Lulumahu Falls

Pali Lookout / Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve Nuuanu Section, Hawaii, USA

About Lulumahu Falls


Hiking Distance: 2.4 miles round trip (on sanctioned hike and scramble)
Suggested Time: about 2 hours

Date first visited: 2021-11-23
Date last visited: 2021-11-23

Waterfall Latitude: 21.34813
Waterfall Longitude: -157.80184

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Lulumahu Falls was an attractive 70ft waterfall (though I’d imagine there are hidden tiers only visible from the air) hidden near the headwaters of the Nuuanu (or Nu’uanu) Stream in the Ko’olau Range near the Pali Lookout.

Having seen a handful of other waterfalls on O’ahu, I’d have to say that this is probably one of the better ones on the island.

Lulumahu_Falls_130_11232021 - Lulumahu Falls
Lulumahu Falls

Some compare it to the nearby Manoa Falls since they’re similar in size and location, but I’d have to say Lulumahu Falls is a little better in my mind.

So why did we wait until 2021 to visit this waterfall?

What Is The Access Situation For Lulumahu Falls?

We actually wanted to visit this place when we first visited O’ahu in January 2007.

However, that was when we learned of seven hikers who were cited for trespassing and ordered to show up in court so we considered it kapu (forbidden) ever since that time.

Lulumahu_Falls_051_11232021 - Accessing Lulumahu Falls involves traversing through private property
Accessing Lulumahu Falls involves traversing through private property

Back then, it was a trail used primarily by locals and hunters who knew the area and have managed to figure out how to get to where they needed to go without breaking the law (or getting caught), so to speak.

The issue is that this part of the Nu’uanu Stream is managed by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply (BWS), which actually “owns” or at least manages the watershed that Lulumahu Falls is a part of.

In order to access the waterfall, you have to go through this private land, and therefore unauthorized passage is considered trespassing.

However, in a bit of a rare instance of a kapu Hawaiian waterfall actually becoming more publicly accessible (usually it’s the other way around), the authorities apparently have instituted a permit system.

Lulumahu_Falls_039_11232021 - Looking towards the Nu'uanu Reservoir and a water tower showing where the high water level used to be (as apparently O'ahu was also suffering from an unusual lack of rain during my November 2021 visit)
Looking towards the Nu’uanu Reservoir and a water tower showing where the high water level used to be (as apparently O’ahu was also suffering from an unusual lack of rain during my November 2021 visit)

I was able to secure such a permit by going online to the Hawaii Trails Day Use Permits site, picking the date, and paying $2.50 for the permit to print out.

In any case, this is welcome news for those of us who seek more authentic waterfall experiences and adventures besides the usual suspects.

That said, I know I definitely had to come in with expectations of this being a bit of a rugged and messy hike, especially since the “trail” is not formally maintained.

Therefore, if you don’t have help or you haven’t been here before, you’re likely going to have headscratching moments and the potential to get lost.

Lulumahu_Falls_173_11232021 - Once past the private property portion of the Lulumahu Falls hike, then this was more of the typical trail conditions that I had to contend with with slippery rocks, pink ribbons, and lots of tree roots as well as the ever ubiquitous mud
Once past the private property portion of the Lulumahu Falls hike, then this was more of the typical trail conditions that I had to contend with with slippery rocks, pink ribbons, and lots of tree roots as well as the ever ubiquitous mud

This is on top of other hazards like slip-and-fall surfaces from muddy slopes, wet rocks, and even wet roots, as well as flash flooding (definitely don’t do this if it’s raining or threatening to rain).

Finally, for the record, when I made my visit with my printouts in hand, there didn’t seem to be any authority checking for permits.

That said, it’s better to secure the permits for that piece of mind, but there are still places that the Honolulu BWS want you to steer clear of, which I’ll get to in the trail description below.

Lulumahu Falls Trail Description – The Sanctioned Way

For the record, I only figured out how to properly hike to Lulumahu Falls upon doing a little exploring after coming back from the falls and finding alternate trails on the way back.

