Hiking in Maui: Pipiwai Trail & Waimoku Falls

Hiking is a great way to immerse yourself in nature when you’re travelling, and the Hawaiian Islands are full of treks through lush, indigenous vegetation.  Many of the trails will also take you to stunning waterfalls.  The Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls is one such trail.

One of the things that makes the Pipiwai Trail special is that it takes you through a beautiful variety of different types of vegetation as you work your way up the moderately challenging elevation gain in Maui’s Haleakalā National Park.

Falls at Makahiku
Falls at Makahiku

 

The hike starts in rich rainforest, with no shortage of ferns, vines, and waterfalls, but also features mango and guava trees. After making the initial ascent, you will encounter the Falls at Makahiku dropping nearly 60 m (185’). Note: Swimming in the infinity pool at the top of the falls is highly dangerous and prohibited.

For many people, this is enough hiking and a great photo-op, but don’t turn back here. Keep going and a little farther along you’ll find a massive Banyan tree that is begging to be climbed.  A side trail past the Banyan will take you to a waterfall that tumbles over a cave into a pretty swimming hole– but again, beware of flash floods.

Banyan Tree
Banyan Tree

The trail then winds through a large bamboo forest that is absolutely magical. Past the bamboo forest is a grove of apple trees (look for them) and if you’re hiking in the summer, you may be able to treat yourself to some fresh fruit straight from the tree.

If you’re very lucky as we were, you may even spot the carnivorous sundew plant.  The sundew is typically found in remote jungle bogs above Hana, but we spotted this little specimen growing in a muddy pool right beside one of the boardwalks.

Creek running through the bamboo forest.
Creek running through the bamboo forest.

As you continue towards the end of the trail, you will begin to hear the sounds of a waterfall blending into the ambient noises of the jungle.  A few more steps and suddenly you are standing before the Waimoku falls that tower over 100 m (400’) above you.

The Pipiwai trail is a relatively easy hike with an elevation gain of 800 feet (245m) with most of the ascent occurring at the beginning of the trail.  The total round-trip distance is only 4 miles (6.5km), but you will want to give yourself at least a few hours in order to stop and enjoy the sights along the way.  This is a popular hike, so the trails are well worn and easy to follow.  There are stairs and boardwalks along the way to make things easier, but you may still have to cross over some wet rocks and small streams near the end.

Bridge

To get here, follow the Hana Highway to mile marker #42 and park in the lot for Ohe’o Gulch.  Parking costs $15 USD and the trailhead for Pipiwai is just across the highway.

This is a popular and busy trail.  Get there early to avoid the crowds and enjoy some time marvelling at the towering waterfall.  We started this hike at about 9:00 a.m. on a weekday and while we did encounter other hikers, we also had the trail to ourselves a lot of the time.

If you’re driving from Kihei, you will need a really early start, but when you’re listening to the wind move through the bamboo leaves, you will be glad you made the effort to seek out such tranquility.

Map of Pipiwai Trail
Map of Pipiwai Trail: click on photo to visit the NPS site.

I have said it a few times already, but it bears repeating: be aware of the danger of flash floods, especially if it has been raining.  You may be crossing streams and slippery rocks if things have been wet, so always keep an eye on the weather and rising water levels.  Pay attention to all warning signs and don’t die doing something stupid!

The National Park System advises against swimming anywhere in the Kīpahulu District of the park due to the possibility of poor water quality, flash floods, and rock falls citing previous injuries and deaths.

 

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Pipiwai Trail - Hiking in Maui, Hawaii

 

 

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14 Replies to “Hiking in Maui: Pipiwai Trail & Waimoku Falls”

  1. I can imagine the sounds of silence while walking along the trail. The creek and the waterfall have amazing natural beauty. Such a wonderful experience…

  2. Thanks for sharing. It looks like an amazingly beautiful place. We been to the Big Island, but haven’t made it to Maui yet so being able to be transported through you post has been nice. The National Park System is so important and good to see this wonder is being protected.

  3. I love this post! I can’t imagine visiting Hawaii and not going on at least ONE hike. I’ve only done the Kalaupapa trail on Molokai, but would love to hike all over Maui the next time that I go. I totally pinned this for my next Hawaiian getaway!

    1. We are going to Maui again in October and I plan on doing a bunch of hikes, so come back for more ideas!

  4. Perfect timing! I was just working on my itinerary for our August Maui trip! I love all the interesting stops on the Hana Hwy. We may need to do a short hike with our kiddos!

  5. This looks like such a fun hike. I would love to come there and try it. You pictures are beautiful and have inspired me to go!

  6. As a keen hiker and lover of nature, I loved this post. Hawaii is indeed renown for it’s natural beauty and this is certainly reflected in the photos you have shared here. Would love to do this trail when next passing through Hawaii and I also appreciate the warnings that are given with regard to watching weather conditions and avoiding swimming. Otherwise, what a great place to just get immersed in nature.

  7. I actually stayed in Kihei, Maui a few years ago, but I unfortunately didn’t get to do any hikes while I was there! Those are some incredible waterfalls that you guys hiked to! I would’ve loved to have been able to grab those fresh apples off the trees- that sounds like a dream come true! Gluten-free snacks without needing to pack!

    1. We ate boxes and boxes of fresh tropical fruits!

  8. Oh would love to visit Hawaii!! And I love trekking in the forest. This trek looks so beautiful! Plus I also love waterfalls!! Can you bathe in them at the end of the trail?

    1. You’re not supposed to because of certain dangers (falling rocks, flash floods…), but I’m sure people do it anyway.

  9. I’m a waterfalls lover and this is sure to take my breath away. That Banyan tree branches also looks like a nice place to hang-out. Good thing too you’ve pointed out the importance of checking the weather.

  10. I have never seen a waterfall in my life ever lol I know this sounds a bit weird but yea that’s true . And whenever I see any post or picture of a waterfall I really get fascinated and I really loved reading your post

    1. You’ll get there one day!

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