Time: 2-3 HOURS
Distance: 3 MILES
Elevation Gain: 200 FEET
Foot Traffic: LOW
Challenges: Muddy, Getting Lost, Stream Crossing, Uneven Footing
What to Bring: Shoes to get muddy, Towel, Rain Jacket, Water
A secluded hike off the Pali Highway, the waterfalls of Mo'ole Valley are only visible after heavy rains. It's a sloppy and muddy mess trekking through the forest to reach these natural wonders, but if you are willing to deal with the slime, you can see as many as 8 different waterfalls.
2018 has been a tough year for the Hawaiian Islands. A false missile crisis, devastating flooding on Kauai, and the Kilauea eruption on the Big Island were the big highlights. It seemed as though the Aloha State was in for another tragedy as the powerful category 5 Hurricane Lane slowly trudged its way towards the island chain. Residents ran to the store for water and food, boarded up their homes, and awaited what could be total devastation.
And then... nothing. Just a little rain and some wind. The storm slowed to a crawl and dissipated as it moved away from the islands. Or at least that's what it seemed like to us on Oahu (proceeding people to start using #HurricaneLame). The reality is different. The Big Island took the brunt of it as the Hurricane dumped almost 4 feet of rain and caused severe flooding. Following the storm, some of the trailing bands caused even more flooding on Kauai.
As we on Oahu realized the storm was not going to severely impact us, we slowly emerged from our homes and began to go about our daily lives. For me, hunkering down in my apartment for two days was tough so I was itching to hike. Given that we did get some rain, I decided to go after a new waterfall hike, Mo'ole Falls.
A very rough sketch of the hike. They key things to note are the trail veers left when you enter the forest before looping back around to the waterfall.
The hike begins off the side of the Pali Highway at the end of Nuuanu Pali Dr. If you've ever hiked Lulumahu Falls, you can park in that same dirt lot. The sketchiest part of the hike is the beginning, crossing the Pali Highway in order to get to the trailhead. Look both ways and run across.
After crossing the Pali Highway, you will end up in some grass the leads to this fence. Follow the fence right (towards Kailua) until you reach this unlocked gate. This is the entrance to the trailhead.
And now we hike! This first portion of the hike is where you are most likely to get lost. It seems like there are painted trees everywhere with no sense of direction.
But there is a method to the madness. I recommend following the paint. As long as you are heading away from the Pali Highway and leftish (Honolulu direction) you should be going the right way. The AllTrails track is a pretty good reference point for this initial section.
Squish! Squish! Squish! That's the sound your shoes will be making throughout this entire hike. If you didn't want to get muddy you picked the wrong hike.
After a few minutes in the woods I reached what looked like dryish bank. The trail seemed to stop here. I thought you might need to cross this bank and head uphill.
But if you look to your left, the trail continues marked with by this green paint. We go this way.
After following this path for a few minutes you will come to this "waterfall" which is really just an irrigation spillway. Cross to the other side.
And continue along the path. You will see a stream on your right which will be your reference point for the next bit. Not much too it except avoiding the super muddy spots and enjoying this wet Hawaiian forest.
There are a few times you will have to circumvent some eroded sections, but it isn't too challenging. Just look for the pink or green markers to continue along the trail.
About 30 minutes into the hike, the trail began to veer away from the stream and up towards the ridge. If you did your homework, many posts talk about going through an irrigation tunnel to reach the falls. I never saw such a tunnel. Was I lost??
But I wasn't, the path I was on is simply a way to circumvent the tunnel. This ended up being a great alternative based on the conditions in the tunnel (more on that in a second). Plus, this path also gives you a great lookout of the valley and nearby ridges.
After reaching that lookout, continue along the graded ridge downhill into the valley.
More rushing water! I have a feeling we are getting close to the falls.
What I didn't realize until my return trip, was that if I had turned and looked behind me, I would have found the irrigation tunnel I missed. Many posts you will read, people will hike through this to reach the falls. It probably saves a bit of time from the graded ridge we took to get here.
But it comes with the added challenge of having to hike through a dark and wet cave. I attempted to go back this way on my return trip. The farther I progressed into the tunnel, the higher the water level got. First to my ankles, then my shins, then my knees, and then... I turned around. I was standing in stagnant water after all. Leptospirosis is a risk here in Hawaii. While that bacteria typically enters through open wounds, I've heard it can enter via other... orifices. True or not, I wasn't about to risk it.
But back to why we're here, waterfalls! A few minutes after the tunnel you will reach waterfall #1. It's a nice size and the heavy flow gave it a added to the auditory experience. New Sony A6500 in hand, I decided to take a few long exposures.
To continue there is a path to the right of the falls, aided by this rope.
Onward to Falls #2. You simply follow the source of the stream. There is a path parallels the right side of the stream
And that source is right here, this huge waterfall. I don't know if this is the official Mo'ole Falls, but man was it impressive! There's actually as many as 8 waterfalls to discover on this hike, but this one is the largest. The powerful flow created a mist well back from the waterfall's base.
I took the time here to take a few pictures and enjoy this beauty, completely to myself.
I was so happy I had decided to weather the rain to see this spot, but I had to remember that the rain that had created this natural wonder, had also created some devastation over on the other islands. We are all vulnerable to the will of mother nature. Sometimes it will bring us beauty, other times tragedy. Either way, we have to accept her will together.
Enjoy this post? Leave a comment below!
Also Check Out:
- Aloha from 808's writeup of the waterfalls
- Easy Hiker Hawaii's post about Mo'ole