Hiking Waimea Falls: Oahu’s Easiest Waterfall Hike

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Waimea Falls Hike North Shore Oahu

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Inside: Oahu is known for superb hiking and beautiful waterfalls. But the Waimea Falls hike is the easiest of them all (it’s also perfect for kids!).

Located on Oahu’s scenic North Shore, the Waimea Falls hike is the ultimate Hawaiian waterfall hike straight out of central casting.

This gently sloping, fully paved trail is less than a mile long and can be enjoyed by almost anyone of any age or fitness level.

Even if someone in your group has limited mobility, they can skip the hike and take a shuttle from the entrance “Hale Ho’ike” straight to the falls for just $10 per person.

So bring the kids, bring the grandparents, (bring your wallet), the Waimea Falls trail is fun for the whole family.

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you choose to book through these links, I receive a small commission, which I will likely blow on mai tais, poke, and shave ice.  All of this internet voodoo takes place at no additional cost to you. 

It’s one of the most popular hikes on Oahu and one of two hikes I always recommend for families with younger kids (the other is the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail).

Read More: 5 Easy Oahu Hikes for Those Who Love Nature But Hate Hiking

Even if hiking is not your thing, you’ll likely enjoy this casual stroll through the lush Waimea Valley.

Bonus: There’s a waterfall at the end!

And while Oahu does have many waterfalls, they are not as easily accessible as some of the “drive-in” stunners on other Hawaiian islands – like Rainbow Falls on the Big Island or Wailua Falls on Kauai.

When it comes to waterfalls on Oahu, I consider Waimea Falls the best waterfall that is easy to reach.

But now you may be wondering…

Can I swim at Waimea Falls?

Indeed you can!

So, if swimming in a waterfall is on your Hawaii Bucket List, here’s your chance. Waimea Falls is one of the few places on the island where you can do a waterfall swim legally and safely (there’s even a lifeguard).

Waimea Falls Swimming Oahu Hawaii
Swimming in the falls

Oahu’s other popular waterfall hike, Manoa Falls, does not allow swimming due to the risk of rockfalls.

But before you head out, there are a few things to know about the Waimea Falls hike.

First, You’ll Need a Car

Sure, you can book a tour to get to Waimea Valley. But honestly, there’s no reason to. Waimea Falls is easy to visit on your own with a rental car while you’re exploring the North Shore.

For rental cars in Hawaii, it pays to go local. That’s why I always recommend Discount Hawaii Car Rental.

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Driving on Molokai Hawaii

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For rental cars in Hawaii, go to the local experts. They’ll find you the best rate among all the major companies with no booking fees. And their customer support is top-notch.

Don’t want to rent a car?

If you don’t want to drive yourself and fuss with parking on your day exploring the North Shore, that’s OK, too. Several excellent guided tours of the North Shore include time for the Waimea Falls hike and swim.

These are my 3 favorite tour options if you’d prefer to let someone else do the driving:

Now, back to Waimea Valley…

What to know about Waimea Valley

Waimea Valley holds a special place in Hawaiian history as an ahupua’a, a traditional land division that extends from the mountains to the sea, encompassing all the resources needed for sustainable living.

This ingenious system allowed ancient Hawaiians to manage resources and land usage effectively. It ensured that communities had access to fresh water, farming land, and fishing grounds. Each ahupua’a was ruled by a chief.

Waimea Valley Botanical Gardens Trail Oahu
Along the Waimea Falls Trail

Today, Waimea Valley is a living example of Hawaii’s deep-rooted connection to nature and its ancestral wisdom in land stewardship.

Now, let’s talk about the hike.

Waimea Valley Entrance and Shop Oahu
Waimea Valley Entrance and Shop

Waimea Falls Hike Quick Facts

For the latest opening times and ticket fees, check the Waimea Valley website.

