The Pipiwai trail is an incredibly popular state park trail that leads visitors through jungle canopies and onto the 400-foot Waimoku Falls. This is the only method one can take to reach these falls. The walk back and forth along the Pipiwai Trail amounts to four miles and covers a 900-foot gain in elevation, often across rough and uneven terrain. This big increase in elevation can make the Pipiwai Trail difficult for some individuals, but most in good health will find this a moderate hiking trail. While the exact time of this trail will depend on your party’s overall fitness level and desired speed, most groups complete this trail between two and four hours.
You will find the Pipiwai Trail on the east side of Maui and within the Haleakala National Park. This does mean you will need to pay and show proof of paid entrance fee. Park passes are generally valid for 3 days and start at $15 per pedestrian or bicycle and up to $30 per private vehicle. Once you have this pass, you can park your vehicle or bike at the Kipahulu Visitor Center just off of Hana Highway and then walk the paved trail across the highway to the trailhead.
You will only have to go a short couple of minutes on the Pipiwai Trail to get to the very first unique overlook. The ‘Ohe’o Gulch, a series of plunge pools and mini-waterfalls that cascade water from the valleys to the ocean, flows along the right of the trail here. In good weather, visitors are sometimes allowed to get close and swim in a couple of the plunging pools. Of course, you will probably appreciate wading and swimming in these cool pools the most on your return trip back down the Pipwai Trail, after you have made the trek down from Waimoku Falls.
Of course, while Waimoku Falls is the ending highlight, it is not the only waterfall you will see on the Pipiwai Trail. There are first these series of tiny waterfalls that are part of the ‘Ohe’o Gulch, but then there is another, more traditional waterfall just a bit further along the trail. At around a half-mile from the start of the trail, hikers will stumble upon the Falls at Makahiku. These are incredible waterfalls that plunge nearly 200 feet down a verdant cliff that is draped in ferns and jungle vines. And from your vantage point of twin bridges crossing a cleared space, you enjoy spectacular, unimpeded views of these falls.
After you’ve lingered long enough at the Falls of Makahiku, continue on the Pipiwai Trail and soon you will approach another big highlight — a massive banyan tree. This tree has the footprint of a good-sized house and boasts roots that have formed themselves into trunks of their own, with new branches reaching out towards the sky. You have entered the deep rainforest now and as you pass by this banyan tree, you will see more and more bamboos lining the path. Soon, the bamboo will become the only trees that you see and when the wind blows just so, they knock and strike each other and create an otherworldly percussive melody.
After winding through this bamboo forest for some time, you will notice the bamboo thinning out and other Hawaiian trees popping out. A grove of mountain apple trees may even be sprouting flowers or fruit if you visit in the right seasons. These trees are a sign that you are almost done. A few more turns and the Pipiwai Trail will reach its ending at Waimoku Falls.
Plunging an incredible 400 feet, Waimoku Falls is certainly a sight worth seeing. This is, in fact, the tenth tallest waterfall across the Hawaiian Islands. But height is just one thing to admire. The water here crashes down against a sheer lava rock wall covered in lush green vegetation. The Pipiwai Trails takes you to the base of the waterfalls, making visitors crane their necks up to really take in the full height and beauty of these falls. This also means that it is impossible to be at the end of this trail and not get refreshed by the mist and wind churned up by the falls.
Once, not too long ago, people could swim at the plunging pool here, but currently, this is prohibited. Too many people were injured, some fatally so, by rock sand boulders tumbling over the falls and crashing onto unsuspecting swimmers. So best to be cautious, follow the signs, and appreciate the beauty of Waimoku Falls at an appropriate distance.
-Go early. As with many state parks and their trails, this trail is incredibly popular. We recommend parking and getting your trek underway before 9 am in order to appreciate the beauty of the Pipiwai Trail with more privacy.
-For those eager to learn more about the vegetation and history here, consider taking a guided hike.