Nestled in the lush Manoa Valley on Oahu, Manoa Falls is a captivating 150-foot waterfall surrounded by a vibrant rainforest. The well-maintained 1.7-mile hike to the falls immerses you in a paradise of bamboo groves and banyan trees. The sight of the falls, with its gentle cascade into a crystalline pool, is both serene and awe-inspiring. It’s a tranquil oasis just a short drive from downtown Honolulu and Waikiki, offering a rejuvenating escape into nature’s beauty and tranquility.
Oahu Hikes for Kids
I recently discovered Meetup and found lots of fun clubs and activities on the island from beer-swilling running clubs to business mixers and board game marathons. There’s a little something for everyone and a photo hike to Manoa Falls caught my attention. It had been over a decade since I’ve made the short hike. In my mind it was a crowded, over-hyped trail due to its proximity to Waikiki and ease of access. Once they started charging for parking, I never returned.
But that was a mistake. With children in tow, I experienced it with fresh eyes. It’s an exceptional hike for families with young kids. It’s short, easy to access, fairly level with a clearly marked trail, has jungle to explore and ends with a waterfall. That alone makes it a unicorn among hikes; prefect for the reluctant adventurer. Everything is wet, lush, dripping. Street signs are overtaken by thick layers of moss. Impossibly large vines crawl over every surface while brightly colored blooms accent the scene.
A Complete Guide to Manoa Falls
Located in the back of Manoa Valley, this trail is typically rain-soaked so prepare for rain (and sun) and expect a wet, muddy trail.
Shoes. Light hiking shoes or trail running shoes with big lugs are good for most Hawaii hikes.
Sunscreen. Most Hawaii hikes are exposed along part or all of the trail, this hike is mostly covered but sunscreen is always a good idea.
Water + Snacks. Always bring more water than you think you will need and snacks, well, they make hiking more fun.
A light backpack to hold your gear.
A light waterproof jacket just in case or even a long-sleeved, quick dry shirt if it’s warm enough to get wet.
Alltrails.com. An excellent hiking resource with great trail descriptions!
Geochaching. This worldwide scavenger hunt. Keep them moving with some geocaching fun.
The trail is located just a 20-minute drive from the vibrant bustle of Waikiki, but once you’re on its path, you’ll feel like you’re in a completely different world.
Manoa Falls is a popular hiking trail so go early or late to avoid crowds. The parking lot opens from 8 am to 6 pm daily.
The trail itself packs an impressive amount of diversity. Roosters form a rowdy welcome committee in the parking lot as they clamber for food scraps. Follow their calls (and signs of course) to the trailhead where you will plunge into rainforest.
The trail traces a babbling stream as it winds its way through the towering albizia trees adorned with cascading purple flowers. As you continue, you’ll encounter a knotted hau tree that invites you to climb its entwined branches. Moving onward, a bamboo grove awaits, providing the perfect setting for a game of hide and seek among its smooth, robust branches. Keep a keen eye out for miniature marvels; fungi are cleverly concealed in plain sight, but you need only slow down to spot them.
On average the 1.7 mile (out and back) Manoa Falls trail takes a little over an hour to hike, but it took out family a full 3 hours to complete the hike. Instead of the typical hike, snap a photo and sprint ahead to re-join the group, we all went slow. My oldest had taken a recent interest in photography so I gifted him an old DSLR. We fully geeked out with the other “hiking” photographers and explored the world with cameras in hand.
P.S. You CANNOT swim in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall due to rockfall hazard. People have been fined.
What to do after your visit to Manoa Falls …
If you’re stomach is rumbling, you may want to try one of these tasty places to eat in Manoa Valley.
Andy’s Sandwiches & Smoothies doesn’t disappoint. Tasty sandwiches with fresh ingredients made this our favorite lunch spot when we lived in Manoa.
Morning Glass Coffee is known for having great scones, sandwiches, omelets, and their famous mac and cheese pancakes with bacon slices on top. I haven’t tried these pancakes, but dutch pancakes (pannekoeken) with cheese, bacon and banana have been a long time personal favorite.
Waioli Kitchen & Bake Shop is a more hidden local favorite, located close to the dense green mountainside and a couple hundred feet from Manoa Valley District Park. Tasty breakfasts, pastries, brunch and lunch at this historic location.
Lyon Arboretum is a lush and diverse botanical garden located in Honolulu, Hawaii, renowned for its stunning collection of tropical plants and its dedication to conservation and education.
Experience Nutridge is an intimate backyard-style lu’au located at the Nutridge Estate in Pu’u Ualaka’a Wayside Park. It’s a good way to escape the crowded lu’au in Waikiki for a peaceful, natural setting.
Family photos! Let me plan a fun morning for your family so you can have a great time and take home beautiful memories. You can see examples of photo sessions in the area here, here, and here.
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