16 Waterfalls in Hawaii That Will Take Your Breath Away

Hawaii is known for its epic ocean views and dazzling beaches that come in an array of colors. But the hidden interiors of the islands hide still more treasures. Lush jungles and verdant foliage part to unveil heavenly sights of captivating and cascading waterfalls. From some of the tallest waterfalls in the world cascading off the cliffs of Molokai to some silver-screen juggernauts, Hawaii waterfalls are no joke—and they come with the accolades to prove it. In fact, with so many spectacular waterfalls, you may have trouble choosing which to see first. But fear not—we’ve broken down the top 16 best waterfalls in Hawaii that will make your next trip to the Aloha State truly unforgettable.

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The 16 Best Waterfalls in Hawaii

Hawaii’s beauty is present no matter where you go, and its waterfalls are no different. Enchantment awaits, and it’s not hard to find, whether you travel minutes from the big city or deep into the wild jungles. So, if you respond to the call of the falls more than the call of the ocean, here are sixteen of the best, most beautiful Hawaii waterfalls.

1. Rainbow Falls, Big Island

Spectacular waterfalls start with Rainbow Falls, located right within Hilo town. This waterfall bursts with life, so it’s easy to understand why it’s a favorite among Big Island waterfalls. But Rainbow Falls truly stands out for—you guessed it—the rainbow in its mist.

Early morning is the best time to see this particular waterfall in Hawaii and see the colorful display for yourself. After a good rain, the water creates a heavy spray that catches the light and paints rainbows in the air.

Cascading down over 80 feet and surrounded by lush green foliage and breathtaking banyan trees, Rainbow Falls is a magical setting ripe with enchantment.

2. Wailua Falls, Kauai

Many impressive waterfalls in Hawaii require you to whip out a sturdy pair of shoes and hike to your destination. Not Wailua Falls, however. Located in Wailua River State Park, Wailua Falls resides just minutes from other favorite waterfalls, like Opaekaa Falls and the not-so-secret Secret Falls. But Wailua, visible from the roadside, barely requires you to pop out of the car. Of course, if you do want a closer look, a short walk from the parking lot to the falls will put you right on top of them, with the perfect view to take in their beauty.

And beautiful the falls are. With two distinct streams, Wailua Falls is often referred to as Kauai’s Twin Falls. Avid fans of Fantasy Island may even recognize them from the show’s opening scene. But whether they inspire nostalgia or steal your breath, Wailua Falls perfectly represent Kauai’s exquisite beauty. We’d expect nothing less from the Garden Isle, after all.

3. Manoa Falls, Oahu

With so much to do on Oahu, the island doesn’t garner nearly as much attention for its waterfalls as the other Hawaiian Islands do. But far from a concrete jungle, the Gathering Place is rich with opportunities for adventure. Located just 15 minutes from the city, Manoa Falls feels worlds away. But despite its remote feel, Manoa Falls is easy to get to, with a one-mile trail that’s more of a walking path than a hiking one. Truthfully, that’s the best part for many wanting to sneak a peek at these stunning falls.

The trail winds through a lush jungle that may seem familiar to eagle-eyed viewers of the big and small screens. If you get a sense of deja vu, you probably watched the movie Jurassic Park or the TV show Lost, both of which were filmed in Manoa Valley. And once you reach the end, the 150-foot Manoa Falls stand ready to greet you. Thanks to lots of rain in the valley, most days promise a spectacular view of the falls.

4. Hanakapiai Falls, Kauai

Hanakapiai Falls, much like Hanakapiai Beach, is not easy to reach. But Kauai certainly rewards those who aren’t afraid of a challenge. After a rugged, two-mile hike along Kalalau Trail to the beach, waterfall-seekers must travel an additional two miles of rough terrain and steep elevation to reach the falls. The trail crosses paths with mountain apple trees, a bamboo forest, and a stream that, when it rains, can prove too powerful to overcome. So as you enjoy the view, remember to watch your step! 