Lulumahu_Falls_014_11232021 - Personally I found it least confusing to start with the gated entrance (shown here) instead of the hunter's entrance by the parking area
Personally I found it least confusing to start with the gated entrance (shown here) instead of the hunter’s entrance by the parking area

So I’m going to use this section to describe how you’re supposed to do this hike to better keep you out of trouble.

From the Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve Nuuanu Section parking area (see directions below), I had a choice of taking the hunter’s path or the gated path.

There were also holes in the fencing accessed from this parking area, but they’re not sanctioned and probably shouldn’t be pursued unless you know what you’re doing.

The hunter’s path had a signed narrow entrance right next to parking area as it dove right into the thick bamboo grove.

Lulumahu_Falls_017_11232021 - The sanctioned path kept right at this fork to remain on the wider Lulumahu Trail. The narrower path on the left went back towards the fenced off Honolulu BWS property
The sanctioned path kept right at this fork to remain on the wider Lulumahu Trail. The narrower path on the left went back towards the fenced off Honolulu BWS property

The gated path was just around the corner (to the right) from the parking area facing the Nuuanu Pali Drive.

Both paths lead to a wide unpaved road that is formally the Lulumahu Trail (though I didn’t notice any signs indicating as such).

By the way, if you took the hunter’s path, you might notice a couple of faint trails branching off to the left, but those paths ultimately led to more fencing as I suspected that they used to be the “old ways” of getting to Lulumahu Falls.

Anyways, continuing in a southernly direction on the wider unpaved road, there was an unsigned junction about 500ft from the gate.

Lulumahu_Falls_194_11232021 - Just beyond a muddy path on the Lulumahu Trail, there was this concrete channel to traverse before going into a bamboo grove on the sanctioned way to Lulumahu Falls
Just beyond a muddy path on the Lulumahu Trail, there was this concrete channel to traverse before going into a bamboo grove on the sanctioned way to Lulumahu Falls

Keep to the right at this unsigned junction because the path on the left ultimately led to water hoses, more fencing, and the so-called stone steps (despite what older trail descriptions in the literature might lead you to believe).

Continuing another 500ft or so downhill on the wider path, it eventually reached a muddy patch fronting a concrete water channel (that I suspected was part of the outflow of the Nu’uanu Reservoir further upstream).

After crossing over this channel, the path then narrowed considerably as it went into another thick grove of bamboo, where it might be pretty easy to get lost if not carefully observing the use-trails caused by people who have gone this way before.

Over the next 1/4-mile, the path climbed out of the bamboo grove and up a gully as the jungle started to open up a little more, culinating in a clearing where there was another fence marking the Honolulu BWS property boundary.

Lulumahu_Falls_072_11232021 - In my mind, this man-made dam and waterfall marked the end of the 'private' access part of the Lulumahu Falls hike as the rest of the way was pretty much your conventional Hawaiian jungle hike
In my mind, this man-made dam and waterfall marked the end of the ‘private’ access part of the Lulumahu Falls hike as the rest of the way was pretty much your conventional Hawaiian jungle hike

In about another 500ft of following the faint trail through some mud while following strategically-placed pink ribbons, I’d eventually reach a part of the trail where the “old way” would meet up with the one I was on (more on the “old way” below).

Finally, in another 250ft, I then reached a dam and man-made waterfall, and from this point forward, it was more or less your conventional Hawaiian jungle hike.

By that I mean more stream crossings, ducking fallen trees, clinging to slippery ledges, and following pink ribbons in the more questionable spots.

Lulumahu Falls Trail Description – Following Nu’uanu Stream

The remaining 1/2-mile or so of the Lulumahu Falls hike and scramble pretty much followed alongside (and sometimes inside) the Nu’uanu Stream.

Lulumahu_Falls_086_11232021 - This fallen tree that I had to duck under had a lot of etchings (basically graffiti with a sharp object) on it.  I would imagine this would ironically be a reassuring landmark since you KNOW people have been here before
This fallen tree that I had to duck under had a lot of etchings (basically graffiti with a sharp object) on it. I would imagine this would ironically be a reassuring landmark since you KNOW people have been here before

Immediately after the dam, I found it easiest to cross the stream to the right towards more concrete infrastructure first, but then cross the stream to the left towards a pink-ribboned path.

