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Waiakeakua Falls

Cory climbs the falls.

Last weekend we hiked into the Manoa Valley rainforest and climbed up a 50 foot waterfall. Although I live only 10 minutes away, I haven’t been into Manoa in a couple of years. It’s easy to forget how lush the forest is back there. It feels like a different world.

The trail follows Waiakeakua Stream to the back of the forest. You come across several cascade waterfalls of different sizes with pools of varying depths. At the end of the trail you’ll see the waterfall pictured above and, if the rope looks sturdy, you can climb up the side of it. It’s risky (it’s hard to tell how old the rope is) but since we survived, it was super fun.

On this hike we had the same crew as the Pu’u Kawiwi hike. Cory lead the way as he has done this trail many times. Troy, Seth, Jen, Jen, Reanne and I followed. You can access the trail a few different ways. The approach we took is probably better left unmentioned but I hear you can access the Waiakeakua trail via the Na Ala Hele Trail to Puu Pia.

Once you get into the valley you’ll be under the canopy of the rainforest. Being a city dweller, I rarely see these trees that are hundreds of years old.

We were lucky to have Cory to guide us on this trail. This is actually one reason why I rarely do rainforest hikes. It’s just too easy to get lost.

We were treated to views of forest plants that I’ve never seen before.

This is the Waiakeakua Stream. You’ll hike along this stream and cross it several times.

Soon you’ll reach the first pool. It’s a shallow one.

The trail goes straight up the slippery boulders.

You’ll then see a path that goes up the side of this tiny waterfall. Some parts of this trail is ribboned but they are few and far between.

These ferns are growing off the walls surrounding the first waterfall you ascend.

Wade into the water to get to the rope. It’ll be just over waist high so keep you backpack pack up. There were two ropes here. The black rope was pretty frayed towards the bottom but it held up for us. Just check it before you put your weight on it.

Once you get up the first waterfall you’ll see this. I’ve seen pictures where it’s flowing much harder.

Start your climb by using the roots to get to the rope.

Once you’re on the rope, look for footholds to dig your toes into and push up through your legs. The rock here is slippery though so keep a firm grip on the rope incase your feet slip.

Here’s Cory making sure everyone gets up smoothly.

Once you’re past that falls you can go a bit further but trail starts to fade.

On this day we continued onward to a hangout spot Cory and his friends frequent. But it would be just as well to hang out and grab lunch at the top of falls. Then you could climb down and make your way out of the forest.

Okay these are tabis. They are shoes made for fishing and provide grip on wet rock or reef. The soles are made up of a dense wire sponge for padding and metal cleats for grip. Cory highly recommended them and he was on point. Those of us that didn’t have them were slipping and sliding all over the wet rock. You can by them for $20-$30 and I think I might pick up a pair.

So now, you return the way you came. On the way back we stopped at these pools. This tiny little pools is much deeper than you think.

It’s this deep. (Probably about neck deep if you’re standing.)

This is the larger pool below the one Troy had just jumped in. Cory catches some crazy air.

Time to dry off and make our way out of the jungle.


This forest flora fascinates me.

One more stream crossing and you pop out of the forest canopy.

The trees are huge.

The forest is absolutely stunning.

And now, as always, it’s time to go eat. This time, Mexican food.

Getting here:

You can access the stream by starting at the Pu’u Pia trail (part of the Hawaii Na Ala Hele trail system). Instructions can be found on this post on

“Just before reaching the top of the cinder cone, we dropped down the side of a ridge covered with invasive clidemia, rosey apple, and strawberry guava.”

From there you can simply follow the stream towards the falls. This is a fun hike that can be done in a few hours. The pools provide a nice place to sit and eat lunch.

See also:

This story was last modified on October 13, 2013. (Originally published in February 2011.)

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