Makaleha Hike

HARD 85 reviews

Makaleha Hike is a 2.6 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Kapaa, Hawaii that features a waterfall. The trail is only recommended for very experienced adventurers and primarily used for hiking, walking, and nature trips. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
2.6 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
436 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dog friendly

hiking

nature trips

walking

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
8 days ago

Never made it to the falls. Didn’t find the app until after we did the hike and may have made it to the falls if we did have the app because the trail was not marked well and hard to find in many cases. Had no idea how this was rated before we went and would not have gone if I had because we were not prepared at all. Otherwise I am pretty proud of myself that at 57 I made it as far as I did. Climbing boulders, logs, and mud up to my ankles. Definitely a challenge.

We completely failed at this hike today. Got about an hour in and the trail stopped. The river was raging from all the rain and we couldn’t figure out a way across. Passed one group heading in as we were leaving. Hoping they made it and post some pics for us! We will definitely try this one again!!

14 days ago

This hike is gnarly. First you should know that the waterfall in the photo is the “hidden falls” waypoint about a half mile after the trail ends. Our group was on a time constraint and made it to the Makaleha Falls but not the hidden falls. If you only plan to go this far the views aren’t worth the effort. We were disappointed that we had made it as far as we did and didn’t have the time to keep going. The trail isn’t marked very well and you will constantly be searching for a new path. Our group underestimated the true difficulty of this trail and probably would have chosen something that would have been a little easier or more pleasant. It truly is one of the hardest trails we have done. Prepare for a muddy mess and about 4-6 hours to complete.

hiking
19 days ago

Amazing hike and just as difficult as everyone says. Something I wish someone had told me before I went, when you see the concrete with rebar sticking out of it in the middle of the river, CROSS HERE! It will save you a ton of hassle, unless you are incredibly adventurous. Also, if you begin to climb in elevation and you are getting away from the river, you are definitely going the wrong way. Stick to the river no matter what. My wife and I somehow picked a trail that started to go up like stairs and the mosquitos were in swarms. My favorite hike of all time but very difficult. Took a total of 6 hours after swimming in the incredible waterfall pool for about 30 minutes. We both decided we would do it again no question. We also hiked the Kukui Trail, wouldn't do that again.

hiking
1 month ago

This was a great hike, but definitely hard! My husband and I decided on this trail rather spontaneously, but had a great time. You go through bamboo forests, climb over/through the river multiple times, and have a great view when you reach the fork. The final 20-30 min to the fork in the trail was recently washed away by a flood (per a local hiker), which made it incredibly difficult, so we did not continue on to see the falls. We both thought it was quite a bit longer than the posted distance, but well worth the adventure!

hiking
1 month ago

This is a must if you are in Kauai!!! All the mud, rocks and crazy jungle terrain are worth it when you reach the waterfall. Try to stay on paths close to the stream, there are several paths that take you high up the mountains, but you’ll still reach the waterfall.

1 month ago

If you don't get wet and muddy, your not doing it right. Bring good hiking boots and trek the river whenever possible.

1 month ago

Keep the faith to the end. My 49 year old girlfriend and I successfully completed this hike at the end of December. I am 56 and in moderately good shape. My girlfriend is an athlete. The biggest concern we had during the hike was the possibility of twisting an ankle during the times we were rock-hopping in the river. We took our time and moved very carefully. The jungle parts of the hike were fun and kept the experience varied and interesting. Looking for the trail signs (not official signs but footprints, bits of cloth or ribbon tied to tree limbs) gave the trip a scavenger-hunt aspect.
On two occasions coming back we came to what appeared to be the end of the trail and we had to climb down tree roots to the river and cross to the other side. We never truly felt lost because we knew if we followed the river we would make it back to our starting point.
Our confidence was boosted a couple times when small groups of young people passed us and we were able to follow them briefly or simply benefit from their words of encouragement.
We considered turning back once or twice but quickly talked ourselves into continuing on, and we are thrilled that we did. The falls were spectacular and the sense of accomplishment is something we will carry with us always.
Some folks have mentioned the mosquitos but we are from Michigan and they were no big deal to us.
Yes, it is muddy but who cares? Wash off in the river. Our Keens worked well and mud stains on your hiking clothes are like free souvenirs!
We had no idea what we were getting into and that’s probably a good thing. This hike was the one part of our week on Kauai that we speak fondly of more than any other.
We think it took us about 3.5 hours going out and 2.5 going back. Start early.

