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Makaleha Hike is a 4.2 kilometer lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Kapaʻa, Kauai, Hawaii that features a waterfall and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking and nature trips and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
4.2 km
ELEVATION GAIN
258 m
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dog friendly

hiking

nature trips

forest

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

muddy

over grown

rocky

scramble

A must do trail for advanced hikers. This trail ends with 3 waterfalls and if you want to continue for another 1/2 mile, you will end at another waterfall. The trail begins at the end of Kahuna Road north of Kapaa. Lush green forest, cool stream and after 1 1/2 miles you will see the first 3 waterfalls. You will climb over boulders in the stream, on top of branches of fallen trees. The hike will be slow, but with patience, you will get there. Optionally, you can continue on another 1/2 mile to the waterfall on the right. Jump in the ice cold water for a nice swim.

hiking
blowdown
muddy
off trail
over grown
rocky
scramble
washed out
2 days ago

For it's short distance, this trail will probably be your hardest hike on Kauai BUT it will also be your most rewarding. The waterfall, and the swim, at the end are spectacular. To get to the waterfall, you'll need to scramble over rocks, through the branches of many downed trees, as well as up and down muddy slopes. The trail is often difficult to follow but stay close to the stream and you'll reach the reward at the end. Start early to avoid the crowd.

hiking
9 days ago

This may have been my favorite hike in Kauai, we made friends had a good climb up the waterfall and some amazing views! Being in the canyon is an incredibly powerful experience.

hiking
muddy
over grown
rocky
scramble
14 days ago

Super fun hike, but it can get tricky finding the trail after a heavy rain. It is pretty much a natural jungle gym train. Take your time locating the trail.

hiking
bugs
muddy
over grown
16 days ago

This trail is awesome! It was perfect for my adventurous family. I carried my 18 month old on my back and my six year old hiked it himself along with my brother and husband. The crossing with the rebar is good advice as well as staying to the right at the fork in the river. The fork is pretty close to the falls. There are many trails along the river you can hike on the left or right or walk up the creek itself. Just follow the creek. It can be very muddy and do a lot of over and under fallen trees. We had a blast. We are avid hikers and adventure seekers. It is not long but it is not a tame trail either. Bring water and snacks and don’t leave too late In the day. We left at 2 and got back to the car at 7 with a nice long break at the falls. The water is cold but so refreshing. Have fun !

hiking
21 days ago

Stay to the left of the stream going in most of the way. No need to zig zag back and forth.

hiking
muddy
off trail
scramble
24 days ago

hiking
28 days ago

The review by G DR below has good instructions, it helped us. Stay left after getting out the second batch of bamboo. After this you will have to cross, you’ll see what looks like an overgrown trail with tons of down trees, go through here, much easier than the boulders. After this it’s pretty much winging it through going across the river and finding whatever paths can be seen from your point.
4 stars because it was a very fun hike, we climbed trees and boulders, crossed the stream multiple times( it was raining and the current wasn’t that bad) and great plant diversity. Not 5 because the trail isn’t really laid out, it helps to run into people along the way. The falls at the end were very pretty, although the Awa’awapuhi hike was much better to me.

hiking
28 days ago

What’s passion?

It’s being scared, but allowing the adrenaline to kick in to push away your fears. It’s scrambling & playing limbo between narrow tree branches, squeezing between bamboo forests, slipping on smooth boulders, crossing rivers waist deep with rapid currents, welts from jagged tree branches, swollen bug bites, scabs from falling, caked in mud, butt bruises from crashing into wet hard trunks, wet sloshy hikers, getting lost in unmarked sketchy trails, tropical rainstorms, fighting delirium & dehydration, endless hours of hiking with new friends.

This is not an easy hike. I don’t mean cardio blast. It was not a cardio challenge, but it was a scramble. There are no trail markers and we got lost often and quickly. It was worth “every breath and step” to view the 3 cascading waterfalls. It was even more refreshing and amazing to wade in the pool in front of one beautiful vibrant waterfall.

The road less travelled is the one we took.

