Waimano Falls

Pearl City / Ewa Forest Reserve, Hawaii, USA

About Waimano Falls


Hiking Distance: about 3.6 miles round trip (some steep scrambling sections)
Suggested Time: about 3-4 hours

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

Waterfall Latitude: 21.43301
Waterfall Longitude: -157.92174

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Waimano Falls felt more like a locals waterfall as it was located near Pearl City, and its main draw was a rope swing (a definite tell-tale sign that locals in the know would come here).

The hike to access this waterfall was just strenuous and sketchy enough to deter most casual visitors.

Waimano_Falls_039_iPhone_11232021 - Waimano Falls
Waimano Falls

Moreover, in my estimation, the main waterfall was probably on the order of 30-40ft tall so it wasn’t as if most people would be willing to go through the obstacles, the risks, and the discomfort level to go out of the way for.

When I did this hike on a hot sunny day, it took me a little over 3 hours to complete, which should give you an idea of how deceptively non-trivial it was considering I had only gone about 3.6 miles round trip according to my GPS logs.

Perhaps if I hadn’t taken one false trail that took me on a bit of a costly 15- to 20-minute detour, or if I hadn’t really taken my time of the very steep descent down the so-called “Cardiac Hill”, I might have been able to do this trail faster.

Nevertheless, both the hike and the waterfalls experience were seemingly not too overrun during my November 2021 visit.

Waimano_Falls_056_iPhone_11232021 - Context of the lower cascades and rope swing fronting Waimano Falls, where the main falls can be partially seen in the background of this photo
Context of the lower cascades and rope swing fronting Waimano Falls, where the main falls can be partially seen in the background of this photo

This was especially surprising when you consider that the access trail branched off from the sanctioned Manana Ridge Trail, which itself was a very strenuous trail leading along a ridge towards the Ko’olau Summit.

Waimano Falls Trail Description – The Manana Ridge Trail

The Waimano Falls hike began at the end of a residential road (see directions below).

At the end of the road was a cul-de-sac (where you can’t park within it) as well as a gate marking the start of the Manana Ridge Trail.

Beyond the gate, I was on a wide dirt trail lined by trees with some seemingly thin (almost grassy) leaves.

Waimano_Falls_007_11232021 - The gate at the start of the Manana Ridge Trail at the cul-de-sac at the very end of Komo Mai Drive
The gate at the start of the Manana Ridge Trail at the cul-de-sac at the very end of Komo Mai Drive

Such vegetation convinced me that perhaps this part of the western side of the Ko’olau Range would be at a transition between the wetter windward side of the mountains versus the drier leeward side.

As a result, the trail remained pretty straightforward to hike with a generally gradual incline of about 250ft over the first mile.

Along the way, the trail passed by some power pylons and power lines yielding some fine views.

Among the views, I was able to look towards the south in the direction of Pearl Harbor and Pearl City.

Waimano_Falls_041_11232021 - Looking towards Mililani and Waihiawa backed by the Waianae Range from the base of a power pylon along the Manana Ridge Trail
Looking towards Mililani and Waihiawa backed by the Waianae Range from the base of a power pylon along the Manana Ridge Trail

In other spots, I was able to look towards the northwest in the direction of Mililani and Waihiawa in O’ahu’s central valley backed by the Waianae Range up the spine of Western O’ahu.

At about a half-mile from the trailhead, I reached a water tank fronted by some barbed wire fencing.

Then, eventually at around a mile from the trailhead, I reached a signed trail fork, where the path on the left continued along the Manana Ridge Trail while the path on the right descended along the Waimano Falls Trail.

It took me around 30-45 minutes to get to this point on a relatively easy, leisurely pace, but the next part of the hike was where the real adventure began…

Waimano Falls Trail Description – Descending Cardiac Hill to the Waterfall

Waimano_Falls_009_iPhone_11232021 - The signed trail fork where the path on the left continued along the Manana Ridge Trail while the path on the right descended towards Waimano Falls
The signed trail fork where the path on the left continued along the Manana Ridge Trail while the path on the right descended towards Waimano Falls

Once on the signed Waimano Falls Trail, the path started off innocently enough descending along a sloping ledge for about the first 500ft.

