Maunawili Falls trail is a great hike with cliff jumping, a gorgeous waterfall, and swimming. Here is everything you need to know about this hike before you go.
Look at this beautiful Maunawili Falls hike I took the kids on in Oahu, Hawaii! Doesn’t it look pristine?
Views along the Maunawili Falls hiking trail.
If I posted just pretty pictures it would be a little deceiving.
Why? Because these pictures do not show how terribly wrong the hike went. Somewhere along the way, I took a wrong turn and this hike turned into one of the dumbest things I have ever done with my children.
I did no research when I picked out this hike. The day before we had hiked Diamond Head and it went so well, I decided we should go on another hike. I love hiking and my kids do not. I wanted to take advantage of their positive hiking feelings while I had the chance.
While the kids swam at Lanikai Beach after having breakfast at Cinnamon’s I looked up a waterfall hike. I did not look up “waterfall hike with kids”, which is what I should have. I read one stand-alone review on it and was sold. Now I of all people should know better. Looking back they never mention kids. (By looking back, I mean that this experience was so freaking crazy, I went back to re-read the article to try and figure out why I decided to take my kids deep into the jungle.)
Table of Contents
Maunawili Falls Address
From Honolulu, head towards Kailua on the Pali Highway.
Just after going through the tunnels, there is a hairpin turn.
Begin to look for the parking area (marked scenic overlook), which is just after the hairpin turn.
Park in this turnout.
Note: Parking at the scenic lookout is now limited to 2 hours.
The trailhead is adjacent to the parking area.
To get to the falls you will need to hike for approximately two (2) miles on the Maunawili trail until you come to Maunawili Falls connector trail junction.
Proceed down the trail for approximately one (1) mile to another trail junction.
Take the trail going down to get to the falls.
Do not proceed forward at this point as the trail leads to private land where the trail is currently closed.
Maunawili Falls Hike with Kids
At the start, this seemed like an awesome hike. We got to climb over tree roots and cross the stream a few times. It was all very picturesque. Altogether, this hike should be a total distance is 3.5 miles round trip and take around 2 hours to hike.
Some of the easier stairs on the trail we ended upon.
Are we lost?
I did not start to worry until about an hour in. For an hour we have hiked an intense trail up and down. At times it was so steep Jonah could barely do the stairs because his legs were not quite long enough. This is when I start to think, I’m alone in Hawaii in the jungle with my three kids, I have no cell service, and I cannot carry one of them because at this point they are all too big.
My kids are troopers though, so we kept going. I do not tell them I think we are lost, but as we descend down into a ravine it becomes apparent as we come upon a sign.
Jungle Hiking in Oahu with Explosives?
As we walk towards the sign I hope it points us in the right direction. It doesn’t. Instead, it is a warning to be careful because that area has explosives and you do not want to touch them. Now all three kids are looking at me like WTH? And they can sense that I am thinking: Dear God! I JUST WALKED MY KIDS THROUGH AN AREA WITH EXPLOSIVES!
I am officially losing my mind. I still don’t know which way to go. We see some people and they are headed to our right. This is the first time I’ve seen human life in over an hour. I am greatly relieved and I follow them.
We continue to hike and hike. The kids are complaining now, but I am not sure if we are hiking towards the waterfall or if we are headed back to the beginning of the trail. My phone still has no service so I just continue on and tell them I want to see the waterfall.
I should have packed a Safety Horn. One can never be too careful when hiking alone with kids in the woods. This safety horn could have helped others find us when we got lost, also the blaring a noise could scare off animals if needed. It’s easy to pack and from now on, I will have one with us! I will also be putting a whistle on the kids!
Yay! We found Maunawili Falls
Finally, around 2.5 hours we find the Maunawili waterfall. I am so relieved despite that most of the people down here were naked and getting high. Maybe this is why I have not seen any other kids on this hiking trail.
Typically Noah would climb up and jump into the pool of water that forms around the base of a waterfall, but he was so irritated with me he wouldn’t. Not even for a cool photo!
But who cares, because we are on the right trail. Now I just need to follow the trail back out! I saw people walking down the Maunawili stream that flows out of the waterfall and thought okay this is the way. We followed these people for a while, but it was getting really difficult to make our way down the stream. Eventually, we turned back towards the waterfall.
Now back at the waterfall we see the trail we came in on and I think well, we will just be more careful this time and stick to the trail. And we did.
Once we leave the waterfall it takes us about 45 minutes to get back to the car. We are running most of the way because I am due to arrive at Disney’s Aulani hotel on the other side of the island soon for an initial walkthrough.
While we run Jonah and I both take turns falling down in the mud. And yes, when we arrive for the hotel tour we are covered in mud and soaking wet. Did I mention how wet the trail was? Ironically, when you arrive at Aulani they take your welcome photo. I wish we had taken one, but I was so embarrassed I declined. We were all just completely trashed out. I wish I could have captured the valet’s faces as they helped us.
Now you know the “Real Travel” story behind these photos. Despite all of this I would recommend doing this hike. Had we not gone the wrong way it would have been just the right length.
Meagan is the author and host of Mommy Travels a family travel and lifestyle blog. Meagan is a travel expert and has been traveling the world with her three kids for two decades. She loves sharing her adventures and tips with others.