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Top 10 Hawaiian waterfalls

Wailua Falls, Hawaii
Wailua Falls / Miguel Vieira, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

WorldBlue  In short

This article lists the ten greatest Hawaiian waterfalls. See all the greatest wonders in Hawaii here!

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WorldYellow Islands of beauty

Hawaiian archipelago is a group of beautiful and scenically impressive islands. Several Hawaiian islands – Hawai’i, Maui, O’ahu – belong to the largest islands in Oceania.

Na Pali coast, Kaua'i island
Na Pali coast, Kaua’i island / Paul Bica, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

These islands have been shaped by volcanic activity over the last 5-6 million years and volcanic activity continues here up to this day. Volcanoes have erupted hard basaltic magma and islands have fantastic, rugged mountains with some of the tallest sea cliffs in the world.

Thanks to the steep and tall (up to 4 km) mountains Hawaiian islands in some locations manage to "catch" lots of precipitation – some mountainous areas here belong to the world’s rainiest places. Thus, in spite of their small size several Hawaiian islands (for example Molokai, Kaua’i) have a dense network of rivers that are flowing through lush vegetation which often covers nearly vertical cliffs.


Thanks to these factors – tall mountains with very steep and hard cliffs and rainy climate – Hawaiian islands have many waterfalls. In fact, the word "many" here is not exactly in place: there are few places in the world with THAT many waterfalls as Hawaiian islands.

Group of tall waterfalls, northern coast of Hawaii. Nakooko Falls in the centre, Ohiahuea Falls - in the right side and Wai'apuka Falls in the left.
Group of tall waterfalls, northern coast of Hawaii. Nakooko Falls in the center, Ohiahuea Falls – on the right side, and Wai’apuka Falls on the left. / Eric Tessmer, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Number of Hawaiian waterfalls fluctuates throughout the year and even in a few day’s time. During the summer many (even – most) waterfalls become dry but after heavy rain in some islands, one can count thousands of waterfalls. No one can say how many waterfalls exist here and even – which are waterfalls and which – just short-timed streams.

How does look a Hawaiian waterfall?

  • Tall and very tall! Hawaiian islands have very tall cliffs – in several locations, these cliffs are even more than one kilometer tall. Several waterfalls here are more than 500 m tall and some – for example Olo’upena Falls – are up to 900 m tall and thus belong to the tallest in the world! Of course, not all waterfalls here are tall – most are very low and often it is also hard to tell whether the countless cascades on the river should be counted as a single waterfall with several cascades or several separate falls.
  • Thin and intermittent. Islands are not large enough to allow the formation of large and permanent rivers. The tallest waterfalls of the islands are just a few meters wide and it happens that even fairly large falls, such as Waihilau Falls become dry.
  • For the most part, Hawaiian falls are sliding down along very steep cliffs and vertical plunges here are not that common. Nevertheless the incredible height of these "slides" make them very impressive!
  • Surrounded by lush vegetation. Thanks to the wet climate and fertile volcanic soils plants grow almost everywhere – including very tall cliffs. This looks great but at the same time – it is not easy to walk through this jungle and often the vegetation hides fine views.
  • Often – hard to access. The extremely rugged landscape, dense vegetation, and frequent rain make walking through the mountains of Hawaii very hard or even impossible. Due to this many of the tallest and most impressive Hawaiian waterfalls are little known and seldom visited. Especially hard to access are the waterfalls which fall down from the supertall sea cliffs directly into the Pacific. These falls are rich with water in rainy periods – but exactly in these periods it is not simple to fly here with helicopters of airplanes and also from the ships not that much is seen through the fog and clouds.

A specialty of Hawaiian waterfalls is "walls of tears" – very steep cliffs with numerous waterfall streams flowing close together through the dense vegetation. Such waterfalls are not entirely unique – similar walls are found also in such places as Papua New Guinea (e.g. Mount Bosavi Crater), the Marquesas Islands, or Reunion. But Hawaiian "walls of tears" seem to be the most impressive ones, especially the majestic Waihilau Falls, Wall of Tears in Maui and Wai’ale’ale Falls. These spectacular landmarks are among the hardest ones to access and most tourists see them only for some minutes during the expensive helicopter rides.

Other articles about Hawaiian Islands:
Other articles about waterfalls:

WorldViolet List of top 10 Hawaiian waterfalls


Wall of Tears, Maui

4.7 out of 10 stars 46.8%


After heavy rains Wall of Tears looks like few places on Earth. The green walls of the giant, narrow Waihee Valley are covered with ever-moving, improbable and up to 488 m tall waterfalls which fall down from… it is not seen from where because the clouds cover the valley.

