A tale of 2 waterfalls - Manoa and Aihualama Falls

Gia, Caroline, and Mike at Aihualama Falls, Lyon Arboretum.

Manoa Falls in background.
One of the more popular hiking trails for visitors staying in the Waikiki area is the Manoa Falls Trail.  And why not?  The trailhead is easily accessible (about 8 km from Waikiki), and the trail itself is only 1.2 km long.  The path is relatively easy to navigate (except those last 50 meters... don't try it in rubber slippers), and there is a nice waterfall at the end, although it comes out at a dribble after a week without rain.  There is lush foliage surrounding the trail, protected parking at Paradise Park ($5) as well as clean restrooms, and a few interpretive signs.  A number of ecotours consistently take groups of clients up to the falls.  The towering trees and bamboo groves, as well as the falls, are featured in many selfies.

Manoa Falls

What you won't see are flowers.  It's not that there are no flowering plants in the area.  I suspect that any flowers just don't last long.  They get picked or loved to death.  Still, it is a pleasant hike (assuming it is not too crowded), the mosquitoes usually aren't bad, and who doesn't like a waterfall?!

You won't have the Manoa Falls Trail to yourself!

Here's an alternative location to visit. It is right next to Manoa Falls trail, so there is no additional travel. The Lyon Arboretum is a University of Hawaii run facility with a mission to "inspire and cultivate the conservation of tropical plant biodiversity, and connect it to Hawaii’s culture through education and research."  This means there are a lot of plants, the plants are accessible, and there are many interpretive signs to help you identify the plants and understand how they fit into traditional Hawaiian culture.

The Beatrice Krauss ethnobotanical garden is located near the entrance to the Lyon Arboretum.
The walking paths are wide and well-maintained, except for the last 50 meters to the waterfall.  That bit is narrow, possibly muddy, but it's condition is "rarely visited" as opposed to "heavily used."  Like the Manoa Falls Trail, it is hard to get lost.  Parking is limited but free.  The Lyon Arboretum asks that guests sign in at the visitor center, and a donation is appreciated but not a requirement.

What will you see? At the end of the trail, the Aihualama Falls are not as spectacular as Manoa Falls (not as high, and lower volume of water).  It's remoteness, and not sharing it with 20 other people, is a plus, however.  And the trees, shrubs, and flowers are spectacular.  It is an arboretum, after all!  You don't want to miss "Inspiration Point" for a fabulous view of the valley, a view that is not duplicated in the Manoa Falls Trail.  

Baby bananas!
Lyon Arboretum is open Monday through Friday 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM, and Saturdays 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM.  Manoa Falls Trail is open 7 days a week, whenever.  So you have to plan your visit carefully at the Arboretum... you don't want to leave yourself only 30 minutes to explore.

Here's a taste of what to expect... lots of color!  It was raining the day I visited, and you do want to bring mosquito repellent.

"Inspiration" Point.

"What Are You Thinking" Point.

Aihualama Falls


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