Laie Falls

Close your eyes and dream of Hawaii. What do you see?

Some see sugary white sand beaches while others feel the exhilaration of catching a world-class wave. Some dream of tranquility inside a high-end resort's spa while others imagine challenging the island's fiercest trails. But if you can see yourself swimming underneath the spray of a remote jungle waterfall all to yourself, then the Laie Falls trail just might be for you.

Tucked away on private property in Oahu's northern shore, the Laie Falls takes you seven miles along a ridge to a secluded waterfall. The trail gains nearly 1,200 feet, so you'll only find a few intrepid hikers along the way. 

The Laie Falls is not for the faint of heart, and the waterfall itself only drops about 15 feet, but you'll be rewarded with seclusion, the ridge trail's sweeping island views and your own personal refreshing pool at the foot of a tropical waterfall in the dense Hawaiian jungle.

Obtain Your Permit & Enjoy Laie

Laie Falls sits on private land which is operated by Hawaiian Reserves. It's barely an inconvenience to obtain a permit for the hiking trail. You can do so for free online here or you can visit the company's office inside the Laie Shopping Center. You can find the shopping center on Kamehameha Highway in the center of town near the coast and just north of the Polynesian Cultural Center.

The town of Laie and the Polynesian Cultural Center are beautiful places to visit, and you can bundle a visit to the cultural center with a hike to Laie Falls. The drive from Honolulu lasts a little less than an hour and takes you along the less-visited northeastern shore of Oahu. Simply take H1 out of Honolulu before turning north on Route 63 which will eventually hug the coast as it turns into Route 83. This is the Kamehameha Highway which cuts right through town, past the Polynesian Cultural Center and the Laie Shopping Center with its Hawaii Reserves permit office.

The Polynesian Cultural Center is home to one of the best luaus on the islands and it's where you can find the incredible fire dance show called "Ha: The Breath of Life." It all takes place on an expansive piece of property where you'll find replica villages from ancient Hawaii and other South Pacific Islands. You can tour the grounds and villages before a hike to the falls, or you can hike to the falls before enjoying a sunset luau or fire dance show.

The Hike

Laie FallsTurn left off of the Kamehameha Highway onto Naniloa Road just past the world-famous Hukilau Cafe, which serves up fresh Hawaiian fare for breakfast and lunch. Go straight through the roundabout onto Poohaili Street, and take this street for about three-quarters of a mile. You'll find the signposted trailhead on the left side of the road with reminders that you're about to enter private property.

The trail will take you up on a ridge high above the northern coast of Oahu. You'll have incredible views of Laie and the Pacific Ocean beyond, and you'll be able to catch your breath on the moderate trail as you take in the Ko'olau Mountains in the distance. 

The ridge is very hot and exposed to the sun. Make sure to pack plenty of water, wear sun-protective clothing like a hat, and make sure to apply sunscreen that is at least 30 SPF. You should apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before sun exposure, and you should reapply the cream every two hours.

You'll also want to pack your camera and perhaps some bug repellent. You'll ascend up to the ridge before descending into a mesmerizing thicket of the tropical jungle. The forest here can be so dense that it seems surreal, and you'll be challenged to take a picture that captures its grandeur. But abundant verdant life comes with a downside: mosquitoes. Apply bug repellent that contains DEET to keep the little buggers at bay. 

At the end of the seven-mile, out-and-back trail, you'll find the falls. These aren't the most beautiful falls to be found in Hawaii, but you'll find a refreshing jungle pool at the foot of the falls. Here, you can take a swim and you'll likely be all by yourself. It's your own little tropical waterfall paradise because not many tourists are willing to make the hike to get here.

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Price range: Free
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Laie, Oahu