However, then the trail descended very steeply in a stretch that was locally known as “Cardiac Hill” probably because it would be a relentlessly steep uphill climb to get back to this point.

Indeed, the trail increasingly became steeper as it descended among a lot of tree roots with some signage trying to steer people more to the right to allow some vegetation to regrow and restabilize the hillside from further erosion.

The further down this hill I went, the steeper and narrower the trail became as I then started to encounter sketchy sections where people had set up rope for a little better balance and leverage.

Waimano_Falls_026_iPhone_11232021 - This was the sketchy and steep rock slope where I had to carefully cling to ledges to safely get down. There was a false trail to the left of this picture, but the actual trail continued behind where this photo was taken
This was the sketchy and steep rock slope where I had to carefully cling to ledges to safely get down. There was a false trail to the left of this picture, but the actual trail continued behind where this photo was taken

Such trail conditions would pretty much dominate the experience as I found I really needed to be mindful of the steps I took, especially since I had a few close calls with a slip-and-fall.

Towards the lower end of the persistently steep descent at about a half-mile from where the Waimano Falls Trail branched off the Manana Ridge Trail, there was one particularly steep, rocky slope that I had to cling onto narrow ledges to slowly make my way down.

Once at the bottom, there was a false trail that kept descending, and it wasn’t until I no longer saw any obvious indications of a trail did I realize I went off course (and the GPS confirmed it) before backtracking to recover the actual trail.

The key was to stay to the left along the sketchy rock wall/slope, and then resume the narrow trail as it would encounter more steep slopes and even a couple of switchbacks.

Waimano_Falls_079_11232021 - This lone tree in an open part of the jungle was one of the few spots on the Waimano Falls Trail that didn't feel closed in by the jungle
This lone tree in an open part of the jungle was one of the few spots on the Waimano Falls Trail that didn’t feel closed in by the jungle

Roughly another 0.1-mile further, the jungle opened up momentarily to reveal where the main fork of the Waimano Stream flowed while also passing next to a lone tall tree.

After another 0.1-mile after re-entering the jungle, the trail made one last steep and somewhat slippery and sketchy descent until it reached a ledge overlooking the lower cascade and rope swing.

Keeping to the left to continue upstream, the trail eventually ended abruptly at a small dropoff with a view of Waimano Falls and its plunge pool.

There was a rope-assisted steep and sketchy (nearly vertical) descent to get down to the level of the stream as well as further downstream to the rope swing and lower cascade.

Waimano_Falls_086_11232021 - Looking down towards a pair of girls enjoying the rope swing and lower cascade with plunge pool just downstream of the main Waimano Falls
Looking down towards a pair of girls enjoying the rope swing and lower cascade with plunge pool just downstream of the main Waimano Falls

And this was the turnaround point of the hike, which took me around an hour to cover the roughly 0.6- to 3/4-mile stretch losing about 500ft in elevation down the so-called “Cardiac Hill”.

Indeed, on the way back up, it was a relentlessly sweaty climb to regain all that elevation and rejoin the Manana Ridge Trail, and by the time I returned to the trailhead and then eventually my parked car, it took me over an hour to do it.

Authorities

Waimano Falls resides in the Ewa Forest Reserve near Pearl City on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. 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.

Waimano_Falls_006_11232021 - The ubiquitous feral rooster were not only prevalent on Kaua'i, but they were also all over O'ahu. These were roaming at the Manana Ridge Trailhead
Waimano_Falls_013_11232021 - The Manana Ridge Trail started off as rather wide and quite easy to follow. Notice the trees flanking the trail had leaves that looked more like blades of grass than the broader lusher types you'd typically see on the windward slopes of the Ko'olau Range
Waimano_Falls_017_11232021 - Approaching one of the power pylons flanking the Manana Ridge Trail
Waimano_Falls_020_11232021 - Looking out from beneath some power lines over the ravine carved out by the Waimano Stream
Waimano_Falls_021_11232021 - Looking in the distance towards Pearl City and the general direction of Pearl Harbor from the Manana Ridge Trail
Waimano_Falls_022_11232021 - Looking up at another set of power pylons standing by the Manana Ridge Trail
Waimano_Falls_024_11232021 - Continuing along the wide and fairly tame Manana Ridge Trail
Waimano_Falls_028_11232021 - Some parts of the Manana Ridge Trail were actually paved, like this stretch alongside some more power pylons
Waimano_Falls_030_11232021 - Looking out from underneath power lines towards O'ahu's central valley and the Waianae Range in the distance from the Manana Ridge Trail
Waimano_Falls_034_11232021 - This water tank was roughly about a half-mile from the gate at the Manana Ridge Trailhead
Waimano_Falls_037_11232021 - Continuing to pass by more power pylons along the Manana Ridge Trail
Waimano_Falls_047_11232021 - The first mile of the Manana Ridge Trail generally climbed, but the incline wasn't so severe nor was the hike that sunny thanks to the many trees providing ample shade. When the trades are blowing, it further de-humidifies the trail conditions making it even more as far as jungle hike is concerned
Waimano_Falls_056_11232021 - At nearly a mile from the Manana Ridge Trailhead, I encountered this signed arrow keeping me from going left up the false trail
Waimano_Falls_057_11232021 - Shortly thereafter, I finally encountered this signed trail junction where I kept right to descend towards Waimano Falls and leave the Manana Ridge Trail
Waimano_Falls_061_11232021 - The Waimano Falls Trail started off innocently enough along this sloping ledge as it descended deeper into the ravine
Waimano_Falls_065_11232021 - There were some false trails with signs keeping you away from them to allow the soil-stabilizing vegetation to grow
Waimano_Falls_071_11232021 - Soon enough, the Waimano Falls Trail's descent became even steeper as I then found myself slowly descending among tree roots like these when I took a short breather to look back up at how far I've come down so far
Waimano_Falls_077_11232021 - The Waimano Falls Trail became increasingly narrow the further down I went
Waimano_Falls_108_11232021 - Context of another hiker making her way down the steep 'Cardiac Hill' en route to Waimano Falls
Waimano_Falls_021_iPhone_11232021 - Some parts of the steep descent had ropes to use as handholds so I could descend backwards if it became steep enough
Waimano_Falls_064_iPhone_11232021 - Another look at the steep, rope-assisted descent (or climb on the way back up) on 'Cardiac Hill'
Waimano_Falls_028_iPhone_11232021 - Continuing down the Waimano Falls Trail, which was now even rockier and muddier than earlier on, making this hike deceptively strenuous despite its modest distance
Waimano_Falls_029_iPhone_11232021 - At some point, the trail descended to an opening, where the hike felt less claustrophobic than it did for most of the descent down Cardiac Hill
Waimano_Falls_030_iPhone_11232021 - Still continuing along the narrow, rocky, and slippery Waimano Falls Trail though at least a lot of the elevation loss was behind me so far
Waimano_Falls_033_iPhone_11232021 - Looking over a rope swing and part of the lower cascades fronting Waimano Falls from a precarious ledge leading me to the end of the trail
Waimano_Falls_034_iPhone_11232021 - Finally approaching the Waimano Falls after all the effort it took to get here
Waimano_Falls_042_iPhone_11232021 - Finally getting a clean look at the main drop of Waimano Falls
Waimano_Falls_087_11232021 - Another look at the main drop of Waimano Falls
Waimano_Falls_048_iPhone_11232021 - Looking down at the plunge pool area fronting Waimano Falls from the end of the trail
Waimano_Falls_093_11232021 - In order to make it down to the plunge pool, I actually had to scale this sketchy vertical wall though there were some rope tied here for assistance
Waimano_Falls_053_iPhone_11232021 - When I was about to leave, another family showed up. This photo shows how high up you are on the trail before you have to climb down to the plunge pool area
Waimano_Falls_058_iPhone_11232021 - Looking towards the lower cascade and that family starting to use the rope swing there during my November 2021 visit
Waimano_Falls_101_11232021 - Still another look towards the rope swing and tiers of Waimano Falls before I started to head back up
Waimano_Falls_102_11232021 - The girls that I met earlier were already on the way back up the steep hill immediately above the Waimano Falls
Waimano_Falls_067_iPhone_11232021 - It was a long and relentless uphill climb up 'Cardiac Hill', where it was clear why the locals gave this part of the hike its name
Waimano_Falls_070_iPhone_11232021 - Continuing to make the steep, rooty climb back up Cardiac Hill as I was almost back to the Manana Ridge Trail
Waimano_Falls_112_11232021 - After finally returning to the Manana Ridge Trail, the rest of the hike was easy and gradually downhill
Waimano_Falls_118_11232021 - You know you're close to finishing this hike when you start seeing power pylons again
Waimano_Falls_127_11232021 - Finally making it back to Komo Mai Drive and the end of the Waimano Falls hike, but I still had to get back to my rental car
Waimano_Falls_128_11232021 - This was unfortunate, but if locals have to remind (and demonstrate to) visitors to not leave trash and pick up their dog poo, there will be increased tension and efforts to limit or even close off access to the Waimano Falls!
Waimano_Falls_131_11232021 - Looking towards Pearl Harbor from the end of Komo Mai Drive


