Makapipi Falls

Makapipi Falls: Unique Top-Down Look at One of the Road to Hana’s Many Waterfalls
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

You’re spoiled with waterfalls along the Road to Hana, but spare a little time for Makapipi Falls right along the highway. Pulling off here gives you a rare perspective of a Maui waterfall: From the highway bridge, you’ll be looking directly down on the plunge where it drops into a pool below. It’s quite the photo op, though the waterfall varies with rainfall and is sometimes dry.

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

The steep coastal slopes and rain-soaked windward aspect make the Hana Highway one of the great waterfall corridors in the world. It’s almost possible—almost—to get a bit overloaded with stunning tropical falls while traveling this most famous Hawaiian scenic drive. But each waterfall, from the easy-to-see roadside, plunges to farther-flung, hike-in ones, offering its own special magic. Makapipi Falls is a case in point.

Most of the many waterfalls along the Hana Highway (and elsewhere on Maui) are viewed from the bottom-up, along the edge, or from long range. Not Makapipi Falls: Its main vantage is from directly overhead, looking straight down to the brink of the pour-off. It’s a unique perspective well worth experiencing—at least when the waterfall’s running.

On that note: During dry spells, the Makapipi Stream—which has shorter drainage than many of these windward streams off Haleakala’s northern and northeastern flanks—can ebb significantly. Sometimes the falls here are nonexistent, but it’s a convenient and quick enough stop to check.

The bridge over the Makapipi Stream is just a little east of (awesome) Hanawi Falls, at mile marker 25 on the Hana Highway. Cross the bridge and park at the pull-off on the far (east) side of the span. Then carefully walk back onto the bridge, staying aware of traffic.

Midway across, peering over the makai (ocean) side of the bridge, you’ll find yourself looking straight down on Makapipi Falls. Above the falls, on the other side of the bridge, the stream flows out of the Makapipi Section of the Koolau Forest Reserve.

Now, in addition to staying aware of traffic, you want to exercise some caution looking down on the waterfall. The last thing you want to do is lean over too far and lose your balance—fatal falls have occurred here.

When flowing, Makapipi Falls sweeps out of a lava-rock chute right below you into a dazzling plunge pool. This is not too far above where the Makapipi Stream It’s mesmerizing to watch the water surging over the brink. It’s almost like you’ve got the vantage of a water molecule slinging its way out and down. 

The outlet below the pool is a rocky stream channel ferrying that freshly tumbled water ocean-ward. You can see a bit of the Pacific on the horizon, above the lush greenery fringing the Makapipi Stream’s gulch.

You’ll likely want to take some pictures (holding tight to that camera or cellphone as you do). Some visitors try to clamber around below the road for additional looks at the waterfall, but we recommend sticking to the bridge’s top-down vantage. 

Once you’ve had your fill of the scenery, head back to the car and continue on your Road to Hana odyssey. Amid the stellar lineup of waterfalls you’ll have seen by the time you finish, Makapipi is likely to be among the standouts given the unusual prospect you get of it.

Insider Tip:
Immediately east of the bridge over the Makapipi Stream and the Makapipi Falls pullout, Nahiku Road splits north off the Hana Highway. This is a scenic detour off the Road to Hana, leading to the ocean and the scattered buildings of Nahiku through astoundingly lush jungle.