Pipiwai Hiking Trail

Rachel Bostock, From the Field

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Over spring break I had the privilege to enjoy the sights of Maui, and more specifically, it’s breathtaking east side; an area world renowned for its towering waterfalls and dense jungles of diverse vegetation. There is only one road to lead you there, widely known as “The Road to Hana”. This frequently deemed “treacherous” road is outfitted with 46 one lane bridges and approximately 620 turns (though some argue that the road never straightens out enough to know where one turn ends and another begins). Having said this, the trip was well worth it. As Ralph Waldo Emerson so brilliantly quotes, “Life is a journey, not a destination,” and the same can be said for the Hana Hwy. Along the way, driver and passengers alike can expect to see rainbow eucalyptus trees, waterfalls galore, and if you know where to look, a series of underground lava tubes. Though the town of Hana itself offers a handful of unique and quirky things to see, the pot of gold at the end of this long and winding rainbow may just be Waimoku Falls.

The trail leading up to Waimoku Falls is called the Pipiwai Trail, an easy to moderate 1.8 mile trail (each way) taking you over bridges, through a bamboo forest and past waterfalls and their pools. It is highly suggested that you beat the rush of people by staying in the area overnight and starting the hike early. Pipiwai Trail begins across the road from Kipahulu Campground, and at first, doesn’t appear to be much of anything but, as you continue on, the sights become progressively more impressive.

The first falls are the Falls at Makahiku, which unless seen after an especially rainy period of time, will most likely be reduced to a trickle. The lookout at this 200ft waterfall marks the place where many choose to turn back, but foolishly so as the real visual treats begin shortly after. Just above the falls is an alluring infinity pool, which in the right conditions is a crystal clear personal oasis. However, this pool is now prohibited to visitors due to the deaths of people unfamiliar with the risks. If you do decide to check it out, there is a spur tail clearly marked with signs stating there is no entry and a barbed wire fence that usually has person-sized holes from previous dare devils.

From the pool, you can continue up the stream on a trail that will lead you to Waimoku Falls. As most choose to opt out of this scene for various reasons, the main Pipiwai Trail will continue to offer a gradual incline leading to the next stop: a giant banyan tree. This tree may seem sinister at first glance, with its many branches reaching out at you like a monster with tentacle-like arms, but these branches provide a perfect platform for climbing. If you have any tree huggers travelling with you, you can expect to spend a while here. Past the banyan tree is a short side-trail marked cheekily with an arrow pointing towards the proper trail; this quick path leads to a view of a stunning cave, pool and waterfall combination.

Shortly afterwards, two bridges give way to a very quick change in scenery. There are stories of the adventurous jumping into the natural pools below, but this is most definitely not recommended. Crossing the bridge you will immediately find yourself immersed in a dense bamboo forest. Here, the air is fresh and pure and the canopy of bamboo allows for some cool shade. If there is some wind present, the soothing, hollow sound of bamboo striking one another will provide an impressive ambiance. Here the hike comes to a leisurely stroll along a raised path made through the bamboo. As the bamboo begins to thin, take note of the tropical plants that seem to trick the mind into believing a velociraptor could run past at any moment. As the path opens to a clearing, Waimoku Falls will become visible and after crossing a small creek a sign will tell you not to proceed any further, but as 95% of visitors quite clearly ignore this, go ahead and admire this gem from a little closer. Standing at the bottom of this 400 foot sheer drop can only be described as making one feel miniature in comparison.

It’s easy to see why so many return to this spot time-and-time again as it is truly the ultimate resting spot to sit and enjoy a snack after a good hike. Practice some yoga, or just appreciate the sheer beauty of our natural world.

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