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Hawaii's Top 15 Waterfalls: Ultimate Swim & Hike Guide

Dive into the heart of Hawaii with us as we uncover the 15 most breathtaking waterfalls, where every splash and trail whispers the island's secrets to your adventurous soul.

Tobi Miles
May 27, 2022

Hawaii is well-known for its beautiful beaches, stunning sunsets, and lush rainforests. But did you know that it is also home to some of the best waterfalls in the world?

Over 100 waterfalls scattered throughout the islands range from gentle trickles to powerful torrents.

Some of which are only accessible by helicopter or cruise. For example, at nearly 3,000 feet high, the Olo’upena Falls pour down what is considered the highest sea cliffs in the world.

However, suppose you are looking for a more family-friendly adventure. In that case, Akaka Falls on the Big Island offers a .4-mile trail that can be completed in 30 minutes but still provide iconic Hawaii waterfall views.

If you are looking for a breathtaking natural experience, be sure to check out one or all of these 15 fantastic waterfalls during your next visit to Hawaii!

Waterfalls on the Big Island

1. Akaka Falls

Credit: Shutterstock

Akaka Falls is one of the most popular attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, and for a good reason. The falls are located near Hilo and are a must-see for any traveler to the famous island.

The best way to see Akaka Falls is by taking a short hike through the rainforest. The trail is only about a half-mile long and is suitable for all fitness levels. The first part of the trail takes you through lush, tropical vegetation before arriving at the viewing area for Kahuna Falls.

Kahuna Falls is a beautiful 100-foot waterfall that is the perfect warm-up for Akaka Falls. The trail then loops around and takes you to the viewing area for Akaka Falls. Along the way to Akaka Falls, you will be surrounded by stunning views of the rainforest. There are several lookout points where you will be able to see the falls in all their glory.

Akaka Falls is an incredible 442 feet tall and is one of the most impressive waterfalls in Hawaii. The falls are best seen after heavy rain, but they are still impressive even if the water flow is low. After enjoying the views of Akaka Falls, continue on the loop trail to see more of the rainforest before heading back to the parking lot. The hike generally takes around 30 minutes.

This is a great hike for all ages and fitness levels and is one of the best ways to see two of Hawaii's most famous waterfalls. Be sure to take your time and enjoy all the beauty of nature that surrounds you.

2. Rainbow Falls

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Rainbow Falls is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the Big Island's Hilo side. The waterfall gets its name from the rainbow that can be seen in the mist created by the falling water. According to Hawaiian legend, Rainbow Falls was home to the goddess of the moon, Hina.

The quick hike to the top of the falls offers stunning views of the rainforest. In addition to the lush vegetation, you will witness gigantic banyan trees. When you reach Rainbow falls, you will see that the falls are 80 feet tall and cascade over a lava cave. The best views of the falls are from the parking lot or from the top of the falls after a short hike.

For even better views of Rainbow Falls, stop by in the morning when the sun is behind you. There is a short hike to get to the falls, but it is only a few minutes long. For those traveling with children or elderly family and friends, Rainbow Falls is one of the most accessible falls to visit on the Big Island. Rainbow Falls is a beautiful place to visit and is definitely worth the effort to get there.

Related Read: The 10 Best All-Inclusive Hawaii Resorts for Families

Waterfalls on Oahu

3. Manoa Falls

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Manoa Falls is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the island of Oahu. The 1-mile trail leading up to the falls is an easy hike that is perfect for beginner hikers or those looking for a short up-and-back hike. The trail meanders through a lush rainforest environment and culminates at a jaw-dropping 150-foot waterfall that cascades down the mountainside.

The falls are even more beautiful during the winter months when the water flow is at its heaviest. Manoa Falls will look familiar for movie buffs as it has been featured in many films and TV shows, including Lost and Jurassic Park. If you are looking for a breathtaking natural wonder to explore on your next vacation, be sure to add Manoa Falls to your list!

4. Kapena Falls

Credit: Trip Advisor

One of the most accessible waterfalls in Oahu, Kapena Falls, is located just a few minutes' hike from the trailhead. The falls themselves are small (about 20 feet), but the surrounding area is lush and green, with huge boulders and giant leaves providing a lovely backdrop.

