Distance: 2 miles | Time: 1 – 1.5 hours | Level: Easy – Moderate
Lulumahu Falls is one of the best waterfalls on O’ahu for many reasons. The waterfall is nestled in the lush Koolau Mountain range, yet easy to access. It cascades at an impressive 50 feet.
Lulumahu Falls Trail is one of the more crowded hikes on the island and commonly visited by locals and tourists alike. Don’t let this fact discourage you as the trail is absolutely stunning. Look no further than Lulumahu Falls if you’re keen for a true island adventure and don’t mind getting a little down and dirty.
In this guide, we will cover how to find the trail, what you’ll need to prepare for the hike, and what to expect when hiking Lulumahu Falls Trail on O’ahu. As a bonus, we’ve included nearby stops we recommend for creating the perfect adventure day on the east side.
Know before you go: Lulumahu Falls is situated on private government property and therefore closed to the public. While citations are not common at this site, permits can be obtained here for legal access to the trail.
Everything You Need to Know Before Hiking Lulumahu Falls
How to Find Lulumahu Falls Trail
Coming from Waikiki, the trail is a short 15-20 minute drive on the Pali Highway. Simply type “Lulumahu Falls” into Google Maps to find the dirt parking lot used to access the trail. The parking lot and entrance to the trail are located directly off of the highway.
Please note that this lot is notorious for car break-ins. To minimize the risk of theft do not leave anything in your car during the hike.
From the parking lot, there are two ways to access the trail. On the far right (looker’s right) of the parking lot, there’s a paved road and chain link fence. The quickest way to start the trail is by climbing through the hole in the fence.
If climbing through fences is not your thing (understandably), you can also access the trail by beginning at the marked Nuuanu Public Hunting Area entrance.
To find the Nuuanu Entrance, look for a brown and yellow sign near the middle of the parking lot. This route will wind you through a thick bamboo forest and ultimately drop you on a paved service road. When the trail becomes less defined in the bamboo forest, continue to steer right and you will eventually reach a road.
Once you step foot on the service road, go left. The service road marks the beginning of the official trail.
Again, this trail is located on private government property. Hike at your own risk.
What to Expect Hiking Lulumahu Falls Trail
I’m embarrassed to say that it took us three years of living on O’ahu before we made the trek to Lulumahu Falls. We knew that the trail was easily accessible and, therefore, did not expect the waterfall to be anything to write home about. Most times we opt for the less traveled hiking trails.
We were pleasantly mistaken. Lulumahu Falls exceeded our expectations.
While you will encounter a higher number of people than you would on a more adventurous, lesser known trail, such as Ka’au Crater, the trek is definitely worth it. Expect the trail to waste no time before leading you deep into the lush, green forest. As with all hikes on O’ahu, you will quickly be mesmerized.
Prepare to get extremely wet and muddy. That’s part of the fun. Embrace it!
Lulumahu Falls Trail begins as a service road but quickly transitions onto a muddy path. As with most hikes on the east side of the island, the trail constantly remains wet due to frequent rains. We hiked this trail during an absolute downpour and were up to our ankles and shins in water and mud.
To this day, hiking Lulumahu Falls in the rain is one of our favorite hiking memories. Don’t let a little rain deter you. Rainy days make for the best waterfall hikes.
It’s important to note that the trail requires you to traverse several rivers containing slippery rocks. Always use caution when crossing and beware of quick and heavy flowing currents.
The trail difficulty is easy to moderate. There are a few uphill sections but overall the incline is gradual. Most of the terrain is flat.
Colorful ribbons mark the correct path. Thank you trail angels. Look for these markers often to avoid taking the wrong trail.
Please remain on the trail at all times to help protect and restore the natural area.
When you do finally spot the Lulumahu Falls through the trees, you’ll immediately understand why it’s one of the best waterfalls on O’ahu. The roar of the waterfall is powerful and invigorating. Vibrant green plants and mosses surround the falls as a result of the constant mist. It’s a beautiful sight to just stand in silence and soak in.
We may be biased, but it doesn’t get better than hiking in Hawai’i.
How to Prepare for the Hike
Always do your research before starting a trail. Is the trail open? Is the trail safe for your experience level?
Lulumahu Falls Trail is rated easy to moderate and can be a hike fit for the whole family.
However, always take into account each hiker’s previous level of fitness and comfort level with uneven terrain.
