manoa falls is an easy hike centrally located in oahu with tons of gorgeous lush tropical scenery leading up to a beautifully secluded 200-ft waterfall. great for an oahu adventure & beautiful photo ops along the way, manoa falls is absolutely a must-see for any traveler adventuring on oahu.
my travel philosophy is quite simple: travel often, eat well, & experience to the fullest.
while i do believe a traveler should seek out authentically local experiences wherever he or she goes, i also believe that there’s something to be said about being a tourist wherever you go. many tourist attractions became destinations because of their beauty or because of the unique experience they offer. why write off doing something incredible, or trying something delicious, or seeing something beautiful just because many other travelers seek the same experience? & while the line between a beautiful, local experience & an overly-commercialized tourist trap is sometimes blurry, i can assure you that while you’re in hawaii it isn’t hard to look past the tourism & reconcile the beauty.
for this reason, every year while we’re in honolulu, chris & i venture out to try something that’s a little “touristy” but is new territory to us nonetheless. a few summers back, on chris’ first trip to hawaii with me, we were sure to check out waikiki. last year we headed up to the beaches of the north shore for a day of hawaiian beachy fun & also hiked diamond head.
the hike up diamond head, we were happy to discover, is fairly easy & very fun. it takes about 45 minutes to hike from the crater of the volcano to the summit, though there are well-defined paths & areas to stop for photo ops along the way if you need to catch your breath.
when you reach the summit, the most breathtaking view of the southern coastline of oahu lies before you, spanning from waikiki beach on the west to koko head on the east. equally breathtaking, but vastly under appreciated in my opinion, is the view of oahu’s volcanic mountain range to the north.
diamond head is the absolute example of a must-see place while you visit oahu, despite it being a little touristy.
given how much we enjoyed diamond head, chris & i decided that this year we wanted to try a new hike on oahu: manoa falls.
unlike the desert-like environment at diamond head, manoa falls boasts a hike that is much more tropical & rainforest-y. it is lush with dense greenery & beautiful flowers, & the trail looks like something straight out of a scene of jurassic park.
waiting for you at the end of the trail at manoa falls, which takes about 30 minutes to hike, there is a beautiful 200-ft waterfall. you’ll know when you’re getting closer, as the path gets a little steeper & the current of the small stream running parallel to the path roars a little louder.
as we headed back toward the path away from the waterfall, we noticed a small sign & an almost hidden trail off to our right. not knowing what to expect, we embraced the spontaneity of the moment & embarked upon what would turn into another 2 hours of hiking.
we learned we trekked ’aihualama trail, a 3.5 mile trail that switchbacks steeply up the mountain ridge that nestles manoa valley. parts of the trail are truly otherworldly with dense bamboo forests & beautiful banyan trees with roots so large they crept up the trail & created giant steps throughout the switchbacks.
the trail ends at the stunning summit at the nu’uanu overlook, which boasts an unobstructed view of the valley on the west side of the mountain ridge containing oahu’s highway 63 & views spanning from honolulu to the south & kaneohe to the north.
could we do it all over again & as we recommend this hike to anyone headed to oahu, there are certainly a few considerations to make in preparation: hydration, traction, & whether it’s recently rained heavily. the hike is challenging, steep, & long, especially since the paths are all quite muddy. hydrate & fuel your body properly beforehand & wear proper shoes. bring a water bottle, for sure, & wear clothes you don’t mind getting a little muddy (unlike the white shorts i wore).
upon returning back to our rental car, we realized we worked up a heck of an appetite! our next stop had to be refueling our bodies ASAP.
we went straight to musubi & bento iyasume, a musubi & bento house in honolulu that is practically an institution.
musubi is a very popular lunch or snack on the islands & is one of my favorite comfort foods that takes me straight back to my childhood. a block of rice wrapped with nori, very similar to sushi, musubi comes in different shapes & can have any combination of fillings, from spicy tuna or salmon to fried chicken or pork cutlets to spam.
opting for all of the above (plus a couple of refreshing POGs), it was the perfect way to end a beautiful hawaiian morning.
i would love to know, what’s your favorite travel destination & what is your favorite sight to see there? how do you like to refuel after an active morning? comment below & let me know!