A short ways south of Hana, on the way to the popular Oheo Gulch and Pipiwai Trail, Waioka Pond is unquestionably a hidden gem of the East Maui coast. The hike there is not long, but it’s not the safest—or most straightforward—destination. Common sense, caution, and respect for private property are essential.
That last caveat refers to the fact that the path used to access Waioka Pond lies on private land. Specifically, it acreage owned by Hana Ranch. While many people use this trail, and generally the signage indicates caution rather than off-limits, ideally you should obtain permission beforehand.
The path heads along the Hana Highway just south of milepost 48. A highway bridge over a rocky streambed clues you into the location. Limited roadside parking is available on the east side of the road. A fenceline leads to a primitive “gate” through which you reach the access trail.
You’re only a few minutes away from Waioka Pond. The trail proceeds east-southeast to the cliffy coastal brink above the pool. A number of user paths descend to the water from here. Use extreme caution following them, as a slip could have big consequences.
Waioka Pond is a small—and gorgeous—tidal cove separated from the open ocean by a periodically inundated strip of cobble and rocky sea stacks. Lush cliffs edge the cove. A little rock islet topped with hala (pandanus) forms a distinctive landmark on the outer end of the pool. Tidal movements, wave and stream action, and weather conditions ensure the inlet varies in configuration.
Some guidebooks list this spot as the “Venus Pool,” but that’s not based on any historical or cultural tradition. The name “Waioka” probably stems from a longer Native Hawaiian word referring to a place where freshwater runs into the sea. And the pond indeed marks the mouth of a stream.
This is a postcard-perfect setting, but it comes rife with danger. There’s a good chance you’ll see folks cliff-jumping and diving here. If you know what you’re doing—that is if you’re familiar with the pool’s depth zones and cognizant of current conditions—that can be reasonably safe. But catastrophic injuries or death are very much a possibility if you’re unfamiliar with the spot—or being foolhardy. Many leap some 35 or 40 feet down, and shallow parts of the pool are only about five feet deep.
Another big risk here, as with many streamways and oceanfront pools along Maui’s windward coast, is flash-flooding. A violent flow can, with little warning, come tearing down the stream and flush through the cove. Unwary swimmers or sunbathers could easily be dashed against the rocks or washed out to sea. In wet weather or fresh on the heels of rain, it’s best to avoid this spot altogether.
The piercing beauty of Waioka Pond ensures that, barring some more firm closure to access, it’ll remain a sought-after spot. Certainly, local residents have a long-standing tradition of lounging, swimming, and jumping here. But your average Maui vacationer should think things through before considering a visit.
Make sure to park on the east side of the road by the highway bridge. There are private homes on the other side of the road, and homeowners here have complained to authorities about illegal or disrespectful parking.