From there, I found it to be fairly straightforward to continue following the trail over roots, muddy rocks, and ducking fallen trees, while making at least one or two more stream crossings.

Some of the landmarks to watch out for include a fallen tree that I had to duck under with a lot of etchings on it (so you know people have been here before) as well as some intermediate cascade obstacles well upstream.

Regarding that cascade obstacle, I managed to do a bit of a dicey scramble to the left of those cascades, but in hindsight, I was better off taking a stream crossing to get to the right side of the cascades and then crossing somewhere above the falls.

Lulumahu_Falls_096_11232021 - This was an intermediate cascade obstacle where I decided to scramble up its left side, which was actually pretty sketchy. In hindsight, I realized that I had missed a stream crossing further downstream, which would have allowed me to ascend past this cascade on an easier path towards its right side
This was an intermediate cascade obstacle where I decided to scramble up its left side, which was actually pretty sketchy. In hindsight, I realized that I had missed a stream crossing further downstream, which would have allowed me to ascend past this cascade on an easier path towards its right side

After that cascade obstacle, it was only a few more feet before I ultimately made it to the enclosed canyon containing the Lulumahu Falls.

Given the tight and claustrophic nature of the canyon, it should be noted that should a flash flood rip through here, you have very few options of finding higher ground to avoid the sudden inrush of water.

That underscores the danger of being here when there’s the threat of moderate- to heavy rain in the Ko’olau Range.

After having my fill of Lulumahu Falls, I would then come back the way I came.

Lulumahu_Falls_161_11232021 - Finally making it to Lulumahu Falls, which I had to myself on the morning of my hike in November 2021. Eventually a pair of women joined me at the falls, and one of them is in the photo providing a sense of scale
Finally making it to Lulumahu Falls, which I had to myself on the morning of my hike in November 2021. Eventually a pair of women joined me at the falls, and one of them is in the photo providing a sense of scale

By using the sanctioned route, my GPS logs indicated that it would be about 1.2 miles in each direction (or 2.4 miles round trip).

It would probably take me a little about 2 hours to do the whole hike had I known to stick with the sanctioned route the whole way.

However, I was following some sketchy trail descriptions in the literature so it actually took me more like 2.5 hours or more to complete the excursion (more like 3 hours to fully explore and truly understand the whole trail access situation).

Lulumahu Falls Trail Description – The Unsanctioned Way

Finally, given the amount of confusing and conflicting information found in the literature, I thought I’d complete this write-up by describing what I’m calling the “unsanctioned way” or the “trespassing way”.

Lulumahu_Falls_213_11232021 - All of the unsanctioned paths leading to Lulumahu Falls involved going through fencing with clearly marked messaging about trespassing
All of the unsanctioned paths leading to Lulumahu Falls involved going through fencing with clearly marked messaging about trespassing

I named it as such because it involves going behind the fencing that the Honolulu BWS have erected to keep people out of the live construction zone.

That way, you can better understand what to look for (and more importantly what to avoid) to stay out of trouble.

With hindsight being 20/20, I believe that this unsanctioned way was the old way of reaching Lulumahu Falls, mostly because there were landmarks you could look for when you didn’t know any better on where to go.

So starting from the familiar parking area described above, I could follow the fencing to the left until I find holes that people have created, or I could take the hunter’s path into the bamboo grove and then follow one of the false trails to the left.

Lulumahu_Falls_221_11232021 - Context of the unpaved access road leading past the Nu'uanu Reservoir and water tower. Note the embankments to the right in this picture were where the unsanctioned routes would have to climb to get up to this point
Context of the unpaved access road leading past the Nu’uanu Reservoir and water tower. Note the embankments to the right in this picture were where the unsanctioned routes would have to climb to get up to this point

Or, I could also follow the wider Lulumahu Trail to the first major fork (roughly 500ft from the first gate), and then veer left onto the smaller fork towards the water hoses and fencing.

