Kalauao Falls Loop Trail is a 5.4 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Honolulu, HI that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible year-round.
Lessor known trail that starts from Keaiwa Heiau State Park off the more commonly known Aiea Loop Trail down into Kalauao Valley to visit Kalauao Falls and Pu'u Uau. This trail was originally created in 1930 and later modified in 1965 by HTMC. This trail is an intermediate level trail with some steep climbs and descents into the valley. It is best done after a good rain, though not immediately so as it will create some pretty high brown waters. Its best after a couple of days as the water settles into a clear blue hue. The trail is generally well marked with orange ribbons and a few pink bottle caps. There is one short section above the waterfalls (if doing this loop clockwise), where there are several parallel trails that makes it a little confusing. Lookout for the ridge trail after the 14th crossing. Once on the ridge, there are lots of really tall Ti plants. Its not much of a switchback - more like straight up. Watch out for muddy sections with loose footing. The ridge is a beautiful place that connects up to Pu'u Uau. This hill is where the junction from Aiea Ridge and Aiea Loop meets. Return back to the start along Aiea Loop Trail.
I had to look up the hike on a blog to find the junctions, the first you can't miss, it's the first MARKED trail on your left about 15 minutes after starting on the aiea loop. The second is at a mango tree about 30 minutes down the ridge. The tree has purple paint on it. Stay to the right when you're walking through the roots, from there it's a well traveled path down to the creek. From there just go up stream, the path is poorly marked. Took us about 2 hours in all.
Overall this was a very fun hike. The whole trail is lined with edible, delicious fruit like lilikoi. The pool below the waterfall is so beautiful and deep enough to jump into. 5/7 would do again.
The first junction is actually quite distinct and happens about 10 minutes into Aiea Loop Trail. If you follow the Aiea Loop Trail you will see the first junction on your LEFT as the Aiea trail looks like it forks. It's marked with two pink ribbons, one on either side of the entrance. It looks sketch because you feel like you're descending down a tunnel of overgrown trees and bushes. The trail here is narrow, muddy, with standing water in parts, and full of tiny flying bugs.
The second junction will be on your right about 25-30 minutes from the first junction. It is an unassuming entrance...I missed it my first time. Side note - if you miss it and you keep going straight, you hit a neighborhood (if anything happens, this is faster than back tracking through to Aiea Loop Trail). As you're walking, the trail widens and a patch of high grass in the middle of the trail marks the second junction (hikers have walked around this patch of grass going left and right) . There is a big mango tree on your RIGHT and it is marked with a pink bottle cap and an orange ribbon tied to the branch that slopes downwards. This is the path you take to descend down to the streambed. You can tell this is the path because of all the deep ruts from previous hikers. There are some markers along the way and they are surprisingly intact.
When you get to the bottom, follow the stream bed (go RIGHT). Here the markers are less distinct. You are basically taking a path along the stream and crossing over it to connect back on the trail as there are sections where you can't rightly continue on the trail. So you're left crisscrossing the stream. If you lose the path, just follow the stream. There were parts where it was just easier to walk on the rocks than to find the trail again (not sure how effective this is if it's been raining a lot).
After I reached the waterfall, the fun ended. There really is no clear path after the waterfall. You have to climb to the left of the falls (if you're facing it) to continue. At the top, the markers are even less distinct. I was able to follow the trail some but got completely turned around. The path was overgrown, muddy, took me up the mountain, and then down in a nonsensical manner. I tried to follow the trail via GPS and failed miserably. If you look at the side of any mountain and swept your hand in a broad motion, that is basically the trail. Most of the markers were trampled on, broken off, buried in mud, and definitely not where a trail may have been. I saw boar prints and turned up mud piles and some trash left by irresponsible humans. After an hour of this, I gave up, and went straight down the mountain until I hit the stream and followed it back to the falls. To the ones who actually made this loop, I'm really curious to know how you did it.
- Wear proper shoes. The descent and ascent is slick. Hold on to branches but make sure they aren't dry because they will crack and break off and you will have a one way butt ride down. I didn't go directly after a rainfall and although I'm sure the waterfall would've been more spectacular, the trail would've sucked more.
- Use a lot of bug spray or wear pants and long sleeves or do both. There are a ton of mosquitos on this trail.
- Remember your entrance to the stream. It's marked by two ribbons on either side. It's a matter of knowing when the ascent will start. When I came down, a couple was trying to find the entrance and I was able to show them. By the time I was ready to get out, I had lost my nerve and couldn't remember how far down the stream from the waterfall I had to go. Made it worst that I saw rock pilings that I didn't remember seeing on the way to the waterfall (thought maybe some good soul had marked the entrance back up the trail). Second guessed myself and turned around to meet up with the couple I had saw at the waterfall. To that couple and their adorable baby - THANK YOU SO SO MUCH.
Overall, I didn't enjoy this hike partly because of all the bugs and partly because my mind was set on a loop trail but I ended up wandering in the forest. I should've taken it as a sign that no one talked about hiking the entire loop, only about the path to the falls...
My husband and I hiked this today; we backpacked our two daughters (4 and 19 months). This trail is rated hard and I agree it is hard but not extreme. We are both in excellent shape (I am a fitness instructor/trainer and he is a triathlete). Today the trail was about as perfect as it was going to get. It was muddy, in spots, but that is par for the course with waterfall hikes. The descent down is steep but manageable and was the best part (in my opinion). The waterfall was flowing and the water was a clear blue and beyond amazing! Waterfall is absolutely worth it, we all went for a swim:).
My suggestion would be to google this trail and read blogs or watch a U-Tube videos so that you DO NOT MISS the 2 major junctions that lead to the falls. One is at the very beginning of the Aiea Loop and the second is about 20-30 min from that point. When we go back I plan to take my 12 year old daughter. This trail is NOT for young children and unless you are in excellent shape I would NOT backpack young kids. If you are, then GO FOR IT, just make sure you have a spotter to help guide you through the sticky areas on the way up and down. It took us 2 hours IN and 1.5 OUT. We LOVED this hike and it's my favorite waterfall to date on Oahu.
Secluded waterfall. Out of the 20 times I've hiked it I've only seen others on the trail four times. Be prepared for a workout on the way back up.
A great hike that leads to a secluded waterfall below the popular Aiea Loop Trail (we reached the falls before 10:00 on a beautiful Sunday and had ten minutes to ourselves in the gorgeous pool before other groups started arriving). The trail is poorly maintained, requiring some minor acrobatics on the treacherous 600 foot descent into the valley, but is fairly easy to navigate.
Moderately hard contouring into and out of the valley, but well worth the effort and time.
A really awesome hike, not the most maintained trail, slippery, technical, and a brutal climb back out…but a beautiful little waterfall and some incredible isolation in a wonderful piece of nature. Make sure to wear water friendly shoes that you're comfortable with on slick surfaces. This trail is the burlier version of the Aiea Loop.... And shares the same starting point. It's best to follow someone else's track for the entry points, as I did find them very difficult to find.
water fall area closed which is why we picked this trail. the views were pretty but it was a more difficult trail then expected lots of climbing over trees or ducking under trees.
Great hike on a rainy day! It turned out to be more challenging that we expected with the steep descent and climb back out to Pu'u Uau. The falls were really nice with clear blue water.