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11 Best Oahu Waterfall Hikes for You to Tackle

Searching for the best Oahu waterfall hikes? You’ve found them! This guide from a Hawaii local tells you everything you need to know about the waterfall hikes on Oahu.

Oahu waterfall hikes opener Waimano falls

On Oahu, we don’t have the pull-up-and-take-a-picture waterfalls that many of the other Hawaiian Islands do. You have to go on a bit of a hike to reach any of our waterfalls on the island, but all of them — from the short and sweet Manoa Falls to the lengthier Laie Falls trail — are more than worth the effort. That said, the Oahu waterfall hikes are definitely worth a little bit of extra exercise.

Waterfall Hikes on Oahu Manoa Falls

What Are the Best Waterfall Hikes on Oahu?

Ready to see some Oahu waterfalls? Lace up your shoes, spray on some bug repellent, and get going!

1. Manoa Falls

Distance: 1.9 miles

Elevation: 616 feet

Time: 1 hour

Price: $7 per car for parking (discounts available)

Permit Required? No

Parking: Manoa Falls Parking Lot

If you’ve done one of the waterfall hikes on Oahu, odds are you’ve done Manoa Falls. After all, it’s one of the most popular things to do on the island. The path is nice and obvious, there is a ton of shade (as with all of Oahu’s waterfall hikes), and the falls themselves are absolutely stunning.

Basically, it’s an easy waterfall hike on Oahu, and it should take you around 45 minutes to reach the waterfall. The trail is less than a mile one-way, but there will be some pausing to let other hikers pass. Unfortunately, you cannot swim in the pool at the bottom of the Manoa Falls hike.

Manoa Falls gained a lot of recognition, because it’s been featured in a ton of films and TV shows. Jurassic Park, The Hunger Games: Catching FireLOST, and Hawaii Five-0 have all featured Manoa Falls. Because of this, Manoa Falls is often advertised as “Jurassic Park Falls.”

people swimming at the base of a small Waimea Falls, Oahu, Hawaii at the end of summer Oahu waterfall hikes

2. Waimea Falls

Distance: 0.75 miles

Elevation: 300 feet

Time: 30 minutes

Price: $25 per person (discounts available)

Permit Required? No

Parking: Waimea Valley Parking Lot

I’ll admit. Waimea Falls isn’t one of my favorite Oahu waterfall hikes, simply because it is not really a hike (and also because they charge you a good chunk of money to see something that nature made). So if you are looking for the least physically challenging and least confusing experience to see a waterfall on Oahu, Waimea Falls is the hike for you.

As a matter of fact, “hike” is a strong word for the path you take to see Waimea Falls. To put this in perspective, I, along with my entire kindergarten class at the time, did this so-called “hike” to see this waterfall on the North Shore. So not much danger or effort with this choice.

It should take about 30 minutes to reach the waterfall, as the trail is only around three-fourths of a mile. Depending on the weather, swimming may be allowed at Waimea Falls. If you do wish to swim under the waterfall, you are required to wear a life jacket.

bright green gecko at Waimea Falls
Bright green gecko, which is frequently found near Waimea Falls

Given that this hike is within the more accessible Waimea Valley area, there are changing areas, showering areas, and lifeguards. This means that the hike to Waimea Falls is one of the busiest waterfalls on Oahu as well.

*Pro Tip: Kamaaina and military get in for free on Thursdays from 12 pm to 3 pm!

Waimano Falls surrounded by greenery Oahu waterfall hikes

3. Waimano Falls

Distance: 2.9 miles

Elevation: 770 feet

Time: 2 hours

Price: Free

Permit Required? No

Parking: Komomai Dr.

The Waimano Falls hike is the most physically difficult hike that I’ve put on this list. (Granted, it’s not actually that difficult. I’m just not necessarily the best at hiking.) I did this nearly three-mile trail in about three hours, round trip. In contrast to the rest of the hikes on this list, you go downhill first and uphill on the way back. While this doesn’t seem like much, this was a real mental block for me. I mean, I already saw the waterfall (my reward), so why did I have to work so hard to get back to my car?