All of these routes ultimately led to an embankment (overgrown with lots of tall invasive grass) supporting an access road that was adjacent to the the mouth of the Nu’uanu Reservoir.

Apparently, there used to be “mysterious stone steps” leading up one part of this overgrown embankment leading up to the road, but I never saw them during my visit.

Once on the access road, I then followed it past the water tower towards a bend in the road veering towards a dead-end where there were construction vehicles, a graffiti-pastered wall, and lots of fencing fronting a shed and some water pipe.

Lulumahu_Falls_052_11232021 - Looking towards the end of the access road, which dead-ended at some construction vehicles, a graffiti-laced wall to the left, and fencing fronting a shed and water pipe to the right
Looking towards the end of the access road, which dead-ended at some construction vehicles, a graffiti-laced wall to the left, and fencing fronting a shed and water pipe to the right

Between the shed and water pipe, there were steps leading to another faint trail that then went across two more fence openings.

This unsanctioned path eventually joined up with the sanctioned Lulumanu Trail about 300ft before the man-made waterfall and dam on the Nu’uanu Stream.

The rest of the hike to Lulumanu Falls would proceed as described in the preceding section.

Authorities

Lulumahu Falls resides in the Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve near Kane’ohe on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Although it resides in a forest reserve, access involves getting permission from the Honolulu Board of Water Supply (BWS). I managed to secure an online permit from their website. For further information or inquiries about the general area as well as current conditions, you may want to try visiting the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) website.

