Falling in Love with Maui was a very short process that occurred over three days of exploring some of what are still my absolute most favorite wild places on the island: I’ao Valley, the Bamboo Forest, the bohemian, colorfully-funky streets of Paia, and the lush jungle of Hana.
Actually, it began before my feet even touched Maui soil as I flew (in a rickety prop plane during a tropical storm) over her jagged edges, towering peaks, and those luscious, fertile valleys from which she got her name, the ‘Valley Isle.’
There was something about the colors. It made me want to get down and dirty in the dirt of those fertile valleys and plant, grow, create…breathe life.
The whole island exudes life with a vibrancy that will startle you awake and grab ahold of your heart and soul if you’ve fallen prey to that unfortunate habit of just sort of sliding through life distracted and eternally disappointed.
But I’m getting way off track here. This post is supposed to be about one of my first Maui Discoveries: the Pipiwai Trail through Maui’s bamboo forest.
The Pipiwai Trail lies in the Kipahulu Section of the Haleakala National Park, which is located about 12 miles beyond Hana. The Kipahulu Section is also where the Ohe’o Pools (Seven Sacred Pools) are located…perfect for some cliff-diving or swimming to cool down after the hike.
A short 4-mile roundtrip hike, The Pipiwai Trail is magical from start to finish and has four main things to see:
- a huge Banyan tree
- beautiful views of Makahiku Falls (also notice how the surrounding forests of bamboo look like broccoli forests from this vantage point)
- the Bamboo Forest itself, which you will enter about halfway up the trail.
- the 400 ft Waimoku Falls at the end of the trail
I’ve hiked the Pipiwai Trail about five times since moving to Maui, because I am obsessed with the bamboo forest. It is a private sanctuary hidden away in the jungle with countless secrets waiting to be discovered. It’s not a strenuous hike (I do it in my slippers,) and is meant to be savored. One of my favorite things about the Bamboo Forest is that it is different every time I visit, and each visit is equally entrancing. I love the way the forest smells in the rain. I love the way the sun sparkles and glitters through the umbrella of the towering trees on a sunny day. But my favorite is those days when the wind is fierce and the whole forest comes to life with the haunting music…the Bamboo Forest song.
Waimoku Falls lies at the end of the trail, and is normally an incredibly impressive sight. This most recent excursion was the only time I’ve taken my camera on the trail, and unfortunately there had been a sort of drought (which seems like an oxymoron in the rainforest) and the most impressive thing about the waterfall was the lack of it. But droughts in Hana are as rare as our ants are plentiful, and if you visit, it will most likely be its normal roaring, stunning self.
The Kipahulu Section of the Haleakala National Park is located in a remote area of the island that is time-intensive to get to. Most visitors will include it in their Road-to-Hana excursion, although to really see and appreciate everything it has to offer, it doesn’t really fit into a day full of other Road to Hana sightseeing. It is possible, however, even if you only hike part of the trail.
Here’s a little local ‘Insider Tip’: If you don’t feel like driving the (absolutely worth-it but somewhat exhausting and patience-trying) Road to Hana, take the other road toward Hana — Piilani Highway, which goes around from the other side (through Kula.) It will take you to the Kipahulu Section of the Haleakala National Park without having to go to/through Hana. The road is still narrow and curvy, but it is not as heavily trafficked as Hana Highway and the drive down through Kula is incredibly beautiful.
Another Important Tip: There are two sections of the Haleakala National Park, one with the Haleakala Volcano crater and summit and the other (the Kipahulu Section) with a vastly different landscape of jungle and waterfalls. It is impossible to really see both in one day as there is a lot of driving space between them. Entrance is $10, but once paid your entrance ticket is valid for three days at either park section. So hang onto your receipt! If you visit Haleakala one day, you can visit Kipahulu next (or vice versa.)
What to Expect: When visiting the jungle, expect everything. Be prepared for torrential downpours, wicked wind, or scorching sun and tangible humidity…or a mixture of it all 😉 Plenty of water and sunscreen are key! And of course, don’t forget the swimwear to enjoy the waterfall pools. **Depending on the weather, entering the pools can be extremely dangerous. Use your best judgment, and always follow posted signs and warnings!