Now, you may think you’ve seen enough waterfalls on the Road to Hana, which comes chockablock with them. But Alelele Falls is definitely beautiful enough to warrant the trip, which also gives you a taste of the lesser-traveled Piilani Highway of Maui’s southeastern seashore. And you’ll often find some solitude here, too.
Coming from Kipahulu, you’ll reach the trailhead about a third of a mile beyond mile marker 39. It lies just past the white Alelele Bridge, with pull-off parking on the other side. If you’re coming from the other direction, the west, you’ll know to get ready to park before the bridge when you pass Kalepa Gulch. (Nervous drivers, heads up: This is a narrow and twisty highway, and the section west of the Alelele Bridge is partly unpaved.)
This is part of a finger of Haleakala National Park to the west of the similarly skinny Kipahulu section, best known for Oheo Gulch and the Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls. While it’s part of the national park, there are no facilities whatsoever here and the Alelele Falls Trail isn’t an officially maintained one.
Like many of the other gulches in this part of East Maui, the Alelele Stream is prone to flash flooding during heavy rains. In intense or prolonged periods of wet weather, avoid this hike. If the stream is flowing high, strong, and muddy when you come here, don’t risk it.
An obvious path heads up the Alelele Stream. The stilt roots of hala (aka pandanus or screwpine) make for an evocative path side. Wear hiking sandals or good water shoes, as the trail is a bit overgrown and cobbly in places, and you’ll be crossing the stream en route. Watch for remnants of old stone terraces as you climb up the gulch.
The Alelele Stream drains the wet southeastern slopes of Haleakala. It heads in the rainforest highlands between the Kipahulu Gap to the east and the deep-cut Manawainui gorge and Kaupo Gap to the west. At Alelele Falls, the stream hurtles some 50 feet out of a slot-canyon chute into the lower gulch.
It’s impressive falls much of the time, though in dry spells it may ebb to little more than a glistening trickle. The pebbly and often crystal-clear plunge pool below is inviting, but give the waterfall room and be cautious of rockfall.
The short hike up to Alelele Falls is well worth it, even if you think you’ve had your fill of waterfalls driving the Road to Hana. It’s a beautiful sight, and it’s exciting to think of the wild and remote gulch upstream in the Kipahulu highlands.
Spare a few minutes to check out the black-sand beach at the mouth of Alelele Gulch.