Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
2,629.00 ft (801.32 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
10.00 km (6.21 mi)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

This hike features not only Mount Tantalus which overlooks Honolulu but Manoa Falls and a few famous filming locations (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Hawaii Five-0, and Lost). It also features three enormous banyans and a lot of fun, albeit slightly difficult trails. The trail can be closed during severe weather.

Start at the Lyon Arboretum, Manoa Falls Parking. You can take the bus (no. 5 to Manoa Rd + Kumunoe St, then a short walk) or drive there (the Manoa Falls parking lot, the only one that’s always open, isn’t big so either come earlier in the morning or take the bus). There’s a small shop with fruits, drinks, and a bathroom.

Head out on Manoa Falls Trail and follow it as it crosses a small creek. You’ll arrive at a place you might recognize from one of the aforementioned films/shows. The open space there is the last open space you’ll see for a while—cross another bridge and follow the trail as it gets swallowed by the jungle. It starts to climb here as it follows Waihi Stream toward Manoa Falls.

You’ll arrive at Manoa Falls after about ¾ of a mile. Depending on the season and how much it had rained in the previous days and weeks, it might come crashing down in an impressive show of power or it might be just barely trickling down the rocks. There’s a sign that prohibits entry all the way to the base of the waterfall and even a low wall for those who didn’t learn how to read in elementary school but you’re probably likely to see a few people who would need to go sit at a school desk once more. Please respect the place and have a regard for your own safety and follow these signs.

From the falls, head up Aihualama Trail. For a mile and a half, it will lead you up the mountain in a series of switchbacks. You’ll go through bamboo groves and over banyan tree roots. There’s a section of the trail that’s about 5% trail and 95% root. It looks almost as if the trail had disappeared. There are three enormous, ancient banyans near that section. Unfortunately, people have felt the desire to carve their initials and other things into the bark of these gorgeous trees, so be prepared to see that.

Be very careful with your footing, as Aihualama Trail has some of the most fun sections of the hike, which also means it’s quite easy to turn an ankle there. The mud and roots are slippery, especially after it rains, so choose your footing wisely. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad trail for children; they’re likely to have a lot of fun scrambling up and down the roots and rocks.

Aihualama Trail eventually joins Pauoa Flats where the climb levels off for a bit. Stay on the Pauoa Flats trail for half a mile, going straight through the two trail junctions you’ll encounter. There’s a wooden boardwalk to make it easier to get over the endless roots but time has worked its magic and the boardwalk is wobbly now, so use it only if it feels safe to do so.

Eventually, after one more short climb, you’ll reach a trail junction that’s almost up above the vegetation. There will be a closed gate on your left; walk through it to join Manoa Cliffs Trail. The gate is there to keep wild boars out of the restoration site.

After 0.1 mile on Manoa Cliffs Trail, turn right onto Pu’u ‘Ohi’a Trail and follow it for roughly half a mile (it will turn into a paved service road halfway through).

After said half-mile, you’ll have reached the top of Mount Tantalus, or Pu’u ‘Ohi’a. Pu’u is a Hawaiian word for anything that protrudes above a normal surface level, from a little bump to a hill. Ohi’a is one of the most common trees native to Hawaii.

As this is an out-and-back hike, to return to your car, simply retrace your steps. You’ll see these exact maps on every major trail junction alongside this subway-style map. If you’re someone who struggles with directions, I suggest you print out the map and mark/write out the names of the trails you need to take. It should make it comparatively easy to find your way then. Either way, even if you do get lost, simply head downhill. There’s a trailhead on every side of the mountain and a good bus system means you’ll be able to make it back to your car/back home without any trouble. Uber is also easy to get, especially in the Honolulu area where you’ll be.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Fall
Spring
Winter
Summer

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

Parking fee per car

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Mostly shaded. Near other adventures. Old banyan trees. Fun, challenging trail. Food, water, and bathroom at the trailhead.

Cons

No water on top. Trail can be too challenging for some.

Trailhead Elevation

475.00 ft (144.78 m)

Highest point

2,031.00 ft (619.05 m)

Features

Waterfalls
Geologically significant
Bird watching
Old-growth forest
Flushing toilets

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

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