The other day, I finally made it to Maunawili Falls. This is a hike that I have been avoiding for the longest time. You see, Maunawili Falls is quite a popular place for tourists, locals, families, and kids. Consequently, it can be quite crowded so it kind of ruins the “quiet tropical waterfall” feeling that I usually get when I visit a waterfall. However, I still enjoyed my hike to Maunawili Falls because there were a few hidden areas and it was fun to watch folks diving into the pool below. Please enjoy my first venture to one of Oahu’s most visited waterfalls.
Recently, I was in first class indoc class and was let out early so I had time for a quick hike in the wilderness. I thought about Pali Puka but it was quite windy that day, so I set off for Maunawili Falls instead.
Maunawili Falls is the most popular and visited waterfall on this island with the only possible exception being Manoa Falls. The falls are featured in numerous guidebooks and tour guides as a popular family hike to a scenic waterfall in Kailua. But, I heard that all this popularity has turned this place into a “zoo” loaded with loud tourists who throw their trash everywhere. With that in mind, I went into the hike with no expectations at all. I was just going to enjoy this nature walk for what it was without being judgmental. ^^;
So, I set off for a crowded neighborhood not too far from Three Peaks and managed to find parking near all the convertible Mustangs and Chevy Malibu rentals.
There were tons of people getting ready to hike in their swimsuits, slippers, and sunglasses. I seemed out of place with all my hiking gear. ^^;
At the start of the trail and by the falls were large signs warning of Leptospirosis.
Leptospirosis can be caught from all fresh water in Hawaii due to the urine and pig excrement that manages to make it into the stream. Recently, I have been hiking a lot of fresh water streams on the island so I have to remain super careful.
That said, I did have an extremely bad headache with fever, muscle aches, and nausea not too long ago. These are all symptoms of Leptospirosis but also of the flu. I wonder if I’ve already caught it?
In any case, Maunawili is an extremely popular place to catch this illness as people jump into the pool from very high cliffs. Contaminated water can enter through the mouth, nose, and through open cuts. But, this didn’t stop anyone today. Everyone had lots of fun. I just hope everyone is going to be okay…. ^^;
After reading about the history of the area, I started up the trail through a beautiful tropical rainforest.
As I walked, I looked towards the sky and saw numerous vines growing down over the trees. But, even as I did that, I had to watch out for the roots along the trail. It’s easy to trip if you’re not careful. ^^;
One thing that kind of bothered me about this trail was that I felt a little rushed.
As I walked, there would be people behind me and I held up traffic every time I stopped and took a photo. This never happened to me at Manoa Falls. ^^;
Still, I made the best of it and realized that this trail was not going to be one of my favorites….
I did love walking on these cobblestone paths and through the ruins though…..
It was fun trying not to get lost. lol =p
Even though this is a state trail, it is not very well marked and there are smaller paths going everywhere. I’ve heard of people hiking for over 2 hours and never even finding the falls. lol =p
The trick is to try and stay on the widest path around. Or, when in doubt, just wait for someone who knows the way to show up. ^^;
Eventually, the trail gets to some stream crossing. It’s very slippery and my shoes got a bit wet.
Even though this is an official trail, don’t expect a bridge or anything. You will get muddy and wet on this one. lol =p
Along the way, I saw some heart shaped leaves lining the trail so I took a picture for my honey. (:
Eventually, the trail makes its way out of the dark jungle and up to a sunny ridge.
This part is a mild workout but there are steps to help you get up there. This is a luxury that I’m not used to seeing. lol ^^;
At the top of the ridge, the views were absolutely wonderful.
You could see Maunawili Valley and the wall of pali in the distance. Seeing this view changed my mind a little about the Maunawili Falls trail.
It is enjoyable and does offer some varied views. I’ll probably be back…..
At the end of the ridge is a junction by a bench.
You want to go to the left and climb down this tall hill.
As I went down, I chatted with some 60 year old women who told me that this hike was quite a work out.
I’d have to agree. For a state trail, this trail will make you work up a sweat. (:
At the bottom of the hill was a wide open and gorgeous stream.
Plus, there was a lot more slippery rock hiking in store. Good times. (:
At the end of the trail was gorgeous Maunawili Falls.
It was probably around 15 or 20 feet and was very pretty.
However, it was pretty much impossible to get that “post card shot”. There were probably 20 people there already and more were on the way.
This place was packed and people were playing music and having picnics. ^^;
Having just completed Koloa Gulch a few days earlier, I felt a bit spoiled. But, even so, I was still kind of disappointed. This was not a peaceful “zen like” place but rather a busy tourist attraction.
Still, I did enjoy watching the jumpers who ignored the leptospirosis signs.
This one did a “dead man’s belly flop” right into the pool from the second highest cliff. It looked so painful! ^^;
After watching the jumpers for a while, I explored some of the area beyond the fall. Just up a muddy trail lined with bamboo was the tallest jumping cliff high above the pool.
I cautiously got a few pictures without getting too close to the slippery edge. I’m no daredevil jumper! ^^;
Suddenly, the jumpers saw me and proceeded to head up to where I was. I guess they didn’t know there was a higher cliff. lol =p
One of the jumpers allowed me to film him before he took the massive plunge down to the pool below…..
After heading back, I went even higher in hopes to find the hidden waterfall that I read about.
I ended up following a water canal high above Maunawili Falls.
After a bit, the canal ended and I was walking on a thin pipe suspended high above the jungle while holding onto a tight rope for balance.
Pretty sketchy stuff….
Just pass that narrow pipe was what I call the “Indiana Jones Bridge”.
It’s a long abandoned wooden bridge suspended 100 feet above a rocky creek. To make matters more fun, the bridge is made of rotten wood so it’s pretty much like Koko Head’s bridge but with + 1000 in scare factor.
Needless to say, I didn’t go across and see the moss slides.
You only have one life and there’s no reset button. Better safe than with two broken legs and more….
Here’s what the waterfall looks like on the other side though. A big congrats to the fellow who made it across! (:
Well, that’s all for my first adventure to Maunawili Falls. Overall, I did enjoy myself but it was certainly not ideal for a nature photographer such as myself. Nor was it a peaceful or self reflecting journey. Maunawili Falls is just too popular for its own good. But, if you don’t care about photos and just want exercise, then it is a pretty walk that you can do in about 2 and a half hours with lots of tropical scenery.
I can say this with confidence though: “if all you’ve seen is Manoa and Maunawili Falls, you have not seen the best waterfalls that Oahu has to offer”.
Hope you enjoyed this one. Till next time….
Directions to Maunawili Falls here.