Chasing Waterfalls in Hawaii – Our List of the Sweetest 16 Hawaii Waterfalls

By Napua Heen

HM FB John Cooper Waterfall hawaii waterfalls
Mountains peaks and moisture make Hawaiʻi a treasure trove of waterfalls. From towering cascades tucked in the back of valleys to streams pouring over cliffs into the sea, Hawaiʻi has it all. The best islands for chasing Hawaii waterfalls are the Big Island, Maui and Kauaʻi. There are several easily accessible and stunningly beautiful waterfalls across the islands. Some, however, can only be reached by long hikes or air tours.

Use Caution When Exploring Hawaii Waterfalls

Though beautiful and captivating, caution should always be at the forefront when exploring waterfalls. A sudden downpour of rain upstream can lead to flash flooding downstream. Even avid swimmers have been known to be swept away by mountain torrents.

Nevertheless, Hawaii waterfalls are one of nature’s beauties, meant to inspire and refresh. Enjoy the chase!

1.  Rainbow Falls, Hilo, Big Island

hilo Rainbow Falls hawaii waterfalls

Rainbow Falls. Photo courtesy of Richard Bitting.

One of the most easily accessible waterfalls on the Big Island, Rainbow Falls is just a quick five-minute drive from downtown Hilo. On sunny days, rainbows appear in the mist of the 80-foot falls, making for some pretty magical views.  Rainbow Falls is one of Hawaiʻi’s most iconic waterfalls.  The falls is completely viewable from the broad lookout adjacent to the parking lot.  There is also a path up and to the left of the lookout that will give you a view of the river.

2.  Akaka Falls, Honomu, Big Island

Photo courtesy of Waifer X.

Akaka Falls.  Photo:  Waifer X.

Another easily accessible waterfall, Akaka Falls is located in the little town of Honomu, just north of Hilo. A short drive up from the main highway will take you to a lush jungle. A paved, but often slippery, trail will take you in a loop through a magical forest setting. The highlight is a full view of this 440 foot waterfall.

3.  Hamakua Coast Waterfalls, Big Island

Waterfall cascading into the sea along the Hamakua Coast. Photo: Alena Nicholas. hawaii waterfalls

Waterfall cascading into the sea along the Hamakua Coast. Photo: Alena Nicholas.

Driving along the Hāmākua Coast and stopping along the way is one way to witness the beauty of this scenic coastline. Another way is to charter a boat out of Hilo. The rewards will be views of untouched cliffs complete with streams cascading down into the deep sea.

4.  Hiilawe, Waipio Valley, Big Island

Photo: Wasif Malik. hawaii waterfalls

Hiilawe Falls. Photo: Wasif Malik.

Few people have the chance to stand beneath the waters of Hiʻilawe, falling some 1,450 feet from the cliff above. The journey here entails a steep descent into Waipiʻo Valley by foot or four wheel drive and a hike upstream, or rather a hike up through the stream over boulders and coursing water. This is where the aliʻi wāhine, or chiefesses of old, would make their daily trek to bath beneath the sacred falls in the mountain pool.

5.  Waikani Falls, Maui

Upper Waikani Falls, Hana Highway

Photo: Upper Waikani Falls, Hana Highway, Joe Parks.

This is a stop along the famous Road to Hana, Maui. You can take a photo from the road. Or, if you are a little more adventurous, climb down the path for a swim in the pool beneath the falls.  Be careful though, this is not a well-maintained trail.

6.  Wailua Falls, Maui

HTA hawaii waterfalls

Wailua Falls. Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson.

Possibly one of the most photographed Hawaiian waterfalls, Wailua Falls is another  highlight of the drive to Hana. Easily accessible by foot, it’s worth a stop and a photo shoot.

7.  Waimoku Falls, Maui

Waimoku Falls. Photo: Kim S., member. hawaii waterfalls

Waimoku Falls. Photo: Kim S., member.

The journey to Waimoku Falls is just as beautiful as the reward of setting eyes on the waterfall itself. The path, Pipiwai Trail, will lead you through a scenic bamboo forest with well-maintained walkways, past the 185 foot Makahiku Falls and bring you to the stunning 400 foot Waimoku Falls. Because there is so much to see here, plan for about 2-4 hours and really make an excursion out of it.

