Some of the highest seaside cliffs in the world are stretching along the northern coast of Moloka’i island. Among the tallest ones are approximately 2.5 km wide cliffs between Wailau and Papalaua valleys, reaching the height of 750 – 800 m.

Here are located the spectacular and extremely high Kahiwa Falls.


Falls have formed in very tall cliffs located in the north-eastern part of Moloka’i, in some 2.5 km long section between the Wailau and Papalaua valleys. Here ocean meets nearly vertical cliffs rising up to 800 m above the sea. Cliffs end abruptly in the sea and in Hawaiian are called “Na Pali” – sea cliffs.

Few small streams fall over the edge of the cliff. The largest of these streams, forming Kahiwa Falls, is just 1 – 1.5 km long and due to small catchment it is seasonal – during the dry season there is little water. But during the rainy season (November – March) there is falling very impressive fall. Contrary to the higher falls more to the west (f.e. Olo’upena Falls), Kahiwa Falls, for the most part, are free falling and not that much floating along the basalt cliff.

Kahiwa Falls, according to the estimates from topographical maps are approximately 660 meters tall. The whole height of falls is hard to see – the upper part is hidden among the cliffs. Falls have 6 drops, the highest drop is 183 m tall.

Waterfall is thin – but at heavy rain, it can get up to 8 m wide. The upper part of falls is deeply etched in inaccessible cliff.

Falls can be observed from the sea – there are tourist companies offering guided boat tours along this rugged, extremely impressive coast. One can go closer to the falls and experience a mist falling from this wonderful nature monument. Even more impressive sight opens from a helicopter. Boat ride and helicopter though require good weather conditions.

When the wind is strong, Kahiwa Falls do not fall into the ocean – wind catches the water and rises it up again. This fascinating sight is not seen by general tourists – helicopters and boats do not move around in such weather.

Common misunderstandings

Tallest in Hawaii?

Often there is mentioned that Kahiwa Falls are the highest in Hawaii. This is not true – not far from Kahiwa are Olo’upena Falls (roughly 900 m), Pu’uka’oku Falls (roughly 840 m), Haloku Falls (roughly 700 m). On Kaua’i island there are Wai’ale’ale Falls which also could be 900 m high.

Sometimes there is met also announcement that Kahiwa Falls are the LONGEST falls in Hawaii. This is somewhat harder to grasp – may be here is meant the distance between the extreme ends of waterfall. In the case of Kahiwa this distance seems to be less than 300 m: thus here Kahiwa does not win either – there are numerous falls in Hawaii with many drops divided by some distance.

Wrong images

Very often the beautiful nearby Papalaua Falls are presented as Kahiwa Falls. See yourselves – search of "Kahiwa" in Flickr will bring you four images of Papalaua Falls! Only one of these images by luck contains also Kahiwa Falls seen to the right from pole.

If you see an image of very high waterfall at the far end of green valley – these for sure are not Kahiwa Falls but rather the Papalaua Falls which are only 1 – 1.2 km away. Kahiwa Falls fall nearly directly into the ocean!

Kahiwa Falls are included in the following lists:

Map of top 10 waterfalls of Hawaiian Islands
Top 10 waterfalls of Hawaiian Islands
Map of 12 best waterfalls in Molokai Island
12 best waterfalls in Molokai Island


  1. Kahiwa Falls. World Waterfall Database.
Kahiwa Falls on the map
Travelers' Map is loading...
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Location, GPS coordinates: 21.1702 N 156.8078 W
Categories: Waterfalls
Values: Geology, Visual
Rating: 2.5 out of 10 stars
Where is located? Oceania, United States, Hawaii, north coast of Moloka’i, high seaside cliffs between Wailau and Papalaua valleys
Alternate names: Kawika Falls
Height: Roughly 660 m, highest drop – 183 m

Landmarks of Hawaii

Eruption of Kīlauea volcano, 1954
Eruption of Kīlauea volcano, 1954 / USGS, public domain
The Hawaiian Islands belong to the most remote islands in the world. Hawaii are characterised by tropical climate, mountainous relief, volcanism and isolation. If compared to most islands in Pacific, several Hawaiian Islands have comparatively large landmass. All these factors have led to the development of numerous impressive and unique natural attractions and some impressive monuments of culture.

Waterfalls and rapids

Virginia Falls, Canada
Virginia Falls / Paul Gierszewski, Wikimedia Commons / public domain
Some of the most fascinating and awe inspiring natural monuments are waterfalls, or locations where a river abruptly changes its elevation.

Recommended books

Lonely Planet Best of Hawaii

Ancient Sites of Maui, Molokai and Lanai

This informative and easy-to-follow guidebook makes the ancient sites of Maui, Molokai and Lanai available to the general public for the first time. Grouping th sites by location, the book characterizes the cultural background of five main types of sites: heiau (temples), pohaku (sacred stones), petroglyphs, caves and fishponds.

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