It is a short distance from Waikiki and one of the most popular hikes in Honolulu. There are a lot of things you need to know before hiking to Manoa Falls!
Are you planning a last-minute trip to Oahu?
If you’re traveling to Oahu last minute, you should book your accommodations/tours beforehand! Oahu’s top picks are listed below!
The best tours and activities on Oahu are:
- Taking a hike to Manoa Falls (perfect for waterfall lovers!)
- A full-day tour of Oahu island (my #1 recommendation for anyone visiting the island!)
- Hiking Diamond Head in the morning from Honolulu
- Beautiful North Shore tour on Oahu
- Visit the Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona memorials (essential!)
Hotel and lodging recommendations for Oahu:
- The famous Moana Surfrider Hotel (which I love!)
- Budget hotel White Sands (I stayed here many nights and enjoyed it!)
- The Hotel Renew option in HNL has a budget option.
- The Laylow (a mid-range and stylish hotel)
- Living in luxury in Waikiki: Space the Jewel
Feel free to comment or send us a message with any questions you may have about Manoa Falls Trail. Thanks!
Overview of the Manoa Falls Trail and Waterfall
Length: 1.3 kilometers (0.8 miles)
Trail type: Return hike
Level of difficulty: Quite easy
Elevation gain: 244 meters (880 feet)
Mānoa Falls height: about 100 feet (32 meters). There are some sources that claim it is taller and closer to 150 feet.
Trail highlights: Mānoa Falls, Waihī Stream, and Lyon Arboretum (near the entrance of the park), just a couple blocks away,
This waterfall hike in Honolulu is just a short drive from the downtown area. If not rushed, the hike takes about two hours in total. This hike is a favorite among Hawaii waterfall hikers!
Manoa Falls is not recommended for swimming due to leptospirosis risks. However, you may see people doing it anyway. Any Honolulu itinerary must include this waterfall!
Hiking the Mānoa Falls Trail
Visitors to Honolulu should definitely do the Manoa Falls Trail, located up in the lush, gorgeous Manoa Valley.
My favorite thing about this hike is that it gives you a chance to experience a completely different climate and ecosystem than Honolulu and Waikiki.
There is a trail that runs for 0.8 miles (1.3 kilometers) one way (1.6 miles or 2.6 kilometers round trip). This hike has an elevation gain of about 800 feet (244 meters) during the course of the hike, which is a modest gain.
A waterfall called M•noa Falls is located at the end of the hike, as its name suggests (around 100-150 feet high).
It will require you to enter the area and pass the “M-Noa Falls Trail” sign once you reach the trail (the exact directions will be written below).
There will be no chance of you missing it since everyone will be taking photos!
A lush grove of Eucalyptus robusta trees is found before the Honolulu trail crosses Aihualama Stream.
There will be a stream running beside the trail throughout the hike (and you’ll be able to hear it from the trail too!).
A bit off of the trail, you’ll find some wildlife at Wash Stream.
The waterfall is clearly marked, Manoa Falls.
There are many creatures that can be found in and around the stream, including *o*opu (native Hawaiian stream fish), swordtails, grass shrimp, Tahitian prawns, mosquito fish, guppies, bufo toads, and poison dart frogs.
There is a bench and a small area near the waterfall where you can take a picture under an arch of vines.
Are many people taking photos here? You may have to wait your turn to get one if you arrive later in the day, however!
There may or may not be water running down the waterfall when you reach it. This narrow, yet somewhat tall waterfall shines after rain (like all waterfalls).
When I completed this hike for the first time, it was far more powerful than when I completed it for the second time. I went to the waterfall again early in the morning when it was barely flowing.
The waterfall is clearly marked with signs warning people not to walk down to it. The trail was cluttered with people who ignored the signs and went down there (nearly 75% of those on the trail appeared to think this was okay).
Falling rocks have led to the signs being put up. It really makes no sense to go down there in the first place since you cannot swim in the falls. There’s no way Instagram will be impressed.
The trail you can take to get to the falls is called ʻAihualamaʻ. Be careful not to accidentally head up this challenging hike (it is marked and it has an incline so you should be able to see it).
The Best Time of Day to Hike to Mānoa Falls
I’ve been to Mona Falls early in the day (about 8:30–9 am) and late in the day (between noon and 1:30 pm). I highly advise getting there early! In the morning, there was much less activity on the trail.
According to my experience there, the weather is clearer in the mornings than in the afternoons. After the rain, however, the falls picked up after being weak in the morning.
If you go to Mona Falls at a busy time, parking may be difficult to come by. Early in the morning, there was no problem. If the area is teeming with hikers, there are a few extra parking spots up there, but finding a place is still a pain.
I still recommend going in the morning, however. As well, mornings were much cleaner than afternoons.
Where to find Mānoa Falls from Waikiki/Downtown
Getting to Mona Falls is easiest with a rental car. The location can be plugged into your GPS and you’ll be taken there easily.
