The Manoa Falls trail is one of the most popular hikes in the Honolulu area. This may be partially because it’s easy to get to the entrance by car or the bus from Waikiki. It’s also a fairly easy hike, about a 45 – 60 minute walk up the mountain to the falls.
The trail which starts at the bottom of the old Paradise Park building at the top of Manoa Road is also one of the better maintained Oʻahu mountain trails.
Along the way you can expect to see eucalyptus trees, giant vine draped kukui trees, mountain apple, guava, African tulip trees, bamboo, and banyan trees. The hillsides are coated with large patches of ginger and beautiful wildflowers. The entire trail is about 1.6 miles (2.6 km) out and back.
If you feel as though you have stepped back in time to the dinosaur era, there is good reason; some of the 1993 jungle scenes of Jurassic Park were shot right in this area. The TV series Lost also filmed parts in this mysterious tropical terrain.
Manoa Valley receives, on average 150 inches of rain each year. This lush, jungle-like environment can tend to leave the trail muddy and slippery, so be prepared to get a little dirty. It’s wise to keep this in mind when selecting your shoes for the hike. The last 100 yards are the most difficult; you have to climb up and over some large boulders to reach the Falls. Although this involves a bit of extra effort, it is manageable, even for most kids.
Manoa Falls feature a vertical drop of about 150 feet (46 m). The water cascades down from the mountain into a small pool at the base. The waterfall is often bigger after a rain; during the hot and dry summer months it is sometimes just a trickle. While the pool looks inviting, rock slides are possible. In January of 2002, there was a dangerous landslide next to the waterfall. Since then, a bench and a designated viewing area have been constructed. Signs are posted informing users that the trail has ended and warn of the potential danger of the area beyond; swimming is not permitted in the waterfall pool.
In mythology it is believed that banyan trees are the peaceful resting spots where lost spirits reside. Rumor has it that the large banyan located at the entryway to Manoa Falls Trail isn’t very peaceful at all. According to “Uncle Joe” Espinda, a tour guide with the Oʻahu Ghost Tours, the reason for the famous banyan trees agitation is because it is located directly in the path of Hawaii’s most prominent legend – the Hukai-po, also known as the Night Marchers.
It is said that the Hukai-po are believed to be armed spirits of warriors entering into or returning from battle. Visitors have reported that on certain nights, the faint drumming characteristic of these Hukai-po can be heard at the banyan tree. Legends say it is a terrible omen for someone to actually see the procession of Hukai-po. In most cases, either the witness or someone the witness knows, experiences a grim fate.
Those few who have seen the apparitions and lived to talk about the experience, report that the warriors are often accompanied by raised torches and the sounds of chanting and drumming can often be heard. It is said that although the ghostly procession floats several feet above the ground, they leave behind footprints in the earth. If you do happen cross paths with these Hukai-po, don’t take any chances; lie face down on the ground, play dead, and never make eye contact!
Bring a water bottle and insect repellant with you and be sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes. A waterproof backpack is highly recommended too. You will have to climb over some rocks along the way. Even though the hike is classified as easy, it may be challenging for people with knee problems or other conditions. You might want to consider bringing a light waterproof jacket or windbreaker along for the hike.
Parking costs $5.00 at the parking lot. You can also park on the residential streets and walk about 1/4 a mile in.
The Aihualama Trail, which switchbacks up the ridge through bamboo, offering views of Honolulu and Manoa Valley is a marked trail to the left approximately 50 feet from the viewing area as you are approaching it. The Aihualama Trail; however, is not suitable for most novice hikers, as it is a six mile strenuous hike.