The Manoa Falls Trail is a lush rainforest track on the island of Oahu, about a 20-minute drive from downtown Honolulu. The 1.6-mile return trip takes 1 to 2 hours, and its gentle gradient is forgiving enough for casual hikers and families.

Despite its proximity to the capital, the Manoa Valley feels worlds away. This is the wettest section of the entire island (don’t forget your raincoat), and it’s become a hit among nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts for its verdant foliage, as well as the gushing 150-ft waterfall. If you feel like you’re hiking through Jurassic Park, that’s because you kind of are – parts of the 1993 blockbuster were filmed in the very same valley.

Although the Manoa Falls Trail is not an especially challenging hike, you still need to come prepared. Read on for all the essential info to ensure your trip to Manoa Falls goes off without a hitch.

Manoa Falls Trail in Honolulu - one of the highlights of 10 Best Free Things to Do in Honolulu and 10 Best Hiking Trails in Honolulu (Read all about Honolulu here)

Highlights and features of the Manoa Falls Trail

The moist climate of the Manoa Valley ensures spectacular foliage year-round. Even when Honolulu and the rest of Oahu become bone dry, the Manoa Falls Trail remains sopping wet and teeming with life. Daily downpours bring a bounty of rainbows, so you can safely expect to spot a few on your hike – it’s nicknamed “Rainbow Valley,” after all.

The gravel trail passes eucalyptus trees before winding through an old-growth Banyan forest complete with colourful tropical flowers. Pleasant scents of guava and wild ginger waft through the air while the soft sounds of a bubbling brook accompany you on your way. Halfway through the trail, you can take a detour through a gorgeous bamboo grove – don’t worry as it eventually re-joins the main route.

The steepest part is the last 100 yards or so. Take the time to turn around and admire the mist-shrouded valley as you approach the top.

Depending on recent rains, the Manoa Falls themselves will be either pumping or trickling. Even if they aren’t all that impressive on the day of your visit, the journey itself will have been worth it – this is one of Oahu’s lushest trails.

How to reach the Manoa Falls trailhead?

The easiest way to get to the trailhead is by car. Factor in around 20 minutes to get there from Waikiki, give or take a few minutes depending on traffic. From Waikiki Beach, head north on Kalakaua Avenue, then turn right on Pa’u Street. Hang a left on Ala Wai Boulevard and cross the canal by turning right on McCully Street. Take the first right on Kapiolani Boulevard and turn left at University Avenue. Follow this street until Manoa road, where you turn right. Manoa Road takes you up to the trailhead, but you’ll need to pull into the Rainbow’s End Snack Shop (aka Paradise Park) to park.

If you don’t want to pay for parking, you can legally leave your car in the residential streets further south. You’ll have to walk a quarter-mile extra to reach the trailhead, though.

Don’t have a car? Don’t worry. You can reach the hike by bus as well. Make your way to the Ala Moana Shopping Center (most city buses pass through here) and take TheBus #5 towards Manoa and hop off at the Manoa Road/Kumuone Street stop. From there, it’s a 15-minute uphill walk to the trailhead.

Good to know about the Manoa Falls Trail

Although the trail consists of gravel and stone stairs, it can get muddy and slippery. Take your time and wear comfortable shoes with plenty of grip on the soles. Don’t begin the hike after 5.30 pm, as navigating your way back in the dark is both difficult and treacherous.

Although it may be tempting to swim at the falls, the practice is prohibited due to harmful bacteria and jagged terrain.

Bring mosquito repellent, about 2 litres of water, a light rain jacket, comfortable clothes, and a fresh outfit to change into once you’re done (you will get muddy). A few healthy hiking snacks would be a wise addition, too.

While you’re there, it’s worth visiting the Lyon Arboretum, a sprawling complex showcasing Hawaii’s lush flora.

Manoa Falls Trail in Honolulu

Location: Na Ala Hele, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA

Open: Daily from 6 am to 6 pm

Harry Stewart | Contributing Writer