With its share of pristine beaches, spectacular landscapes, and oceans with stunning shades of blue, Maui is the place to visit if you’re looking for a getaway that features the beauty of nature spots. Maui is the quieter, more laid-back island when compared to its sister, Oahu, but its views are no less impressive. One of the best ways to see what Maui has to offer up close is by going on a road trip to see some of the best Maui waterfalls.
You can find several waterfalls along the Road to Hana or the Hana Highway. This 52-mile drive is one of the go-to destinations when touring Maui. The Road to Hana takes you through towering cliffs, stunning views, and thundering waterfalls along the roadside. Some waterfalls are further off, and you will need to park your car and hike for a bit. There are also other waterfalls in other trails on the island—some of them in plain sight, some of them hidden, and some of them only accessible through a helicopter ride.
Pua’a Ka’a Falls
Pua’a Ka’a Falls, which means “rolling pig” is located in the Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside Park—home to two waterfalls that you can visit. The park is also on the Road to Hana and is easily accessible to the public the whole year-round. Getting to the falls takes a few minutes’ trek from the car park. The view to the falls is stunning—filled with lush greenery on all sides. The second waterfall is further up, but similar to the first one. The first waterfall is more popular due to its proximity to the car park.
Aside from taking a refreshing swim in the basin, you can also go on a nature tour, bird watching, or walk among the trees. As always, be cautious when you go hiking. After heavy rainfalls, the trails often become muddy, and going hiking around the area can be a challenge.
Located along Hana Highway is a pair of waterfalls known as the Twin Falls. Falling from a 10-15 feet height, they may not seem like the taller, more stunning falls. Nevertheless, the Twin Falls, fed by the Ko’olau Rainforest in Ho’olowa Valley, cascades into a serene pool where you can go for a dip. Adrenaline junkies can try cliff jumping to the pool below, but you are welcome to wade around and explore the area at your own pace.
To access the falls, you need to cross Wailele Farm, a private property where the Twin Falls are located. Wailele keeps the place open so travelers can enjoy the falls’ natural beauty. Park in the area and start the one-mile trek to the falls. You can visit the falls any time of the year, but they are especially beautiful after heavy rains.
If you are fascinated by the history of the place and its various nature spots, you may opt to go on a guided hiking tour through the farm and falls.
Punalau Falls is the often-overlooked stop along the Road to Hana. It is quite hidden, and you can’t see it from the road. Its trailhead is unsigned, and the lot where you can park is also unsigned, causing many travelers to miss out on this gorgeous waterfall.
The trail to the falls winds through a tropical forest that crosses a creek before heading upstream. The hike takes anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the levels of the streams. Some parts may require skillful navigating as the rocks and volcanic boulders, some of which are very slippery, cover the area.
When you do make it to the waterfall, there’s a chance that you’ll have it all to yourself. It stands about 135 feet high at the end of a lush canyon. You may swim in the falls, but keep an eye out for flash floods.
One of the most easily accessible waterfalls on the Road to Hana is the Makapipi Falls. Set among dense vegetation, Makapipi is a special waterfall because you can stand right above it—unlike the other falls whose trails lead you to their basin.
Head to Makapipi Stream, which feeds the falls, and stand on the bridge for a bird’s eye view of the falls and the blue pool underneath it. You can also hike down to get a close-up view of the falls. The way is short but steep. The best time to see the falls is after heavy rainfall to see the fall’s powerful flow.
Kopiliula Falls is one of Maui’s hidden gems, with its trailhead just off the Hana Highway. It is nestled along the Kopiliula Stream—an enchanting series of cascades among abundant greenery. The trail to the falls is a bit steep and muddy, so don’t forget to wear hiking shoes and comfortable clothes. If you want to reach the larger falls, you’ll have to climb up the smaller falls and go through a few rocky beds. Expect to get wet, but the climb will be worth it.
At the end of the trail, you will see stunning views of the Pacific. Take your camera, snap a few pictures, and enjoy the sights.
Another beautiful fall in the Kipahulu District of Haleakala National Park is Alelele Falls. Though it is one of the lesser-known waterfalls on Maui, it is one of the easiest to reach. The trail is short and easy, and it only takes about 15 minutes to arrive at the falls. As it features a few stream crossings, exercise caution when hiking and avoid crossing the stream when a flash flood is likely.
When the weather is calm, you can enjoy a nice, serene dip in the refreshing pool beneath the falls. The area surrounding the falls is very peaceful, making it a perfect place to relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature all around.
Close to the Road to Hana is one of Maui’s most accessible waterfalls. The Wailua Falls sits nestled amidst tropical foliage and empties 80 feet into a plunge pool. Because of how picturesque it looks against the bright green jungle wall, Wailua is often said to be Maui’s most photographed waterfall.
Go for a swim in the serene pool beneath the falls. If you visit in the morning, you might be able to catch a picture-perfect rainbow extending over the falls.
Upper Waikani Falls
A trip around Maui to visit the different waterfalls isn’t complete without seeing the Waikani Falls. They are one of the most popular islands in Hawaii, thanks to their location just off the Road to Hana.