Nevertheless, Waimano Falls is still one of the best waterfall hikes on Oahu. First of all, the waterfall itself is stunning. Second of all, there are two rope swings! While both of them are fun, I’ll admit that the jump from the higher of the two rope swings can be a little painful. You can also jump without the rope, making it possible for you to have both an Oahu waterfall hike and cliff jumping experience at the same location! Just as a note, the pools at these falls are quite shallow (with the exception of the rope swing area), so they aren’t ideal for swimming around.

DO NOT FORGET: GO LEFT, not right. There will be a point in the trail with a clear fork in the road. (Not the one that says, “Manana Falls to the left, and Waimano Falls to the right.” It’s quite a bit after that.) Both paths will seem well-trodden. You MUST go to the left, not the right. The first time I did this hike, I went to the right and got very lost. If you end up in a small clearing, turn around, because you’ve gone the wrong way.

4. Laie Falls

Distance: 7.9 miles

Elevation: 1,824 feet

Time: 8 hours

Price: Free

Permit Required? Yes

Parking: Laie Park

Just a few minutes away from the Polynesian Cultural Center and Turtle Bay Resort lies the start of the Laie Falls hike trailhead. This eight-mile round trip hike is surprisingly popular, despite its length. And at the end of the hike, you’ll see the small, but charming Laie Falls. Do note that during the drier season (May to September), the falls may not have much water.

To hike Laie Falls, you need to get a permit from the Hawaii Reserves office at the Laie Shopping Center, because this is one of the hikes on the North Shore of Oahu that is technically on private property. While this permit is free, you will need to fill out this form and email it to hiking@hawaiireserves.com at least three days in advance.

close up of purple and white lilikoi or passion fruit flower

5. Kaipapau Falls

Distance: 8.5 miles

Elevation: 1,000+ feet

Time: 5 hours

Price: Free

Permit Required? No

Parking: Kawaipuna St.

The hike to Kaipapau Falls leads to a beautiful, tall waterfall, yet somehow, this hike has also managed to stay hidden. One potential reason for its covert existence may be because of the path to get there.

While the path takes a relatively reasonable 2.5-hours one-way, the vast majority of these 2.5 hours are spent in a river. There are numerous river crossings required to meet Kaipapau Falls, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled the whole time for the colorful ribbons. Here is a more in-depth guide to Kaipapau Falls.

*Local Tip: be sure to pick some lilikoi (passion fruit) if you see some! After all, fresh lilikoi is in the Hawaii Food Bucket List!

6. Kapena Falls

Distance: 0.3 miles

Elevation: 88 feet

Time: 5 minutes

Price: Free

Permit Required? No

Parking: Nuuanu Memorial Park and Mortuary parking lot

Similarly to Waimea Falls, Kapena Falls should not even be classified as a “hike.” The very, very short walk to Kapena Falls takes a grand total of three minutes (and three minutes back, so I suppose six minutes).

Granted, the trail is muddy, so there is that aspect that makes this secret Oahu waterfall hike a little more hike-like. This is, however, easily the smallest waterfall on this list as well. Kapena Falls does have the added bonus of a nice-sized swimming hole to enjoy though. So if you’re looking for an Oahu waterfall you can swim in, Kapena Falls might be the Oahu waterfall for you!

To get to Kapena Falls, Google Maps is actually quite unhelpful. Instead of putting “Kapena Falls” as the search term, you’ll want to navigate yourself to “Nuuana Memorial Park and Mortuary.” (Yeah, it’s a cemetery – if that weirds you out, this hike isn’t for you.) Drive to the very end of the parking lot and park there. At the farthest point of the parking lot, you’ll see a small muddy path. That’s your start to this three-minute hike!

*Bonus: Kapena Falls is actually one of two places on Oahu where you can see petroglyphs – the writings/drawings of the ancient Native Hawaiian people. (The second place comes and goes depending on the tide. So this is really the only consistent place to see petroglyphs on Oahu). The little drawings are very close to the start of the hike, and they are barred off for their preservation.

Lulumahu Falls Oahu waterfall hikes

7. Lulumahu Falls

Distance: 1.6 miles

Elevation: 843 feet

Time: 1 hour

Price: Free

Permit Required? Yes, via the Hawaii Division of Forest & Wildlife website

Parking: Technically, there is no legal parking for Lulumahu Falls. The Hawaii Division of Forest & Wildlife recommends that you be dropped off. That said, there is a muddy, makeshift lot near the trailhead just off Pali Hwy.

