Kapena Falls: What to Expect and How to Get There (2023)

Are you wondering what you can do in Kapena Falls and how you can get there?

If you’re looking for an easy but rewarding waterfall hike, Kapena Falls Oahu is an awesome option!

Take a ten-minute walk and escape the city metropolis and enter a jungle reminiscent of primordial times. 

This family (and pet) friendly trail ends at a beautiful 15-20-foot-high waterfall with a large swimming hole. 

Read on to know everything about this hike so you can make the most of your time on Oahu!

Kapena Falls Honolulu surrounded by trees
Kapena Falls, Honolulu – Photo from Canva

What You Should Know Before Visiting Kapena Falls, Honolulu

👉🏻 Kapena Falls Location

This gorgeous waterfall is located right in the middle of Honolulu.

A quick ten-minute drive from downtown Honolulu to Nu’uanu Memorial Park & Mortuary will get you to the trailhead. Don’t worry— the cemetery is the scariest part of this hike. 

The 0.3-mile out-and-back trail to Kapena Falls is surrounded by impressive banyan trees, giant boulders, and lush, green plants. There’s even a spot where you can see ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs! 

You’ll want to bring a swimsuit and bug spray for this hike! 

Kapena Falls Map

Kapena Falls Map
Kapena Falls Map – Photo © Google Maps

Kapena Falls Directions: How to get there?

To get to Kapena Falls you’ll want to go to Nuʻuanu Memorial Park & Mortuary in Honolulu.

If you’re in downtown Honolulu, head southwest on Nu’uanu Avenue. You’ll turn into the Nuuanu Memorial Park and Mortuary. Follow the road down, past the roundabout, then head left into a small parking lot. 

You’ll see a green, metal maintenance shop. The trailhead isn’t marked, but it’s to the left of the building.

Want an even more adventurous outing? To the right of the building is a rope you can climb down, and then hike upstream for about 5-7 minutes to get to the falls.

If you’re going later in the day you’ll want to park on the street by the entrance to the Mortuary and walk down the road. The parking lot for the trail closes at 3:30 pm.

👉🏻 Is Kapena Falls open all year round?

Kapena Falls is open all year round! No matter when your Hawaii vacation is, you’ll want to check this spot out. 

During the rainy season (November to March), you might not want to swim as the sediment from higher up the mountain can get washed down. The sediment makes the water muddy and brown, so you can tell if it’s safe to swim in.

👉🏻 Can you swim in Kapena Falls?

You can swim in Kapena Falls, but use your discretion! After heavy rains, the water can be pretty dirty, and might not be the most pleasant. 

During the pandemic, there was a fair amount of trash nearby, but recent reviews imply it’s been cleaned up.

Waterfalls above huge rocks surrounded by the roots of the trees
Kapena Falls – Photo from Canva

Kapena Falls Trail

Kapena Falls is just at the end of a quick hike. Don’t be intimidated by the word “hike,” as this waterfall is really accessible. 

📌 Difficulty of the hike

This hike is family-friendly and is considered easy. Even if you like to meander, this trail will only take around 10 minutes to complete and there is only one spot where you might need to clamber over some boulders. 

📌 Length of the hiking trail

The hiking trail itself is 0.3 miles. The whole trip will be less than a mile, so it’s a high payoff for little effort, making this an ideal activity to add to a day in Honolulu. 

📌 How long is the Kapena Falls hike?

The Kapena Falls hike will take approximately 1-2 hours total out of your day. The hike will only take 20-30 minutes (round trip) but you’ll want to factor in some extra time hanging out at the waterfall. 

If you’re enjoying the tranquility of the park you might find yourself wanting to stay longer! 

📌 Type of terrain

The terrain is fairly easy and is a simple walk through a beautiful wooded area. 

📌 Elevation gain

The total elevation gain for this hike is 98 feet. 

📌 Hiking fee

There’s no hiking fee for this trail, making it a great option for all budgets! 

📌 Parking

Park either at the back of Nu’uanu Memorial Park and Mortuary, or (if you’re going later in the day) park on the street by the Mortuary in the cemetery parking lot. The parking lot by the trailhead closes at 3:30 pm every day. 

The good news? Parking is free as well! 

View from Kapena Falls surrounded by falling vines from the trees surrounding it
Kapena Falls – Photo from Canva

Things to Do in Kapena Falls

Since Kapena Falls will only take 1-2 hours, you’ll have plenty of time to add in other great activities. Enjoy Kapena Falls and soak up some nature before heading out for a full day in the bustling downtown area of Honolulu. 

1. Cliff jump in the Kapena Falls

If you’re feeling adventurous or want to cool off in the chilly river water, do the Kapena Falls cliff jump! 

The cliff, located on the west side of the watering hole, is 35ft high. 

The water can be pretty shallow. It’s always a good idea to check the water depth before jumping.

If you don’t feel like jumping in, a trail leads right to the water’s edge. 

Cliff jumping and swimming are great activities to enjoy before visiting some of the nearby historical and cultural sites listed below!

2. Visit the nearby Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum

The nearby Bishop museum, founded in 1889, was established in honor of the last descendant of the royal Kamehameha family: Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop.

