We hiked along a dry stream bed through Makaua Valley in Kaaawa.
At the end, a trickling waterfall chute.
Then the rains came and the trickle turned into this.
Hiking to Makaua Falls with Ryan Chang, Lei Yamasaki and Kaleo Lancaster. Kaaawa, Oahu, Hawaii.
And on our hike back, that stream bed was far from dry.
There are many waterfalls on Oahu that only flow during heavy rain. Makaua Falls is one of them. When we heard a storm was approaching the East side of Oahu, Kaleo (Island Trails) suggested we hike to the falls. I had never heard of Makaua Falls but when I looked it up I saw some photos of it on Josh’s 808 Goonies blog. I could see that when flowing, this waterfall is huge and I was stoked to check it out.
Please note though that bad things can happen when hiking through valleys like this. Especially in the rain. So, here’s my disclaimer…
DISCLAIMER: This blog post is for entertainment purposes only. It is extremely dangerous to go searching for waterfalls in the rain. You can easily die in this valley. The valley is narrow and you can be swept away in a flash flood. Also, rocks are constantly falling from up above. Even a rock as small as a golf ball can injure or kill you if it’s falling from 200 feet above. Do not attempt what you see in these pictures.
We enter the trail at an unmarked trailhead.
The trail follows a stream bed.
We were rock hopping almost the entire way. I was envious of Ryan and Lei’s microspikes (spikes you can slip on over your shoes made for walking on ice). With the spikes on they were able to walk easily on wet mossy rocks. I was slipping around all over the place.
The forest is lush in Kaaawa.
Narrow sections like these are traps in a flash flood so we moved through these quickly.
And along the hike we made sure to look for accesses points to higher ground that we could use to escape a flash flood.
At this point though, flooding did not seem to be an issue. It was lightly sprinkling but there was not much water flowing in the stream. For now at least.
The crew proceeded along the stream bed.
Hopping on rock after rock.
We came to our first mini waterfall.
There was an old rope in place that we used to help climb up the dry waterfall chute.
Above this falls there was another rope to help us get over a small rock wall.
The trail moved up the side of the valley wall for a bit. Yet another old rope was in place to help us get up the slipper slope of the valley.
And soon, after maybe an hour of hiking, we were at the back of the valley and at a massive waterfall chute. It sort of reminded us of Wai’ili’kahi Falls on Big Island. Just a lot smaller and with no swimming hole.
We got closer to get a better look.
When we first hit the falls it was bone dry. After about 20 minutes of waiting we started to head back to the car. But then the rain picked up so we turned around and decided to wait and see if the falls would turn on. The rain was coming down pretty hard at this point and there was no way to keep my lens dry. A trickle started to form in the waterfall chute.
But after watching that trickle for 20 more minutes we decided again that we should just cut our losses and hike back to the car. It’s an eerie feeling standing in the back of a valley during the rain. There are just so many things that could go wrong and it feels like you’re pressing your luck the longer you linger back there.
So we made our way again back out of the valley.
But then less than 10 minutes into the return hike, we turned around and saw this. Someone had turned on the faucet and Makaua Falls was going off.
We ran back and found that the trickle had turned into a full waterfall.
Kaleo climbed up this hill to get a better view. (This hill, by the way, was clearly made by a massive rock slide at some point in time.)
Kaleo’s shooting some video on his GoPro here. I got a sneak peak of the video and it came out great.
You can see that there’s no pool here. The water just fills up the stream in the valley.
Our hike out was a lot more wet than the hike in.
While hiking out we randomly ran into our friends Pete and Chenay who were hiking in to see falls. (We recently hiked the Kawai’iki Trail with them.) I definitely did not expect to see other hikers during this pouring rain. We let them know that the falls were going off.
This is that same waterfall that was dry on our hike in. Forty minutes of rain later and it was now raging.
The dry waterfall chute we had climbed up earlier was now flowing strong. We had to rappel down the side of it into a pool that was now over waist deep.
We followed the stream out of the valley.
The canopy opened up and we new our adventure to Makaua Falls was over. It was the first time we had seen a waterfall go from bone dry to raging before our eyes. It was a memorable experience but it came with a great risk. We could have very easily won a Darwin Award on this day but luck was on our side and nothing bad happened.
And to cap off the day, as we drove the H3 back home, the Koolaus were lined with waterfalls.