The hike to Lulumahu Falls is 1.6 miles long. It recently changed from an illegal hike to a permitted one, so make sure you get your permits in order (from the Hawaii Division of Forest & Wildlife website) before heading out. In my opinion, it is probably the best waterfall on Oahu.

The falls themselves are absolutely stunning, as Lulumahu Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls on Oahu. However, the pool is not quite deep enough to swim in.

This hike does require a few river crossings, which can be difficult if you choose to tackle this adventure after a heavy rainfall. There is also a small section that could be described as “rock climbing,” although it’s more like big steps on large rocks (it doesn’t require any arm strength though). However, if you are deathly afraid of heights, this little obstacle might deter you right before you reach the falls.

8. Aihualama Falls

Distance: 1.2 miles

Elevation: 357 feet

Time: 45 minutes

Price: Free

Permit Required? No, but you must make a reservation at Lyon Arboretum

Parking: Lyon Arboretum

At the Lyon Arboreum in Honolulu, one of the best botanical gardens on Oahu, there’s a hidden hiking trail that takes you to the beautiful Aihualama Falls. This stunning cascade hidden in Manoa Valley has a few different routes to get to it, but the popular 1.3-mile trail is the shortest way to go. Along the way, you’ll get to take in the thriving greenery before reaching the lovely Oahu waterfall.

man with backpack hiking through greenery North Shore Oahu hikes

9. Koloa Gulch Trail

Distance: 10.5 miles

Elevation: 1,000 feet

Time: 8 hours

Price: Free

Permit Required? Yes

Parking: Kokololio Beach Park

If you’re looking for one of the North Shore, Oahu hikes that’ll last the whole day and result in a great reward, the Koloa Gulch Trail is a fantastic option. Along this eight-hour hike, you’ll spot lots of thriving greenery and two secret 100-foot waterfalls. (This pair of cascades is so much of a secret that I’ve never heard names for them!)

Follow the colorful ribbons to stay on the Koloa Gulch Trail path. If you do happen to lose the ribbons, just continue going upstream on the river until you spot the ribbons fluttering amongst the trees again. For a more detailed guide, here is a step-by-step breakdown of the Koloa Gulch Trail.

Just like Laie Falls, in order to legally hike the Koloa Gulch Trail, you must get a permit from the Hawaii Reserves office at the Laie Shopping Center, since the hike is technically on private property. While this permit is free, you will need to fill out this form and email it to hiking@hawaiireserves.com at least three days in advance.

Maunawili Falls with two people in the foreground

10. Maunawili Falls – TEMPORARILY CLOSED

Distance: 2.3

Elevation: 547 feet

Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes

Price: Free

Permit Required? No

Parking: Prior to the temporary closure, hikers would park on Kelewina St/Maunawili Rd. There are rumors that the hike will be rerouted (and maybe even have a different entry point) or that a small parking lot will be added once it reopens, but I wouldn’t bank on either.

The 2.5-mile roundtrip hike to Maunawili Falls actually requires a couple of stream crossings, so be prepared to get your feet wet!

While the waterfall on this hike is not as large as some of the others on this list, Maunawili Falls is also known for being home to a few native plants, as well as the (non-native) beloved lilikoi (passion fruit) plant. If you’re lucky enough to be there while it’s in season, feel free to snag a couple of the bright yellow or purple spheres to munch on later.

Limited street parking is available for this hike. Be courteous to those who live in the area and do not block the driveways.

*Local Secret: if you scramble your way up over Maunawili Falls and hike a bit further, you’ll actually make your way to an abandoned wooden bridge, if that sort of adventure is up your alley.

*As of summer 2021, Maunawili Falls is closed to the public. Prior to that, hundreds of people were visiting this waterfall every day, so the State of Hawaii decided to give the land some time to heal. As of spring 2024, this hike still hasn’t reopened. There is an alternative route to the falls via the Maunawili Ditch Trail, but this route is significantly longer.

Waterfall Hikes on Oahu Likeke Falls

11. Likeke Falls – ILLEGAL

Distance: 0.8 miles

Elevation: 216 feet

Time: 45 minutes

Price: Free

Permit Required? No, but the trail is technically on private property, making it illegal.

