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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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