The first challenge is simply finding the starting point!
Go past Paia heading towards Hana. Watch for Route 36 to become Route 360 - here the numbers on mileage markers start over. The trailhead is 1 6/10 miles after mile marker #5 – the marker for #6 was missing when we were there – but it’s easy to spot. There’s a dirt shoulder on the right side of the road where maybe 5 cars can park, with a wire fence holding back dense green vegetation. A quick look shows a gap where the trail starts. Across the road there are some tall Cook Island pines, the trees that look like nature’s attempt to grow a disguised cell tower.
Prepare for this hike by making sure you’ve got decent footwear that can get wet and still provide traction. Something like sport sandals or old sneakers would be good; flip-flops, not so much.
Once off road, the trail quickly enters a bamboo forest with a steep, slippery downhill section. At the bottom there’s a small stream. Hop over it if the board that’s sometimes there is missing. Continue along to a larger, more open stream. Cross it and follow the trail to the left, upstream. There’s another bamboo forest, then a path to the left. It looks like the main trail might continue straight. Trust us. It doesn’t.
Take what looks like a spur path to the left and cross the stream. You’ll see the first of four waterfalls on the hike to your right.
Rejoin the trail on the far side - you may need to scout around a bit to find the trail - and continue upstream. A short section, perhaps ten or fifteen feet, had eroded away on our last visit, but get through this section and you’ll see the path clearly continuing.
Soon you’ll see the second waterfall. Most people stop here. They relax, swim in the pool, sun on the rocks and head back to the car.
Also, some locals are waterfall snobs. They’ll get here and decide there isn’t enough water in the stream to make it worth going the rest of the way. But not you. After all, you’ve heard that inspirational blather about the road to Hana, "It’s not the destination, it’s the journey," right? Trust us, it applies here, too.
Continue along the trail until closer to the waterfall you encounter a 12 foot rock wall. There are ropes here, some with foot loops, some without, but anyone in reasonable shape with decent footwear can make it up. Flip-flops just might be a problem. Also, it might help shorter folks to go first and have someone guide a foot into one of the loops. Another tip: use your upper body strength; pull yourself up! At times there has been a ladder, but it’s best not to plan on it.
At the top, follow the trail to the stream. Here the trail comes and goes. Look for it on the left side, then the right, and rock hop or walk upstream when it’s not apparent. Eventually you’ll get to a steep-sided rock-walled gap the stream fills side to side. Now it’s time to swim. It’s about 100 feet to the far end and the third waterfall.
It’s a small one. Haul yourself up the right side. Depending on water level it may be 5 feet, more or less. Walk upstream. Just around the corner there’s the fourth and final waterfall and pool. It’s bigger than the others, but may be less than impressive if water levels are low. Still, few people make it this far off the main road to Hana, so congratulate yourself if you made it to the end. Take a swim and warm up on the rocks before heading back.
Best hike on Maui!