Parking: Since the trail to Likeke Falls is illegal, there’s technically no legal parking. That said, those who do choose to hike this path tend to park at the back corner of the Koolau Ballrooms parking lot.

Likeke Falls is one of my favorite Oahu waterfall hikes. It doesn’t take much effort to get a great reward, which makes it perfect for small children. (I’ve taken a three-year-old on this hike, and I’ve seen quite a few mom groups with their kiddos on the trail as well.) Plus, it’s one of the rather secret waterfalls on Oahu – and that’s just an amazing added bonus.

Within twenty minutes, you can reach a relatively small, yet stunning waterfall. Please be careful while doing this hike though, because the path veers off from where you expect it to be at a couple crucial points. I previously wrote a post with a bit more detail on the directions. While the pool at the end is much too shallow for swimming, I’ve seen kids enjoy splashing around.

BONUS: H-3 Drive!

Out of all of these Oahu waterfalls I’ve listed, easily the most breathtaking are actually the ones that can be viewed from H-3, one of Oahu’s highways. I know what you’re probably thinking. The best waterfalls on Oahu can be seen from a highway?! And the answer is still unquestionably yes.

Let me paint a picture for you. H-3 is a highway that winds through the luscious, plant-laden Koolau Mountain Range. Even when it’s a drier time of year, the mountains are still bright green. Then, imagine during rainy season, when the water is pouring out of the sky and into each and every crevice of the Koolau Mountain Range. This creates dozens, if not hundreds, of Oahu waterfalls. Can you imagine a more spectacular Oahu waterfall experience than that?

To get the full experience of this H-3 scenic drive on Oahu, you’ll want to set you GPS from Kailua to Aiea (or vice versa). Try to time your drive on the rainiest day of your trip. Check the weather for Kaneohe before you head out. If its supposed to rain there most of the day, you may be in luck!

Hamama Falls slow capture Oahu waterfall hikes

How Can I Get to The Oahu Waterfall Hikes?

The easiest way to get to the majority of Oahu waterfall hikes is by car. However, if a car isn’t an option, there are a couple of waterfalls on the list below that are accessible by The Bus, Hawaii’s public bus system. These bus-accessible Oahu waterfalls include Waimea Falls and Kapena Falls.

man sitting on rocks in front of fall-tinted Lulumahu Falls, Oahu, Hawaii

Oahu Waterfall Safety

Hawaii is pretty safe when it comes to hiking. There aren’t really any dangerous wild animals (there’s the occasional wild boar, but that’s about it), and the weather is usually favorable. That said, it’s always better to be informed about safety things, so here are a couple of things to keep in mind before heading out on your Oahu waterfall hike.

Leptospirosis

When you start these hikes on Oahu, you will probably come across a sign that’ll tell you that you’ll get infected by a strain of bacteria called “leptospirosis” if you so much as touch the water. After further research, this is not exactly the case.

Leptospirosis can only be harmful if it enters the body through an open cut (so if it’s scabbed over, you’re fine) or by drinking it. While some cases of leptospirosis may have bad flu-like symptoms, others have no symptoms at all.

Personally, I have not heard of anyone actually getting leptospirosis on any of these hikes. Once I got a small cut from a rock in a waterfall pool and did not have any signs of leptospirosis.

If you would like to read a bit more on the bacteria, here’s a page from the CDC.

Flash Floods

With Hawaii waterfalls dumping thousands of gallons of water comes the potential for flash floods. While most of the hikes prone to flash flooding have been closed to the public (including the infamous Sacred Falls), there’s still a chance for flash flooding at many Oahu waterfalls.

To stay safe, check the weather before you head out. Even simple weather apps are good at informing people about flash floods in the local area in a timely manner.

If this safety warning freaks you out a bit, that’s okay too. (Nature is a powerful force, after all.) That said, you don’t totally have to give up waterfalls on your Hawaii trip. Just hike on a sunny day instead! That’ll give you the added bonus of avoiding lots of mud too.

What Should I Bring to These Oahu Waterfall Hikes?

Before you get to any of the hikes, there are some items that you should bring with you (for waterfall hikes specifically).

Bug Repellent

Bug repellent is highly recommended. The still water in the rainforest-like environments around the Oahu waterfalls attracts a lot of bugs – especially mosquitos.