LocationNorth Shore (1 hour from Waikiki)
CostEntry fee to Waimea Valley – $25/Adults, $15/Kids 4-12
ParkingAvailable, included with entry fee
HoursOpen Daily, 9am-4pm. (Closed Mondays in Jan/Feb/Oct/Nov only.)
Elevation & Distance1.5 miles roundtrip, 291 ft elevation gain
Time1 hour for the hike (add time to swim)
What You’ll SeeWaterfall & botanical gardens 🌺💦

Things to bring for a day at Waimea Falls:

  • Water: It’s always a good idea to stay hydrated on a hike. Don’t worry, water is readily available for purchase here. 
  • Appropriate Footwear: Tennis shoes are fine for this hike, no hiking shoes are needed. Even flip-flops are manageable if you stick to the paved trail.
  • Bug Spray: I’ve never found this strictly necessary, but if the mosquitoes love you, it’s best to bring it. 
  • Swimwear & a Change of Clothes – Only if you plan to swim.

What to know about the Waimea Falls trail

This is definitely the easiest hike on the island (that’s why I love it and there’s no shame in that!).

The paved trail wanders through a lovely botanical garden that includes 52 themed gardens. The valley is home to more than 5,000 types of tropical and subtropical plants. Among them are native Hawaiian plants and even some species that are globally endangered.

Waimea Valley Botanical Garden Flora Oahu
Things to see in the botanical garden

Along the trail, you’ll also have the opportunity to explore native Hawaiian cultural sites like Kuahale (an ancient Hawaiian living site for a high-ranking chief or priest).

Waimea Valley Cultural Exhibits Oahu
Native Hawaiian cultural sites to explore on the trail

The trail is paved the entire way with a few gravel paths off the main trail for additional exploration. I highly recommend taking your time and exploring some of these gravel paths.

There are no steep inclines here, the paved road is mostly flat with gentle hills. At the entrance, you’ll find all the facilities you need from restrooms to drinks and snacks for sale. There’s even a cute gift shop.

Honestly, the only thing hard about this trail is coughing up the steep admission fee to hike it. But it’s worth it!

Waimea Valley Easy Paved Hiking Trail
The paved trail to Waimea Falls

What to Know about the Waterfall Swim

First, don’t forget to bring a change of clothes if you plan to swim.

Swimming is strictly regulated here to keep it safe and fun for all. A lifeguard is on duty and lifejackets are required and provided free of charge for swimmers.

Swimming in Waimea Falls North Shore Oahu
Swimming in Waimea Falls

There’s a place to change clothes and lockers can be rented for storing your belongings while you swim. Let’s just say Waimea Falls is a full-service operation.

Important: Swimming is always dependent on waterfall conditions. At 9:00am each day, the lifeguard makes that call. If swimming is important to you (or your kids!), call (808) 638-7766 after 9:00am for the day’s swimming status.

Oh, and before I wrap up, there’s one more fun thing you can do in Waimea Valley…

Stay for the Toa Luau!

One of Oahu’s most popular luaus takes place right here in Waimea Valley, the Toa Luau. Offered twice daily on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, this is the only luau on the island to offer a kid-friendly (and jetlag-friendly) matinee luau.

Your luau ticket includes admission to Waimea Valley so you can do both on the same day. Or you can come back another day for the hike and swim, the luau admission ticket is good for one week before and one week after.

Luau times are 12:30pm and 5:00pm each day and can easily be combined with a hike to the waterfall.

Just bring a change of clothes if you plan to swim that day. And allow at least 2 hours for the hike and swim before you need to check in for the luau.

Note: If you visit on a Monday during one of the winter months when Waimea Valley is closed, the luau still takes place and you can return another day to do the hike. The gates open 30 minutes before the luau for parking.

And there you have it

Everything you need to know about Oahu’s easiest waterfall hike. Don’t miss this one when you visit the island.

After the Diamond Head crater hike, Waimea Falls is my favorite hike on Oahu.

Read More: Why Hiking Diamond Head Crater is an Oahu Must-Do

Waimea Falls Hike Oahu Hawaii
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P.S. If you’ve worked up a serious appetite with all this talk of hiking, I can help you with that, too:

7 Divinely Delicious Waikiki Breakfast Spots You Just Have to Try

The 10 Best Cheap Eats in Waikiki (#4 is literally a hidden gem!)

And for more great things to do on Oahu, start here:

The 7 Absolute Best Things to Do on Oahu (if time is short!)

Escape the Oahu Crowds with a Visit to the Byodo-In Temple

A Guide to Oahu’s Insta-Famous Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden

The Foolproof Guide to Hanauma Bay for Snorkeling

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