Hawaii Day Trip: Maunawili Falls near Kailua

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On my recent trip to Oahu, my friends and I explored a number of areas and tried a variety of activities. I’ll be summarizing them as possible day trips around Oahu.

On a Friday morning, my friends and I rose early in Kailua in search of a hike. My sister recommended Maunawili Falls, which I had never hiked. When we heard that there was a pool at the falls where you could jump in from height of 6 to 30+ feet, we were sold.

We made a quick stop at Agnes’ Portuguese Bake Shop (46 Hoolai Street, Kailua, HI 96734) for the world’s best malassadas. On any day except Monday, you can get made-to-order original or cinnamon malassadas for 80 cents. Highly recommended!

From Kailua, Maunawili Falls is just a ten minute drive up the Pali, in the back of the Maunawili subdivision. From Honolulu or Waikiki, it would be about 30 minutes. To reach the trail head, you can get directions to the following address: 1210 Kelewina St, Maunawili, HI 96734.

Or you can follow my homemade map of the Maunawili subdivision.

Only two turns once you enter Maunawili. Left at the fork immediately upon entering to stay on Maunawili Rd, then right on Keewina. Once there, find a legal parking spot.

Right before you parked, you probably passed the well-marked trailhead. From there, it’s about 45 minutes to the falls. The walk is pretty easy, and anyone with decent mobility should be fine. There are no steep parts or rocks to climb. It’s mostly a dirt trail with only slight elevation changes.

The most challenging parts involve crossing the streams, which you have to do a few times. Eyeballing the streams should lead to the obvious rock-to-rock crossing points to keep your feet dry.

Most of the hike is shaded and under cover, but some parts will expose you to sunlight. You should always have sunscreen on in Hawaii.

After 45 minutes or so, you’ll reach the falls and pool. You are unlikely to be alone, so you can see where the other hikers are jumping from.

The lowest jump point is pictured above. Swim across the pool to where you can climb out of it just to the left of where my friend is standing. Climb up the wet rocks–easy and comfortable even in bare feet–and jump off.

Before making any jumps, test the water level to make sure it is deep enough. On the day we went, the water was apparently quite low, but the landing spot was still about 11 feet deep I estimated.

If you’ve tired of the beginners’ jump, there is another, more terrifying one. As you face the pool, there is a path to the left that is steep and goes about 30 feet above the pool to another jump spot. You can stand on the edge holding a rope, looking down but it will just psych you out I found out.

View of the pool. The big jump is up and to the left, hidden from view.

I finally worked up the courage to jump from the top jump. It was terrifying and not an entirely pleasant impact, but it was exhilarating. One friend jumped too, and we agreed we were glad we did, but didn’t need to jump again. All three of us enjoyed the lower jump and did it multiple times.

We also climbed up past the waterfall on the rocks to another pool. That requires tougher feet than I have or shoes.

The walk back was another smooth half hour. It was almost 3 PM, and we were starving when we got back to Kailua, so I took everyone to my favorite plate lunch place in Kailua: Fat Boy’s (301 Hahani St, Kailua, HI 96734).

We got three plates to share including Fat Boy’s legendary garlic chicken. It looked like a mound of food, but it disappeared quickly.

Garlic Chicken, Chicken Katsu Curry, and Chili Plates

Recap

Maunawili Falls got three thumbs up from the participants. If you have a car and you’re on the east side of Oahu (Honolulu, Waikiki, Kailua), make a trip for an enjoyable hike, jump, and dip.


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10 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for posting. I will be going to Honolulu with my family next week and I will certainly consider driving to this place. Any other suggestions? Thanks

  2. Nice writeup. A few comments from someone who grew up there.

    You will have a hard time finding a local who doesn’t think Leonard’s malasadas are the best. They perpetually have a line out the door, are the original, and recently you can get them with flavored fillings. For the love of monkeys, GET THE HAUPIA ONE.

    Maunawili Falls is a great, not too long, hike to a fall. Manoa Falls is even shorter and tamer but you still get the pool and the falls. One thing to be cognizant of when swimming in the fresh water in Hawaii, though, is the leptospirosis. I’m not saying not to go for it, cause I have, but be aware of it, especially if you get sick once you get home.

    If you’re looking for hikes, I can’t recommend the Ko`olau ridge hikes enough. There are a ton of hikes that go from town side up the spines of the ridges between the valleys and end up on the Ko`olau spine. Wa`ahila, Kulio`uo`u , and Mariner’s ridge are three examples but there are a ton. The views are fantastic, especially if you catch them on a clear day. They can be decently challenging though, so leave early and scout them out before you go in a guidebook or yelp.

    Also agree with the last sentence. Get out of town and go to the Windward side and the North Shore. You went all the way to Hawaii, why are you staying in the city???

  3. Living in Hawaii..just be careful with any Pond jump..usually people get a bit crazy and jump from the wrong spots into the wrong spots and get seriously hurt. Then when you need help you probably will have to be airlifted.

    • Yes, be safe. Test out where you’ll land for depth. Let someone else jump first. Ask advice from experienced jumpers. etc

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