Maui. The mere mention of this Hawaiian slice of heaven conjures up thoughts of palm trees, fruity cocktails, winding coastal roads, jungle-like valleys and – you guessed it – waterfalls. The island is renowned for its cascades, and no trip to this tropical paradise is complete without stopping by (or taking a dip in) at least a few of them.
So what are the best waterfalls to visit in Maui? Well, the legendary Road to Hana certainly boasts a few epic options, as does the more remote corner of West Maui. It’s tough to choose just a couple of standouts, but here is a pick of the island’s greatest waterfalls.
What better way to kick off this celebration of the best waterfalls in Maui than with the most spectacular of them all. Plunging a total of 341 metres, Honokohau Falls is said to be the tallest waterfall in Maui, and accessible only via helicopter. This two-tiered falls is located in an unreachable section of the West Maui Valley and is surrounded entirely by lush, emerald-green slopes. It also happens to be one of the most famous waterfalls in Hawaii, as it featured in the blockbuster dinosaur film, Jurassic Park. If you’re keen to see this incredible natural wonder for yourself, book an early morning chopper tour of the region. Conditions will need to be clear, calm and cloudless to get close enough, but when you do, it’s a truly jaw-dropping sight.
As one of the very first waterfalls along Maui’s iconic Road to Hana route, Twin Falls is a popular watering hole for visitors to the island. Its close proximity to the busy tourist town of Paia means it can get a bit crowded during peak season, but don’t let that put you off. A short hike through a picturesque section of jungle is all it takes to reach the falls, and you’ll be greeted by an inviting-looking pool, so bring your bathers. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are a few other trails that lead off to smaller, more hidden waterfalls where far less people venture. On your way out, make sure to treat yourself to some tropical fruit from the roadside stall – it’s a great (and delicious!) way to support the local Maui community.
When it comes to Waimoku Falls, it’s just as much about the journey to reach it, as it is about the sheer beauty of this Maui waterfall. Situated at the very end of the 3.2-kilometre Pipiwai Trail, considered one of the top-rated Maui waterfall hikes, it’s a trek that weaves through a bamboo forest, past an ancient banyan tree and via an apple orchard. While it’s not for the faint-hearted, as soon as you catch your first glimpse of Waimoku Falls (all 122 metres of it) you’ll forget about the gruelling hike in. And the best bit? Cooling off is easy thanks to the jet-stream of water that crashes down over a lava rock wall – don’t expect to stay dry here!
Widely considered the most photographed waterfall on Maui, Wailua Falls is also one of the most visited Road to Hana waterfall stops, and for good reason. Firstly, it’s absolutely stunning, ensconced in a vertical garden of vibrant greenery and boasting a 24-metre torrent of water that flows strongly year-round. It’s also super accessible, and there’s no hiking involved in order to reach it – in fact, you’ll probably feel the spray of the falls as soon as you step out of your vehicle, that’s how close it is to the car park! So, wondering how to get to Wailua Falls? That part is easy too, as it’s perched right on the side of the Hana Highway, just a few kilometres past the town of Hana itself. Plenty of signs and markers means there’s no way you can miss it.
Upper Waikani Falls
The Upper Waikani Falls is another well-positioned waterfall, and can be found just past Mile Marker 19, on the mountainous side of the Hana Highway. Affectionately known as the Three Bears Waterfall thanks to its three parallel cascades that appear in descending height order (they are meant to represent papa bear, mama bear and baby bear from the Goldilocks And The Three Bears fairy tale), the falls are an impressive sight, with the smallest water current still plunging more than 21 metres. While easy to view from the road, if you want to get close to the waterfall action there’s a trail that leads down to the pool below. You’ll need to take great care along this muddy, slippery path, but you’re almost guaranteed to have the swim spot all to yourself once you make it down.
Lower Puohokamoa Falls
For one of Maui’s secret waterfall gems, look no further than the Lower Puohokamoa Falls. Positioned below the Hana Highway, it’s impossible to see from the road, and there’s also very little signage signalling its presence (a lone telephone pole just past Mile Marker 10 along the Hana Highway marks the entrance). That’s great news for waterfall enthusiasts who want to avoid the crowds, as there’s rarely more than a handful of people exploring at any given time. A word of warning though: the track down to the falls is steep and challenging, and it’s recommended only expert hikers attempt the route. Make it down safely though, and there’s no way you’ll be disappointed, as this 60-metre force of nature offers dramatic views and a nice little pond to cool off in.
Pools of ‘Ohe’O (Seven Sacred Pools)
With a name that translates to ‘pools of something special’, you know you’re in for an extraordinary treat when you visit the Pools of ‘Ohe’o in East Maui’s Haleakala National Park. Comprised of seven tiered freshwater falls and pools (hence the alternative name) that empty out into the ocean along the Kipahulu coastline, the site is one of the best waterfalls in Maui that you can swim in. The idyllic rainforest setting and immense size of the falls means it draws plenty of people during peak season, but if you get in before midday you shouldn’t have to fight for space in the water. While waterfall jumping in Hawaii isn’t necessarily encouraged, the Pools of ‘Ohe’o are considered one of the safer locations to partake in this daredevil activity – just remember to always check the water conditions before you consider taking the plunge.
Very few of West Maui’s waterfalls are accessible via land, which makes visiting Makamaka’ole Falls all the more exceptional. Makamaka’ole is actually a series of two falls, with the lower one visible from the Kahekili Highway. However, to get the full view of this magnificent double falls, you’ll need to hike Waihe’e Ridge Trail – a gorgeous four-kilometre track that offers awe-inspiring views across the undulating valley. It’s a well-maintained trail, and not particularly tough, but it’s recommended you have a reasonable level of fitness if you wish to attempt it. From the path it’s easy to spot the larger of the two falls, which is 82 metres in height and set against a classic Hawaiian backdrop of dense jungle, so make sure you have your camera at the ready to snap away!
Say aloha to Hawaii by booking cheap flights to Honolulu with Webjet. You can then book a quick flight to Maui, or any of the other beautiful Hawaiian islands. Plus, if you want some extra spending money to splurge of waterfall helicopter tours, snap up a Hawaii holiday package – organising both your flights and accommodation in the one go!