtrip, but it’s a jaunt that, at the end of the day, leaves you thankful for the comfort of your bed.
TRAIL: Waimano Waterfall Hike
LENGTH: 3 miles round trip
HOW TO GET THERE: From Waikiki, get on H1 heading West. Take exit 10 toward Pearl City and merge onto Moanalua Road. Turn right onto Waimano Home Road, then left onto Komo Mai Drive and follow the road until it dead-ends at the trailhead.
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