Lulumahu_Falls_003_11232021 - Looking towards the hunter's entrance into the Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve from the parking area
Lulumahu_Falls_006_11232021 - An apparent fork in the trail when I started going through the hunter's entrance during my November 2021 visit. I kept to the right though I did wonder where the path on the left went
Lulumahu_Falls_007_11232021 - The hunter's trail continued passing through a thick grove of bamboo, which made the path seem more claustrophic since you don't really know where you're at when you're in the thick of a jungle like this
Lulumahu_Falls_009_11232021 - Traversing a muddy part of the hunter's path in the bamboo grove as I kept pressing forward en route to Lulumahu Falls
Lulumahu_Falls_010_11232021 - Eventually the hunter's path at the start deposited me onto this wide unpaved trail (more like a road), where I noticed that there was an alternate entrance as shown in this photo where I was looking towards a gate
Lulumahu_Falls_013_11232021 - When I saw that this gate was by the Old Pali Highway (or Nuuanu Pali Drive), that's when I realized that this 'gate entrance' was probably the better way to go to start the Lulumahu Falls hike
Lulumahu_Falls_019_11232021 - After encountering a trail fork, I actually decided to follow one of my trail research and follow the narrower trail on the left (instead of keeping straight on the wider path).  After all, the narrower trail looked like it had gotten a lot of use
Lulumahu_Falls_024_11232021 - On that narrow trail that I took the left of the junction that got me off the wider Lulumahu Trail, I even encountered pink ribbons, which further reinforced my thinking that I had gone the right way (incorrectly I might add but only with hindsight)
Lulumahu_Falls_026_11232021 - Eventually, the narrow trail brought me to what looked to be covered water hoses and a fence blocking any further progress during my November 2021 visit
Lulumahu_Falls_029_11232021 - An informal trail-of-use to the right of the fence eventually got me to the other side, where I found myself at the base of this grassy hill that was actually an embankment with what seemed to be non-native grass growing on its slopes
Lulumahu_Falls_034_11232021 - It was confusing trying to figure out what were the proper paths to take as there were informal muddy and wet trails staying along the base of this embankment as well as others climbing up to the top of the embankment on my left
Lulumahu_Falls_035_11232021 - I remembered one of the write-ups in my trip research mentioned something about mysterious stone steps, and so I assumed that such steps must have climbed up an embankment like this.  Since I saw hints of something up there, I ultimately decided to climb up the embankment and that's when I found myself on an access road next to a reservoir and water tower
Lulumahu_Falls_038_11232021 - Curious about where this access road came from and how I managed to miss it, I looked back where it sounded like the Pali Highway was over there.  It made me wonder if I should have somehow followed the Pali Highway to gain access to this road
Lulumahu_Falls_042_11232021 - Looking towards the body of water that I saw on my GPS app that it was actually the Nu'uanu Reservoir
Lulumahu_Falls_047_11232021 - The access road eventually went around a bend and this junction.  Curious about what the relationship of the junction was to the informal trails that I saw earlier at the base of the embankment, I decided to see where this road went
Lulumahu_Falls_049_11232021 - Well, that road eventually ended up at this very muddy construction site so I retraced my steps back to the main access road and that junction
Lulumahu_Falls_053_11232021 - The first thing I noticed at the dead-end sitting at the end of the access road was that there was a lot of fencing fronting what looked to be some kind of shed with a water pipe and even some steps between them
Lulumahu_Falls_055_11232021 - Looking back from the dead-end, I was able to see the bridge and water tower fronting parts of the lush Ko'olau Mountains
Lulumahu_Falls_054_11232021 - As I looked back from the dead-end, I saw that people had gone to the left of the fencing to continue the hike towards what I presumed was Lulumahu Falls somewhere further upstream
Lulumahu_Falls_056_11232021 - Closer look at the water pipe and the steps all fronting some kind of graffiti-laced shed
Lulumahu_Falls_057_11232021 - Climbing up the steps, I then encountered some kind of hole with fencing covering it as well as another set of steps continuing further into the jungle
Lulumahu_Falls_058_11232021 - Looking back at the graffiti-laced shed and fencing by the dead-end of the access road
Lulumahu_Falls_061_11232021 - Shortly after leaving the graffiti-laced shed area, I noticed this opening in the fence, where the trail continued
Lulumahu_Falls_066_11232021 - After making it through a second opening in a fence, the scrambling path eventually deposited me onto what seemed to be a more established trail again.  However, I noticed pink ribbons in a direction that went opposite where I was supposed to go.  So I opted to take the trail upstream (instead of downstream where these ribbons were at), but I kept a mental note to pursue where that ribbon ultimately went on the return hike
Lulumahu_Falls_068_11232021 - Continuing further up trail as I was hoping that it was the correct way after having gone through all the sketchiness of fences, trespassing signs, construction equipment, etc. to this point during my November 2021 visit
Lulumahu_Falls_074_11232021 - Soon, I arrived at a manmade dam and waterfall, and just beyond it was the first of a handful of crossings of the Nu'uanu Stream. The concrete on the right made it tempting to follow that way to continue to Lulumahu Falls, but in hindsight, there was a path to the left that was actually easier
Lulumahu_Falls_075_11232021 - Continuing further up along the Nu'uanu Stream, I encountered more reassuring pink ribbons though the path was a bit rugged with slippery roots, rocks, and mud like you see in this photo
Lulumahu_Falls_078_11232021 - One of the intermediate cascades seen early on in the jungle hike portion of the Lulumahu Falls adventure after the dam
Lulumahu_Falls_079_11232021 - One of the fallen trees that I had to duck under on the way to Lulumahu Falls during my November 2021 visit
Lulumahu_Falls_080_11232021 - It's easy to feel claustrophobic given how thick the jungle can get, but in this stretch, the path actually felt a little more opened up