It is also possible to reach Mānoa Falls by bus! There is a bus stop at the very end of town called bus 67 that will bring you there. When you reach the last stop, the bus driver may stop to stretch his or her legs and you will have to wait a bit. It is also possible to ask them.
Continuing up the hill for about half a mile will require you to walk uphill. The road has a slight incline, but you can easily walk it if you keep to the side, because there are no sidewalks.
The bus number for the return trip will be the same, but it will depart from another location. You will need to take a right and climb a small hill to get to your next destination if you want to get back to your original point of drop-off.
When facing Honolulu downtown, the right is the only option. There is a bus sign on a quiet corner on the right after you walk up that hill a little bit. This is bus stop 3267.
The cost of taking a bus on Oahu is $2.75 per ride. You will have to pay an additional $2.75 if you need to change buses in the city.
If you plan on using public transportation on the island, I recommend getting a HOLO transportation card from the ABC Store.
I have never taken a better (and friendlier!) bus network anywhere in the world.
Park and enter the falls for a fee (plus parking)
There is no charge to hike to Mānoa Falls! If you don’t have a vehicle, that is. My first trip up there was by bus, and my second was by car.
There will be a $7 parking fee ($4 for military personnel) in 2023 (these prices may change at any point).
Rather than hunting down someone or paying for a machine like in other places on Oahu, you must pass a parking attendant. Cash or credit cards are accepted. When paying with a credit card, there is a small surcharge.
The parking lot is open eight hours a day, six days a week, and will close at six p.m. Display your receipt on your dashboard while you’re outside of your car.
Is the Mona Falls Trail accessible to wheelchair users?
There is no accessibility for wheelchairs or strollers on this trail. This trail does not have a wheelchair or stroller accessible. There are several rocky areas. Additionally, those with poor gaits should not try it.
Do You Need a Lot of Time at Mānoa Falls
The hike should take about two hours, and then Lyon Arboretum should take about another hour.
Here is a brief description of the botanical garden, but it is definitely worth a visit along with the hike! It’s not to be missed!
Wildlife in the Mānoa Valley
The Mānoa Valley is plentiful with wildlife and a diverse array of species that you might come across on your hike or time up there!
Some animals you may encounter on your hike are mongooses, cannibal snails, Java sparrows, shama thrush (bird), Jacksonʻs chameleon, and more!
Quick Tips for the Hike to Manoa Falls
You don’t need much time to complete the hike, but make sure you stop along the way to appreciate the flora. It is truly a special place.
There will be no flip-flops on this hike, as mentioned above. Shoes or hiking boots are recommended.
Make sure you fill up your water jug beforehand. The journey is humid and there are no water sources. When you reach the waterfall, you may be parched.
Don’t enter a place along the trail if it has a sign saying “DO NOT ENTER”. You should do it even if others are doing it.
When it comes to following rules and signs, the US seems to have either a literacy or entitlement issue. That’s what I’m assuming.
The waterfall is not suitable for swimming. Enjoy the view regardless and take some pictures! Don’t pay attention to swimmers.
The hike is fantastic for kids, so be sure to bring them along! Those with mobility issues should not attempt this hike.
Once you reach the waterfall, you will find trash cans. Do not leave any trace along the trail and dispose of all trash in them.
Also, don’t carve anything into the trees on the trail, including your name or initials.
The first time you hike Manoa Falls, you can bring your dog with you if you keep them on a leash.
What to wear and what to bring
This is an easy hike, so I recommend packing your regular hiking gear, but don’t forget the bug spray! The hike is mostly shaded, but sunscreen is still a good idea before you go.
The hike itself does not have any water sources, so you will need to bring some. You can use any jug that is normal in size. My water jug is shown below.
The hike should not be done in flip-flops! There will likely be mud on the trail since it is not paved.
The first time I went, it was very muddy, and the second time, we hiked in the rain and it became quite slippery.
The hiking boots I wore were waterproof. You should be fine with hiking boots or sneakers. The hiking boots I wore are shown below.
You may experience rain in the mountains, so bring a light rain jacket if you don’t like getting wet! Parking attendants sell rain ponchos (for adults and children) for $2.50.
If you forgot your bug spray and mosquitoes love you, you can purchase some from the parking attendant. There are bottles of ʻOff! when you pay for parking.
Extra Time? Come visit Lyon Arboretum!
As a follow-up to the hike to Mona Falls, please do not miss Lyon Arboretum (part of the University of Hawaii Mona).
There is a botanical garden right beside the trail that is one of the most epics in Hawaii!
A gorgeous view of M’noa Valley can be seen from several overlooks overlooking Lyon Arboretum, free (donations appreciated!).
This will give you a chance to see native plants and learn more about the islands’ history (and Polynesian plants generally).
The gardens are open to the public every Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 11 am. There is a $10 fee per person. Their website can be found here.
What did we miss on the Mānoa Falls Trail in Honolulu? Comment with your Manoa Falls Trail experience. Thank you!
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