Passion = Paradise

hiking
muddy
1 month ago

1 month ago

This is a beautiful trail, with gorgeous falls. It had rained for several days, and it was quite muddy. The trail is not marked, and it is easy to get lost. People have marked trees by stripping bark, and also stacked rocks, unfortunately they were not always correct in the path chosen. We found it best to actually climb the rocks in the river when the trail was too washed out. 5 hikers had to be rescued this week. Consider marking trees with twine to easily find your way out, and start early!!!

muddy
rocky
1 month ago

Easy peasy: if you follow these directions. Just park next to the fences, go either way around the water station, stay on the dirt road/path for a few minutes and cross the water at the nice Pebble patch across the water. Possibly, there is a wrong way by not crossing the water soon enough, and you'll have to go way up a hill and around the back side for no reason, stay out of the grass trails! Look for stripped bark on the trees, from being stepped on, and missing moss spots on rocks. Only a few times will you have to venture away from the stream, mainly through the bamboo spots. When you reach the fork of big streams, stay right. Hiking, this took us 3 hours time there and back, including the wrong way at the beginning. You'll have to monkey climb and duck lots of trees and wade across the water several times. Unlike all the lazy Susan reviews you'll read, this is doable in the rain, it was slightly raining on us the whole time, yeah it's wet, yeah it's slippery, be safe, but keep going, it's worth it. 10/10 would hike again.

hiking
1 month ago

I read the latest reviews from today and have decided to give some advice... I completed it twice earlier this week when the trail was dry.

I went yesterday at 06:45 to take a look. To put things in perspective, when I completed it, you could see your reflection in the river in almost all points. It’s now become extremely dangerous. I looked at crossing the fallen tree but it’s not worth it.

This trail is extremely remote. Yes, cell coverage through most of the trail but I advise against wading through the river at this strength. A torn knee, sprain of any kind will leave you completely helpless. I strongly recommend waiting until the river recedes. If it does not while you are here visiting, move on.

When the river does recede, the concrete pad is crucial.
Cross the river here. From this point to the Falls is about 40 mins each way. STAY LEFT until you can’t any longer.
After bamboo forest, Big Crazy Rock, more bamboo, you will pop out at some small boulders. Scramble these and stay.. LEFT! about 5 min from here there is no more following left side up the river. You’ll cross over, and about a minute later see the first waterfall which is more of a wall. This is just a reference point not any of the falls you have come to see. At this point you have a choice..
Either scramble up the boulders to the Falls or choose crawling on all fours up, down and around the millions of branches. Expect insane mud if you choose to do this trail now or if river is gushing. It is possible to stay right, all the way from the beginning but you’re looking at 8 hours+ and your time and energy will be spent on many other trails. Discretion advised!

To be clear.. this hike is underrated, but is the single best hike outside Na Pali. Personally im looking forward to doing it again later in the week or next week. Patience...

hiking
muddy
off trail
over grown
rocky
washed out
1 month ago

This isn’t going to be a very detailed review but I’m just going to give some facts. As a younger athletic male, this trail was a bit wild. We didn’t know what we were getting into so I’ll just state the facts now:
* longer than you think and these reviews (~ 5hours)
* lots of mud
* crossing strong current river several times (up to waist high)
* need some balance and good shoes you’re willing to get wet
* off trail/not clear where to go sometimes
* it’s very rocky and slippery at times
* there’s hardly any elevation
With that being said, nothing worth doing is ever easy, and this has quite the view of several waterfalls and if you go all the way up, the waterfall is pretty incredible. Just be aware of what you’re getting into, and set your expectations to 5 hours and hope it takes less. We went in expecting a 1 hour hike and got destroyed.

hiking
bugs
muddy
over grown
rocky
scramble
washed out
1 month ago

Dry days only. We attempted yesterday but the trail is washed out from the rain. Ventured quite a ways in the woods, but had to get down on all fours. Never found the waterfalls, but did drink from the pipe. Left covered head to toe in mud and bug bites.

hiking
1 month ago

Skeptically thought I’d check this trail today, but it’s been raining.... two couples ahead of me appear to have made it on, one turned around. I missed the first crossing, had to circle back and realized it likely because the “crossing” was gushing, but sure enough, I then saw the concrete with metal I had missed that everyone mentions. The water was raging with no clear path across. I attempted about 5-10 feet with unsure footing, water pressure, and water at or above knee height. Hiking solo, it just seemed unwise to continue with that much risk at just the first crossing. Two guys just ahead of me were attempting some truly challenging maneuvers and were not yet one third across when I made the hard decision to turn back. Even if I’d made it, with more rain forecast, I could just imagine getting stuck. Sad but safe. I’d advise extreme caution and probably wait for drier days.

