There are a few different waterfalls in Oahu, however some of them can’t be seen year round, as it depends on things like rainfall (*did you know* Uluru/Ayers Rock actually has waterfalls after heavy rains but then they’ll dry up!). One of my favourite experiences in Hawaii was swimming in Waimea Falls! There’s an easy hike through the Waimea Valley to reach the falls too!
Waterfall Hikes Oahu
Waimea Falls is at the end of a 3/4 mile trail leading through the botanical gardens of Waimea Valley. The area is home to over 5000 different species, with sub themed gardens branching off from the main trail. I arrived quite late in the day so missed out on the cultural activities that were on offer during the day but it was nice not having many people around, so the hike to the waterfall through the gardens was quite peaceful.
Waterfall hikes Oahu
My favourite find along the waterfall hike was the eucalyptus trees. Eucalyptus trees are designed to protect themselves, especially in bushfires (such as in Australia). If a tree catches fire, it sheds its bark and the tree lives on healthily. The Waimea Valley Botanical Gardens has Rainbow Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus Deglupta) trees. Just like regular eucalyptus trees, the bark sheds, but on a Rainbow Eucalyptus, as it sheds, it reveals new brightly coloured bark underneath in various stages of maturity!
Waimea Valley has featured in many popular films and TV shows, such as: Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Lost, Hawaii Five-O, Lilo and Stitch. (Kualoa Ranch is another filming location in Oahu, 50 minutes away and well worth a visit).
The main hiking trail to the waterfall is pushchair and wheelchair friendly. The paths through the gardens have terrain that may not to suitable, including obstacles like steps. Yes this post is a guide to waterfall hikes, but for those that maybe can’t hike but would still like to enjoy the waterfalls in Oahu, there is a shuttle service available for an extra fee. The shuttle costs $12 for a return journey or maybe you could hike to the waterfall and get the shuttle back for $8.
For the most part, you can swim in the pool at the bottom on Waimea Falls. The 45ft tall waterfall may not look that impressive compared to others, but the water is surprisingly warm!
Waterfalls in Oahu
The Hawaiian name for Waimea Falls actually changes with the speed of the water! When it’s extra strong, it’s called Waihi and when it’s trickling, Waihe‘e. Depending on the waterfall, sometimes the swimming is limited or even completely restricted. Free entry is offer for a return visit within 10 days if this does happen.
The lake is watched over by a lifeguard and swimmers are expected to wear life jackets, even if you are a strong swimmer. The pool is 30ft deep, so the last thing you want is to get cramp and drown in something that deep!! It’s really relaxing to just float about in the water in the sunshine! Life jacket rentals are included in the entrance fee to Waimea Valley.
Water shoes are recommended, as getting into the pool area is a little rocky. I didn’t have any but I was OK.
There are rules on climbing the rocks and jumping in. However, they do allow you to climb onto the rock at the very bottom of the waterfall, stand under the spray and then jump in. With a big fat life jacket on, it’s easier said than done, i’ve only got little arms and you’re literally climbing blind because of the water hitting you in the face!
I do everything at 100mph, it takes a lot to actually stop me in my tracks and go ‘woah this is actually awesome’. Being the adventure/adrenaline traveller I am, believe it or not, I’m not always satisfied with just the ‘3D image’ of scenery. I sometimes need the 4D element to really appreciate it. I need to feel it, be part of it, truly experience it. Fresh water swimming makes a change from the burning salt water of the sea and swimming in waterfalls is definitely a pretty cool experience!
You’ll also find changing rooms and toilet facilities at this end of the hike. There’s also a snack shop. At the very beginning near the visitors centre, there’s a gift shop and a bigger food eatery.
Waimea Valley is open 7 days a week from 9am – 5pm (until 5.30pm in summer). There is free parking on-site for visitors to Waimea Valley. Entrance is fairly expensive: $16.95 for adults, $8.95 for children (4-12yrs). We arrived just before 3pm and it was still the same price.
If you were looking at visiting Waimea Valley as a tourist attraction, where you plan on checking out the demonstrations or to join the walking tours, the entrance fee would be more than worth it. Arriving later in the day or if you only want to do the hike to the waterfall or go for a swim, it is quite an expensive experience. The last guided walk finishes at 2pm and the demonstrations and activities finish at 4.45pm.
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