Waimano Falls

Location: Southern Oahua
Trail: 3-mile round trip, very steep in places but fixed ropes help. Mostly through thick jungle. For nice, detailed route directions, see Stewart Ball's "Hiker's Guilde to Oahu", Univ Hawaii Press, 2000.
Maps: USGS 1:24K Waipahu
Access: From H-1, take the Pearl City-Wailamlu exit (#10) and head north. Turn right on Moanalua, then right on Waimano Home Rd. Take a left on Komo Mai Dr (going straight quickly takes you to the Waimano Ridge TH). Follow Komo Mai Dr through a subdivision and park at the end of the road. 
Fees: None

November 2004
On a beautiful Monday morning, Dave, his dog Mia, Andra and I piled into the Jeep and drove east towards Pearl City. The wind from 55mph blew through the open back of the Jeep and flapped the canvas top as we rode down the interstate. West of Honolulu, we exited the freeway and drove north to a trailhead at the end of a long residential street of 60’s flats and chain-link fenced yards. I put my boots on and shouldered my backpack while admiring a particularly large tree fern in the fenced-in yard nearby. Dave leashed up Mia while Andra shouldered my tripod. Then we were off. It was sunny and beautiful, unlike the previous hike at Maunawilli where we got drenched with rain. The trail was flat and easy to begin with, following a ridgeline forested with strawberry guava and eucalyptus, with a thick understory of ferns. The orange clay of the trail was scattered with the roots of trees pushing up through the soil. A cooling breeze kept us from getting hot. 

After following the ridge for a mile or so, the trail abruptly led down a steep hill to the valley below. We took our time on this trail, slick as it was from recent rains, and took advantage of the fixed ropes along the way to prevent falls. Nevertheless, Andra fell on the way down, and I just happened to catch it with my camera…an unusual occurrence since it was with the digital camera, which has a shutter lag of at least 1 second before actually taking the photo. Thus, I had framed a nice shot with her and Dave hiking happily along, and she fell just as the shot was acquired. 

Upon finally reaching the valley bottom, some 700 feet below the ridge, we were rewarded with a gorgeous, straight-from-the-movies waterfall and swimming pool. Two large falls created two large pools. We visited the lower pool first, and found the water cool, but refreshing, to swim in. Leptospirosis is a microorganism which can cause flu-like symptoms, and is contracted through contact with infected water (tainted by rat, mouse or mongoose urine), and signs at hiking trails around the island warn against drinking or swimming in stream water. Naturally we paid this warning no heed and swam care-free in the clear water.  The lower pool was about 20 feet across, with rock walls draped in ferns and moss, all billowing in the mist created by the water pounding over a 6 –foot rock ledge. It was too deep to stand in, thus allowing great swimming. Someone had rigged a rope swing just below the falls. We all gave a shot at climbing up the rope and swinging off it into the water, only Andra couldn’t reach the rope. Dave and I could just barely reach it.  Since it was just below the falls, it required strong swimming just to stay under it, then a big jump out of the water to grab it.  After about 30 minutes of swimming and wading in the water, we climbed up the short, steep trail to the next swimming hole, one which required a repel on a rock wall with footsteps carved in it. The waterfall here was much more impressive, perhaps 50 feet or more, but the diffusion of the water on its way down resulted in a shallow pool that was never more than about 4 feet deep, though 30 –40 feet across. Nevertheless, it was a treat to wade out there and backstroke through the cool, fresh water (a welcome change after days of swallowing salty ocean water).  After another half hour of this, and snapping dozens of photographs, I reluctantly allowed my skin to dry and put my boots on for the climb to the top of the falls. The upstream direction hinted at interesting exploration, but it was lunchtime and we had nothing but snack bars with us. 

The hike back was pleasant. Though parts were very steep, the adventure of needing a rope to climb out was enough to keep our interest, despite breathing hard. I collected several cuttings along the way to try to root back in Wyoming. We all got pretty muddy in the soupy trail, Mia especially. The enjoyable hike ended surprisingly quickly, after which we stopped by Maui Tacos for a delicious lunch.

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More photos from Waimano Falls are located in the Hawaii album at 

Page Created December 2004; Updated 2-3-08