When I took my trip to Hawaii, I knew I wanted to hike a waterfall and a rain forest for the first time and we decided on doing Lulumahu Falls. I mean, the state is filled with luscious nature of green and beautiful bodies of waters surrounding the islands that are unique from any state in this country, why wouldn’t we after all of paying so much for the plane ticket there?
Originally, this hike was not the first option I wanted to opt for. I originally wrote down Maunawili Falls. Days before my friends and I flew down to Hawaii, one of my friends and I decided to research the places we wanted to go check out when we went there and just be reassured if they’re worth visiting. While looking up Maunawili Falls, my friend discovered that a bacterial disease called leptospirosis is present in the falls.
Stay cautious when swimming in Hawaii’s waterfalls
What leptospirosis is, which many are not informed to know about (we didn’t know what it was prior), is it’s a bacterial infection that can cause mild to severe flu-like symptoms and it is found to be from the urine of infected animals, especially rats and mice that are important sources to Hawaii. Domestic animals and wildlife species can also transmit this disease including dogs.
The bacteria leptospira are commonly found in sources of freshwater and wet soil. This can transfer if you are exposed to swimming with your eyes open, mouth open, if you have open cuts and skin abrasions and accidentally swallowed the freshwater. It can also pass through your nose. Any outdoor activity can also increase your risk like fishing, hiking, canoeing and kayaking. Some symptoms may show up and some don’t after being exposed to the bacteria and the symptoms include: fever, headaches, chills, muscle aches, body pains, red eyes, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea and sweating.
The reason why I’m telling you about this is to inform you while you decide to participate in outdoor activities near freshwater. It is a preventable disease and you can protect yourself from wearing the right gear (goggles, boots, long sleeves, gloves) and to avoid contact with the water like swimming or diving in it. We decided to switch the plans and find a different waterfall to hike, even when Maunawili Falls has a beautiful waterfall pond that you can swim in but it was best to avoid overall.
Not that we know of if Lulumahu Falls has the disease since any body of freshwater can contain it, we googled about it and saw nothing on the disease there and we were told by a couple locals that there isn’t and was highly recommended by some of them.
Hiking to Lulumahu Falls
Lulumahu Falls is a moderate hike that is 2.3 miles round trip, has gorgeous views surrounding it, prior to the entrance of the hike to the falls, of the Ko’olau Mountains in the Nu’uanu Reservoir. Finding the hike was difficult with our Uber driver at first then after a while, she found this parking lot randomly in the highway, which led us to the start of the trail. You are greeted with this sign:
After going through a small pathway inside a direct small forest with bamboo trees, you get outside to come across the mountains and hills.
You walk up to these rock steps and you see a long open road with a bridge and fields facing the mountains.
When you walk straight, you can see a concrete wall decorated heavily with graffiti. From there, the trail is unmarked but when we met other hikers who came back down from these stairs, they told us to go straight up the stairs. And indeed, we were just going with the flow with no set of directions pulled ahead of time. I don’t recommend this as it’s usually not smart to do. Thankfully, after finding out the trail leads up to the stairs, it was pretty straightforward.
Found a shed with more graffiti on it by the stairs:
We found a place that had concrete walls surrounding plants. We weren’t sure what it was but we do know that this place goes back when King Kamemeha III was around and he actually has his ruins somewhere in the forest. After, we ran into a small river with a concrete bridge that we had to cross.
We came across streams and rocks where with no doubt, you will soak up your feet into. Not to mention, the hike is overall very wet and muddy so you may have the risk of slipping so be careful, especially as you trek higher and higher.
When we made it to higher elevation and made it to these set small of waterfalls, it started pouring on us heavily out of no where. Worried that it was just us after hikers passed by us saying the 50 ft waterfall was just five minutes away from where we were, we didn’t know if we were able to reach the huge waterfall that we originally intended to hike for because of the circumstances. We still enjoyed these small waterfalls but we had no choice but to get back down before the rain started coming down worst.
We were soaked and scared. But we made sure to take good precautions of hiking back down and after that it stopped while it was not too long of raining, we felt more relieved and started seeing other hikers come along but still disappointed that we didn’t climb to the very top of where the 50 ft waterfall is.
The rain went away and the sunshine appeared. I mean really sunny. We just enjoyed the sun out in the fields.
Overall, the hike wasn’t too bad. It got difficult with the rain and it got extra muddy to cross the trail but I’m really glad we ended up safe. The views from this hike was breathtaking since we had a good close look at the Ko’olau Mountains. If I ever came back and wanted to do this hike again, I would so I can see the bigger falls! It’s a good feeling to finally experience a rain forest hike.