But those who can brave the journey are in for a treat when they reach its end. The thundering Hanakapiai Falls drops over 300 feet to a shimmering emerald pool that’s safe to swim. So, after your strenuous hike, you can take a dip in the pool to cool off and even swim behind the waterfall. Kauai’s Nā Pali Coast is as notorious for its unbelievable beauty as it is for the rugged terrain, and Hanakapiai Falls certainly delivers on both.

5. Opaekaa Falls, Kauai

It’s no surprise that the valley of the ali’i (kings) would hold many treasures, one of which is another Kauai highlight. Opaekaa Falls lies north of the Wailua River on the island’s east side. Highway 580 leads right to the Opaekaa Falls overlook, with an unrivaled view of the waterfall. Unfortunately, it’s the only look you’re likely to get. Though some claim a trail to the base of the falls exists, the area was closed indefinitely after the deaths of two hikers in 2006. 

But while you can no longer get up close and personal with Opaekaa Falls, it’s hard to be dissatisfied with the view from the overlook, which shows the upper part of the falls in all their glory.

6. Sacred Falls, Oahu

Sacred Falls is hands down one of the most striking waterfalls in all of Oahu. It’s also forbidden. Before the turn of the century, the trail to the falls was popular with hikers and waterfall chasers making their way to the thundering end of Sacred Falls’s 80-foot drop, where they could bask in the spray or take a dip in the pool at its base. Sadly, a tragic rockslide in 1999 closed the trail to the waterfall indefinitely. But that doesn’t mean visitors are left without any option to view this phenomenal waterfall in person.

The safe and legal way to view the falls is a helicopter ride above. Several companies offer tours of Sacred Falls, providing a once-in-a-lifetime experience of Oahu’s diamond in the rough.

7. Pu’uka’oku Falls, Molokai

Though its height comes in just under the tallest waterfall in Hawaii, Pu’uka’oku Falls still manages to garner a spot as one of the tallest waterfalls in the world. Unlike other Hawaii waterfalls that freefall into deep pools, Pu’uka’oku sits dwarfed by the world’s tallest sea cliffs. As a result, the waterfall cascades thousands of feet down the cliff face to pour directly into the ocean below. 

Due to the location, it’s impossible to access Pu’uka’oku by anything other than a boat or helicopter tour. During the dry season, the fall’s dramatic rush can slow to a trickle, but the wet season between November and March is the prime time to catch this waterfall in action.

8. Waipo’o Falls, Kauai

Among the grandeur of Waimea Canyon, it’s hard to believe that anything could stand out against the colorful gorge and sweeping views. But a two-tier waterfall falling over 800 feet certainly does the trick. 

Waipo’o Falls sits in the Pacific’s Grand Canyon, providing a scenic backdrop to multiple lookouts for one of Hawaii’s best and most beautiful waterfalls. Just don’t expect a better look at the end of your trails. The hike will lead you toward the top of the falls, so the view down is nonexistent. But you can still appreciate the views of the canyon as you enjoy the pools above the falls.

Next Vacay Pro-tip: Plan your trip for the rainy season (November to March) to see Waipo’o in action.

9. Manawaiopuna Falls, Kauai

A must-see for Jurassic Park fans, Manawaiopuna is also referred to as Jurassic Falls for its small but meaningful part in the first movie. With its commanding presence, the waterfall makes itself known in the iconic shot of Dr. Alan Grant and company arriving at Jurassic Park. That stunning shot is not unlike seeing this powerful force of nature in person. 

Manawaiopuna Falls dramatically plunges over 400 feet into the pool waiting below. So, it’s no wonder the good doctor had to shout to be heard over the thunderous roar. Unfortunately, it’s not an experience many get to recreate, as the falls reside on private property. So, the only way to sneak a peak at this silver-screen giant and snap a pic of one of the best waterfalls in Hawaii will be a helicopter tour above the falls. On the upside, you can pretend you’re Dr. Grant on the ride into Isla Nublar.