hiking
1 month ago

Hiking through a bamboo forest, climbing on boulders, and a waterfall that you can jump from at the end. Awesome! I love how there’s rarely any bugs on Kauai. I’m sure maintaining trails is a never-ending job here. Someone had cut through a lot of the trees fallen over the trail, but not nearly all of them. We ended up in the river hopping from boulder to boulder for quite awhile instead of trying to follow the trail. We chose wrong when the river formed and climbed a ways up the wrong side. I pulled up the map and realized our mistake quickly enough and we went back. For the record, you stay right at the fork. Also, back at the beginning when you get to the cement with the pipe, you cross the river and the trail continues over there. But really if you follow the river you will get to the waterfall, trail or no trail. (I mean, if you go right at the fork). Basically it comes down to if you prefer hopping boulders instead of climbing fallen trees in the mud. Boulders were fun until your shoes get slippery and you fall. All in all, swimming under a waterfall, climbing up a waterfall, and jumping down a waterfall made this hike amazing and worth it. Also, the bamboo at the beginning is way cool.

recorded Makaleha Hike

hiking
bugs
muddy
over grown
rocky
scramble
1 month ago

This trail will definitely be one to remember! We took a wrong turn and made the hike an extra hour and a half long. Please follow the other comments and make sure to cross the river at the cement block instead of going right. It’s not long after you get off the main trail from the parking lot area. Please go left! Ha ha. It was a pretty extreme trail with lots of jungle and rock scrambling, but the waterfall and swimming is worth it at the end. Would do it again!

hiking
1 month ago

Hiked this trail on January 25th. The river was ankle deep when we started and then it got pretty intense on the way down. Got to experience a flash flood for the first time and hopefully it’s the last. The river rose in about 45min while we were at the waterfall and became dangerous. We managed to use bamboo to make one crossing and some fallen trees for another. I would not recommend this hike if it’s raining but if it’s not the end waterfall is spectacular. Just be very cautious as the river went from a slow shallow stream to white water and very dangerous in a hurry.

hiking
bugs
muddy
off trail
1 month ago

My boyfriend and I hiked this trail on 1/22/19 while on vacation. I’m a 27 y/o in okay shape and he’s fit, we both love hiking and we were able to hike the trail/scramble through the river no problem - when we could find the trail! The trail is very poorly marked, bordering on not marked at all. Things that helped us find the trail/stay on the trail:

Trailhead:
Park on the left side of the dirt path between the vegetation and the chain link fence. There were a few other cars there when we arrived. Then walk down the dirt road past the two water towers and the dirt road becomes the trail.

Following the trail:
Once you reach the river, be on the lookout for a concrete slab with some metal stakes coming out of it on the right side of the river bank, THIS IS THE FIRST RIVER CROSSING POINT! (We missed this because the trail appears to continue to the right) If you begin to go into the jungle/forest to the right and see a wood planks leading to a pipe spewing out water, you’ve gone too far and missed the first river crossing.
After crossing the river, look for the little stack of rocks to see where the trail picks up again into a bamboo forest area, the trail does follow the river pretty close. There are a few other river crossing areas (we lost the trail multiple times coming up the river and ended up just rock hopping in the river a few times). Hiking back we were able to stay on the trail basically the whole way.
Something that helped us was keeping the map out to on our phone to see if we were on the right track

Waterfalls:
The falls are gorgeous at the end! We jumped in from a rock to the left and enjoyed the refreshing (cold haha) water!

Supplies:
Bug spray if you’re prone to mosquito bites like I am!
Bathing suit for a dip at the end
Non-slip shoes, some of the trail was muddy

Overall the waterfalls were beautiful but searching for the trail almost made this hike not worth it for us. It was adventurous for sure, but much more time consuming than we anticipated. Aloha!

hiking
blowdown
muddy
scramble
washed out
1 month ago

It’s a tough one! First off, the map is not accurate to how the trail goes. Due to mud, trees down and blocking the way one is forced to zigzag back and forth across the river. There are no trail markers to help you pick your path. Crossing the river in mud caked shoes is no picnic either. If like playing Twister or The Limbo with Vaseline on your feet....this is the trail for you!

hiking
2 months ago

Knocked out this hike today and the conditions were great. It took us about an hour and 35 minutes going all the way back to the hidden falls and about an hour and 10 minutes out. I turned on my Strava app and it logged 3.2 miles in and 2.2 out. I think most of the extra mileage can be attributed to me walking all over the place instead of strictly staying on the “path.” As others have said, there is more than one path at many points, but as long as you stay near the water and follow the occasional cairns and you’ll be fine.