Lulumahu_Falls_083_11232021 - After making another crossing of the Nu'uanu Stream, I then followed a path alongside another minor intermediate cascade as shown here
Lulumahu_Falls_090_11232021 - Making another crossing of the Lulumahu Stream as I continued to make my way towards Lulumahu Falls
Lulumahu_Falls_093_11232021 - Still scrambling over roots and rocks on the way upstream to Lulumahu Falls
Lulumahu_Falls_097_11232021 - When I first encountered this cascade obstacle, I opted to keep left of that cascade, which in hindsight was actually a little sketchy as you can see in this photo
Lulumahu_Falls_098_11232021 - After making it above the cascade obstacle, I looked back to see just how dense and disorganized the jungle along the Nu'uanu Stream seemed to be
Lulumahu_Falls_105_11232021 - Finally making it to the elusive Lulumahu Falls
Lulumahu_Falls_115_11232021 - A different perspective of Lulumahu Falls revealing more of its plunge pool at the base. It actually started raining when I showed up to the falls, but lucky for me, it was a light intermittent rain.  Otherwise, I would have been screwed
Lulumahu_Falls_130_11232021 - Broad view of Lulumahu Falls as seen in November 2021
Lulumahu_Falls_154_11232021 - Looking up towards converging parts of the Lulumahu Falls as seen from its very base
Lulumahu_Falls_157_11232021 - Upon closer inspection, I couldn't help but notice that there were actually more hidden tiers behind the vegetation further up from the part that I was able to see cleanly.  So clearly this waterfall was taller than the 70ft I gave it credit for!
Lulumahu_Falls_160_11232021 - I had Lulumahu Falls to myself for several minutes before a couple of local women showed up; one of them went right to the bottom of the waterfall
Lulumahu_Falls_162_11232021 - Another look up towards the top of Lulumahu Falls making me wonder if there was a lot more to this waterfall than meets the eye
Lulumahu_Falls_163_11232021 - Last look back at Lulumahu Falls before I started to make my way back downstream
Lulumahu_Falls_166_11232021 - Upon realizing that there was an easier way to scramble down past the cascade obstacle, I got this glimpse back upstream towards a very partial view of the Lulumahu Falls
Lulumahu_Falls_171_11232021 - The pink ribbons were also useful on the return hike as I was going downstream along the Nu'uanu Stream
Lulumahu_Falls_177_11232021 - I noticed these interesting light-brown-barked trees near the manmade dam and waterfall as I was returning from Lulumahu Falls
Lulumahu_Falls_178_11232021 - Looking towards a group of hikers about to get into the Nu'uanu Stream after leaving the manmade dam and waterfall
Lulumahu_Falls_180_11232021 - Upon closer inspection of my hiking pants, I noticed these green pods that were sticking to them. It turned out that they actually sting!
Lulumahu_Falls_182_11232021 - On the way back from Lulumahu Falls, I decided to pursue those pink ribbons that went in a different direction than the fencing that I had gone through earlier. They ultimately led me downhill into this muddy area though there were still more pink ribbons helping to lead the way
Lulumahu_Falls_183_11232021 - The path eventually led me to this opening in the vegetation, where there was signage and a fence.  It was interesting to think that I was on the other side of this fence earlier on in the hike.  That's when I realized that perhaps I was now on the right trail and the way I took earlier was the incorrect trail
Lulumahu_Falls_185_11232021 - Continuing along the pink-ribbon-aided trail, I then found myself descending further into a thickening jungle
Lulumahu_Falls_188_11232021 - Looking back at some roots and gullies where it might be tricky to determine what's the trail and what's just a natural water channel
Lulumahu_Falls_192_11232021 - Pretty soon I found myself in a disorienting thick bamboo grove where I encountered hikers going the other way
Lulumahu_Falls_193_11232021 - Eventually, the bamboo grove led me to this concrete water channel just as another family was arriving at this spot from the opposite direction.  That further strengthened my resolve that perhaps what I'm seeing now was the wider trail that I should have taken in the first place at the start of my Lulumahu Falls hike!
Lulumahu_Falls_196_11232021 - Looking back at the concrete water channel as this must have been what the trail looked like had I gone the correct way in the first place and reached this point of the Lulumahu Falls adventure
Lulumahu_Falls_199_11232021 - Back on the familiar wide trail leading me back up to the Lulumahu Falls Trailhead
Lulumahu_Falls_230_11232021 - Finally back at the parking area and trailhead for the Lulumahu Falls adventure, but I decided that I wasn't done yet as I was curious to see how I could have accessed that unpaved road that I had encountered earlier
Lulumahu_Falls_212_11232021 - That was when I encountered some fencing and trespassing signs with some holes that clearly people have cut and ripped open to access the 'old way' of reaching Lulumahu Falls
Lulumahu_Falls_214_11232021 - When I got to the end of the parking area, that's when I realized that the fencing actually kept going along the Pali Highway. So clearly, that access road wasn't so accessible as I had thought earlier on
Lulumahu_Falls_218_11232021 - Eventually after going through one of the fence holes, that's when I realized that those holes were there to gain access to that unpaved access road after climbing the embankment
Lulumahu_Falls_226_11232021 - One of the steep climbs up to the embankment near another fence hole
Lulumahu_Falls_225_11232021 - Looking back at one of the fence holes facing the grassy embankment
Lulumahu_Falls_223_11232021 - Looking back at a local couple who were obviously more familiar with the trespassing route
Lulumahu_Falls_224_11232021 - I spied where they went, and they ultimately took the path leading to perhaps the furthest of the fence holes facing the Pali Highway
Lulumahu_Falls_227_11232021 - Meanwhile, I took a different fence hole, which turned out to rejoin the hunting trail via the unsigned spur path that I thought was sus earlier on at the start of my Lulumahu Falls adventure.  Now I finally realized that all the fenced routes were not correct though I also suspected that locals in the know would still go that way since perhaps that's what's they're most familiar with


