After all of our failures trying to find this waterfall, we eventually set off for the Manoa Falls trailhead. We parked in the parking lot at what was formerly paradise park, paying the five dollars, and then headed down the gravel road, passing by Lyon Arboretum on the way. Just after passing Lyon Arboretum, we were met by a fence and proceed through an opening on the left side. From here we continued down the gravel road and were met by a bridge shortly after with the a stream visible on both sides. My wife and I walked straight for another twenty seconds or so and then took a left, onto the main Manoa Falls trails. A few tiny steps are in place right where the trail started and then just after this we arrived at a tiny, rusted, metal grate, that the stream was flowing through. This is where we took a right and just followed the stream for a few seconds, before crossing it. The trail is pretty non-existent at this point. After crossing the stream we picked up a faint, muddy trail and followed it briefly through overgrown brush before reaching a wide open and immensely muddy trail. Matter of fact, I almost lost my shoe a couple of times on this stretch. We walked for a few minutes and then came to a junction on our left, and a trail heading up the mountain and through the woods. Hopefully there will be ribbons in tact to indicate the way, but if not, one must pay real close attention to find this trail heading up. There was a tiny little two foot rock face we climbed up on our left side, off of the main trail, and then the trail began. It's not necessarily easy to find though, especially if the ribbons aren't there, so keep your eyes peeled.
Was we began up the mountain, the incline got very steep and the slickness and muddiness of the trail didn't help. Luckily, the haul up the hill was not very long. Once at the top of the hill, there were a couple of side trails. We took the trail to the right and that eventually jogged left and down to the stream. Once at the stream, we crossed it, took a left and followed it upstream. From here on out the trail was very obvious. Like most other waterfall hikes, when in doubt, we just headed upstream. A couple of parts near the end required some climbing and caution, but it was nothing dangerous. There was also a little rock hopping over slippery rocks involved, but we took it slow to minimize the falling that was sure to come. We eventually reached a pretty little ten to fifteen foot waterfall, and from here we could see the very large Lua'alaea Falls, looming just behind it. After contouring to the left of the small waterfall, we proceeded upstream, climbing over water-logged trees and through a stream that was blocked by tons of logs. It seemed that every log that I put my hand or weight on, ended up breaking off and causing me to fall. This happened upon touching even the biggest and strongest of looking logs. After a few short minutes we had reached Lua'alaea, flowing down in a few different tiers.
While Lua'alaea is a very beautiful waterfall, there is only a little water underneath it, not nearly enough to really get wet. Every time I visit I can't help but think how much it reminds me of Hamama Falls, however I think Lua'alaea is a little taller and Hamama is a little more pleasing to the eye, due to the lack of debris underneath the falls. This is a waterfall that I will continue to visit after a good down pour. I love the Manoa Valley waterfalls and this waterfall is no exception.
Directions: Going East bound on H1: Take the Punahou Exit 23 then See below directions. Going West bound on H1: Take the Wilder Exit 24, continue on Wilder to the third light take a right on Punahou. See below directions. Continue up Punahou, heading towards the mountains. Punahou turns in Manoa road by staying left at the fork in the road. You will soon come to a five way intersection. Stay on Manoa road. Manoa Road continues into the back of Manoa Valley and ends at Paradise Park and a parking lot where you will have to pay five dollars to park. If you don't want to pay the five dollars, park along the street further down and walk back up.
NOTE: The driving directions are courtesy of ehawaii.gov, with the exception to the last sentence.
Poison Dart Frog we found along Manoa Road
Not sure if you are suppose to touch them, but I didn't have any negative effects.