Wall of Tears, Maui
Wall of Tears, Maui / Steve Jurvetson, / CC BY 2.0

Wai’ale’ale Falls, Weeping Wall

4.3 out of 10 stars 42.8%


The summit of the 1,544 m high Wai’ale’ale volcano belongs to the rainiest places in the world – there fall some 10,800 mm of rain per year. More than 10 meters! No wonder that the volcano is covered with bright green jungle and adorned with many waterfalls. Especially impressive is the dramatic box canyon to the east with the numerous beautiful Wai’ale’ale Falls which might be up to 900 m tall!

Wai'ale'ale Falls, Hawaii
Wai’ale’ale Falls / Miguel Vieira, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Waihilau Falls

4.3 out of 10 stars 42.8%


Some of the best waterfalls in the world are not that easy to reach on foot. The 790 m tall Waihilau Falls (Hawaii) belong to the best in the world and it is not easy at all to reach these falls.

Waihilau Falls, Hawaii
Waihilau Falls / Steve Jurvetson, Youtube / CC BY 2.0

Waipoo Falls

4.3 out of 10 stars 42.8%


Hawaii Islands have their own Grand Canyon – Waimea Canyon. Contrary to the real Grand Canyon, Waimea Canyon is adorned with an enormous waterfall – the 244 m tall Waipoo Falls.

Waipoo Falls in Kauai
Waipoo Falls in Kauai / Garden State Hiker, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Hiilawe Falls

4.2 out of 10 stars 42.0%


One of the most spectacular waterfalls in Hawaii is Hiilawe Waterfall – a spectacular 442 m tall waterfall majestically sliding down along the steep cliff.

Lower part of Hiilawe Falls in Waipio Valley, Hawaii
Lower part of Hiilawe Falls in Waipio Valley / Paul Hirst, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.5

Papalaua Falls

4.2 out of 10 stars 41.8%


The northern part of Moloka’i island is characterized by extremely tall cliffs, deep valleys, and lush green vegetation. Extremely tall waterfalls add extra beauty to this idyllic fairy-tale landscape. The 501 m tall Papalaua Falls is one such beautiful fall located at the beginning of the deep valley.

Papalaua Falls from the air, Hawaii
Papalaua Falls from the air / S.Kaiser, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Kahiwa Falls

4.1 out of 10 stars 40.8%


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 roughly 660 m tall Kahiwa Falls.

Lower part of Kahiwa Falls, Molokai
Lower part of Kahiwa Falls / carmelinhawaii, screen capture from Youtube

Olo’upena Falls

4 out of 10 stars 40.0%


Some of the highest seaside cliffs in the world – Haloku Cliffs – are stretching along the northern coast of Moloka’i island. The highest ones are some 4.2 km wide cliffs between Pelekunu and Wailau valleys, reaching up to 1,010 m in height.

Here are located several spectacular and extremely high waterfalls, including the highest known falls in the United States and Oceania – the 900 m high Olo’upena Falls.

Olo'upena Falls from above, marked with red arrow
Olo’upena Falls from above, marked with red arrow / US NOAA/NOS Aerial Photography by Pacific Disaster Center, 2000, public domain

Honokohau Falls

3.7 out of 10 stars 37.3%


Honokohau Falls most likely are tallest falls in Maui. This fantastic, some 340 – 490 m tall waterfall has been filmed for "Jurassic park" in order to create a feeling of otherworldly, exotic beauty.

Honokohau Falls from the air, Hawaii
Honokohau Falls from the air / Forest and Kim Starr, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Wailua Falls

3.5 out of 10 stars 35.3%


Hawaii has many very tall waterfalls – up to 900 m tall! But not always the beauty is in superlative numbers – the "mere" 26 m tall Wailua Falls are among the most beautiful Hawaiian waterfalls.

Wailua Falls, Hawaii
Wailua Falls / KendanX, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

WorldYellow Recommended books

Hawaii Trails: Walks Strolls and Treks on the Big Island

Pele’s magical haunt, the big island of Hawai’i encompasses spectacular and diverse landscapes, from shimmering bays to exhilarating 14,000-foot volcanoes. In this thoroughly updated new edition, choose from 58 hikes that explore Mauna Loa, Kilauea, Kaumana Caves, and Mauna Kea State Park, among other fabulous places. Discover black sand beaches, sea turtle coves, lava lanes, and rainforest valleys.

The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook: Kauai Revealed

The finest guidebook ever written for Kauai. Now you can plan your best vacation ever. This all-new tenth edition is a candid, humorous guide to everything there is to see and do on the island. Best-selling author and longtime Hawai’i resident, Andrew Doughty, unlocks the secrets of an island so lush and diverse that many visitors never realize all that it has to offer. Explore with him as he reveals breathtaking trails, secluded beaches, pristine reefs, delicious places to dine, relaxing resorts, exciting waterfalls, colorful canyons and so much more.

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