1 month ago

It was definitely cool to go through the bamboo forest and jungle gym-like pathways, plus the rock climbing (need to be flexible and strong as that will be the main challenge versus steepness of any sort). The trail is pretty flat besides the times u need to climb upwards on rocks and such. I personally got very tired and frustrated because the trail was not clearly marked so we got lost and never found the big waterfalls at the end which they say are amazing. NEED bug spray and I would even recommend pants. Mosquitos everywhere so we got bit up badly. My husband wore Tevas which helped when trekking through the river / waters but he has a ton of blisters now so maybe closed toe hiking shoes that are water resistant would be best. Prepare to get muddy and use your muscles. Pretty fun going through the jungle gym, not going to lie. Would have liked to make it to the falls though. Apparently you should “stay to the right and keep going”

hiking
1 month ago

Extremely muddy and difficult hike. Prepare for slippery mud up to your ankles and tons of mosquitos- highly recommend bug spray and/or long sleeves and pants.

The majority of the trail is not clearly laid out. My boyfriend and I got lost in the jungle multiple times, which put our hike time at a grand total of 5.5 hours (3 hours up, 30 minutes at the falls, 2 hours back).

Potentially the most confusing part of the entire hike is deciding when to cross the river...and how). An hour after we left the falls to go back, we realized we were on the wrong side of the river and could not find a safe point to cross to get back on the trail. Thankfully, we spotted a local couple hanging out on the boulders, and this saintly pair graciously helped us cross by dragging us through the river with a rope. Without them, we would’ve been screwed.

Honestly I hated 75% of this hike while I was doing it due to the mud and mosquito bites and being soaked and lost (basically just being under-prepared), but it really was an amazing experience and I’m glad I did it!!

hiking
1 month ago

I loved this hike! Went with my boyfriend and sister. We are all in our 20’s and had a blast! It keeps you on your toes the whole time. I don’t like easy hikes personally. This one wasn’t hard because you go high up, it was just like a large jungle gym so you need to be pretty flexible and strong to get through. Regarding the path being unclear, as long as you stick to being near the river and use your instincts you’ll be fine. You know when you should not be going through somewhere. Dont be afraid to walk in the water either. You will have to cross the river at times. Definitely try to finish because the waterfalls are spectacular as the last one was amazing to swim in. We left glowing.

hiking
1 month ago

Not worth it in our opinion unless you go all the way to the last falls where you can take a dip. Lots of mud and the trail is very difficult to find. As long as you stay close to the river, you can't get lost because the river ends at the falls. The trail should be weaving in and out of the water the whole time. There are cairn (rocks clearly stacked by humans) to mark the trail. We took the river to the right when it forked to get to the last falls. Very nice for a dip! I liked wearing boots to keep the mud out from between my toes. We didn't have any trouble physically because we went slow and took breaks. The ONE THING I RECOMMEND is to start the hike way before it could get dark. It would be a nightmare to try to find your way back to your car on this trail in the dark. A NIGHTMARE. The trail is hard enough to find and traverse in the daylight. Lots of crawling over and under limbs and over rocks. Definitely worth it if you're committed to going all the way to the end and you have the time to take it easy and not have to rush on to something else. And pack snacks.

