Maunawili Falls is a small but picturesque and popular 15-30ft. We figure it’s popular because it’s publicly accessible and because it has a nice swimming hole that’s deep enough even for some daredevils to do a dangerous cliff dive into the pool.
But its popularity belies the fact that we did have to do a bit of a hike involving several stream crossings and one head-scratching moment at the last stream crossing. And fortunately for us, there were enough people on the trail that we were able to get around some of the confusing parts just by following some locals who knew where they were going.
The hike started in a residential area in the town of Maunawili. From there, we hiked about two miles to the falls crossing over four streams en route. We were wearing Keens so the stream crossings weren’t really a problem (though we were mindful that open cuts and wounds did have the potential for introducing the leptospirosis bacteria; good thing we didn’t have any on this excursion).
We want to point out a couple of key points in the otherwise straightforward hike.
At about a half-mile beyond the third stream crossing, the trail climbed up some steps eventually reaching a bench at an unsigned fork in the trail. We had to turn left at this fork to descend the short (maybe about 100ft) steep series of steps back down to the Maunawili Stream.
There was actually another unnamed stream joining the main stream, and it was here that we had to make the fourth and longest stream crossing. Here, we made the mistake of taking the faint trail on the right and eventually ended up in a muddy bog. When we figured out that we should’ve crossed the stream and head towards the right bank (left fork), that was when we started to pick up the last 0.1-mile of the trail to its end at the Maunawili Falls.
All told, it took us about an hour of hiking in each direction.
Upon doing some post-trip reading, I learned that “Maunawili” means “twisted mountain.” I’m only speculating here, but perhaps it’s because the falls was mostly hidden as it twisted and tumbled its way down a rocky slope before making its final drop, which was the lone visible drop from what we could tell. There were also scenic fluted cliffs (part of the Ko’olau Range) providing a good scenic backdrop for photographs when we reached the apex of the hike, but I’m not sure if the twisted mountain had anything to do with these pali (cliffs).
From the Honolulu/Waikiki area, head west on the H-1 Freeway to the Pali Highway (Hwy 61). Take the Pali Highway north. Go beyond Pali Lookout and through the Pali Tunnels to the second A’uloa Road intersection/exit.
Once off the highway, keep left at the fork to get onto the Maunawili Road. Then, follow the road for about 1.5 miles south into a residential area. Once Maunawili Road junctions with Kelewina Street, that’s where you can start looking for street parking beyond all the “No Parking” signs (please tread lightly as you’re now surrounded by private residences).
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