Few drives anywhere in the world offer as stacked a lineup of stunning waterfalls as Maui’s Hana Highway. So many of these beautiful whitewater plumes and cascades are visible from right along the roadway that numerous dazzling falls go unappreciated by many motorists. A case in point is Wailua Iki Falls, a short hike off the highway on an access road.
The access road in question is Wailua Iki Road, reached a little east of mile marker 21 on the Hana Highway (20.82228067311189, -156.1365396376394). This is a long one of the especially “squiggly” sections of this generally very squiggly scenic drive. Approaching from the west, you’ll cross a bridge over the West Wailua Iki Stream—along which this waterfall lies—just before hitting the mile marker in question. There’s a pullout for parking by the Wailua Iki Road, which is marked.
This is mainly a hunter’s road, used by those going after feral pigs. But it’s worth noting that Wailua Iki Road is also, historically anyway, access for East Maui Irrigation (EMI) maintenance.
EMI has very longstanding water leases in this area, maintaining ditches that divert much of this windward slope’s abundant streamflow for agriculture and rural residents. There is a lot of effectively EMI-controlled land in North and East Maui, public access to which is kind of a gray area.
Technically, you’re supposed to obtain a waiver from EMI to hike in these areas, and that’s not always super straightforward. Many hikers disregard the waiver requirement, and the jurisdiction—plus the validity of the EMI water leases at this point—is disputed. But if you want to cover all your bases, you likely should contact EMI to inquire about a waiver.
Walking uphill along Wailua Iki Road soon brings you to a fork. You’ll hang a right here, and soon reach an overlook of Wailua Iki Falls. The waterfall plummets into a large pool, presenting one of those stunning scenes of lush tropical beauty for which the Hana Highway is famous. Only you’ll get to be extra tickled knowing many of the Road to Hana travelers have no idea of this particular whitewater vista.
It’s pretty cool to ponder the journey the water tumbling over Wailua Iki Falls has taken. West Wailua Iki Stream rises miles southward off the northern rim of the mighty Haleakala Crater, the grand summit basin of Haleakala Volcano. Specifically, the West Wailua Iki headwaters drathe northeastern flank of 8,907-foot Hanakauhi along the Kalapawili Ridge, which forms the Haleakala Crater north rim.
Below the falls and pool, diversions shuttle away some of the stream’s waters. This can create quite a conspicuous contrast in streamflow, needless to say, between the upstream and downstream reaches.
It’s possible to continue trekking upstream here to view more waterfalls and cascades, but that’s a harder, longer undertaking best left to experienced hikers. Most visitors will turn back here (for a roughly 1.5-mile hike) and return to the Road to Hana, content to have seen one of its corridor’s hidden jewels.
-You can nab a view of the cascades of the West Wailua Iki Stream below the highway by driving short ways beyond Wailua Iki Road to a small turnout.
-There is a “no trespassing” sign when you get to a certain point as it is on private property.
-Another striking waterfall close by that many Hana Highway drivers barely appreciate is between mile markers 19 and 20: Waikani (or Three Bears) Falls.