Visitors can enjoy nature trips, hiking, and birding in the area, or take a hike to the falls for a refreshing swim. There is also a 35-foot cliff-jumping spot at the top of the falls - perfect for those looking for an adrenaline rush! However, the water can be pretty dark here, so pay extra attention to where you are cliff jumping.

5. Lulumahu Falls

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Lulumahu Falls is a beautiful 50-foot tall waterfall. Although it can only be accessed with a permit, it is definitely worth the extra effort to visit it. The trail to reach the waterfall is only 2 miles long and can be accessed via the H-1 Highway west of Waikiki.

The waterfall cascades into a clear pool of water, making it the perfect spot to cool off on a hot day. Although cliff jumping is illegal in this area, you might find many people doing it anyway and providing you with some free entertainment. The pool is also a great place to relax and take in the natural beauty of the falls.

Related Read: The 20 Best Adult-Only Resorts in Hawaii

6. Sacred Falls

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If you are looking for an extraordinary waterfall experience on the island of Oahu, look no further than Sacred Falls. Though the trail leading directly to the falls is closed to the public due to its dangerous nature, there are still several ways you can catch a glimpse of this stunning natural wonder.

From the lookout point at Crouching Lion, you'll be able to see the Sacred Falls plunging 1,100 feet into the valley below. For a closer view, take a helicopter tour of the area – it is the only way to get legally closer to the falls.

Or, some people who like to challenge the law have found that there are illegal ways to hike down into the gorge – but beware of the significant fines and possible jail time you could face if caught! No matter how you choose to view Sacred Falls, it is sure to be a memorable experience.

7. Waimea Falls

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If you are looking for one of the most breathtaking waterfalls to visit on Oahu, look no further than Waimea Falls. This stunning natural wonder is located within Waimea Valley Park and can be reached by taking a leisurely one-mile hike through the park.

The views along the trail are simply gorgeous, making the Waimea Valley Trail one of the best hikes in Oahu. As you stroll along the trail, you will be surrounded by beautiful flora and fauna. When you finally reach the park's centerpiece, the waterfall, you will be absolutely mesmerized.

One of the best parts about visiting these falls is that you are rewarded with the opportunity for a swim in the natural pool at the base of the falls!

Waterfalls on Maui

8. Honokohau Falls

Credit: Viva Lifestyle & Travel

Honokohau Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls on the globe, and the tallest waterfall on Maui. It is located in the West Maui Mountains, and it is not the easiest to get to, but it is definitely worth the hike. The views from the top are incredible, and you can really see the whole island from up there.

Honokohau Falls is also a two-tiered waterfall, which makes it even more impressive. If you are looking for a fantastic waterfall experience, then you should definitely add Honokohau Falls to your list of places to visit on Maui.

9. Twin Falls

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One of the most popular waterfalls in all of Hawaii is Twin Falls. This popular tourist destination is located close to Paia and features a stunning waterfall that tumbles down into a serene pool.

To reach the falls, park at Wailele Farm and follow the mile-long trail. When you arrive at the falls, you will be treated to stunning views and an opportunity to cool off in the pool. For the more adventurous types, there's even cliff jumping.

Although Twin Falls can be visited any time of year, the best time to go is right after a rainstorm when the waterfall is at its fullest. So plan your trip accordingly and enjoy a truly memorable experience.

Related Read: 50 BEST Things To Do In Waikiki

10. Waimoku Waterfalls

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Visiting Waimoku Waterfalls is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that everyone should have. The falls are located right above Seven Sacred Pools on the road to Hana and are Maui's tallest waterfall.

The amount of water that pours down Waimoku Waterfalls depends largely on the weather. The rainier the day, the larger the flow of the waterfall. A rainy day will send water gushing down 400 feet across smooth lava rock into a boulder-stern pool.

After entering Haleakala National park to access this waterfall, you will be mesmerized by their natural beauty. The best time to visit is after it rains when the waterfall is at its fullest. So make sure to add Waimoku Waterfalls to your Maui bucket list!

Waterfalls on Kauai

11. Hanakapiai Falls

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If you are looking for a breathtaking waterfall to visit on Kauai, look no further than Hanakapiai Falls. This natural wonder is located along the Na Pali Coast and can be reached via a longer and more complicated trail than on your typical day trip.

