In the back of Manoa valley are a few tucked away waterfalls that are a lot less traveled than the amazingly popular tourist trap that is Manoa falls. Waiakeakua is one of these waterfalls and in my opinion is a very good alternative to Manoa falls. While all of the Manoa valley waterfalls (outside of the "Manoa Falls") seemed to be rarely hiked and lesser known when I first started heading back into the valley, they are a lot more well traversed these days, making the paths to the falls more worn and easy to follow, still your chances of having any of these waterfalls to yourself is very good. Matter of fact, on all of my trips to Waiakeakua and the nieghboring falls, I have only encountered other people on the trail twice. So instead of hiking to Manoa falls, one may want to consider this alternative.
I have spent a lot of time in Manoa valley and over the years I have become very familiar with the area. Waiakeakua Falls, which is located just down the street from the Manoa falls trailhead, has become my favorite waterfall hike in the valley. The clean and clear stream and the plethora of swimming holes along the short trail to the falls is why I enjoy this hike so much.
A few years back I found these falls by researching Waiakeakua stream on google maps and then on other topographic maps. Once I found the stream on the map I began to look for what would be the closest street to the stream. I found that the closest street was clearly Waaloa way. Me and my wife set out for that road, believing that if we could just gain access to or find the stream that we would be able to locate the falls from their. It ended up being a lot easier than I had originally thought. Upon reaching Waaloa way we noticed a closed gate with a no trespassing sign and a dirt road beyond that. We parked on the street in Waaloa Place and then walked back over to the gate on Waaloa way and proceeded past the no trespassing sign and past the gate and down the dirt road. As we walked we began seeing and passing a few bridges and we immediately began wondering if this was part of the seven bridges trail that we had read and heard so much about in the past, but I'll have more on that on a future blog post. As we walked down the dirt road there were a few side trails and roads but as long as you stay on the main road you should not get lost. Just before we got to the main trail that entered the woods, the road forked and we took the left fork. Shortly after taking that left fork my wife and I entered the woods and found a clear trail and were now positive that we were on our way to the falls.
Once entering the wooded area the trail was easy to follow and we eventually passed a few miniature waterfalls and a couple nice swimming holes, but from the trail along the right side of the stream bed, the first few swimming holes weren't visible and we only found them because we were walking through the actual stream itself for some weird reason. We took a few pictures and then we decided to get in and cool off. The trail stays true to the right bank of the stream almost the entire hike. Shortly after cooling off in the little pool we reached another really nice pool with a water pipe above it. All the pools along this stream are so clean and clear and just call out for you to jump in. From this little pool we had to cross the stream and then go up some concrete stairs. You can reach another 15 foot waterfall by walking behind the before mentioned pool and rocking hopping down the stream for about one minute. Once up the stairs we once again reached the stream and to our right was the top of the 15 foot waterfall. If one were to look to the left there is a indiscrete junction heading straight up. This is the Manoa middle junction which tops out at the Koolau summit, with the trail heading left to Konahuanui and right to Olympus. We headed across to the right side of the stream and followed the well worn trail upstream. You well have to cross the stream a few more times and at some points rock hop straight up the stream. Within about 15 to 20 minutes we had reached another little swimming hole and tiny waterfall. Just above this we could see the double tiered waterfall that I had been wanting to see for so long. Some may want to countour to the right of the falls but I usually choose to simply swim through the pool and climb right up the waterfall. On top of the first waterfall, you will notice a circular hole with water. This hole is extremely deep and is a lot of fun to jump into. I've never touched bottom while doing so. Right above this is the double tiered falls and a tiny clear pool about 3 to 4 feet deep. A great place to stop and just soak in the surroundings.
There are ropes attached to this waterfall and if you so choose, you can carefully climb up to the next part of the stream and another waterfall. The ropes are getting older and the climb does take some upper body strength so be very careful if you decide on this option. The next waterfall is very high but also very dependent on rain, so unless it has been raining a lot lately it will most likely be but a trickle. You can also climb the next waterfall you see with the aid of yet another rope, but it is about a 50 plus foot climb and can be dangerous and there is not really anything else that great worth seeing upstream.
Overall this is a beginners hike to the double tiered falls but the adventurous can go further. Just be respectful if you decide to take this route, because you will technically be trespassing and do not want to bother those in the neighborhood where you start. There is also an alternate route that is legal and will take you directly to the small swimming hole with the water pipe over it. To access this route you will start on the Puu Pia trail and after about 15 minutes there is a side trail on the right side heading briefly down into the valley and to the stream. It is somewhat steep and can be muddy but overall is extremely safe, however, the junction can be hard to find. You really have to keep your eyes open and look for it to find it. Just hug the right side of the trail and keep looking for an opening and some ribbons. Once you reach the bottom of that trail, you will take a right and will end up at the nice swimming hole with the pipe above it.
Overall this is a great, short hike. For those that are adventurous you can also combine Naniuapo falls, Lua'alaea falls and Manoa falls all into one hike from Waiakeakua stream with a little bit of research.
Directions: For the Wa'aloa Way trail to Waiakeakua stream simply drive to Manoa falls. You will want to take the first right before reaching the parking lot where everyone parks for the manoa falls hike. The street you will want to turn right on will be called Waakaua street. From there take an immediate left onto Waaloa place and park there. The next street on your right is Waaloa way and is where you will find the gate that you will need to walk around to start the hike. To access the hike from the Puu Pia trail, take Punahou street to Manoa road to East Manoa road. When East Manoa road ends take a left onto Alani drive and then make the next right onto Woodlawn drive and park anywhere there on the street. Walk back to where the two streets just intersected and follow the gravel road to the trailhead. Make sure to take the Puu Pia trail and not the Kolowalu trail.