hiking
1 month ago

My wife and I (31 and 35) did this hike in approximately 4 hours including breaks for a swim, photos, and resting. We’re both in good but not incredible shape and found this to be a pretty tough hike. The trail is not well defined or marked in many places. We hiked most of the trail on the way in, but we found hiking the stream on the way out to be quicker and easier despite having to scramble and wade most of the journey. By our count, we were the 3rd party on trail that morning. On the way out, we encountered several groups that had received reports from other hikers who had turned back because the trail was too difficult, impossible to find, and not worth the attempt. The hidden falls are definitely worth the journey, and you can swim right up to the base of them. The water is cold, but it feels great after the arduous hike. If your not an experienced hiker, think hard about whether you want to attempt this one. It’s not impossible but be prepared with proper footwear for wading in water and scrambling on rocks. Know that you may lose the trail at times, and that when you find the trail, it can be extremely muddy often with obstacles to climb over and under. Follow the stream when possible and always be on the lookout for telltale signs of that you’re on the right path.

2 months ago

Going to rate several aspects. Cardio is easy. Never pushed and I am a bit out of shape right now. Hiking is brutal. Very little hiking, almost all climbing over and under fallen trees. Wading through the stream 1/2 the time. I actually enjoyed the wading as opposed to the scrambling. Water shoes are a must. You will get your feet wet. Okay, the falls. Up the stream, it finally forks. At this time you can see the falls to your left. The other 1/2 mile (or whatever the distance is) you should just stay in the stream. Liked the hike. Would not repeat. I can’t move right now. Trail after the really cool bamboo forest is poorly marked. Lots of mud. But plenty of time in stream to rinse. But it is like oil base paint, you have to work to get it off.

hiking
2 months ago

Difficult hike due to the recent flooding. Trail is difficult to find, at times, and lots of fallen trees, debris and mud. Must be an experienced hiker to safely navigate the terrain. The bamboo forest is breathtaking.

hiking
2 months ago

You must go to the very last waterfall! So worth it! We swam and jumped off rocks at the last waterfall. There are five waterfalls you can see towards 3/4th of the hike but they are way high on the mountain! But the last waterfall on the trail you can swim right up to! We did a mix of following the river, jumping on the rocks and going on the muddy trail. We made it to the last waterfall in 1hr 15mins and made from the last waterfall to the car in 40 mins!

hiking
2 months ago

Awesome trail. The waterfall was definitely worth seeing. Since the bamboo trail was extremely muddy, I stayed in the stream almost the whole time and didn't have any problems. However, if you don't feel like jumping across a thousand rocks, don't go on this hike!

2 months ago

I had A BLAST. Loved the challenge of trail finding and mud and bamboo forest. If you're an experienced hiker. This is a must do on Kauai. If you're a rookie go slow and take a friend.

hiking
2 months ago

Trail is never boring and has you on your toes!

hiking
2 months ago

Really a wonderful trail. Very interesting, very comprehensive. You will use your whole body, so leave your poles at home, and expect some work ahead. The the trail starts about 300 feet of stream from where you first encounter the stream. On the south shore is a concrete pad and the entrance to a bamboo forest. The bamboo is about 1/3 of a mile. Then there’s about 1/3 of a mile of forest path before you cross the stream for about 1/3 of a mile of thick jungle tree “path”. Don’t stop until you get to secret falls, as hat makes the whole thing much more worth it. It’s only about 15 more minutes up the stream from where you come out of the jungle trees.

It’s fairly hard, and I don’t say hat lightly. I’m not a weak hiker. Plan on 4 hours round trip so you can take pictures and swim naked in the pools at the secret falls. Expect some naked people up there. XD