The museum is the largest in the state and is the principal natural and cultural history institution in the Pacific. World-renowned, it houses an impressive collection of Hawaiian objects and royal family heirlooms.

This is a must-do while on Oahu and is only an 8-minute drive from Kapena Falls! 

Open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, admission prices vary depending on the day of the week you want to visit. 

Pro Tip: Book online to save $2 off of admission!

3. Explore the nearby ʻIolani Palace, the residence of former Hawaiian monarchs

Iolani Palace, located in downtown Honolulu, is an impressive National Historic Landmark.  

Step foot into another time, and walk the halls that King Kalakaua built in 1882. These are the same floors Queen Liliuokalani walked before the Hawaiian Monarchy was overthrown in January of 1893.

Truly spectacular, Iolani Palace is described as opulent. I would recommend this spot for any history buffs

The cost of the tours begins at $26. Make sure you bring an appropriate change of clothes if you’re heading here after Kapena Falls! 

Visiting the palace requires adhering to their dress code and swimsuits/coverups are not permitted. Shoes and shirts are required!

Iolani Palace near Kapena falls, is a white building with large white poles above it.
Iolani Palace – Photo from Canva

4. Visit the nearby Honolulu Museum of Art

The Honolulu Museum of Art (HoMA) is right in the middle of downtown Honolulu. With world-class art galleries, film screenings, artist talks, and performances, there’s bound to be something going on that catches your eye!

Ideal for families, children under the age of 18 get in free. Admission for adults is $20 ($10 for Hawaiian residents). 

Note: The museum is closed Monday-Wednesday, so plan accordingly!

Where to Stay Near Kapena Falls

Not sure where you’re going to be staying while on Oahu? Check out these great hotels close to Kapena Falls Honolulu. 

🛏️ Ala Moana Honolulu by Mantra

White chairs and tables on the upper deck of Ala Moana Hotel
Ala Moana Hotel – Photo © Expedia

The central location of the Ala Moana Hotel by Mantra makes this an ideal hotel no matter what kind of vacation you want to have.

With a wide range of services and facilities offered, this hotel has it all!

Not only is it close to many walking trails and surf breaks, but there’s a fitness center, two restaurants on-site, a convenience store, and even a Starbucks in the lobby!

Don’t worry- there’s an outdoor pool and sundeck too so you can soak up the Hawaiian sun.

 A sky bridge on Level 2 connects directly to the world’s largest open-air shopping plaza, the Ala Moana Center. 

Best hotel in HNL; close to Everything.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Patrick, Jun 2022

👉🏻 Check rates and availability on Expedia | Booking.com | Hotels.com

🛏️ Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort

Beautiful view of the blue beach from a room on Hilton Hawaiian Village
Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort – Photo © Expedia

Only 3 miles away from downtown Honolulu, the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort is a bustling hotel with 5 high-rise towers on a beautiful 22-acre property right along Waikiki beach

With 20 restaurants and lounges, a saltwater lagoon, 5 pools, and a spa, you won’t even need to leave the hotel! (Although I highly recommend exploring the beautiful island of Oahu) 

They offer a kid’s activity program, plus snorkeling, and hula dancing lessons for all!

Great property, close proximity to beach area. Will book to stay here again.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ tracy, March 2023

👉🏻 Check rates and availability on Expedia | Booking.com | Hotels.com

🛏️ Waikiki Malia by Outrigger

Corner shot of the Waikiki Malia hotel room with a queen bed,  desk with a chair and the tv on the right side and a table with two chairs at the window and a balcony.
Waikiki Malia – Photo © Expedia

Less interested in frills and just want a comfortable place to sleep? The Waikiki Malia by Outrigger offers classic rooms in a convenient location.

Only 2.4 miles from Diamond Head Volcano, you get the benefit of being in downtown Waikiki at a more affordable cost. 

Plus this hotel still offers great amenities such as a pool, fitness center, and a sundeck on the 18th floor! The views are amazing!

It was simply amazing. This is my first time in Hawaii and I had an amazing time.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Andujar, aug 2022

👉🏻 Check rates and availability on Expedia | Booking.com

Tips on Visiting Kapena Falls

💡 I would recommend making Kapena Falls one of your earlier stops in the day! Its convenient location makes it a popular out-and-back trail, and you’re more likely to get the waterfall and swimming hole to yourself if you go earlier in the morning.

💡 Mosquitos and other bugs are prevalent, so definitely take some bug spray with you as well.

💡 If you’re interested in the Hawaiian Petroglyphs- they’re not well-marked but are next to a mound of boulders. 


How high is the jump at Kapena Falls?

The jump at Kapena falls is about 35ft high. It’s fairly shallow, so make sure to check the water depth before you jump! 

What does Kapena mean?

Kapena means “captain” or “master of a ship” in Hawaiian

Final Thoughts: Kapena Falls

 Location and accessibility make this waterfall a great choice for a quick adventure, especially if you’re traveling with kids.

With lots of museums and other attractions nearby, you can easily plan a full day with minimal driving. 

Jumping off the cliff and swimming in the watering hole will definitely make this experience more memorable!

Just make sure to double-check the water depth before jumping. If the water is brown, you might want to forgo swimming. 

While Kapena Falls might not top the list of impressive waterfalls in Oahu, it’s still worth the visit!