While the state has temporarily closed the old route, we wrote this guide to introduce the new route accessible to hikers wanting to swim under Maunawili Falls in 2023. Uncover the secrets of Maunawili Falls and beyond in this must-read guide—because a trail with lush forests, mesmerizing mountain views, and a waterfall finale is a Hawaiian adventure you won't want to miss!
The new hiking route is about 5 miles round-trip and takes about 5-6 hours. The trail is mostly a shaded ridge that descends into and follows a stream, so it can be muddy in some areas. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes and bring plenty of water and snacks. This small waterfall and swimming hole is a local favorite for both residents and visitors alike and is a great place to cool off on a hot Hawaii day.
Total Distance Roundtrip: 5 miles - Elevation Gain: 1350 ft.
Important Note: The former Maunawilli neighborhood access to the trail is currently closed for realignment. Please respect the neighborhood and do not attempt to access the trail from this location. If you do, the penalty is a $1000 fine for trespassing. Please do not, loiter around cars, play loud music, or yell in the streets. A few years ago the neighborhood petitioned the state to remove Maunawilli Falls Trail from the sanctioned list of state hiking trails because of the litter and graffiti that was being left behind by hikers. Help protect this place by packing out all of your trash, and pick up any litter you find along the way.
However, you can still access the falls from the Maunawilli Demonstration Trail. The trailhead for this trail is located off the Pali Highway, about 1.5 miles on the windward side of the two tunnels. However parking at the trailhead is limited to 2 hours and there is not very many parking spaces. Also, the parking lot is a high theft area. For all of these reasons, it is best to carpool, uber, or have someone drop you off. Source:State of Hawaii DLNR: Nā Ala Hele Trail & Access Program
Starting from the Maunawili Demonstration Trail, you will begin the gradual uphill trail through the lush forest. Thankfully, a boardwalk has been placed in the hillside to help with the climb. Once your at the top of the hill, your greeted with up close views of the Ko'olau Mountain Range. This portion of the trail is about 1.7 miles and gains about 600ft of elevation, and takes an average time of 90 minutes. Here is where you will find the Maunawili Demonstration Trail junction with the Maunawili Falls trail.
You will then begin your 0.75 mile descent of 550ft (about 20-30 minutes) and once at the bottom, you're in the Maunawili Stream. Here, start to walk upstream. The trail starts on the left side of the stream and proceeds to cross the stream multiple times. Many hikers choose to simply walk up the middle of the stream, rock hopping as they go.
0.1 miles later and you've made it! The reason why hikers choose this trail over the nearby Manoa Trail is because the ability to swim underneath the falls in the large deep pool. Another fun thing to do is to swim across the pool, and relax next to the waterfall. When your ready, jump off the rocks near the falls into the deep pool below. On most days you’ll see local kids doing backflips, cartwheels, and other acrobatics into the pools while a crowd of tourists watch.
This trail, while challenging at moments, is a good option for active families with children. Whenever I visit the Maunawilli waterfall there are usually 2 or 3 families with children ages 6+ having a great time swimming in the stream pool below the falls.