Time: 2-3 HOURS
Distance: 2.5 MILES
Elevation Gain: 1100 FEET
Foot Traffic: LOW
Challenges: Easy to get lost, Muddy and Slippery, Overgrown
Sights: The Falls, Cave
What to Bring: Smartphone with AllTrails App!!! Shoes with good grip, Water, Flashlight
Only visible after heavy rains, this twin waterfall near the Pali Lookout is a hidden gem. It requires a muddy trek through the forest where it is quite easy to get turned around and lost. However, if you are persistent and use your resources wisely, you will be staring up at one of the largest and most beautiful falls on all of Oahu.
It was my last weekend on Oahu before returning to the mainland for work for a few months. I really wanted to make the most of it, so I had planned on an outdoors and hiking heavy weekend. So what do I wake up to on Saturday morning? The pounding of rain on the roof of my house. I thought about moping around my house all day. But after some breakfast and a cup of coffee, I decided to take advantage of the gift of rain and hit a waterfall hike. I had seen posts and photos from Waipuilani Falls, a hike that started from the Pali Lookout. Without much consideration for how I would actually find the waterfall, I hopped in my car and was on my way.
From afar, the path to the waterfall seems reasonable. Just head into the woods from the Pali lookout in the Honolulu-bound direction, find the stream that is fed from the waterfall, and head upstream until you reach the falls. Seems easy right? Not so much. It is very easy to get lost in these woods. I HIGHLY recommend using this AllTrails track to find your way. It is the only reason I found the falls.
But I will still do my best in recalling my route. From the Pali Lookout parking lot, walk down the road a few hundred yards towards the Pali Highway. If you were driving, this is the road that would put you on the Kailua-bound direction of the Pali Highway.
A little bit before the road intersects with the highway, you will hit this open dirt patch on the left side of the road. Enter the forest here.
You will be forced to cross over this water drainage area. I honestly found this to be the most difficult part of the entire hike. Getting down those sloped cement walls is not easy. You almost have to just let momentum carry you down and hope you don't eat it when you get to the base.
And so begins the challenge of finding our way to Waipuilani Falls. I was fairly successful on the out trip. Go figure I ended up getting lost on the way back.
And it isn't because of a lack of markers, it's actually the opposite, there are too many markers! Hunters frequent this area often and create different paths. If you try to pick the next marker you see and follow it, it is likely you will get turned around.
I will say that pink did seem to be the lucky color initially. But I still constantly referenced AllTrails to make sure I was roughly on the right path.
The good news is that even if you get off track, the area is not crazy overgrown. With a bit of minor bushwacking, you can make your way back in the right direction.
Some of the trees were pretty wild to look at. I kind of felt like my brain was on drugs the way the trees weaved towards the sky (I was sober for the record).
There's even a bamboo forest to venture through. I will say if you end up here, you are definitely off track. But who doesn't like getting lost among these beautiful stalks?
Finally the stream where the falls stems from... I think. I remember crossing a few streams on my way to the falls, but this one had the heaviest flow so I figured it had to be the right one.
And after a few minutes more we found the falls! I was absolutely blown away by the beauty of these falls. They were massive, the largest falls I've seen on Oahu apart from the touristy Manoa. The split flow reminded me of Twin Pali falls, but on a much larger scale. I was completely alone, nothing but the sound of the falls flowing from high above. And that's not even the best part. You see that hole in between the flows...
It's a cave! It takes a bit of effort to get up there but it is worth it. The cave is muddy... and also creepy. Just walking a little ways in the cave completely eliminates the sound of the falls. There is also this pipe that runs from within the cave. I continued following it for a few minutes until I decided I was ready to turn back. Apparently it goes very deep in the mountain, but I decided I had done enough cave exploration for today.
Time to head towards the light...
Because it's photo time! Luckily, I had brought the GoPro, so the wide angle was enough to get the falls in one shot.
These falls had reinvigorated my spirit, allowing me to thoroughly enjoy my last weekend on the island, and ready for my new challenges coming on the mainland. I think all of that warrants a shirtless photo right?
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Also Check Out:
- Hik3beasthawaii's post about this hike