I’d say plan for 3 hours of hiking and about 4-5 miles depending on if you have to backtrack (or zig-zag a lot like we did).

hiking
2 months ago

Amazing. Did it with our 1.5 year old in tow so it was a bit harder to maneuver over and under the trees but soooo worth it. Trail is all over the place but just stay by the river and you will see it show up on one side of the other. We hiked in the river a lot of the time. Happy hiking!

2 months ago

Really fun hike !!! My girlfriend and I did it yesterday. The map is not accurate and the trail is not that hard to find like others say, you have to look at the right and left side of the river anytime. You will always see a small path on one side ! Very nice hike if you like a bit of adventures :) go to the end, the last waterfall is the nicest one !!! I did it with my hiking boots and they did not get wet and I cross 3-4 times the river. Enjoy :)

hiking
2 months ago

Muddy, hard to find your way, etc. Won't lose your time: READ OTHERS REVIEW TO KNOW THE WAY

2 months ago

Amazing hike! The terrain showing on the app is not accurate. Nothing extremely steep except for a few boulders. DO NOT STOP at the Makaleha falls! The hidden falls are only 10 to 15min away and are absolutely beautiful! It is also the easiest part of the hike. Have fun hikers!

2 months ago

Tough. Muddy and there is a lot of crawling up through branches and trees in the jungle vs actual hiking. Path can be hard to follow. We had to turn back and find another path several times. We turned back 45 mins below the first falls because of how much time it consumed. It has been very rainy in Kauai this week so the conditions were rough. Be prepared for a long trek.

2 months ago

Real hard. Real worth it at the end though. Just have patience. Bring plenty of water. Bring bug spray with you to apply in the way back after you jump in the waterfall at the end.

hiking
2 months ago

This is an excellent hike up a valley to a view point from where you can see 5-6 different waterfalls. Then you can choose which falls you want to hike further to. We chose the one furthest to the right which has a good place to jump into the pool below the falls. Here are some tips. First, this trail is exceptionally hard to follow. Most of the time I couldn’t tell if we were even on a trail. Luckily I had read this and we had hired a guide who knew the trail (though a few times he even lost the trail). Second, proper footwear is paramount. You are constantly hiking in and out of the river and when you are not in the river, the mud is very deep. Our guide luckily provided us with the amphibious rubber hiking booties that were perfect. Lastly, know your group. I brought my teenage daughters who are decent hikers and my wife who has gotten more nervous with age, and they didn’t care for all the mud and slippery rocks. But I loved it especially being the only one at the falls.

hiking
3 months ago

I did this hike with my fiancé. I’m not a pro hiker, moderately fit and was able to complete this hike. We started at 9am, stopped to take pics and video, we went slowly going up because it was difficult to determine if we were going the right way. What helped was the all trails map and we stuck close to the river when we had doubts. We started our hike on the right has side of the river then had to cross to the left side. We stayed on the left for a large portion then had to cross again to the right of the river. There are two forks that we crossed, you have to stay to the RIGHT of both forks of the river.

During some parts there was no tail and you felt like Tarzan climbing over branches and trees. Just keep going though the trees even though you dont really see a trail, it will pop up eventually. Again when I’m doubt stay close to the river and veré right.

Once there there are two awesome waterfalls, the second one you have to use a rope to climb up. Put your feet in the crevices.

On the way back I got a little too confident and fell twice. I learned that it’s better to go slow.

TIPS: Reading all the reviews helps A LOT.

I did the hike in water shoes that had felt so they had decent grip. My fiancé did the hike in merrel hiking shoes. Your shoes are going to get soaked and super muddy. I, however, saw people in Nike’s and BAREFOOT (wtf) but they managed.

Antiseptic whips, disinfectant (in case you fall)

hiking
3 months ago

Date:Dec.9th 2018
It was a fun adventurous hike and the water falls at the end was so amazing and so powerful.
My boyfriend and I started bit late (around 3pm and we finished it around 6:30pm) so it got really dark on the way back so we had to use the flash light on our phone to navigate the trail.

I recommend everybody to start before 1pm to be safe.

And there are many path and trails to get to the water falls (Some people likes to go by the rocks near the river and some people are more comfortable going through and under the trees etc...)

The advices is TO STAY near BY THE RIVER and follow the river up. Instead of climbing up high into the bamboo forest or too much into the jungle.
And you will be fine !!!

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