Conquer the Waimano Falls Trail and Cardiac Hill

by Amy Anne

The Waimano Falls Trail hike is located just outside Pearl City on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. This unassuming 3 mile hike begins on the Waimano Valley ridge and descends to the valley floor. On the way back up you will be challenged by “Cardiac Hill,” a steep incline that may require the use of ropes or crawling!

Waimano Falls - Conquering Cardiac Hill

Disclosure: some of the links below are affiliate links. If you purchase a linked item, I will make a commission, at no extra charge to you.  Updated February, 2021

The Deets

Location: Pearl City, HI
: Hard
Distance: 2.9mi (round trip)
Exposure: Mostly Shade
Bikes Allowed: No
Dog Friendly:


Parking: Free in neighborhood
Doggie Bags:
 No Seating
Drinking Water:

Waimano Falls Trail Trailhead Location

The closest trailhead to the falls is the Mānana Ridge Trail trailhead. Some articles say to start at the “Waimano Valley Ridge Trail” trailhead. This is much farther and not the most direct path to the falls.

Start up High on the Waimano Valley Ridge

Oahu Dog Friendly Hike

The trail begins at the highest elevation on the ridge of the Waimano Valley. You start off on a paved path so maintenance workers can easily bring vehicles to the utility stations and electrical lines. Just after that the trail turns into a dirt path as you head down into the valley. If you have a dog, this trail starts out easy but becomes more difficult for them to maneuver (see my other dog friendly hikes).

Waimano Falls Trail or Koolau Summit Fork

Waimano Falls Trail Sign

About 3/4 mile in you’ll see a trail sign. If you head left you will be walking away from the falls along the ridge to the Koolau Summit. Take the right path to the falls. The sign indicates you are only 3/4 mile away, so Max thought he would take a break. But don’t be deceived, you’re just getting started!

Cardiac Hill

Cardiac Hill

I categorized this trail as “Hard” due to the difficult terrain, steep upward climbs, and often muddy trail. Rain has eroded much of the trail, so plan to step over and through intricate roots systems for most of the trail. I took the photo above on the section often called “Cardiac Hill.” Going down is not so tough. Getting back up definitely gets the heart rate up!

The Falls - Hit or Miss

Waimano Falls Waterfall

Just because it’s a “waterfall” hike, doesn’t guarantee you’ll see a majestic waterfall. I visited the waterfall during a dry spell. Below you can see a photo of the waterfall, which has been slowed down to a trickle. This also makes the pools below a little more muddy, due to the standing water. This hike has a major trade off: if you want a nice flowing waterfall, that means it’s been raining and the trail will likely be much more muddy.

Waimano Falls Trail - Prepare for Mud

Waimano Falls - Muddy Trail

Even when it hasn’t been raining, the trail can get muddy. There are natural springs and other runoff that cross the trail. Great for overheated dogs, bad for my favorite hiking shoes.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere are Signs

Waimano Falls - Trail Markings

At the bottom of one of the steep sections with ropes there is a split in the trail. The right trail is much longer and requires crossing the stream bed multiple times. If you take the left trail, you will have the quickest path to the falls. Both directions are marked with ribbons tied to trees, roots, etc. If you’re not sure you’re on the right path, walk a little distance until you see the next ribbon.

Don't Want to Bum You Out, But...

These are some things to consider when going on this hike. In no way should these things prevent you from going, I just wanted you let you know!

  • As you walk through the lush valley, there can be quite a few mosquitos. Be sure to apply bug spray before you start the hike!
  • If you hike during a dry spell there may be no waterfall. If you hike after it rains, the trail may be very muddy and much more difficult.
Always Amy Anne Signature

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