Difficulty: BEGINNER-INTERMEDIATE (Intermediate if go to Bridge)
Time: 2-3 HOURS
Distance: 3.2 MILES
Elevation Gain: 700 FEET
Foot Traffic: HIGH
Challenges: MUD!!!, River Crossings, Slippery, Steep climb to bridge
Sights: Ko'olau Range, Maunawili Falls, Idiots jumping from cliffs ;), The broken bridge
What to Bring: Water, Shoes you can get wet, swimsuit
A popular hike near Kailua that travels along a river to its source, Maunawili Falls. The hike primarily takes place in the trees, with a few lookout points to the Ko'olaus along the way. After dealing with a few river crossings and a lot of mud, you will reach the Falls. The Falls themselves are quite impressive, with a beautiful waterfall and a pool deep enough for swimming and even cliff jumping! For those that want something extra, you can climb up the left side of the waterfall and traverse a pipe to find a secret (and broken) bridge that makes for some incredible photo opportunities. There's a lot of magic to be found at Maunawili.
The day before this hike was the worst rainstorm I had seen since moving to the island. Everything was flooded and I was house locked for the entire day. But as is typical in Hawaii, the storm suddenly stopped. For me, that downpour meant one thing, tomorrow I would be doing a waterfall hike. What better hike than the nearby and popular Maunawili Falls.
The trailhead starts at the intersection of Maunawili Road and beginning of Kelewina St. There's plenty of street parking in the neighborhood and it's perfectly legal. However, this hike is very popular, so if you don't start early, you might have to park a little bit farther away.
The start of the trail is located beyond this yellow gate.
A nice warning about the infection Leptospirosis. This bacteria is no joke and can be present in stagnant water. Just something to keep in mind if you go back to the mainland and come down with a wicked fever (See the Doctor!).
Another perk of getting started early (other than less people) is this beautiful sunburst through the trees.
The road will soon begin to run parallel to the river. There is really only one place you can get lost on the trail (and we did) and that is at the beginning. You need to get on the elevated trail that runs to the right of this road.
***Update 7/10/2017- I did this trail again in June and realized just after you pass the gate, there is an opening in the trees with a path. That is the most direct path to the correct trail.
But soon, there will be plenty of trail markers leading you the right way. Just look for the many white blazes and "signs" like this one.
Another beautiful sunburst.
Our first little river crossing. These are very easy crossings. You can rock hop or just walk right through the water. I should also add that my hiking partner, Meg, is not actually that pale. The sun just happened to be shining directly on her skin.
One of the openings in the trees that gives you a look out that Ko'olaus.
Did I mention this hike is muddy?
Another more legit sign helping to guide you.
There's even some stairs along this hike. But for the most part, the elevation change isn't very strenuous.
Just after the stairs, you will come to a beautiful opening in the trees. I wasn't expecting to see this during the hike, so it was a pleasant surprise. Here you can just make out K-Bay.
Looking the other direction you get some more views of the Ko'olaus. I am always in awe of the way the sun brings out the sharpness of these ridges.
No idea where this trail led, but I figure it's probably best to avoid it...
We took the stairs down to the left where there was a significantly smaller chance we would explode.
The largest river crossing of the hike. At this point, your shoes are probably crazy muddy, so there's no shame in walking right through the water (I did).
I have no idea what type of tree this is, but something about its size and color felt like it belonged in a movie.
Finally, we had made it to the falls. We only took a quick stop here. We decided to head to the bridge first before enjoying ourselves at the falls. Besides, we didn't want to interrupt these bros taking their new Tinder profile pics.
If you head to the left of the falls, you will reach this incline. If you head to the right at this fork, you can reach a lookout point above the waterfall where some crazy people cliff jump (we'll go there later). If you head left, the trail will lead you to the path that will get you to the bridge.
This part is significantly more difficult than any other portion of the hike. It is very muddy and also very steep. Luckily it is a very short climb and there are some ropes to help you. The little pain is worth the reward.
Once you reach the top of the incline, head right and follow the trail a short ways. You will eventually run into this pipe. The pipe is your new temporary "trail".
Seriously, you have to use the pipe to cross this ravine. It's pretty awesome, but also dangerous. There is a long drop below the pipe that probably wouldn't feel too good if you fell. Best to use this nicely placed rope to keep your balance.
Meg making this look easy.
After you complete the pipe walk, you will walk a very short distance before you hit the bridge. It is slightly off the trail to the right, so keep your eyes peeled.
This bridge is really sweet. Something about its design and the fact that it is broken made the experience special. For some reason, it made me feel like one of the kids crossing the train trestle in the movie Stand By Me (great coming of age movie if you've never seen it!). Don't ask why that's how I felt, my brain works in weird ways.
It was time to cross! You kind of have to shimmy your way along the bridge since there are no rungs. It kind of looks like you're an awkward cross country skier.
My turn to cross! The bridge definitely shakes a little as you move along it, but I never felt like it was going to collapse on me. Besides, if it broke I could just catch myself on the pipe below right? Yea that seems feasible...
A shot from the other side of the bridge. Apparently, if you continue on, there is a place where you can do a moss slide, kind of like I did during my hike through Mount Wai'ale'ale Valley in Kauai. Today however, this was our turnaround point. We were both undercaffeinated and hungry.
But we did have enough time for a quick insta photoshoot.
On the pipe walk back, I stopped halfway and turned left. I was greeted with this incredible view of the mountains in the background and tropical trees in the foreground. Only in Hawaii.
Now down the steep and muddy slope.
And we're back! The water is plenty deep and is great for swimming. It's a bit chilly, but it feels great after hiking this far. It is also a great way to get all that mud off.
If you climb up the first falls, you can see another small little waterfall. I'm sure there's more if you venture further, but we had other things to do. It was cliff jumping time!
There's plenty of spots for some small jumps, but there's a few major areas for some higher jumps. This one is off to the right of the falls and is about 20 feet. It's a little tricky getting up there, so be careful if you decide to take the leap.
The Take Off!
And The Entry!
Not bad. I'll give her an 8 out of 10. Only because she made me jump first ;)
And now it's time for the varsity jump. This one is to the left of the falls and is accessible the same way we got to the bridge. This jump is around 40 feet.
We'll just ignore the writing on the wall.
And now for the jump. I'm not gonna lie, I was a little nervous for this one. The height didn't bother me, but I was slightly afraid of hitting the bottom. I had checked the depth and it seemed plenty deep, but you never know. The jump area was also slanted which made it a little tricky. Luckily I found a rope to help stabilize me. Well, here we go...
All smiles here. I will say that my back did actually graze the bottom during my landing. But it just barely touched it and it was nice and soft. Just a friendly reminder that people do get seriously injured doing stuff like this, so be careful!
Check out my video of this exciting adventure!
Have you experienced the magic of Maunawili? Share your story below!
Also Check Out:
- Best of Oahu's post about this hike