Kipahulu District, Haleakala National Park
Kipahulu District is the second section of Haleakala National Park (the first second being the top of the volcano). Often the last stop on the Road to Hana – this one is not easy to check off of the list because you have to drive the entire Road to Hana to reach it. Like most National Parks, it is a $30 per vehicle fee – we invested in the $80 American to Beautiful pass on this trip so for us, we already spent $60 of the $80 – just one more park will have made this purchase worth it. If you visit Haleakala on your trip, that pass is good for three days so it would be valid admission here as well if you make it there in the three day window. For the itinerary I created, it was four days apart – had I known this tidbit ahead of time, perhaps I would have rearranged for the one pass for both parks but I am very happy with our America to Beautiful purchase.
There are two trails to be completed at the Kipahulu District:
- Pipiwai Trail: 4 mile loop, easy to moderate difficult, delivers an overlook, a bamboo forest, and waterfalls
- Kuloa Point: 0.5 mile loop, easy walking trail, where the famous Ohe’O Gluch or Seven Sacred Pools can be found
The reason we skipped so many of the stops on the Road to Hana was because I wanted to make sure we got this area completed without wasting time early in the journey. Depending on how long we stayed at Kipahulu would then determine how to plan the rest of the drive.
We decided to complete to Pipiwai Trail first and after two failed 4 mile hikes on this trip so far (due to weather) I was feeling good that this one was going to work… though the rain jackets were packed just in case.
After some climbing for about half a mile, we reached the overlook where you get a glimpse of Makahiku Falls. Not a bad view for a little bit of effort!
Continuing on, we passed this enormous and beautiful tree before the forest opens up to two bridges that cross over a small but gushing section of waterfall.
Then a very fun and unique portion of the trail begins about a mile in – the bamboo forest! A few benefits of this section of the park is that there is a boardwalk for most of it and the bamboo is so high it provides great shade. When the wind blows, the bamboo sway and creak as they move – like a bunch of old doors opening.
After another mile through the bamboo, the forest emerges into an opening where you get your first visual of the 400 foot waterfall, Waimoku Falls. It had rained a lot on the non-rainforest side of Maui so my guess was that it rained a bunch here too and it showed as the waterfall stream was plentiful and there were several mini waterfalls off to the side as well.
It was unclear if it was permitted, but we crossed over a small stream to get a little closer to the waterfall. This waterfall reminded us a lot of the one in Portland, Oregon due to the height and shape, how it hugs the rocks on its way down. There was no way to see the pool that the waterfall plunged into since the rest of the path is blocked by a “do not pass” sign. We followed the rules, took our pictures, and headed back the way we came.
The way back was pretty easy and fast – it was nice having the boardwalk to zip down and the rocks were not as difficult to navigate as I expected. Overall, this is a really easy trail, I would not classify as moderate if you are in decent shape. I think what we enjoyed the most was the different scenery the trail offered, the beautiful waterfall, and the great weather!
I highly recommend you make the effort to reach Kipahulu District on the Road to Hana. Many travelers stop at Hana and turn back but I would recommend skipping other stops to make time for this destination.