hiking
2 months ago

This is an advanced 'hike' for experienced adventurer's only. Do not attempt this hike solo unless practicing extreme caution (make sure to check in with a friend). I recommend you read the majority of reviews so you know what you're getting yourself into. This is one of the most difficult to navigate 'trails' I've done, probably ever. I was definitely off the trail for 15-20% of the hike, if not more. Hiking up the stream is a bit easier than through the woods, but be cautious. Ideally this hike should be done with someone that's done it at least once. Or not. I did it alone, plus four or five decently long 'side-hikes' that branch off from the main path. Incredible pictures. Incredibly sketchy (at times). This is the first time I've ever felt the need to blow my hiker's safety whistle (built into my backpack) on my way back down. The whistle was only ever answered by the native birds but, I felt I had a tool if needed. From my POV, as long as I hiked downwards and not far from the stream I'd be close by. This turned out to be mostly correct. Thankfully I had trekking poles. Pants recommend. Full charge battery recommended. I left covered head to toe in mud and water. One of the most difficult sets of hikes I've done. Didn't see a single trail marker. I mostly followed muddy boot prints and broken vegetation. The views were beautiful but you should really only attempt this if you're feeling masochistic (or have some hiking friends on the island) :) Happy 420!

3 months ago

I generally never believe that a trail will actually be “hard” but this one definitely is though thoroughly enjoyable. Plan to get very dirty and be very sore the next day. We found ourselves climbing up the stream boulders for a good portion because we lost the trail and eventually made it to the waterfall. Not for beginners, bumped my head, scraped everywhere and broke a knuckle slipping off a rock. It was all worth it for the story and reaching the waterfall at the end.

hiking
3 months ago

Parts of it are a jungle gym/puzzle that you have to beat to continue (ie contorting your body around fallen trees, placing feet carefully on mud covered everything). Even finding the trail is a puzzle, quite frequently. But if you're looking for a challenging beautiful trail, (w/waterfalls), this checks all the boxes!

walking
3 months ago

It was beautiful but we got lost and things got a little sketchy for us.

hiking
4 months ago

Very challenging, but well worth the hike!!!
Continue past Makaleha Falls (extra 1/2 mile) to the right until you come to Hidden Falls...you’ll be glad you did...spectacular water fall! It’s been raining a lot lately so Hidden Falls was impressive! This one will go down as one of my “All-time Favorites!”

hiking
4 months ago

Having read previous reviews, my husband and I knew what we were getting into. We had a blast! Definitely not your average trail-not the easiest to follow at times and you are spending alot of time scrambling over and under trees and rocks. Go in to it with a sense of adventure and know that you are going to get wet, and you will have fun. More advanced hike.

4 months ago

gorgeous after a rain storm, but very slippery

4 months ago

gorgeous after a rainstorm, but very slippery

hiking
5 months ago

Right when I was wondering if it was even worth the effort, I came out of the canopy and decided it was! It was definitely taxing. The hardest part about this hike is the route finding, and that’s coming from someone who has lots of experience hiking off trail. I’d say it’s more because of all the false trails. I guarantee you’ll end up backtracking. Don’t take trails that stray too far up hill from the stream. Seems like most the trail was on the right hand side of the stream (while looking up valley) but you cross left a few times, one of them very early into the hike. That’ll take you through the bamboo and you’ll need to cross again shortly thereafter. At one point you reach an island in the stream, follow it to the top and and go left toward the huge boulder with hau all over the place. Shortly after, you’ll end up on the right hand side again going through tons of hau (this must be what a jungle gym is made after). The going is slow, it’s definitely wet and slippery. I did it in hiking sandals but I’d just as soon go barefoot because traditional rubber soles just don’t grip these rocks, even with good tread, through realistically you should probably just wear tabis or micro spikes. Helpful hint, look for fresh tracks in the mud, bark rubbed off the hau, and boulders that look like they’ve been stepped on many times. I only saw a couple cairns and a few tags, and not even in really helpful spots.

hiking
6 months ago

Amazing ending to this climactic adventure that has a surprise around every twist and turn, duck and weave, and trust me there are a lot of them. It is definitely not for the faint of heart but the whole way is beautiful lush and green. This is for those that want an adventure but know your body and know your limits and when to turn around because you may not be able to follow this trail. Coming from someone who has experienced it, my group got lost for about thirty minutes until we found two other hikers that had already found their way and they put us on the right track. In all though I would say the journey and destination are worth all the mud, rock climbing, river crossings, and getting lost. Love, love, loved this hike it checked all my boxes for a great hike.

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