Hiking Maunawili Falls was not on our list for winter break. We had big beach plans and camping reservations with friends, but no hikes were on the radar. On the first day of break, however, we all got sick. And then it started to rain and didn’t stop. As school break came to a close, we found ourselves in Maunawili looking at an apartment rental. Side note: finding a home to rent on windward Oahu with two kids is hard. If you have children, you’re moved to the bottom of a very long list for a tiny, overpriced rental. Someone with four oversized dogs would have better luck.
The rental house we were scoping was adjacent to the Maunawili Falls trailhead and I found myself admiring the muddy, happy hikers heading home. I decided that our only chance to salvage the final days of vacation was to embrace the rain and play in the mud. So that’s what we did. If you don’t like playing in the rain you can find rainy day alternatives here.
The Maunawili Falls trail is a little over 3 miles, but the mud can really slow you down. It took us almost 3 hours and that was with 5-year-old Micah walking one way and being carried back on the return trip. Here are some steps to help you prepare.
If you stumble along a fresh water pool, waterfall, or stream in Hawaii, you will usually find a group of kids or adults playing in the cool water. However, it’s not without risk. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease present in freshwater puddles, ponds and streams. It’s passed through open cuts or through soft tissues (nose, eyes, mouth). Decide where your comfort levels is, but don’t go in if you have open cuts, avoid putting your head under water and definitely don’t drink the water.
Maunawili Falls is located on windward Oahu, about a half hour drive from Waikiki. As of fall 2023, the trailhead to Maunawili falls (in the Maunawili neighborhood) is temporarily closed for repairs. However, there is a workaround (hike around?). You can still access this trail from the Maunawili Trail. About 2 miles into the Maunawili trail you will find a connector trail that drops down toward the ocean. After that turnoff, the falls are another mile away. It will make your hike twice as long, but you can enjoy a crowd-free hike and maybe have the falls to yourself!
Heads up, the parking lot for the Maunawili trail is small and has no amenities. It’s also prone to break-ins so leave valuables at home.
The windward side of Oahu is full of opportunity! Check out some nearby options to make your day even better.
Likeke Falls Hike. If Maunawili is more trail than you can handle, opt for nearby Likeke Falls which is short and sweet.
Tasty eats await you in Kailua town! You can spend an easy afternoon browsing surf boutiques while sipping boba along Hekili Street and Kihapai Street. A Whole Foods, Target, and Long’s Drug are clustered here for convenience too.
The windward side of Oahu is known for its family friendly beaches so you have many to choose from. Here are two personal favorites.
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