Maunawili Falls is an easily accessible hiking destination less than 30 minutes from Waikiki. The 1.5 mile round-trip hike offers spectacular views, somewhat challenging terrain so be careful, and picturesque waterfalls in a shaded valley.
Before heading off to hike Maunawili Falls, be sure to wear clothing that you don’t mind getting wet or dirty, comfortable hiking boots or sneakers with decent treads, and sunscreen. It’s also a good idea to pack a water bottle to avoid dehydration and a small snack just in case your hike takes longer than planned.
The Maunawili Falls trail has a dense tree canopy and is somewhat dark during peak sunlight hours, so I suggest you plan ahead and determine roughly what time of day you want to complete your hike. Then, work backwards to plan your departure, factoring in extra time for any delays or pit-stops along the way.
The first portion of the hike is not very challenging or steep, but can be very muddy during rainy months. This past March I wound up taking several small detours into the woods in order to avoid trudging through copious amounts of mud and water. During the second portion of the hike, the trail crosses a stream on three separate occasions. I always attempt to hop across the small rocks when crossing these streams, but if you miss your footing and step in the water there’s no harm done, as the water is just a few inches deep and will only leave you with soggy socks and some chuckles from your hiking companions.After crossing the streams, the trail turns into a series of rather steep steps leading up to a small clearing with fabulous sweeping views. Shortly after the clearing, the steps make a steep descent into a valley and drop you off at another stream. The trail virtually disappears here, but hike upriver along the right hand side of the stream and it will lead you straight to the waterfall.
I usually spend an hour or more lounging around at the pool at the base of the waterfall (this is where snacks and water come in handy). The pool is fairly deep, so many hikers (myself included) strip down to their swimsuits and jump off the 10 ft cliff into the pool at the base of the waterfall to cool off for a bit. The trail is not a loop, so once you’re done frolicking beneath the waterfall, head back down the stream, up the steps, across the rocks, through the mud, and back to the car to change out of your soggy shoes.
To access Maunawili Falls from Honolulu, take the H1 West to the Pali Highway. Follow the Pail Highway towards Kailua and turn right onto Auloa Road, the third traffic light after you pass through Nuuanu Pali State Park. Stay left at the fork onto Maunawili Road, and continue straight until the road ends at Kelewina Street. Turn right on Kelewina, find a place to park in the neighborhood, and head back down Kelewina Road to Maunawili Trails Road. Not too far up the road the actual hiking trail splits off to the right. Maunawili Road is also accessible via The Bus.