Waimea Falls (a fun hike, swim and botanical garden tour)
If you are looking for a safe and fun place to actually do a hike and swim at a waterfall in Oahu, then you must visit Waimea Falls. Ranked as one of the most popular and easy hikes that is family friendly, Waimea Falls is actually a botanical garden that is located in Waimea Valley in the North Shore of Oahu.
Run by the stewards of Waimea Valley Hi’ipaka, the organization strives to educate and share their aloha for this historic area and valley.
History of Waimea Valley
Originally, Waimea Valley was running as an entertainment theme park in the past where you drive up to the falls and watch divers plunge into the deep pond while drinking pineapple juice and later watched a hula dance performance. The property had fell into neglect and decay and was taken over by the non-profit group at Waimea Valley Gardens which helps to educate and perpetuate the Hawaiian culture, history and community.
The gardens are now restored with a replica of a typical historic village that once was located here in the valley and depicting the types of structures, daily lives and lifestyle that was common in this village at Waimea Valley.
Waimea Valley garden and falls today
You can sign up for educational tours, workshops and do the docent lead tours of the gardens and village to learn from experienced guides to the various parts of the valley. Or if you are just inclined to visit the falls and do the hike to them, they are open to visiting and actually take a nice dip in the pool area.
You can learn so much about Hawaiian culture and practices with crafts demonstrations and art projects and Hawaiian performances in their meadow assembly area off the entrance.
The organization also offers a spectacular and more local inspired luau call Toa Luau which is more traditional, educational and still entertaining.
Hike to Waimea Falls
The falls experience is very easy on flat and paved road that is about a mile in each direction until you reach the area of the falls walking through a dirt area to the waterfall. While the route to the falls is direct and easy to do, there are side trails that you can also experience to visit the many different gardens and enjoy the lush scenery and amazing tropical plant here.
For those that have mobility problems, they have a trolley that can take you up to the waterfalls directly and back for an additional charge and you can check at the gate on the times for the shuttle service.
Difficulty – Easy
Distance 1.9 miles round trip
Elevation gain – 272 feet
Time to destinations between 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on stops
Swimming at Waimea Falls
The falls experience is supervised with a lifeguard and everyone swimming is required to wear a life vest before entering the pond area. The swim part is also family friendly with vests that are available for different age groups to wear before entering the pond area.
The waterfall drops about 45 to the bottom of the pool area.
You can even swim right up to the walls but don’t try to get too close, the pressure of the falls is quite strong and depending on the time of year can be a dangerous to get too close.
The pool swim is very busy in the middle part of the day with large crowds visiting after 10am. So, if you want less crowds then get there at opening and head to the waterfalls directly and enjoy the gardens afterwards.
When to visit the Waimea waterfalls
Depending on the time of the year, the waterfalls can be flush with water (winter time) or just a small trickle (summer time). If you are looking to visit when the falls are at their peak then head out during the winter time when there are more rains happening in the area.
Enjoy the botanical gardens
If you want to just enjoy the gorgeous botanical garden, they have so many amazing gardens and displays that you can enjoy visiting here. There are over 52 themed gardens to explore with over 5000 species of tropical plant species to enjoy and photograph in the valley grounds.
The gardens were started in the 1970s by Charlie Pietsch II, who hired Keith Woolliams as the Director of the botanical garden and came from the famous Kew Gardens of England and eventually brought in many rare and unusual plants to grow and thrive in the many gardens that you can explore on your own or with a docent lead tour.
How to get to Waimea Falls
From Waikiki area, take the H1 Highway west and then the H 2 which will take you to Haleiwa and take Hwy 99 towards Haleiwa which eventually merges to Hwy 83. Follow the coastal road until you see the signs for Waimea Bay with Waimea Falls and botanical gardens on the right. Make a right and follow road to the parking lot area.
If you opt to going by bus, it is doable but can take about two hours one way with multiple stops to get to your destination. Take Bus #52 to Haleiwa town and from their take Bus #20 and ask them to drop you off at Waimea Falls Park and then walk towards the parking lot and entrance.
You can check out the Moovit app for alternate bus routes.
Check out this video tour highlight to visiting the garden and waterfalls below
Waimea Falls gardens and amenities
Free parking to the falls and gardens
Snack bar and coffee shop
Life guard on duty
Free use of life vests (mandatory)
You’ll find the general admission costs as of February 2022. Please visit the Waimea Valley website directly for updated pricing.
Note that the below breakdown is only for general admission. If you are a Hawaii resident and/or military, check out the Waimea Valley Website for admission fees.
Also, if you do purchase tickets to the Toa Luau held on the grounds then admission to the falls and botanical gardens is free with each purchase so come early and enjoy the falls and then the luau afterwards.
Seniors $16 (62+)
Students $16 (with ID)
Children $12 (ages 4-8)
Experience Toa Luau at Waimea Valley
This is probably one of the best traditional luau experiences you can enjoy here on Oahu. Offering a variety of cultural and educational segments at the start to be followed with an exceptional traditional Hawaiian foods menu and then their entertainment portion which is quite spectacular.
** Entry to visit Waimea Falls and gardens is also free for each ticket purchased on the luau experience.
Find out more to doing the Toa Luau experience here for details and current prices.
Check out the Toa Luau experience below
Waimea Falls FAQ
Can you swim at Waimea Falls?
Yes, you can swim at the waterfalls in the pond area but this is subject to weather conditions so always check the website for any updates to visiting
Are the waterfalls open?
Yes, the gardens and Waimea waterfall is open daily for visitors to visit the park grounds
Is there a fee to enter the gardens?
Yes, this is a nonprofit and educational center and all entrance fees take care of the operations and maintenance of the facility. Check the prices above.
What else to see in the area
Just across from the main road is Waimea Bay, one of the most popular beach parks to visit and enjoy a beach day here on the North Shore. You’ll find this beach park complete with amenities that includes:
Restroom and shower facilities
Picnic areas and shady treets
Check out this visit to Waimea Bay here for more information and images
Located in the North Shore and just a short and easy drive from Haleiwa town, Turtle Beach or Laniakea beach is the spot to see the endangered green turtle or honu that frequent the area the eat the fresh seaweeds and lounge in the rocky areas of the beach park. Not much of a swimming area but fun to explore and beach comb all the way to Chun’s reef area.
Check out the details to visiting Turtle Beach here for more information and images.
Sunset Beach Park
Another popular North Beach hang out spot to enjoy some swimming and snorkeling during the summer months when the waves and water is very calm in the area. This completely changes in the winter time when huge swells bring in monster swells that creates the big waves in the area and surfing competitions that the area is famous for.
Another fun thing to enjoy end of day are the fantastic sunsets you’ll get right on the beach here, so make sure to enjoy your day here at gorgeous Sunset Beach.
Find out more to visiting Sunset Beach Park here for more information and images.
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Waimea Falls – a wrap up
This is a unique and fun experience to enjoy Waimea Falls in the North Shore of Oahu.
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I’d like to hear from you!
If you found some other cool places to explore from this post, please share your experiences in the comments below for everyone to enjoy. Or even if you have any questions about visiting, I would be more than happy to answer them below.