Sometimes I get lazy and don’t use bug repellent and I end up with bites on my arms and legs that don’t go away for a month. So you really do need to buy some bug repellent of some sort. Luckily, there are both traditional and natural options to help you ward off the little critters.

Athletic Shoes

A pair of athletic shoes that you can get VERY muddy would be ideal. Your shoes will never fully recover from these hikes. Sometimes they will not make it out. (I once was on one of these waterfall hikes and the literal soles of both of my shoes came off!)

However, intense, professional hiking boots are not at all necessary. A solid pair of athletic shoes will do the trick!

A Washable Reusable Bag (Or A Plastic Bag)

After you’re done hiking, you’ll want a place to put your muddy athletic shoes. You don’t want to get that mud all over your car. While you can use a plastic bag, you can also try this reusable bag and give it a good wash when you get back to where you’re staying.

one Olukai flip flop and one footprint in the sand
Photo Courtesy of Olukai

A Pair of Flip-Flops

A.k.a. slippers – here’s a post with more local lingo. You’ll need these to wear after you shove your muddy athletic shoes into that plastic bag.

If you want to support an amazing local Hawaii business, you can buy a pair of Olukai slippers (available for both men and women) for your waterfall adventure.

Swimwear

If possible, you want to swim at these waterfalls, don’t you? If you want to support a sustainable local business, I recommend purchasing one from Sundaze Bikinis. They make all of their products out of recycled ocean plastic!

Use the code BORDERS15 on the Sundaze Bikinis website to get 15% off your order!

And if you’d like more options, here are all of the best Hawaii swimwear brands.

Water Shoes

You’ll need water shoes to avoid sharp rocks (especially for the kiddos!)

A Towel

To use to dry off after your swim! Although, in all honesty, you can leave this in the car instead of adding the extra weight.

person holding dark green hydroflask while crossing bridge Oahu waterfall hikes

Water

You have to stay hydrated, especially if you’re doing any physical activity! Maybe put it in a nice reusable bottle to help the environment out just a tad.

A Snack

It’s always important to keep your energy levels up on these Oahu waterfall hikes. Consider packing something from the Hawaii food bucket list as a snack.

A Waterproof Camera

GoPros are always great options for taking waterfall pictures (that misty spray can almost be like rain at times), but GoPros can be pricey. The AKASO EK7000 is a pretty good budget alternative.

We also have  a more comprehensive Hawaii packing list just for you!

Sunscreen

While most Oahu waterfall hikes are shaded by trees, there are sections of certain trails where the Hawaii sun shines through. For some (like me), this is a pro. For others, like those who get sunburned easily, it’s a con.

Either way, be sure to slap on some sunscreen before you head out on your Oahu waterfall hike.

green mountain range with waterfalls in the valleys

Are There Oahu Waterfall Hike Tours?

If tackling these Oahu waterfall hikes on your own sounds a little bit daunting, don’t worry! It is possible to find companies that do Oahu waterfall hike tours.

I will say that you should do research into what you’re getting beforehand. Many Oahu waterfall hike tours simply take you to Manoa Falls, the most frequently visited waterfall hike on the island, one that certainly doesn’t need a guide. And, what makes this confusing is that many of these tour companies will sneakily advertise it as a special “Jurassic Park waterfall!” It’s the same waterfall. It’s still the same Manoa Falls with a nice, clear, easy path.

To help you avoid this, I’ve only included waterfall tours that may actually need a guide (a.k.a. not Waimea Falls or Manoa Falls).

Adventure Tours Hawaii

Adventure Tours Hawaii is an interesting tour group, as they don’t specify which waterfall they’ll be taking you to. As a matter of fact, after clicking through quite a few photos from reviews of Adventure Tours Hawaii, I’ve gathered that they’ve taken guests to Likeke Falls, Lulumahu Falls, Waimano Falls, and perhaps even a couple more! So if you’re down for whatever adventure your tour guide has in store, Adventure Tours Hawaii may be the tour for you.

Unfortunately, the website doesn’t specify which tour will take you to these Oahu waterfall hikes, so you may have to contact them.

Adventure in Hawaii

While not as highly recommended as Adventure Tours Hawaii, Adventure in Hawaii does take you to one of the waterfalls above: Likeke Falls. While Likeke Falls is a short, easy hike, there are a couple of very important turns to take. By taking the Koolau Waterfall hike tour with Adventure in Hawaii, you’ll be sure not to miss it. This Oahu waterfall hike tour costs $62.08 per adult and $42.98 per child for a four-hour tour.