If you feel up for it, you can make your way to the Upper Waikani Falls, located just beyond Mile Marker 19 of Hana Highway. The Upper Waikani Falls features three separate but parallel falls of different lengths, often referred to as the Three Bears. They cascade some 70 feet into the Wailua Nui Stream. The best time to see the waterfalls falling separately is when the weather is warm and when too much water isn’t flowing down the waterfalls. During the wet weather, the Three Bears become one giant bear.
Due to the limited parking space, most people prefer to admire the falls from their cars. However, if you are feeling more adventurous, you can opt to take a hike to see the falls up close. The first part of the hike is challenging, but it soon becomes easier and less slippery. Take a dip into the gorgeous pool and relax while appreciating the surrounding beauty of nature all around.
Just above the Ohe’o Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools) in Haleakala National Park and along the Pipiwai Trail is the Makahiku Falls. Trekking the whole Pipiwai Trail will take about 2.5-5 hours to hike (4 miles round trip), depending on how many stops you take to admire the surrounding views of its bamboo forests and idyllic streams.
At the end of the Pipiwai Trail is Waimoku Falls. Before you get to that, you will see Makahiku Falls first. Makahiku Falls has a 185-foot drop and is approximately half a mile away from the beginning of the trail. While there are stairs in several locations along the way, most of the path is unpaved and rocky, though wooden boardwalks have been installed to make hiking easier. Nevertheless, the falls—both the Mahahiku and the Waimoku—are worth seeing. Swimming in the basin underneath the falls is not allowed either as the falling water may have rocks and debris.
With a stunning drop of about 400 feet, Waimoku Falls is one of Maui’s tallest waterfalls. Located at the head of Ohe’o Gulch, the falls spill over sheer lava rocks, heading straight into a pool surrounded by boulders. From afar, the vista is dramatic, breathtaking, and one you will not easily forget. With its towering height against the backdrop of a stunning landscape of verdant green, these falls promise a one-of-a-kind experience every traveler must see when they visit Maui.
Waimoku Falls is the final destination at the end of the Pipiwai Trail above the Seven Sacred Pools. The trail passes Makahiku Falls and some surrounding bamboo forests before ending at Waimoku. If you stop for a while, you will be able to hear the unique sound of the wind blowing through the bamboo canes. While it may be tempting to plunge into the water after your climb, it can be dangerous as the small pool beneath the falls is shallow. There is also the danger of falling rocks and debris in the falls.
When hiking the Pipiwai Trail, wear sturdy shoes as the trail is filled with rocks and mud. Take extra precautions when you are crossing the streams as well.
Ohe’o Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools)
When you hike to Waimoku Falls, you will also see the Ohe’o Gulch—also known as the Seven Sacred Pools. Nestled in the Kipahulu District of Haleakala National Park, they are just downstream of Waimoku Falls.
What makes the Ohe’o Gulch unique is the sight of all seven swimming holes connected by the Ohe’o waterfalls. Each pool cascades onto the next one while the last one pours out into the ocean.
While you can take a refreshing dip, keep in mind that the freshwater pools of Ohe’o can be very dangerous as they are prone to flash floods caused by heavy rains high up on the mountain.
Plunging from over a thousand feet high, Honokohau Falls is said to be the tallest waterfall in Maui. Because the Honokohau Falls is tucked deep in an inaccessible part of the West Maui mountains, the only way to see it is through a helicopter tour. Even then, it will depend on the weather conditions.
The waterfall has two tiers—one small and one large. It sits along the edge of Haleakala National Park, along the edge of a rainforested mountainside. From a bird’s eye view, it gives the breathtaking appearance of water pouring from the clouds before disappearing in the middle of lush, verdant mountains. If you are a fan of the Jurassic Park movie, you might recognize it as it is largely known for its appearance in the movie.
Makamaka’ole Falls is one of the few falls along Maui’s western coast and one of the most beautiful falls that are not on the Road to Hana. It falls from 270 feet and drops in several tiers. You can access it by land by going on a five-mile round trip through Waihe’e Ridge Trail to see the upper cascades. You can also catch a glimpse of it on the Kahekili Highway on Maui’s northwestern coast.
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can hike to the falls through the Makamaka’ole Falls Trail, also known as the 13 Crossings Trail, because of the numerous times you have to cross the Makamaka’ole Stream to reach the waterfall. Along the way, you will encounter a bamboo forest with huge bamboo shoots and a banyan tree. Because the Makamaka’ole Falls Trail is in an area that gets a lot of rainfall, the streams can run high during heavy rains. Pay attention to the weather forecast before going on your hike. Do not attempt to cross the stream if the flow is too strong.
Wall of Tears
Hidden deep within the West Maui Mountains and near the summit of Pu’u Kukui is the Wall of Tears. It is one of Maui’s lesser-known waterfalls, and this stunning sight is best seen through a bird’s eye view from a helicopter. There are about 17 waterfalls that flow down against the green walls of the giant, narrow Waihee Valley. When you look up to see the source of the falls, you will find a thick blanket of clouds. The tallest of these waterfalls plummets 1600 feet below. According to ancient legend, the gods poked their fingers onto the cliff’s surface to express grief.
See Maui’s Best Falls
It’s hard to imagine the beauty and wonder that Maui has to offer unless you see it for yourself. Go on a road trip through this beautiful island and explore the different waterfalls.