Monday, October 24, 2011

Lulumahu Falls and Kaniakapupu Ruins

What an adventure this was.  I don't want to make this post to long so I am gonna just put the main details from my experience finding Lulumahu Falls.  I attempted to find Lulumahu Falls on three consecutive days.  The first day I started from Kaniakapupu Ruins (King Kamehameha III Summer Palace) and went through the bamboo only to get lost for an hour or so and have to back track to the ruins.  I then headed past the ruins and down to the stream and ended up spending a few hours lost and barely made it out before dark.  I was seriously starting to get worried that I would have to sleep in the woods on this night, but was delighted when I found the stream and followed it back to the start of the trail and to my car.  The next day on my second attempt to find Lulumahu Falls I started from the ruins again with a gps in hand this time and bushwhacked my way all the way to the falls.  It took me over three hours to reach the falls, being that I took a completely stupid route, and in the last twenty minutes of the hike the already wet weather changed from raining to a down pour and flashflood conditions.  Upon reaching the falls I was in absolute shock by the amount of water pouring down the falls and the continually rising and swollen stream was becoming increasingly dangerous so I ran as fast as I could to get out of there and upon my exit decided to take the trespassing route on the board of water supplies property.  This route took me a mere 20 minutes to exit, even in flash flood conditions.  Since the weather cleared up, I went back the next day, taking the short route via the board of water supplies property and had a very relaxing hike to the falls.  The falls are truly beautiful and the hike is a beginner hike that anyone can go on, if you know the right way to go.

My three day excursion of finding Lulumahu Falls took place some time ago, and all though there are more hints on the internet now than there was then, there is still really no good directions from what I can find.  There is however a few web sites that I have come across that have blaitant lies on them for the main purpose of dissuading and keeping others off of trails like these.  This trail may or may not be trespassing.  I truly do not know the answer to this, but I do know this, the board of water supply does not use this property any more and has not done so for a very long time and from my trips back into this area and from all my friends who have gone, not one person I know has ever been hassled, ticketed or arrested.  I truly do not believe that anyone has ever been cited or arrested for hiking back in this area, but that is my opinion, although I believe that I am probably dead on with this assumption.  Certain web sites and blogs tell people not to go to places like these because, in my opinion, these same people want to keep these trails to themselves or only take those that they deem worthy.  The situation is laughable but do not let posts from otheres fool you and dissuade you from exploring this area (luakaha, kaniakapupu ruins, Lulumahu Falls, Mo'ole valley, etc, etc).  All the falls in this area are absolutely beautiful and if everyone in the hiking community goes to these places whenever they want, with no worries (and in huge groups at times), then there obviously is not very much of a risk of getting in trouble, otherwise everyone would not be doing it.

The nice thing about Lulumahu Falls is that it always seems to be flowing, even when other falls, like Luakaha nearby are dry, making it one of the few waterfall hikes you can pretty much do year round.  As with most hikes, please treat these places with respect and don't act a fool while on the trail and at the falls or ruins, and please do not climb on the ruins like an idiot (they are in bad enough shape as it is).

The best way to get to the trailhead for Lulumahu falls or Kaniakapupu ruins is to take the pali highway (coming from Waikiki) and act as though you are heading for the Nuu'anu Pali lookout.  Just before getting to the pali Lookout there is gonna be a street on your right hand side that you want to take, named Nuu'anu Pali drive.  If you follow Nuu'anu Pali drive all the way to the end it will eventually reconnect with the pali highway.  Just as Nuu'anu Pali drive is about to reconnect with the pali highway there will be a open turnout spot just to the right with some spots for cars to park.  Once parked there, there will be a gate directly behind with a hunter check in station and a gap in the fence.  Go through the gap in the fence and take an almost immediate right and head towards the gravel road (you can also go to the huge gate a few yards down and crawl through the hole on the left side, but people always seem to be there in my experiences).  Follow this gravel road until there is a trail going left with bamboo on both sides.  Take that left and follow the wide open trail.  The trail will turn sharply to the right but will stay wide open.  When the trail ends at a bunch of trees look for a small opening and a trail that goes through briefly through the woods.  If you follow this trail it will bring you out to a clearing.  At some point make your way up the hill.  There are stairs but if you don't see them just trailblaze your way up the overgrown vegetatioin shortly and you will end up on the board of water supplies property (which they don't use and noone is ever there) and reservior four with another gravel road.  Follow this gravel road until just before it ends and head up some concrete stairs on the right side and there will be a wide open trail to follow.  Just remember, if ever in doubt, just head upstream.  The trail jogs from one side to the other once on the stream but as long as you stay near the stream and look for ribbons you should be good.  As for Kaniakapupu Ruins, park in the same spot and walk back down the street on nuu'anu pali drive for about five minutes (be careful and watch out for oncoming cars).  You will eventually see a board of water supply tank on the right side of the road.  Just across the street from the board of water supply area there will be a faint but somewhat obvious path on the left side of the road that you will need to take.  Just after starting on this trail you will begin walking through a bamboo forest and will take a left onto a obvious trail shortly after.  This trail will take you directly to the ruins.  This trek should take no more than ten to fifteen minutes.


