Note: Sacred Falls Park and Sacred Falls trail has been closed since May 1999. The State of Hawaii has no plans to re-open the park. It is illegal to hike this trail and to do so would be cause for citation or arrest. There is also a risk of falling boulders, landslides, and drowning. As such, all accounts here are fictional. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Adobe Photoshop is a wonderful piece of software that allows one to superimpose another into a photo making it seem as if they were somewhere when if fact they were not. Got it?
Before the tragedy of 1999, Sacred Falls was one of the top tourist attractions for those visiting the island of Oahu. This all changed the month before I graduated high school, Mother’s Day 1999, when eight people were killed and 50 more were injured from a massive landslide. At its height, the popular trail and waterfall received up to 55,000 visitors annually. Since 1999, the park and the waterfall trail has been closed to visitors and hopeful waterfall seekers. In 2003, the State of Hawaii reached an $8.56 million settlement with those injured and the families of the victims. Regardless, Sacred Falls continues to flow and thrill-seekers continue to visit her.
This rusty yellow gate marks the entrance to the closed Sacred Falls Park.
Step 1: Once you passed the yellow metal gate, you will walk towards the back of the park and look for those two yellow poles. Step 2. Walk just past the two yellow poles and you will see a facilities structure. Step 3: Don't turn right at the structure. Step 4: Instead, turn left along the gravel road and continue along this pathway.
Eventually, you will a fork in the trail. Take the path going left.
You'll be trekking about 2 miles into the valley to see the falls.
Follow the path straight between those two warning signs. This will lead you down to the stream.
Accessing Sacred Falls is not difficult. In fact, if you grew up in Hawaii then you probably know of its exact location and may have visited it prior to the 1999 tragedy. Odds are that if you visited Oahu before the tragedy then you too might be familiar with the falls as well. You would simply need to jump on Kamehameha Highway and drive toward Punaluu. It’s useful to use the Kim Taylor Reece Gallery (53-866 Kamehameha Hwy) in Hau’ula as a landmark. You will need to find parking along the residential roads. Once you’ve found an ideal parking spot, back track on foot toward Punaluu, crossing a white wooden bridge (the bridge is on the mauka, or mountain side, of the road). Shortly, you will reach a rusted yellow metal gate. Beyond the gate looks to be a park, however, there is no signage at this particular park. You’ve reached Sacred Falls Park. It will be eerily empty.
At 55,000 annual visitors, Sacred Falls trail received roughly 150 daily visitors – many of whom were tourists. With that said, the trail itself to the falls is not a difficult one. In terms of terrain, it’s similar to the Manoa Falls trail (fairly wide with little elevation gain) but longer and with a couple of stream crossings. Don’t let the Manoa Falls comparison fool you, though. The Sacred Falls trail can be quite dangerous. You should definitely not even consider this trail if it has been raining recently, simply because of the stream crossings that need to be completed. Also, the valley will narrow considerably once you are deep in the valley. To be stuck in the stream while the water is raging would be very bad. And let’s not forget, there’s always the danger of you getting cited for trespassing. There are rumors that residents near the park will call the police if they see people entering the park. Other people have said that sometimes there is an officer/state official waiting along the trail to issue citations. I did mention above that the park has been officially closed since 1999, right?
The trail is unmarked, other than the many warning signs placed strategically along the trail. They're like pink trail ribbons but made out of metal and are there to deter you from continuing on.
The trail is very well manicured. Someone out there maintains this closed trail.
A well placed KEEP OUT sign.
Continue reading →