Since I went to Lulumahu Falls from the Honolulu / Waikiki area, that’s how I’ll describe the driving directions.

It can get tricky leaving Waikiki to get onto the H1 (and traffic patterns change), but my preferred way to get there from the Sheraton Waikiki say was to take any of the small streets north to Ala Wai Blvd.

Waikiki_096_11242021 - It can be deceptively tricky to find the way to the H1 westbound mainly because of the concrete jungle and maze of one-way streets, bridges, and ramps.  This is especially true if trying to drive in and out of the famed Waikiki area
It can be deceptively tricky to find the way to the H1 westbound mainly because of the concrete jungle and maze of one-way streets, bridges, and ramps. This is especially true if trying to drive in and out of the famed Waikiki area

Then, turn left onto the one-way Ala Wai Blvd heading west but keeping right to make a right turn onto McCully Street.

Then, follow McCully Street north to Dole Street, where I’d turn left and then follow this low-key residential street to Alexander Street at a four-way stop.

Turning left onto Alexander Street, then I’d be going straight to the onramp for the westbound H1 Freeway.

Once on the H1 going west, I then followed it to the Pali Highway (connecting ramp on the right).

Lulumahu_Falls_207_11232021 - Looking back at the cars parking at the Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve clearing, which was where I began the Lulumahu Falls hike
Looking back at the cars parking at the Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve clearing, which was where I began the Lulumahu Falls hike

Then, I followed the Pali Highway north for about 4 miles before entering the parking area (more like a clearing with some trees), which was on the right side just where the Nuuanu Pali Drive (the Old Pali Highway) rejoins the Pali Highway.

Overall, this drive took me around 30 minutes (with some limited traffic), but if it was on a typical weekday with rush hour traffic, this can easily blow up to around 45 minutes or longer!

For geographical context, Lulumahu Falls was near Kane’ohe, which was 6 miles (about 15 minutes drive) west of Kailua, 14 miles (over 30 minutes drive) northeast of Honolulu / Waikiki, 16 miles (under 30 minutes drive) east of Pearl City, 24 miles (about 45 minutes drive) south of La’ie, and 34 miles (about 45 minutes drive) southeast of Hale’iwa.

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Downstream to upstream sweep of Lulumahu Falls and its calm plunge pool area just as I arrived


Oblong sweep starting with the top of Lulumahu Falls then panning downstream before following the cliff tops and finally ending with another panning down the waterfall


Checking out Lulumahu Falls from its base looking up and then scrambling to the middle of the stream for another sweep of the cliff tops and the falls from more of a distance


Frontal top down sweep of the falls while standing in the middle of the stream while trying to reveal the hidden upper tiers

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Tagged with: honolulu board of water supply, nuuanu pali, lulumahu stream, permit



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Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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