As mentioned above, east side hikes are prone to rain regardless of the season. Pack a light rain jacket and hat to help in the event of a heavy downpour. While the hike is relatively short, always prepare to carry adequate amounts of water.
Hikes on the island are different than mainland hikes and, overall, tend to be more adventurous in the best way.
The hike is shaded and there is little to no risk of sunburn. If you’re bothered by mosquitos or susceptible to bites though, bug repellant is recommended. Anytime you venture deep into the Hawaiian jungle, bugs will be present.
We always wear our Chacos anytime we set out for a waterfall hike. Nothing ruins an epic hike quicker than wet socks. Ditch the shoes and opt for a good water sandal instead.
Best Times to Hike Lulumahu Falls Trail
Winter on the island brings heavy rains. The months of November – April are great months to explore the many stunning waterfalls around the island.
However, it’s important to note that heavy rains can also cause unsafe hiking conditions. Make sure to always check the weather before attempting any hike. We trust Windy to provide accurate weather conditions on the island.
With that being said, every month is a good month to go hiking on O’ahu.
Hiking during the winter months though, especially on rainy days, means you’re less likely to encounter crowds. We always hop out of bed like kids on Christmas morning anytime we wake up to rain on a Saturday morning.
You can’t always predict the weather when you’re planning a hike but you can set your alarm. The best time to hike Lulumahu Falls Trail is in the morning.
We always aim to start a trail shortly after sunrise. Doing so, increases your chances of being the first ones there. If you’re lucky, you’ll also catch a glimpse of sun rays beaming through the trees and hear the birds waking up.
There’s no better sensation than greeting the day from a trail.
Nearby East Side Adventures
The east side of the island is absolutely gorgeous and jam packed with adventure. I could have made this suggestions list 1,000x longer, but had to draw the line somewhere.
Our favorite waterfall hike on O’ahu (actually it’s a toss up between it and Ka’au Crater) is located directly across the Pali Highway from the Lulumahu parking lot. Mo’ole Falls Trail is less trafficked and less straightforward than neighboring Lulumahu Falls. It also happens to be a whole lot more epic. On a rainy day, you can stumble across as many as eight different waterfalls. It’s one of the best waterfall hikes on O’ahu if you can avoid getting turned around.
The famous Pali Lookout is a short two minute drive up the Pali Highway from Lulumahu Falls. There’s not much to do here other than look over the handrail, but it’s a necessary stop. Especially for first time visitors. Arrive early so you can snag a parking spot. The view of the Ko’olau Mountain range from the lookout is breathtaking.
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens
You haven’t quite witnessed the extent of Oahu’s beauty until you’ve visited the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens. Continue driving 15 minutes east towards Kaneohe to reach the magical Botanical Gardens. The Gardens are free to enter and open daily from 9:00am to 4:00pm. Trust us when we say, you haven’t seen O’ahu until you’ve visited this place.
Nothing beats relaxing on Lanikai Beach after a morning hiking. Lanikai Beach is a must see when visiting the east side and one of the best beaches on O’ahu. Iconic for its unobstructed view of the Mokulua Islands, it doesn’t get anymore picturesque than Lanikai Beach. Definitely worth the 20 minute drive from Lulumahu Falls.
Final Hiking Thoughts and Reminders
We have lived and traveled to many states and countries across the World and still Hawai’i remains among the top of our list of most beautiful destinations. Whether you live in Hawai’i or are just passing through, it is our shared responsibility to leave it better than we found it. Please help us in preserving the island’s natural beauty.
Practice Leave-No-Trace: Including, but not limited to, packing out your trash and staying on the designated trail. If you are hiking with snacks or liquids, do not dispose of these on the trail. There are no designated trashcans in the area. All trash items need to be taken back to your car and disposed of properly. Additionally, please stay on the designated trail to help minimize trail erosion and keep yourself and other hikers safe.
Be considerate of other hikers: In all cases, be aware of those hiking around you. When descending, yield to hikers coming up, and always be willing to step aside if a hiker is walking faster than you. Also, don’t be the guy playing your music without headphones.
Respect the ʻāina (land): Keep Hawai’i beautiful. Don’t take or disturb what you find. It is a privilege that we get to play in these mountains. Let us never forget.
We hope this guide to hiking Lulumahu Falls Trail was helpful for you! Let us know in the comments if you have any other questions about this hike or others on O’ahu. Keep an eye out for more O’ahu hiking adventures!