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Patrick Nichols | 08.29.2017

There's something about stumbling through the jungle on a hot day and coming across that cool, clear pool at the base of a towering waterfall. A powerful cascade coupled with the refreshing mist that beckons adventurers can be truly spectacular to behold. Hawai'i is a paradise in many ways, but its sharply eroded, jagged mountain peaks and plentiful rainfall creates an amazing array of tropical waterfalls throughout the islands. Many of the countless waterfalls are hidden away at the back of dense mountain valleys, while others are easily accessible and surely worth a visit. If you are traveling to the Hawaiian islands, make sure that you don't miss out on these popular favorites!

Big Island

  • Rainbow Falls: Located just outside the city of Hilo on the east coast, Rainbow Falls is a popular destination with limited parking but easy access to the misty cliff-side overlook with views of the 80-foot tall waterfall. Go early in the morning when the sunlight creates the vivid rainbows for which the falls are named. 

  • Wai'ale Falls: Also located just outside Hilo on the Wailuku River, Wai'ale Falls is a less crowded alternative to Rainbow Falls, with opportunities for swimming and cliff jumping in the deep pools below. No need to worry about a dry riverbed here, as the river is large and always flowing!


  • Twin Falls : This Ho'olawa Valley hike features multiple waterfalls and pools along a gravel road and rocky path. Some of the smaller falls are close to the parking area and the larger, more picturesque Caveman Falls is located under a mile away from the road. Be sure to bring shoes that can get wet and take a dip under the refreshing cascades.

  • Waimoku Falls: Waimoku Falls is situated along the windward coast of Maui in the Haleakalā National Park ($10 entrance fee). This isolated hike through rugged terrain cumulates in one of the tallest accessible waterfalls in Hawai'i, towering a staggering 400 feet above the valley floor! This hike is longer than some of the others, but definitely worth a trip if staying near Hana.


  • Manoa Falls - This popular hike is crowded for a reason, as it is one of the more accessible trails just 15 minutes from downtown Honolulu and features a 150-foot waterfall and small pool at the back of Manoa Valley. Bring the entire family on the well-maintained trail, but be sure to go during the wetter winter months or after a big rain, otherwise this waterfall may be only a trickle. Swimming is not advised due to falling rocks and leptospirosis in the water. 

  • Lulumahu Falls: This smaller 65-foot, two-tiered waterfall is still impressive, accessible, and popular among tourists and locals. The relatively short hike in makes a perfect daytime trip through bamboo and tropical forests of the Nu'uanu Reserve. Lulumahu is the perfect balance of adventure and ease.

  • Maunawili Falls: Located on the windward side of the island, this popular swimming hole is a great place to relax, cool off, or jump from the rock ledges. The flume is usually gushing, and consequently the trail can be extremely muddy in places, but nothing beats this jungle oasis on a hot day!

  • Ka'au Crater Falls: For the more adventurous, do not miss out on the three waterfalls that make up the Ka'au Crater hike! This strenuous hike leads up the Palolo Valley floor and requires bypassing the first two falls via a steep trail, while scaling the third flume, to reach the crater rim and summit along the Ko'olau mountain range. Be sure to commit the entire day for this hike, or just a few hours if you are planning to turn around at the picturesque first falls.


  • Wailua Falls: Wailua, or "two waters mingling," is probably one of the most iconic waterfalls and is certainly one of the most popular on Kauai. Its 83-foot drop was once used as a test of courage and manhood for ancient Hawaiians, but it can now safely be viewed from the lookout adjacent to the parking area. During periods of heavy rainfall, these two parallel falls can actually turn into one giant gushing torrent of water.


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