Ventures at Waimano Falls / Manana Trail

Waimano falls became our favorite hike on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.
If you're down for an ice-cold swim in a natural, freshwater pool after a strenuous hike down (and are willing to hike right back up after all the fun), then this is the hike for you.

[All photos were taken by either me or my wife, not for public use.]

History of Waimano Falls

Normally, this is where I would offer some human and Hawaiian history lesson for ya'll.
I believe we should always be learning and when you travel, you should learn about the area you're visiting.
I couldn't find any information on anything historical, human or otherwise, pertaining to Waimano Falls.
If anyone reads this and knows something, please e-mail me at

The Trail

Our GPS never gave us a definitive answer as to how long the trail was; there are a few forks in the road as you go, so the hike can be different for anyone.  We chose to go down to the falls/pool and I assume it is around two miles.  The trailhead is located at the back of a neighborhood, so please be respectful when figuring out where to park your car and keep in mind that the residents of this street deal with a constant flow of hiker traffic year-round and it can be annoying for them.

The beginning of the trail is boring; you get a beautiful view of a valley, yes, but you'll be walking on a flat surface for a while and the drop-off to start your trek down to the falls & pool is off to the right.  If you don't pay attention, you will miss it.  This hike isn't for those who like a nice, easy trail where they can wear their cute new outfit and most colorful running shoes; expect to work for the fun at the end and expect to come out disgusting, even if you wear a bikini under your clothes for swimming.

It gets pretty cool, down there, so I'd say go near noon when the sun is up.  Pack food and plenty of water as you will certainly need it.  The trail isn't very long, but it has drops (and intense climbs on the way back) and if it has rained within the last week, it will be sloppy, gloppy and slippery.  Prepare.

The Falls & Pool

I am usually the one behind the camera rather than in front of it, so you'll see my wife far more than you'll see me.
Once you get to the falls, you can do a few things.  You can jump from a cliff you'll pass without knowing that will drop you right into the pool, you can climb towards the right, down to a rocky area just past the pool or you can go all the way to the fall and use the rope to shimmy down into the main pool.  It gets crowded, most days, so if you get a day like the one you see in these photos, know that we only got the seclusion because we went in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week and this was probably the fifth trip.  The first time we went, we didn't even know what was at the end so the surprise was amazing.

There aren't many photos on the way down because you spend most of your time trying not to slide/fall down.

The pool that the fall drops into isn't all that deep; you can swim in it kinda like a kid's above-ground pool.  It also feels nice to get your head under the fall and some folks try to climb the slippery rock up the side.  There is a trail that takes you along the top so you can look down on the watering hole, but that goes back to what I told you before - there are a few forks in the trail on the way in and you can choose to go up or down; there were so many trails we  went up that this was always our 'down' choice.

The big pool, with the rope swing, is the best part.  To get the rope, either a nice person thats already in the pool will sling it to you or you have to hop in there, get used to the freezing water, and swing it.  Once you swing it, climb out of the water as quick as you can and grab it as it swings.  Or, you can just swing it to someone else and let them go, first.  To get out of the pool you can swim down to the rocks and climb up the trail off to the right, you can climb up the side of the 'mini-fall' that empties into the pool (if you move your feet around near it, youll feel slippy, yet useable, spots to stick your feet).  OR you can use the rop next to the rock wall to pull yourself up and out.  Your choice...

Word to the wise -- when you swing on the rope, jump when you're over the middle of the pool.  Too close to any of the sides and you will hit rock.  If you decide to climb up the trail to jump from the cliff about 20 feet into the air (I could be totally wrong about that height, HA!) just make sure you jump out far enough.  My second jump, I didn't go out far enough and drug my back down the rock wall.  Ouch.

We've been down here a few times and I have videos of each time, but for now I can only find videos my wife got on her TDY back to the islands (lucky).  They were too large to load to the blog, so head on over to the Ventures in Design facebook!

