Win a trip to Hawaii
Sign up for FREE and enter for a chance to win!
Find the pineapple and win!
Tip: This Oahu attraction is actually a memorial to the place of surrender that ended WWII.
Save on Hawaii Activities
Luau, whale watching and more
Hiking Manoa Falls Trail
By Rasa Fournier
As a kid in the late 70s, before hiking in Hawaii was quite the popular pastime it is today, I’d run barefoot along a thin trail through dense bamboo jungle and emerge at a towering waterfall where I’d promptly hop into its shallow pool, not another soul in sight. In the following years, because of its proximity to town and its relatively easy terrain and short length, Manoa Falls Trail became heavily populated with hikers and tour groups that trudged through the pristine rainforest, eroding the path. Almost impossible to skirt around the long swatches of unwelcoming gloppy slush from all that rain and the trudging of all those feet meant no one emerged without a pair of clammy feet that needed to be peeled out of dirt encrusted shoes, and the gunk that splashed up your legs needed some serious soap and scrubbing to remove.
After several years’ absence, I brought along a hiking buddy, a barefoot enthusiast (“It’s soft and muddy, your feet will love it,” I remember coaxing) to revisit my childhood haunt. Boy, were we both in for a surprise.
We had set out on a sunny morning boasting picture-perfect blue skies, but as we parked at the back of the valley, darkly bruised skies crawled over the mountain and we had to wait out a tropical downpour in the car. The fall through spring months bring wetness, but the upside is that it means a heftier waterfall.
We headed out under dripping foliage, my partner tiptoeing along the pebble-strewn asphalt that as you step onto the path quickly turns to large chunks of newly minted gravel, meaning the cut is fresh and sharp. Under hiking shoes, it crunches unobtrusively, but under bare feet the opposite end of the body emits a lot of groaning and yelps. In fact, the entire body kind of curls up, the shoulders hunch over, the knees bend deeper as the face grimaces and the feet quickly take turns popping up as if they’d landed on a hot iron.
I knew the beginning of the trail was kept maintained and laid with gravel, but 10 minutes later my buddy was still wincing with every step. Suddenly we saw a familiar sight approaching us from the opposite direction: A man bent over yelping and gasping as he inched along – his feet naked as the day he was born! We had a misery-loves-company chuckle until he mentioned that the gravel continues right up to the foot of the waterfall. The great news for the rest of us is that the recent “improvement,” keeps the trail well-marked and mud-free.
The gravel guides you from the trailhead over a bridge into dense greenery where speckled light filters through the overhang onto the shady path, and even on a hot day breezes sweep through the leaves. Guava and wild ginger sweeten the air and the sound of a gushing brook follows your gradual ascent. When you approach manmade stairs that lead to a boardwalk through a bamboo thicket you’re nearly there. By the time you hear the cascade rushing down its steep 100-foot rock face you’ll practically be standing in front of it. A cable now keeps visitors several feet from the pool itself after a massive rockfall in 2002.
Amazingly, only a handful of families trickled by during my leisurely stroll to Oahu’s most accessible waterfall. For minimal foot traffic and more impressive fall viewing, go when it’s rainy. And save the barefoot experience for another trail.
TRAIL: Manoa Falls Trail
LENGTH: 1.6 miles round trip
HOW TO GET THERE: Take McCully Street out of Waikiki and turn right onto Kapiolani Boulevard. Turn left at University Avenue. Follow University Avenue as it turns into Oahu Avenue. At a five-point intersection, veer right onto Manoa Road. After passing Waakaua Street, find free parking along the final residential stretch of the street. It’s a .4 mile walk to the trailhead. Otherwise, continue driving along Manoa Road and follow the signs for $5 parking on the right hand side. After parking, continue following the road toward the mountain. At a fork, veer right toward a fence with signs marking the Manoa Falls trailhead.
What did you think? Share your reaction and earn 100 points!
Recent most reacted articles
Visit Kauai’s Rainbow-Catching Blowhole
Catch a glimpse of Kaua‘i’s famous rainbow-catching puhi or blowhole,…
The Legacy of Sugarcane in Hawaii Lives on Through Hawaiian Agricole Rum
For nearly 2-centuries, Hawaii has been synonymous with sugarcane. Now…
The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel Introduces Its Newly Renovated Diamond Head Wing
As of December 2017, The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel…
Activity Discounts & Specials
Get discounts and specials on Hawaii activities and attractions from Hawaii.com, right in your email inbox — it's FREE!
- Rental Cars
- Spend the day with the expert guides of Hawaii Turtle Tours on the only Oahu circle island tour that includes swimming with turtles for $95 per adult!
- Visiting Hawaii is easy in a rental car from Alamo®. Minivans, economy cars, SUV's and more, Alamo has the rental car for your visit to Hawaii.
- $705+ Maui Vacations: 3 nights with air & car. Reduced rates, FREE 3-day car rental and more!
- See the Napali Coast by boat and snorkel in the cobalt waters of Niihau. Get $15 off per person when you book online at least 1 day in advance!
- Royal Lahaina Resort’s Myths of Maui Luau Special from $108 per person
- Swim in Poipu Beach on Kauai! Book rooms from $169/night!
- Royal Kona Spirit Pkg w/Breakfast, car & parking! $279/nt
- Royal Kona’s Voyagers of the Pacific Luau Special: $72 pp
- Pirates spotted sailing off Waikiki - climb aboard from $42!
- Popular Pearl Harbors from $89.99 - BOOK NOW!
- IL LUPINO, Waikiki - high-end Italian lunch specials $10
- Combine your zipline and waterfall experience and save BIG!
- PAY NOW SAVE NOW! 15% Off Best Available Hotel Rates
- Reserve the Royal Lahaina’s Myths of Maui Luau Show: $98 pp
- Need access to care? Free Parking & Convenient Locations