The Hike to Lulumahu Falls: Some Things to Know Before You Go

Lulumahu Falls in the Round Top Forest Reserve on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

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A walk through a lush green landscape that ends at a 50-foot cascade, what else could you ask for in a Hawaiian adventure?

Our hike to Lulumahu Falls was absolutely stunning. Even the ‘boring’ parts of the trail are full of lush green vegetation, idyllic sparkling streams, or the ethereal sounds of creaking bamboo.

Seriously, it was something straight out of a tourism brochure and a fun item to mark off of our Schofield Barracks and Hawaii Bucket List.

However, there is more to this beautiful hike than meets the eye. Here are some things you should know before you go:


  • Trail Length: 2.5-ish miles (round-trip)
  • Time to Complete: 2-3 hours (including a long break to enjoy the waterfall)
  • Elevation Gain: 843 feet (according to All Trails)
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
There were a couple of 'little waterfalls' on the hike to Lulumahu Falls.
(There were a couple of ‘little waterfalls’ along the way to the big waterfall.)
Lulumahu Falls in Oahu's Round Top Forest Reserve.
(Lulumahu Falls is absolutely stunning!)

You’re Supposed to Have a Permit

The government loves to collect money any way they can, including charging for hikes.

Since Lulumahu Falls is in a restricted watershed area, controlled by the state, you are supposed to have a permit before going on this hike.

You can get a permit from the Division of Forestry & Wildlife Department’s website. A permit is good for up to 5 people and only costs $2.50. You fill out the application online and print it out to take with you.

Most of the people that we talked to on the trail didn’t have a permit and there was no one there checking for them. Do with that information what you will.

Typically, I’m not a super strict rule follower, but I don’t want to spend any of what little ‘extra money’ we have paying fines. For me, the $2.50 permit was worth the peace of mind.

The trail through the bamboo forest on the way to Lulumahu Falls.
(The trail through the bamboo forest.)
Kids hiking in bamboo in Hawaii.
(The girls loved the bamboo trails almost as much as the waterfall!)

Your Shoes WILL Get Wet & Muddy

We spent the first part of the hike tip-toeing around mud puddles. I didn’t want to take home a pile of dirty wet shoes.

However, that was a massive waste of time.

Not only are there are several stream crossings where you’ll eventually have to completely submerge your feet. But the trail is muddy from start to finish. Starting in the bamboo forest and continuing all the way to the waterfall, the whole trail is extremely muddy.

Our hike went a lot faster after we got our shoes wet and just stomped through the mud.

Muddy hiking trail on Oahu, Hawaii.
(It’s pretty much impossible to avoid the mud on the trail.)
Stream crossing on the Lulumahu Falls Trail.
(It’s also impossible to not get your feet wet at the stream crossings.)

Keep Your Hands Free

We were a little unprepared for our hike to Lulumahu Falls. We didn’t bring a backpack to put our drinks in and thought we could just carry them with us on the trail.

This wasn’t a great idea. There is quite a bit of climbing and having our hands free would have made things easier.

The climbing was never super hard or technical, but we would have gotten through it faster if we weren’t carrying Gatorade bottles.

(You’ll need both hands available to make it up and over the rocks.)
Stream crossing on the Lulumahu Falls trail in Hawaii.
(Some of the rocks in the stream were slippery.)

It’s Easy to Get Off Trail

The trail to Lulumahu Falls is marked by pink ribbons. Even though it is a popular and well-traveled trail it was easy to get off track, especially on the way back from the falls.

There were a couple of times that we got a little lost and had to turn around.

Hiking on the island of Oahu.
(In some places, the trail was well-worn and easy to follow.)
(In other places it was a lot less obvious.)

A Few More Things

There are a few more things you should know about the hike to Lulumahu Falls:

  • bring bug spray
  • don’t leave anything valuable in your car
  • check out the Pali Lookout before you leave the area
  • there are different parking areas/entrances (we started at the hunter’s entrance)
  • leptospirosis is a risk of swimming in Hawaii’s fresh water (if you experience any of the symptoms after your hike, see a doctor for treatment)
Girl on the trail to Lulumahu Falls.
(The kids liked this part of the trail and we stopped to put our feet in the water.)
The parking lot at Lulumahu Falls is full of broken glass.
(There was a lot of broken glass in the parking lot…which is never a good sign.)
Kids hiking in the Round Top Forest Reserve on Oahu.
(This part made me nervous with the kids.)
(They liked this muddy hike!)

All of these warnings probably make it sound like it was rough. Overall, we really enjoyed this hike. The girls loved the bamboo trails and the stream crossings. And of course the waterfall was absolutely stunning!

I highly recommend this hike when you’re in the area!

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