On the way back up

The trip back up is an entirely different ballgame and one of the huge reasons I recommend food; we didn't do any research prior to heading out to this trail.  All we'd had was breakfast and two 8 oz bottles of water.  I get hangry REALLY quickly and I can feel when my body's sugar supply tanks -- all of this happened on the way back up on our first trip.  BRING FOOD.

Even if its been relatively dry, folks going in and out of the water will ensure at least the beginning of your trek back up will be soaked.  See for yourself:

The right-most photo is a view of heading right back up.  I wasn't bent over... see that rope?  Unless you want to hug trees on the way up, grab that rope and get into repell position (y'know, like when you're repelling down a wall?).  Its slippery as hell, either way, but you won't make it up without the trees or that rope.  Just trust the damn rope.

My wife had the bright idea of grabbing a sturdy branch she found (and it has been sanded, stained and sealed and is sitting in the corner of my living room, now).  Genius!  It made the trek back up far easier... for her, at least.  I couldn't find a good one, so I ended up hobbling on a chunk of tree I found that kept snapping, hahaha.

By the time we got back up, my GPS was reporting a 7-mile hike, total, but I assume that was from going up and down and the fun we had at the pool.  The first time we went and didn't properly pack, I went to Zippy's down the road and devoured chicken and waffles as if I hadn't eaten in two weeks.  The subsequent trips involved whole boxes of Cliff bars, liters of water, fruit gummies, etc.

Tips, Tricks & Advice

  • You'll be parking in a neighborhood, so be respectful of people's homes and space.
  • Lock up your vehicle; HPD cant do much for you if you parked on the street and left your shit out.
  • Being ample food and water.
  • Expect to get filthy.
  • Pick up after yourself.
  • If you can, find a walking stick before you even go down -- it makes the entire trip far easier.
  • Whatever camera or phone you bring, make sure its water-protected.
  • Bring sunscreen, duh.
  • If kids are going with you, prepare to help them A LOT.
  • Expect it to be crowded, especially during months and Spring Break when everyone and their mom is on vacation.
  • If you're jumping into the pool, jump into the middle so you don't hit rock.
  • Use the ropes or hug the trees.  I watched a middle-aged man literally faceplant because he kept telling his wife he didn't need the rope and it wasn't that bad.  His bloody nose disagreed with him.  If you happen to get lucky and hit it on a dry day, its MUCH MUCH MUCH easier!
  • Expect to spend most of your day there.  Between getting down, enjoying the pool and falls and coming back up, plan for the better chunk of your day to be gone.

FYI & Alert

I won't get into Hawaiian history in this post, but I will advise that before you go on vacation, you educate yourself on the history of the Hawaiian/Oceanic people, their islands and the struggles they've faced both in the past since takeover and currently.  The islands are beautiful but don't get lost in the beauty of a man-made retreat and forget what has happened to the locals, their families and ancestors so that your family could take that vacation.  Also, when planning excursions, ask a local for spots to hit and places to eat.  The Hawaiian culture has become a money hub for wealthy business folk.  Take the time to learn about the island(s) and the locals and try to see the real Hawaii.  They'll spread the aloha if you show up with respect.

Extras & Places to Eat Near Waimano Falls

I will always remind everyone to visit the Unreal Hawaii website to plan their future treks and trips to the islands.  Their blogs are fantastic with beautiful photos!

  • Anna Miller's Restaurant (3.3 miles from the trail) is open 24 hours.  Their chicken pot pie is SLAMMIN'!
  • Forty Niner (3.5 miles away).  This spot was right up the road from the apartment we lived in one year -- 50s vibe, SLAMMIN food!
  • Kapiolani Coffee Shop (2.9 miles away) for some Kona coffee or their famous Oxtail Soup.
  • Dixie Grill (3.6 miles) for some BBQ
  • Young's Kalbee (3.6 miles) if you want some bangin' kalbi or meat jun.

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