Kopiliula Falls is a gorgeous waterfall that lies just off of the beloved Road to Hana. The Road to Hana is pretty well-known for having a ton of waterfalls along its winding rainforest route, most all of which are viewable from the road itself. Most, but not all.
Part of what makes Kopiliula Falls unique is that it requires more effort to experience. But not too much effort. Yes, you are in for a bit of a hike. Yes, the way can be slick and semi-dangerous. But the payoff is beautiful cascading falls and a little swimming pool that just might be all yours for a minute.
Finding Kopiliula Falls is tricky as it is not correctly mapped on review websites. You will want to start at Hana Highway where it crosses as a bridge over Kopiliula Stream. This is just west of the Puaa Kaa State Wayside parking area for the Puaa Kaa Falls. You will see a little rocky embankment with the smallest of parking areas. Before you leave your vehicle, it is a good idea to pack away anything that absolutely cannot get wet as the route to get to this waterfall is not really clear and often requires getting a bit soaked.
Once parked, you will climb down the embankment and make your way up the stream. There is a lightly used trail available just behind the bushes on the left side of the creek, but many will find wading through the creekbed a bit more preferable. About midway along the route, you will find yourself at a large pool of water. While shallow, the way the jungle abuts it on either side, it is close to impossible to reach the falls without going directly through this pool. This was why you wanted to leave all your sensitive materials in the vehicle. As you near the waterfall, you will have to switch to the trail which becomes steeper. There should be ropes available at the worst of the inclines to help hikers safely make it up and over.
As you can see, it will take a bit of an effort to reach Kopiliula Falls, but getting to enjoy what feels very much like a secret waterfall and swimming area is a real treasure. Remember to be respectful as you leave, taking out everything you brought in.
Being cautious of slick stones and muddy inclines is the most important thing to be aware of when hiking out to Kopiliula Falls. However, there is another thing to be cautious about. This waterfall is stream-fed and, in combination with Hawaii’s climate, there is always a risk of leptospirosis bacteria within the swimming pool here. Never go swimming in this or other stream-fed water areas if you have an open cut or wound.
Always check the weather conditions before heading out on Hana Highway. This is not a day trip you want to do in the rain as it would make driving frustrating and dangerous and many side trips like the hike to this secret falls undesirable.