It’s reached via Route 360 about a dozen miles south-southwest of Hana. About four hours from Kihului at the start of the Road to Hana, the Kipahulu District is a popular but remote destination.
The “Seven Sacred Pools” tag reflects marketing creativity more than anything else. That name stems from mid-20th-century efforts to promote the then-off-the-radar Pools of Oheo as a tourist attraction. You’ll find more than seven pools here, for one thing. And there was apparently no special “sacredness” ascribed by ancient Hawaiians to the pools. But there’s no question that this immensely scenic place backs up promotional hype with the goods.
Oheo Gulch drops the combined waters of the Palikea and Pipiwai streams through waterfalls, cascades, and staggered pools to reach the Pacific. Its beauty symbolizes that of the entire Kipahulu District, which protects an essentially intact ahupuaa. That’s the traditional Hawaiian land division giving residents access to mountain and ocean resources. Inland of the coastal zone, the Kipahulu Valley Biological Reserve—off-limits to public entry—protects precious, fairly pristine native rainforest sloping down from Haleakala’s Kipahulu Gap.
The half-mile Kuloa Point Trail leads to the Pools of Oheo from the Kipahulu Visitor Center. This is where most people park in order to start their journey. There are restrooms, interpretive exhibits, and a ranger station here, plus a campground nearby, but no food or gas is available.
This is mainly a loop trail, with a spur out to Kuloa Point. This headland overlooks the mouth of Oheo Gulch at the ocean, offering memorable big-picture views of the place.
Edged by greenery including palms and hala (pandanus or screwpine), the waterfalls and rock-rimmed pools of Oheo Gulch are reliably stunning. Many people find the pools themselves irresistible. Nevertheless, it’s important to check in at the Kipahulu Visitor Center as to whether swimming is currently allowed or not when you visit here.
Now, keep in mind the Park Service doesn’t recommend swimming here anytime, but there are periods when it’s specifically not allowed. Oheo Gulch can be swept by flash floods or flushed with debris during periods of heavy rainfall (including well upvalley). Rockfall can also be a hazard. During such dangerous conditions, the park bans swimming at the pools.
Even when it’s allowed, you should avoid hanging out right beneath waterfalls, as logs or other objects may be swept down without warning.
The park also doesn’t want people cliff-jumping at the Pools of Oheo, though as you may well see many visitors disregard that prohibition. Be aware that serious injuries happen regularly at Oheo Gulch due to such behavior, and the pools have seen their fair share of deaths as well. Don’t ruin your visit to this beautiful place by acting foolhardy.
The Seven Sacred Pools and the Kipahulu District in general reward visitors who make the long trip out. Use common sense hiking the Kuloa Point Trail to see Oheo Gulch up close, and it’s likely this jungly coastal waterfall gorge will rank right up there among the highlights of your Maui getaway.
Many visitors to the Pools of Oheo do so on Road to Hana day trips and thus arrive midday or in the afternoon. If you stay over in Hana (or camp at the Kipahulu District campground), you can enjoy Oheo Gulch early in the morning before it’s swarmed.