Once upon a time, during grad school, long, long before children and photography, I worked as a tour guide. My customers thought I had the coolest job. I … well, I did not agree. In part because I had to drive a mini bus around Waikiki while talking into a headset. Ugh.
Anyway, the hike to Likeke Falls was our most popular Oahu hike – the “rainforest hike”. Understandably so – it is a short, easy, jungle-icious hike to a pretty waterfall all with the stunning backdrop of the Koolau pali. Nice. It’s close to my house so I have taken the kids many, many, many times over the years for a bit of exercise.
There are a couple of downsides. It tends to be muddy and slippery after rains and can be crowded with tour groups. Most problematic, however, is that the unmarked trails can be confusing. In fact, i’ll tell you a little secret. I got lost there … while leading a tour group. It had been raining a lot and I turned onto a trail that wasn’t actually a trail. I had my group slogging up the mountainside through ankle-deep mud telling them it was due to a recent mudslide. There were some pretty large plants growing in that recent mudslide, but never mind. I managed to get them back safely and they thought it was the height of adventure. They tipped me very well. Go figure.
My favorite route is a loop that starts at bottom of the old pali road, makes a detour to the waterfall, and finishes back at the parking lot. Short, scenic, fun, but potentially confusing. Send me an email and i’ll take you some time. In the mean time, i’ll give you instructions for the shortest path to the waterfall.
The trailhead begins at the south end of the Ko‘olau Country Club’s upper parking lot (now owned by the First Presbyterian Church). Park as far away from the building as possible (if you see tour buses, park near them). The beginning of the path is there through a chained maintenance road to a water catchment tank.
Walk up the maintenance road and you will see a narrow trail just before the water tank. Follow this for about 10 minutes until the path becomes a stone road (this is part of the original pali road before it was improved and paved). Almost immediately you will see another trail leading to the right. There is a large tree with names and initials carved into it. Take this path and it will take another 5 or 10 minutes to reach the waterfall. This will be the muddiest and steepest part of the hike but still easy to walk. The trail continues on for a few miles, but I turn around here and head the same way back.
FYI: leptospirosis is a concern with all fresh water sources in Hawaii. I wouldn’t recommend letting the kids play in the water. Sad, I know.
Do you have any favorite hike to do with kids? I would love to hear about them – please leave a comment!