Distance: 1.6 miles (2575 meters)
Elevation Gain: 534 feet (163 meters)
Route Type: In-And-Out
Terrain: pebble paths, some muddy areas, few rocky spots
Hours: 6:00 am - 6:00 pm
Completion Time: 1 - 1.5 hours
Difficulty: 2 / 5
Manoa Falls is a gorgeous stroll through the wet valley of Manoa, where you can see vast areas of green nature and the amazing waterfall at the end. It’s not difficult at all, however, there seems to be a lot of issues with people slipping due to the moist ground conditions (wet rock, wet steps). Pictures I have show you how slippery the area is, even though it’s not raining.
Manoa Falls is located in a residential area of Honolulu called Manoa. The University of Hawaii at Manoa is in the same general area as Manoa Falls, so that should be a helpful landmark for you.
If you are coming from the west side (you are on the H1, going east), you can take the PUNAHOU STREET exit, in the lane to Manoa.
If you are coming from the east side, you can take the University exit, which is a loop, continue straight up University Avenue and into Manoa. You’ll eventually end up on Manoa Road.
Neighborhood parking is free. I only had to walk 6 minutes to get from my parking spot to the parking area. Otherwise, you pay $5 to use the parking lot(s). There should be a parking attendant there to tell you where to park. The lot is shared with the Treetops Restaurant, which is now closed.
After parking, you can start walking through a short 5-minute road. You’ll see the Lyon Arboretum entrance on the left. And in the front of you will be the official sign and board for the hike:
The hike is short and there is not a lot of elevation. It seems easy, but actually, footing is important. I noticed a lot of people underestimate the dangers of slippery grounds! It’s a wet valley and with the canopy, the area retains moisture.
Last time I went, I saw one grandpa slip on some stairs with metal topping (wet metal going down is always dangerous). Then headed back, I saw an overweight older lady who fell down and stayed down. Her friend was with her, but could not do much. On our way our out, we saw 4 firefighters going in, probably to carry her out.
Here is an example of the terrain we saw:
As you can see, some areas are stairs, some are flattened rocks, others are dirt and mud.
Amazing, Overgrown Jungle Scene!
Past the front sign a bit will be an open area with an amazing view of trees, and vines overflowing! Its a beautiful view and unlike anything I’ve seen on other hikes!
Creepy Forest Area
Along the way there is a nice little area with a bunch of roots and branches with no leaves. It looks amazing and is a great place to take a photo!
Looking at the little river
Along the way, you’ll also find nice spots to see the river formed by the waterfall. There’ll also be education plaques about animals and plants.
There is One Somewhat Scary Area…
Manoa Falls is pretty easy, but under typically wet conditions, you need to be careful with your steps, unlike a dry hike like Diamond Head or Makapuu. There is one area that is somewhat scary though near the end of the hike. I don’t have a picture, but basically, it’s an area that is a bit narrower, slightly inclined to the side, with no barrier, and a long drop. The side incline and wet conditions could mean you could slip and tumble off, so be careful. We had a death in this month of writing (December 2018) of a hiker in Manoa Falls falling 75 feet and I believe it was in this area.
The End of the Hike
At the end of the hike, you will be greeted with the Manoa Falls pond and the water fall! If it was raining recently, you should be able to see a nice, strong gush like we did when we went.
There is rope and signs telling you to not cross pass a certain point and into the pond, but everyone ignored that. You can see some people swimming in the pond too!
Warning 1: A common warning from the state is to not swim in the pond because of leptosperosis, which is caused by animal dung in water. The risk is there, but not as large as if you were in ponds or stagnant water or you were at lower elevations.
Warning 2: Please don’t try and climb the waterfall wall to get a nicer picture. The footing doesn’t look very good and you can take plenty of great pictures at the ground level. A local high school girl actually died after losing her footing a couple of years ago trying to do this.
When you head back, you can make a slight deviation and stop at Manoa Marketplace. In it, you can find Pizza, vegan sandwiches, a Starbucks, McDonalds, a Japanese restaurant, local-style plate lunches. Also, a short walk away, you can find Serg’s Mexican Kitchen or one of my favorite restaurants, Bangkok Chef , with food shown below: