About Waimano Falls
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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