Lulumahu Falls Trail is about 2-2.5-mile round trip of moderate difficulty. This adventurous hike through the bamboo forest ends at a fantastic little piece of paradise with a swimmable waterfall. The trail is located on private land, owned by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, and technically a permit is needed to hike here. Most people don’t obtain the permit. Be aware that the trail is unmarked and hard to follow. I hope this guide will help you find your way and enjoy this off-the-beaten-path hike. Stay away during rainy days, and the streams become powerful and roads slippery.
The start of Lulumahu Falls Trail is at 4459 Pali Highway, in the Nu’uanu neighborhood just above the downtown Honolulu area. As we drove from Waikiki, the parking lot was on the right side of the Pali highway, and the start of the trial was inside the parking lot.
Once parked, look for an entrance with 2-3 of metal signs posted by the State of Hawaii. The signs won’t mention Lulumahu Falls Trail, but we knew we were at the right place since it was the only entrance around. Walk through the open fence and within a few seconds we saw a trail sign and arrow confirming that we were on the right track.
We followed the pink ribbons on the trees, and turned left into the thick bamboo forest. You will figure out where to turn because the trail ends if you keep going straight.
The grounds were wet and muddy. It was muddy to the point that there were large mud puddles. The tall bamboo trees blocked out the sunlight and made the forest dark and cool; it felt like a maze inside. The muddy ground seemed like it would never dry because this part of the island is humid and rainy.
We came out of the first part of the bamboo forest, and faced an unpaved cross road. Now, turn left. If you turn right, you will quickly come to a locked metal gate.
As you turn left, continue to walk until you see a pink ribbon on the right side leading into another part of the bamboo forest. Turn right into the bamboo forest again. This time, the bamboo forest is even thicker and darker.
We missed the pink ribbon at first and continued straight. We came to a very muddy path, and had to walk along its edges. Having come to the end of the path, we saw a tall cement rectangle structure with a large astronaut graffiti covering the front. Further ahead, a stream blocked the way. If you follow it, the stream will eventually lead you to Lulumahu waterfall. There are many alternative entryways and routes to Lulumahu Falls. Following the directions and the sound is the best way to get to the place!
We turned around, and saw the pink ribbon we missed. We followed the pink ribbons into the thick bamboo forest again.
There were plenty of fallen bamboo branches, and new growth of bamboo shoots. Wood ears abundantly grew on tree trunks; they must love the humidity and moisture. Birds singing, flowers fragrant, the adventure of trying to figure out the right way to go felt like fun!
Next, we arrived at Kaniakapupu, or the summer palace of King Kamehameha III and his queen Kalama.
There were only about 4 pieces of walls left of this palace that was built in 1845. It was difficult to imagine this place used to be a palace where great festivals and entertainments were held, and where the Hawaiian loyalties hosted visiting foreign celebrities. The ground that this ruin covers feels relatively small for a palace.
Continue walking in front and across the “summer palace”, you will soon come to another cross road. Go left; you will come to a huge fallen tree. We had to pass under the trunk to continue the trail. If you make the wrong turn to your right, you will quickly come back to civilization with a well paved road.
Continue the path and you will see a large tree that looks like having multiple trunks. Going to the left of this tree, you will arrive at the top of the Lulumahu Falls, where hands and legs are both needed to climb over tree branches and to hike down to the top of the waterfall. And hiking to the right of this huge tree, you will reach the ultimate destination of the trail – the swimmable pool at the bottom of the waterfall.
As you go to the left of the tree, you will start to walk on a large 1-foot circumference pipe for a while, the pipe was rough on top and not slippery. It made the perfect straight line path to walk on. However, after 5-10 minutes, we realized that we can’t continue further because there was nothing in front and the pipe became covered in moss and slippery; an indication that no one had walked on it for a long time. At this time, we followed the sound of the waterfall and turned left, and eventually came out of the thick forest to a beautiful open space.
How do you know you came out at the right place and arrived at the final destination of Lulumahu Falls Trail? You will see houses appears faraway on your right side, you will see an open area with a manicured lawn, and tall chains of mountains behind, and you will see stairs made by mosaic tiles going down. Most importantly, you will hear the splashing sound of the waterfall becoming closer and closer.
The best part about our Lulumahu Falls hike was that the trail was not crowded, and there were no one at the waterfall when we arrived. We had this small piece of paradise all to ourselves. I swam in the cool and refreshing waterfall, and it was shallow with rocks and tree trunks on the bottom. The waterfall was full and forceful.
I recommend hiking Lulumahu Falls trail early morning on a weekday when the weather is cooler and the trail less crowded. Waterproof hiking shoes with traction are a must. Bring an additional pair of slippers to change into after the hike, and a bag to put the muddy hiking shoes in – this will help keeping the car clean. My shoes were all covered in mud, and I was thankful to have another pair of shoes to change into before getting to the car. I also recommend to wear swimwear under regular clothes to take a refreshing dip in the waterfall to cool off. Mosquito repellent is a must!
I recommend this well shaded trail to everyone, even family with children above the age of ten. We truly enjoyed this adventure in the bamboo forest and swimming in the refreshing waterfall pool at the end.
More Oahu Hikes
Manoa Falls and Maunawili Falls – Two Great hikes in Honolulu Watershed Forest
Oahu Hikes: Laie Falls Trail and Kaiwa Ridge Trail
Koko Head Trail Hike: a 1048-Step Challenge
Waimea Valley and Waimea Falls – One of the Best Easy Hikes in Oahu
Crouching Lion Hike: A Walk through the Jungle
Lanikai Pillbox Hike