However, the approximately four-hour hike is well worth it when you finally catch a glimpse of the gorgeous Hanakapiai Falls. On your way to the falls, you will pass by the popular Hanakapiai Beach – a hotspot for experienced surfers who come to ride its massive waves.

Eventually, you will reach the end of the Hanakapiai Falls Trail, where you will be treated to an incredible view of the waterfall, which drops 300 feet into a beautiful green pool. Despite the lengthy hike, Hanakapiai Falls is a popular destination among many hikers and is certainly worth a visit the next time you are on Kauai island.

12. Uluwehi Falls

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Uluwehi Falls, also known as the 'secret falls,' are found deep in the rainforest of the Wailua River area on Kauai. Getting to Uluwehi Falls is an adventure in itself and can only be done by kayak and hiking.

Many kayaking tours are available that will provide you with all the gear you need and an interesting tour of the area. It is recommended to join one of these tours, as they will also be able to provide helpful information about the weather and current conditions.

Understanding the weather conditions is important because the river can be quite challenging to paddle on some days. A standard paddle will take about 45 minutes. If you prefer to hike, the trail is mostly flat. You will walk along the river bank and even get to use a rope to help you cross some rapids!

Regardless of how you get there, Uluwehi Falls is a fantastic sight. The waterfall is over 100 feet tall, and the pool at the bottom is perfect for swimming. Make sure to bring your camera to capture this natural wonder!

13. Wailua Falls

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One of the most popular waterfalls in Kauai, Wailua Falls, is an incredible sight to behold. Featuring two parallel tiers of water that fall and pour down into the Wailua River, the falls are especially beautiful after a heavy rain, when the two falls often merge into one giant gushing torrent of water.

Viewable from the road about three miles up Maalo Road, north of Lihue, Wailua Falls is a must-see for any visitor to Kauai. And for those looking for a little bit of adventure, during ancient times, Hawaiians used to take the 83-foot drop as a test of bravery and adulthood – though we do not recommend doing that today!

Related Read: 25 Top Treehouse Rentals in Hawaii

14. Waialeale Waterfalls

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The Waialeale Waterfalls are some of the most beautiful and majestic falls in all of Kauai. The falls cascade down the side of Mount Waialeale, which is one of the tallest peaks on the island.

The mountain is known for being one of the wettest places on earth, receiving an average of 452 inches of rain each year. This provides for an endless supply of waterfalls and rainbows, making it a truly magical place to visit.

The best way to experience the Waialeale Waterfalls is by taking a helicopter tour. This will allow you to see the falls from above and get a true sense of their size and beauty. If you are feeling adventurous, you can also hike to the falls. However, this is a challenging hike and should only be attempted by experienced hikers.

Regardless of how you choose to experience them, the Waialeale Waterfalls are sure to take your breath away.

Waterfalls on Molokai

15. Olo'upena Falls

Credit: Wikipedia

If you are looking for one of the most magnificent and outstanding waterfalls in all of Hawaii, look no further than Olo'upena Falls on the northeastern side of Molokai island. This 2953-foot tall waterfall is a tiered razor-thin stream flowing along Haloku cliffs. At present, these cliffs are considered one of the tallest seaside cliffs in the world.

These falls are incredibly remote. They are set against steep mountains, making it highly inaccessible. As a result, they can only be accessed by air and ocean. Join a cruise or a helicopter tour to get the best views of these falls as they cascade down the cliff face into the ocean below.

While Olo'upena Falls may not be the easiest place to get to, it is definitely worth the effort to see one of the tallest waterfalls in the world in person. If you find yourself on the island Molokai, do not miss out on this natural wonder.


Overall, Hawaii is home to some of the most beautiful and majestic waterfalls in the world. From the Waialeale Waterfalls on Kauai to the Olo'upena Falls on Molokai, there is sure to be a waterfall that will take your breath away.

There are many impressive waterfalls in Hawaii, each with its own unique beauty. Whether you prefer to view them from afar or up close, there is sure to be a waterfall that will leave a lasting impression on you. Make sure to add one (or all!) of these waterfalls to your list of must-see places on your next trip to Hawaii. Mahalo!

Article updated:
January 5, 2024

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