Maunawili Falls

Pali Lookout, Hawaii, USA

About Maunawili Falls

Hiking Distance: 3 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 2-3 hours

Date first visited: 2007-01-18
Date last visited: 2007-01-18

Waterfall Latitude: 21.34866
Waterfall Longitude: -157.77247

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

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.

Maunawili_Falls_018_01182007 - Maunawili Falls
Maunawili Falls

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.

Hiking to Maunawili Falls

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.

Maunawili_Falls_035_01182007 - One of the stream crossings on the Maunawili Falls hike
One of the stream crossings on the Maunawili Falls hike

However, we were mindful that open cuts and wounds did have the potential for introducing the leptospirosis bacteria (good thing we didn’t have any such wounds 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.

Maunawili_Falls_008_01182007 - The context of the plunge pool before Maunawili Falls
The context of the plunge pool before Maunawili Falls

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.

Twisted Mountain

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.

That final drop was the lone visible drop from what we could tell.

Maunawili_Falls_031_01182007 - The trail to Maunawili Falls revealing mountains with fluted pali in the distance
The trail to Maunawili Falls revealing mountains with fluted pali in the distance

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.

However, I’m not sure if the twisted mountain had anything to do with these pali (cliffs).


Maunawili Falls resides on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. As far as I know, it is not administered by any official authority. For 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.

Pali_Lookout_012_01182007 - We made a brief stop at the Pali Lookout before proceeding to look for the falls
Maunawili_Falls_039_01182007 - Scenery around the residential area at the start of the trail
Maunawili_Falls_011_jx_01182007 - The trail is behind that gate
Maunawili_Falls_005_jx_01182007 - The trail left the pavement here
Maunawili_Falls_035_01182007 - Julie crossing one of the streams
Maunawili_Falls_005_01182007 - Julie climbing up some steps after the third stream crossing
Maunawili_Falls_033_01182007 - Trail providing a view of the Ko'olau Range and some of its fluted cliffs
Maunawili_Falls_007_01182007 - We turned left at this unsigned fork
Maunawili_Falls_023_01182007 - We finally made it to Maunawili Falls
Maunawili_Falls_019_01182007 - Some daredevil made a big splash after jumping off a cliff into the deep pool

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.

Maunawili_Falls_039_01182007 - The residential area near the trailhead for Maunawili Falls
The residential area near the trailhead for Maunawili Falls

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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Tagged with: koolau, pali, nuuanu, maunawili, oahu, hawaii, waterfall, honolulu, waikiki, lepto, leptospirosis

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Beware Leptospirosis (Maunawili Falls) May 14, 2015 4:52 pm by Patrick - Leptospirosis has been found in these waters. Educate yourself before swimming there. ...Read More

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A very long walk from the main highway. (Maunawili Falls) October 22, 2012 2:52 am by Rick - I constantly see people hiking/walking into Maunawili from the main highway(Pali Highway). This is a really long walk before you even get close to the beginning of the trail. You should really Google map this before starting your adventure. There is a city bus that will get you most of the way in but it… ...Read More
Very fun hike and a great swimming hole to cliff jump into! June 26, 2009 8:49 pm by Tiffani - Very easy and enjoyable hike to and from the waterfall at the end. Be advised it is extremely dangerous hike if it has rained the same day. I've been a few times and the last time it took us two hours in the dark, led by cell phone light, slippery mud going downhill, with no… ...Read More

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About Johnny Cheng

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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