While I try my best to update this list whenever I become aware of a change, please check to see if these trails are still legally open before you do them. The statuses of trails in Oahu do change. Any of these trails could become illegal, either temporarily or permanently, at any time.

Interested in some other Oahu hikes? Here is a list of 15 of the best!

What are your favorite Oahu waterfall hikes? Tell me about your experiences in the comments! (I promise I’ll respond!)

Planning on hiking to some Oahu waterfalls? Or maybe you simply enjoyed the post? If so, pin it for later!

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46 Comments

  1. I love waterfalls, but I’m not sure I’m the hiking type. However, for waterfalls I might do it ? Needless to say, if I had to choose I would pick Waimea falls, not only beacuse it’s not really a hike, but mostly beacuse I love swimming and this one felt like the best swimming option. However, would be my typical bad luck that the weather would change and turn bad. Hopefully not.

    1. I love waterfalls too!! And lol trust me, these hikes aren’t too bad (with the exception of Waimano Falls). You could definitely do them :).

  2. Thanks for the informative post. I have wanted to go to Hawaii for so long, but have yet to make it. You can be guaranteed that when I do I will definitely visit some of the waterfalls that you have listed here for us!

    1. Yay! You’ll make it over one day (Likeke is my favorite one on this list, just by the way).

  3. So wonderful! I am a big fan of waterfalls. I have been to Oahu and booked a tour to hike to a secret waterfall. Guess what? There was no waterfall when we arrived. Supposedly, it had not rained in four days. That is a rarity but it happened during my visit. Hope to go back to the island and do a proper waterfall hike.

    1. WHAT?! NO. THAT’S AWFUL! I’m curious which waterfall they were trying to take you to, because four days without rain is like nothing. Unless they were trying to take you to a random, unnamed one that only pops up during the rainy season? I’m a little baffled by your situation lol. Hopefully you’ll have a better experience next time!

  4. Great post as we’re planning on doing Oahu and a bit of the Big Island next year – we were actually looking at some of the wayerfakl hikes you had mentioned.

    1. Ooh I’ve got a bunch more recommendations on my site if you feel like having a snoop around :).

  5. Fantastic tips! So useful to know the difficulty etc especially if you might have kids in tow. I would LOVE to go to Hawaii, one day!

    1. So glad this post helped! You can definitely do most of these with kids (with the exception of Waimano Falls).

    1. Aw man! Hiking is one of the three things I do when I’m home in Hawaii (along with go to the beach and eat good food lol). Maybe next time!

    1. Ooh so this was perfect for you! Feel free to search around my site if you’re looking for any more Hawaii-related tips :).

  6. Hawaii is a dream destination, I’ve been years ago but can’t remember too much. I do love exploring waterfalls too, and these are some great tips to ensure you’re prepared for the day.

  7. Oh waterfalls! It’s 37 C in Corvallis, OR today and all I want is a waterfall and a clear blue pool. All your Hawaii tips are helpful; I’ll sure come back to your site when I plan a trip there.

  8. If the bugs are in Hawaii are anything like the ones in Colombia then I know what you mean about how bad the bites can be! But totally worth it to get to some of these pretty, pretty waterfalls!

  9. This post puts together two things that I love. Waterfalls and hiking. Enjoyed reading your posts and inspired to visit Hawaii. Thanks for sharing helpful tips. Bookmarked. x

  10. These look amazing! It has been ages since I have seen a good waterfall, I think I need to book a trip to Hawaii finally – looks so beautiful and picturesque. I shall start saving and getting in shape for the hikes 😉

  11. I would love this as I love both hiking and waterfalls. So rewarding to jump into a pond after a good hike. Plus all the fab pictures that you get to take along the way. So far, Kanchanaburi in Thailand has been my favourite. Would love to visit Oahu one day!

  12. Lulumahu falls hike is illegal? But you can buy a permit from the Hawaii government website to go there. That’s confusing. Can you clarify this at all?

    1. To my knowledge, the permits are to camp and hunt, not to hike. In addition, the vast majority of hikers, campers, and hunters near Lulumahu Falls do not have a permit.

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