  1. i really enjoy blog! your photos and videos are awesome

  2. We will be attempting to find the ruins and the falls this weekend via your directions. Thanks!

  3. Oh poo, I just wrote directions on these comments to the back way to Lulumahu waterfall. Anyways, I don't know where it went. You do not have to publish any of these comments. These comments are primarily for you.

    I wanted to thank you for posting directions on your blog to "controversial" trails. I think its a load of crap that things are secretive.

    If you want to know the back directions from palace to Lulumahu then read my blog entry. I don't want to rewrite the directions in the comments again because my comments disappeered.

    Please bring loppers and help me clear the trail. Folks keep on taking down the pink ribbons and the bamboo grows thick. So I need help clearing the trail or else the trail will be lost.

    If you see me on that trail, please don't sneak up and scare me. Its spooky back there.

    Have a good day

  4. I don't know if it matters to you to make this edit, but I took screenshots on my phone of your directions to find the trail. They're great- until you reach the part just after the concrete steps.

    In my experience once topping those steps, theres a wide open trail to the left and directly in front of you, a big fenced-in area. If you follow the "wide open trail" theory, you go around in a big circle a few might see an offshoot trail...which you shouldn't take because if you don't look carefully you'll fall into a dried up creek bed and break something. Just throwing that out there.

    You might want to add that to reach the CORRECT wide open trail, you have to go BEHIND the big fenced in area to a very small and unnoticeable trail leading up.

    Thanks for the instructions!

  5. My family went with a small group from church on 11/8/2015 to the Falls, and it was quite an experience. Although a beautiful day with slight overcast, it had rained quite a lot the day before and we probably would have been better off waiting for several days of no rain to let the mud dry. With that said, I'd recommend wearing a good pair of hiking boots made for such weather or a pair of sneakers that you don't care much about.

    There is definitely more than one way to get up to the reservoir where you begin following the stream to the Falls. We parked in a makeshift parking lot as Easy Hiker described, but instead of going through the hole in the gate, our guide took us up a set of concrete steps located at the center of the lot that seemed to be more popular.

    I'm not even going to try and tell you how to get up to the clearing where the reservoir is because even our guide took a wrong turn, and if you check out our hike that I recorded on my Garmin Forerunner ( you'll find that we got turned around again on the last tenth-mile coming back. Bottom line is if you can find your way to the reservoir clearing, it's easy to pick up the trail along the stream. As Easy Hiker has stated, you will cross the stream several times but we had no difficulty. After covering my sneakers in mud, I just walked through the mid-calf deep water instead of trying to step from one moss covered stone to the next.

    It's only about a 3/4 mile hike to the Falls but it took us an hour to get there due to the wet and muddy conditions. Bring a bag for your shoes and socks when you get back to your car!

  6. Aloha tourism and travel website operator:

    Recently the historical and culturally significant Kaniakapupu site on Oahu was defaced by vandals. The Hawaii Dept. of Land and Natural Resources issued a news release and a video news release highlighting the significance of Kaniakapupu and again asking people to stay away from this site. It is in a closed watershed area and anyone caught in the area can be cited for being in a closed area.

    The news release can be found at links to the video news release, media clips and photographs they can be found below. All information provided by Dept. of Land and Natural Resources were picked up widely, locally and nationally.

    If your website has driving and/or hiking directions to Kaniakapupu we respectfully ask that you remove them from all references. Please help us protect King Kamehameha III’s summer palace by not leading people to Kaniakapupu.

    With much mahalo,

    RESOURCES: (All video and photos courtesy: Hawaii DLNR)

    Video news release:

    HD video of Kaniakapupu and SOTs: (shot sheet attached)

    Photographs of Kaniakapupu:

    Dan Dennison
    Senior Communications Manager
    Hawaii Dept. of Land and Natural Resources
    (808) 587-0407

  7. I'd like the DLNR to focus more on education of places like the ruins rather than trying to hide them from the public and close them off. It's like securing your house with a screen door...that won't stop bad people from doing bad things. More on the ruins here if you're interested:

  8. This is a watershed area, where water feeding the rest of the island flows. Bushwhacking through this area creates a disruption to the ecosystem. In addition to vandalism of King Kamehameha III's ruins, the water supply (shown in your photos) was contaminated. Please refrain from coming in this area if you cannot be respectful. It isn't a matter of hiding it for's protecting the water. Water IS life.

  9. I visited the beautiful ruins today and was shocked that there were about a dozen people there walking all over the grounds. inside and outside the walls. I mentioned the site being off limits but no one seemed to know what I was referring to and thought it would be ridiculous to restrict anyone from the historic site. Like Easy Rider, I'm not sure the trail or site is off limits because I got directions to the trail head from the police officer parked by the falls entrance. If it is truly off limits there should be stronger signage posted to at least discourage the unknowing. Not just a small watershed sign that most don't read. Why not also place signs near the ruins asking people to stay back out of respect. The guilty will still trespass but the ignorant will heed the warning.