Local alternative weekly newspaper Maui Time has declared that the best hike on the island is the bamboo forest trail at Kipahulu. Although I'm usually a hard-nosed media critic, I agree.
When I first visited Maui in 1995, this is the trail that captured my imagination and memory: the musical rustling of bamboo plants sounding like an orchestra of xylophones whenever the wind blew; spray from a wildly rushing stream as I crossed the twin footbridges; and postcard-worthy Waimoku Falls tumbling into a jungly pool at the trail's end.
Officially called the Pipiwai Trail, this day hike is no secret. You'll meet dozens of other hikers, all swatting away the mosquitoes (bring insect repellent!) and gulping from their bottles of water in the hot, humid and sweaty conditions. Moderately strenuous, the Pipiwai Trail measures 2 miles each way, winding uphill over tree roots and crossing bridges and a rocky stream before finally arriving at powerful cliffside Waimoku Falls.
This is one of Maui's most popular hikes, but it's also one of the most dangerous. Why? Because people ignore the national park's warning signs and hike off-trail to reach off-limits waterfalls, then slip, fall down cliffs or drown in flash floods. The good news is that you can easily avoid these dangers simply by sticking to the trail, not swimming in any waterfalls (falling rocks could conk you on the head) and not crossing any streams when flash floods are possible. Stop by the Kipahulu ranger station for advice and to check today's weather report before starting your hike.
The Pipiwai Trail starts near the parking lot for the coastal Kipahulu section of Haleakala National Park, 10 twisting and narrow miles beyond Hana near mile marker 42 on the Hana Highway. Entry to the national park (including its volcanic summit area, which has even more amazing hikes) currently costs $10 per vehicle for three days.
Find out all about the many hiking and backpacking trails in Haleakala National Park in my guidebook Top Trails Maui, available in paperback and also digitally as an Amazon Kindle ebook.
Got another favorite trail on Maui? Let us know by leaving a comment below. Mahalo!
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Photo credits: Haleakala National Park (Michael Connolly Jr.)