Made iconic by its appearance in the opening credits of Fantasy Island, Wailua is what comes to mind when you think of picturesque Hawaiian waterfalls. The falls are 80 feet of rushing water descending from a sheer cliff, flowing into the Wailua River. Although there is a path to the bottom of the falls, it is a precarious path best avoided by all but the most sure-footed. Fortunately, there are parking and viewing areas to the south where the view is no less stunning.
The backdrop to Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii, Opaeka’a Falls is 151 ft (46 m) high and an astonishing 40 ft (12 m) wide, pouring into a volcanic slab of basalt and surrounded by lush greenery. Located on the south end of Kapaa Town, Opaeka’a can be seen from the highway as well as from a little known trail. The trail is a bit treacherous, so be cautious if you choose to venture forth.
If you’re up for a little more adventure, Hanakapi’ai Falls is well worth the trek. The trail to the falls is not for beginners and the final leg of the hike is a strenuous multi-hour trek, but the view will reward the effort. The route is slippery and muddy, with multiple stream crossings and steep cliffs, and a valid state permit is required. Challenges notwithstanding, Hanakapi’ai is one of the best waterfalls and pools on the island.