10. Akaka Falls, Big Island

One of Hawaii’s most famous waterfalls happens to be one of the best on the Big Island. The towering Akaka Falls is located in the verdant Akaka Falls State Park. Though only a short hike, the trail to Akaka Falls is almost as striking as the destination, taking visitors through a lush rainforest filled with wildflowers, draping fronds, and lofty bamboo groves. 

The stunning trail opens up to two waterfalls, the harder-to-spy Kahuna Falls and Akaka Falls. The latter remains one of the biggest draws for visitors to the park, with gorgeous views along the trail and a designated viewpoint closer to the rushing water. 

If you want to beat the tour buses and enjoy the beautiful falls to yourself, plan to head over in the early morning, before 11 AM, to soak in the sounds of nature and the falls in peace.

11. Twin Falls, Maui

The Road to Hana has so many incredible stops, like the ever-popular Waiʻānapanapa State Park, that it’s easy to overlook Twin Falls as just another waterfall.

But the simplest things can leave the biggest impressions. And while Twin Falls doesn’t have a dramatic hundred-foot freefall, it does have falls surrounded by boundless natural beauty. The hike to explore Twin Falls is easy and enchanting, with lush greenery all around and multiple waterfalls along the way. The deep pools provide the perfect opportunity to cool off, so bring your bathing suit!

Twin Falls is one of the best waterfalls in Hawaii because it serves as a great reminder to slow down and set your clocks to Maui time. Otherwise, you may miss out on making some truly great memories.

12. Puaa Kaa Falls, Maui

Another popular stop along the Road to Hana, Puaa Kaa Falls delights visitors with its easy accessibility and inviting aura. The five-acre park encompasses waterfalls and pools amid a picturesque rainforest landscape. Both falls at the Puaa Kaa State Wayside Park are conveniently located near the road, so you don’t have to go far to take in their beauty. 

But, if you want to spend some time, the park makes it easy. Picnic benches adorn the grasses over the falls so that you can enjoy a serene meal with the sounds of the rushing water behind you. Or, if you’ve brought your swim clothes, you can go for a dip in the basin. The magic of the falls is palpable everywhere, so whether you swim in the water or take in the view, you won’t regret making this stop at mile marker 22.6.

13. Waimea Falls, Oahu

Nature lovers will find their happy place at Waimea Falls. Nestled into the lush Waimea Valley, the Waimea Falls and Botanical Garden offer a beautiful escape into paradise. 

For years, Waimea Falls was operated as an entertainment theme park with performances by cliff divers and hula dancers. Turned over to the Audubon Society in 2003, the park became a botanical garden aimed at cultural and botanical preservation. 

The park requires an entrance fee, but the price is well worth it to walk the gorgeous hiking trail and lay eyes on one of the best Hawaii waterfalls. The botanical garden also ranks among the best in Hawaii, so whether you’re obsessed with falls or a plant lover, Waimea Falls won’t disappoint.

14. Upper Waikani Falls, Maui

The Road to Hana isn’t short on gorgeous views or waterfalls. Boasting over fifteen waterfalls, it’s no surprise that many of these Hana Highway gems make their way onto the list of bests, and Waikani is no different.

Three separate streams earned this waterfall the moniker of Three Bears Falls—the smallest stream is even called the baby bear. And although it’s not the easiest to get to, it is one of the most easily viewed, as you can sneak a peak right from the roadside. However, those interested in a closer look can find parking further up and make their way back to the falls through an enchanting jungle hike. What awaits those at the bottom is a magical spot with flowing waters and one of the best Maui swimming pools.

15. Waimoku Falls, Maui

Everything about Waimoku Falls works to captivate visitors from the first step to the last. Located on the south end of Haleakala National Park, the trail to reach Waimoku is hands down one of the most beautiful trails in Maui.

The Pipiwai Trail Hike sits above the famous Seven Sacred Pools, another must-visit in Haleakala National Park. But following the Pipiwai stream half a mile brings you to the first breathtaking spot, Makahiku Falls. Set against the jungle ferns and rocky cliff, the almost 200-foot drop is more than enough sight to see for some. But those who continue on will trade the jungle-like landscape for one of zen-like calm as they traverse a beautiful bamboo forest. 