I’ll describe the driving directions to Waimano Falls from the H1 Freeway at the Pali Highway (Hwy 61) interchange, which is in the Honolulu / Waikiki area.

For specific driving directions on getting out of the maze of one-way streets and traffic in the Waikiki area to the westbound H1 freeway, you can consult the driving directions in the Kapena Falls write-up.

Waimano_Falls_001_11232021 - After finding legal street parking in the residential Komo Mai Drive, you then have to walk to the end of the Komo Mai Drive to pick up the Manana Ridge Trail
After finding legal street parking in the residential Komo Mai Drive, you then have to walk to the end of the Komo Mai Drive to pick up the Manana Ridge Trail

Continuing west on the H1, I’d drive for about 2.5 miles before keeping right onto the H201 Freeway, following for another 4.5 miles before rejoining the H1 near its interchange with the H3.

Then, I’d continue driving west on the H1 for another 2.5 miles before taking the exit 10 for Pearl City / Waimalu.

Once off the freeway, I then turned right onto Moanalua Road and took that for about 3/4-mile before turning right onto Waimano Home Road.

After about 0.6-mile, I then turned left onto Komo Mai Drive, and then I followed this road all the way to its end in 3 miles.

Waimano_Falls_004_11232021 - Parking within the cul-de-sac at the end of Komo Mai Drive is prohibited
Parking within the cul-de-sac at the end of Komo Mai Drive is prohibited

Please note that the end of Komo Mai Drive is a residential area, where parking in the cul-de-sac at the end of the road is prohibited.

You’ll have to find street parking without blocking anyone’s driveway so that could add some hiking distance (it added about 10 minutes in each direction for my hike).

Overall, it took me around 45 minutes between the trailhead and the Sheraton Waikiki with some rush hour traffic, which should give you an idea of how long this drive takes.

For geographical context, Pearl City was 15 miles (over 30 minutes drive according to Google) northwest of Honolulu / Waikiki, 11 miles (under 30 minutes drive) northeast of Kapolei, 20 miles (over 30 minutes drive) southeast of Hale’iwa, about 15 miles west of Kane’ohe, 21 miles (about 30 minutes drive) west of Kailua, and 36 miles (over an hour drive) southwest of La’ie.

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Brief sweep examining Waimano Falls and its main plunge pool from the end of the trail before the dicey scramble down to the plunge pool


Back and forth sweep from a precarious ledge revealing part of the main Waimano Falls while also revealing a lower cascade beneath a rope swing

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Tagged with: manana ridge, pearl harbor, mililani, komo mai drive, rope swing, koolau summit



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