8.  Oheo Gulch

Photo: drazz. hawaii waterfalls

Ohea Gulch.  Photo: drazz.

Makai, or to the oceanside, of the Waimoku Falls and the Pipiwai Trail is Oheo Gultch and its chain of pools.  Some larger and some small, they are connected by waterfalls or short cascades.   Though they were previously, and erroneously, referred to as the Seven Sacred Pools, there are actually at least 20 pools carved from volcanic rock and fed by Oheo Stream.  They are perfect for swimming on a bright sunny day but be aware of dangers when the rains are heavy.

9.  Wall of Tears, West Maui Mountains, Maui

Photo courtesy of jurvetson hawaii waterfalls

Wall of Tears.  Photo:  jurvetson.

Take to the sky among the West Maui Mountains and encounter the hidden Wall of Tears amidst lush Waiheʻe Valley. It is here where up to 17 waterfalls pour down the heavily carpeted green valley walls.

10.  Mooula Falls, Halawa Valley, Molokai

Moaula Falls. Photo: Napua N. Heen. hawaii waterfalls

Mooula Falls. Photo: Napua N. Heen.

The hike to Moʻoula Falls is similar to that of Hiʻilawe Falls but perhaps a little easier. The trail takes you beneath canopies of age old trees and patches of ʻawapuhi or ginger but you must also traverse the stream itself and climb over boulders.  Once you reach the falls at the back of Halawa Valley, look for a trail leading up to the right.  This trail leads to an upper swimming pool with its own smaller waterfall.

11.  Waihi Falls, Waimea Valley, Oahu

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Waihi Falls.  Photo:  Hawaii Tourism Japan (HTJ).

Waihi Falls, or Waimea Falls, is tucked at the back of Waimea Valley. The valley itself is a wonderful attraction for the nature-lover. An easy mile long walk will take you to a 45 foot waterfall that flows into a 30 foot deep pool. Courtesy of the Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden, there is a lifeguard on duty and changing rooms for your convenience.

12.  Wailua Falls, Kauai

Photo: Micah Camara. hawaii waterfalls

Photo: Micah Camara.

Wailua Falls on Kauaʻi is as picturesque as Hawaiian waterfalls get. This is a great place to stop and soak in all the glory that the lush Garden Isle has to offer. You can get a full view of the waterfall from the lookout adjacent to the spacious parking lot. More adventurous types will sometimes walk down the trail to the foot of the falls. This can be dangerous; proceed with caution.

13.  Opaekaa Falls, Kauai

Opaekaa Falls. Photo: WiseTim. hawaii waterfalls

Opaekaa Falls. Photo: WiseTim.

Like Wailua Falls, ‘Ōpaekaʻa Falls is easily visible from a lookout and makes for great photo ops. From this area, you can also see the Wailua River. The head of the falls and the pool at the bottom are off completely off-limits. Hikers walking unofficial trails have fallen to their deaths. Please heed all signs.

14.  Manawaiopuna aka “Jurassic Falls,” Kauai

Manawaiopuna Falls. Photo: .

Manawaiopuna Falls. Photo: .

This 360 foot waterfall was made famous by the movie Jurassic Park. If you want to get up close and personal to Manawaiopuna Falls, book a helicopter tour as the waterfall is located on private property.

15.  Waimea Canyon, Kauai

Photo: John B. Kalla. hawaii waterfalls

Waipoo Falls.  Photo: John B. Kalla.

There are many waterfalls in the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Hike the Cliff Trail to the top of 800 foot Waipoʻo Falls or explore the canyon trails and see what waterfalls you might stumble upon. Chances are you will hear them before you see them.

16.  Waterfalls of the Na Pali Coast, Kauai

Photo: patrickmoos. hawaii waterfalls

Waterfall on Kalalau Beach. Photo: patrickmoos.

The Nā Pali Coast is a remote part of the island of Kauaʻi. It cannot be accessed by vehicle. Certain parts can be accessed via grueling but rewarding hikes. And still other parts can only be accessed by sea. The coastline is decorated with waterfalls cascading down the fluted sea cliffs, pouring into the vast Pacific or landing on isolated, other-worldly beaches.

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