This leads to the last spectacular waterfall on the trail, Waimoku. The tallest waterfall on the Road to Hana, Waimoku performs a dramatic drop of 400 feet to kick up plenty of mist and spray as you stand at the base and marvel at one of the best and most impressive waterfalls on Maui.

16. Lulumahu Falls, Oahu

Lulumahu Falls sits in the Nuuanu Valley, tucked away off the ​​Pali Highway. Though getting to the waterfall requires a permit, and the trail can be muddy, its moderate difficulty makes it an excellent option for families with kids.

The trail winds through the Nuuanu reservoir, a peaceful bamboo forest, and jungle-like terrain. The magical journey makes getting to this waterfall an adventure almost as impressive as the destination itself, easily solidifying Lulumahu as one of the best waterfalls to visit in Hawaii. 

Visitors should take their time soaking in the many scenic backdrops along the way, but they won’t be disappointed by the end of their journey either. Lulumahu is an impressive waterfall that cascades over the cliff face and into the pool below. A popular picture spot is directly in front of the falls, on a tower of rocks at its base. Just be sure to watch your step!

Hawaii Waterfalls FAQs

Once you start sorting your way through the best waterfalls in Hawaii, it’s not hard to see why waterfall tours are such a popular tourist attraction. But where should you go and what should you see? Before you go chasing waterfalls, here are some important answers to questions that’ll no doubt pop up in your search for the best Hawaii waterfalls.

Which Hawaii Island Has the Best Waterfalls?

The Big Five of the Hawaiian Islands can all lay claim to some of the best waterfalls in Hawaii. But if you’re looking for the best island to visit for impressive falls, then Maui and Kauai can’t be beaten.

Maui holds a host of easy-to-access waterfalls along the Hana Highway alone, with convenient trails and beautiful hikes. But for the nature-obsessed, Kauai’s moniker of the Garden Isle couldn’t be more accurate. In addition to dramatic falls, visitors can feast their eyes on stunning landscapes, from the Jurassic-like jungles of the Nā Pali Coast to the red soil and staggering cliff faces of Waimea Canyon.

Where Are the Most Waterfalls in Hawaii?

Hawaii has amazing waterfalls on every island, but one Hawaiian Island stands out for the most easily accessible waterfalls: Maui. So whether you want to visit waterfalls on the edge of civilization or tucked away from it in verdant jungles, Maui delivers.

The Road to Hana includes many incredible stops, from unassuming Twin Falls, perfect for a relaxing swim, to jaw-dropping Waimoku Falls, with its staggering beauty.

Trails in Maui range in difficulty from easy to moderate, so travelers can pick their preferred difficulty level. But if there’s one thing to count on, it’s that a spectacular waterfall awaits at the end of their journey.

Are There Waterfalls You Can Swim in in Hawaii?

Yes, there are waterfalls where you can swim in Hawaii. In fact, you can swim at the base of some of the best waters in Hawaii, including Hanakapiai Falls in Kauai, Puaa Kaa Falls in Oahu, and Upper Waikani Falls in Maui, to name a few.

Before swimming in a waterfall in Hawaii, make sure it’s safe to do so. For example, swimming at Manoa Falls is discouraged because of the threat of leptospirosis, which can cause flu-like symptoms for up to several weeks.

Is There a Waterfall in Hawaii That Goes Up Instead of Down?

An upside-down waterfall sounds like something straight out of a fairytale, but it does exist in the real world, and you can find it on Oahu in Hawaii. Waipuhia Falls is a rare and perfect combination of conditions—strong winds meeting falling water—to create the effect of an inverted waterfall. 

Of course, it’s something you have to see to believe, and your best bet for doing so is during the wet season. The waterfall is on private property, but you can still catch a glimpse driving eastbound along the Pali Highway. If you have a chance to catch this rare sight in action, you can’t miss adding Waipuhia Falls to your list of best waterfalls in Hawaii.

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