Nestled at the back of the Mānoa Valley is an easily accessible towering waterfall that is fed from the high flanks of Konahuanui. Mānoa can be considered among the wettest places on the island due to its unique weather patterns that trap moisture and precipitation in the expansive valley. Hence, on an average day, Manoa Falls is usually gushing, except during the dry season, when it is reduced to a trickle.
The 1.6-mile round-trip hike starts at the end of Manoa Road, just before the Lyon Arboretum, where there is a designated paid parking lot and the signed trailhead 100 yards up the road. The lower sections of the trail are flat and lined with gravel, passing initially over a small footbridge and under eucalyptus trees and massive Moluccan albizia trees. These giants are invasive to Hawai'i and notorious for their soft wood that crumbles easily, making tree and branch falls more common. Look around the large opening after the bridge for remnant trunks of fallen trees. After the large opening and informational signs, a slight incline begins as the trail follows the contours of the nearby stream. Hikers pass beneath dense tangled hau trees with heart-shaped leaves, by blooming hibiscus and ginger flowers, and under a strangler fig natural archway before reaching a muddy section just below the falls. Here, due to the high amount of precipitation in the area, footing can be slippery and somewhat gooey in the red mud. Around the final bend in the trail are the falls themselves, towering 150 feet above the viewing area. A more difficult trail off to the left is the 'Aihualama Trail, which switchbacks up the steep cliffs toward Pauoa Flats and the maze of trails on the ridge above. Signs and cables mark the end of the trail and warn visitors about getting too close to the shallow pools. Rock slides are relatively common around the steep valley walls and leptospirosis may be found in the water, so use good judgment when enjoying the falls.
The Manoa Falls hike is popular and oftentimes extremely crowded, especially on weekends. Groups must be limited to 12 or less and make sure to stay on the trail to avoid trampling restorative efforts. Head out early in the morning or later in the evening to miss most of the crowds. Additional street parking is available lower down on Manoa Road, among the neighborhoods. Be prepared for mosquitoes, mud, and stay hydrated (bring reusable water bottles, as plastic trash has been accumulating on the trail).