Time: 1-2 HOURS
Distance: 2 MILES
Elevation Gain: ~600 Feet
Foot Traffic: LOW (HIGH on Manoa Trail)
Challenges: Muddy and slippery, Climbing up tree routes, Crowds
Sights: Lower and Upper Falls, Honolulu
What to Bring: Swimsuit
An alternate adventure from the touristy Manoa Falls Trail, this hike takes you to the secluded upper portion of Manoa Falls. Getting up there has it challenges, as you will have to scramble up some steep and muddy slopes, and even climb up some tree roots. But when you reach the top, you will be rewarded with the more secluded upper portion of the waterfall with infinity-pool like views looking out over beautiful Honolulu.
Ah Cinco de Mayo, every American's favorite excuse for a drinking holiday (or is that St. Paddy's day... New Year's??). Regardless, I knew I had to sneak in a morning hike to work off all those tortillas and margaritas I would be consuming in the afternoon. Oahu had gotten a pretty significant rain the night before, so I figured it was time to finally tackle a hike I've been wanting to do for some time, Upper Manoa Falls.
The hike follows the same initial path of (normal) Manoa Falls. It's a short, slightly uphill walk that takes you into Manoa Valley. Once you reach Manoa, you will take a side trail to reach Upper Manoa.
The Manoa Falls trailhead is located at the end of Manoa Road. Be advised, if you park in the official Manoa Falls parking lot, you will have to pay $5. If you are frugal, you can find some street parking in the neighborhood at the bottom of the hill, and walk the extra half mile to get to the trailhead. Perks of a tourist hike--there's a restaurant and bathrooms at the bottom! Not a bad post hike meal, but I think I will always prefer my gas station spam musubi.
Let's hike! You may see a few feathered friends along the way. If you've never been to Hawaii, chickens and roosters are everywhere, no matter what island you are on.
Nothing complicated about this trail, just follow the massive group of people. I got lucky when I was there, it wasn't crazy crowded (I suppose tourists don't like to get to hikes by 8am). It's been a while since I've been to Manoa and I forgot just how beautiful the area is. The valley is lush green with big and beautiful trees. It's no wonder Jurassic World chose this area for some filming.
Which means plenty of great photo ops, like this tree arch. The trail itself is very easy, but it does get muddy and possibly slippery, so I don't recommend wearing those clean white shoes with no grip.
First sight of Manoa! The upper falls is up there somewhere, in between the trees.
And we made it...to Lower Manoa. If you're here you might as well give it a look and snap a few pics. Regardless of the tourists, it is quite pretty.
But we're here for Upper Manoa. Just before the lower falls, you should see this sign for the Aihualama Trail. Go this way. (Side note: in my last post, I explained how this trail will connect you all the way up to the Makiki Tantalus Trail as it is part of the Mauka Trail system).
And mere moments after going on Aihualama you will see this sign. Yep, you guessed it, this is where we go.
And this is the part where the hike gets a tad tricky. There aren't any markers so you have to navigate on instinct. You will be walking up an area that looks like runoff (and possibly a landslide), but you should feel as though you are curving to the right back towards the falls. It should be pretty obvious. If you reach some tree roots like this, you are going the right way.
As you ascend, you will have to straight climb up these tree roots. There are a few spots where you may get a rope to assist you.
But the climb is no joke. The climbs got pretty vertical, and there were points like this where a slip would probably end poorly. Luckily, there's many good holds, so it didn't prove too much of a challenge on the ascent or descent.
And after 15 minutes of climbing we're here. Just need to shimmy around this little rock.
And there it is! Ok the flow wasn't amazing, but it wasn't too bad. And you have your own private little waterfall pool to enjoy.
And that pool looks out over this view. What a beautiful place! I've seen many posts on social media going for the infinity pool shot. Unfortunately, being up here all alone, I didn't have a way to set it up.
So I'll have to settle with some edge selfies, looking down on the hikers below (and contemplating how many tacos I would eat later). My first trip to Upper Manoa did not disappoint. I'm sure I will be back.
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Also Check Out:
- Hik3beasthawaii's post about this hike
- This write up about Upper Manoa