Wailua Falls

Hana Highway (Maui Island), Hawaii, USA

Rating: 2.5     Difficulty: 1
Wailua Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Wailua Falls is perhaps one of the more scenic waterfalls to be seen on the Hana Highway.

It was a satisfyingly tall (approximately 95ft) roadside waterfall, and we had a fun time taking long exposure photographs with a tripod while draping tropical foliage surrounded it. And apparently we weren't the only ones who thought this way as we witnessed traffic jams on a couple of our visits here. Indeed, we thought this was one of those waterfalls where you were practically guaranteed to stop for it (especially if you hadn't seen it before) - even if you suffered from waterfall fatigue by this far into the drive to the Oheo Gulch (further south of Hana).

Like most waterfalls in Hawaii, rain feeds it so its flow is highly dependent on how much time has passed since the last episode of significant rain. I can totally envision this waterfall having disappointingly low flow towards the late Summer. We witnessed how quickly the falls can diminish that time of year just two days after heavy rains had revived it.

Though the best view of Wailua Falls is from the bridge neighboring the elongated pullouts turned car park, the short path on the Hana side of the bridge got us closer to the falls. Strangely, given its name, Wailua Falls is on Honolewa Stream rather than the Wailua Stream (one drainage further east). I'm not sure if the Topo maps were incorrect (wouldn't be the first time) or if the falls was misnamed and it stuck.

For another waterfall surprise, walk uphill on the ascending road from the car park for 0.2 miles (going away from Hana). Once you're at a high enough vantage point, look back behind you. That waterfall you'll see high up in the gulch above Wailua Falls is Waihiumalu Falls. We didn't have a telephoto lens when we last visited this area, but we certainly wish we had in order to photograph it. Alternatively, this waterfall is fairly easy to spot if you take the Hana Highway (now Hwy 31) back the other way towards Hana after coming back from 'Ohe'o Gulch (a choice that wasn't ours in 2007 when the connecting road to Pi'ilani Highway was closed due to damage from the October 2006 earthquake).




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PHOTO JOURNAL

On our very first trip to Maui in September 2003, we made a detour past Hana Town towards some pretty quiet beaches like this one before continuing further south to go around the rest of East MauiOn our very first trip to Maui in September 2003, we made a detour past Hana Town towards some pretty quiet beaches like this one before continuing further south to go around the rest of East Maui
When we got closer towards the southeastern end of Maui, we noticed this impressive sea arch called the Pokowai Sea Arch, which looked impressive, but we couldn't get close to it given the rough seasWhen we got closer towards the southeastern end of Maui, we noticed this impressive sea arch called the Pokowai Sea Arch, which looked impressive, but we couldn't get close to it given the rough seas
It was hard to believe the contrast between windward Maui's lush and wet climate versus the dry and barren lava fields on Haleakala's more leeward side way to the southeast of the islandIt was hard to believe the contrast between windward Maui's lush and wet climate versus the dry and barren lava fields on Haleakala's more leeward side way to the southeast of the island
Way upslope to the summit of Haleakala was the crater of the dormant volcano itself, which we were able to experience partially by hiking the Sliding Sands TrailWay upslope to the summit of Haleakala was the crater of the dormant volcano itself, which we were able to experience partially by hiking the Sliding Sands Trail
Another look at Wailua FallsAnother look at Wailua Falls

Wailua FallsView of the falls after coming alive in an early September storm in 2003

Paihi FallsThe neighboring Paihi Falls as seen in 2003 on a day of heavy rain.

Paihi Falls two days after rainPaihi Falls also seen in 2003 but only two days after the heavy rains had passed.

Awkward shot of Paihi Falls in 2007 as I tried to avoid the temporary bridge infrastructure belowAwkward shot of Paihi Falls in 2007 as I tried to avoid the temporary bridge infrastructure below


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS




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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

Heading towards Oheo Gulch (or away from Hana), a large car park is adjacent to the bridge, just before Wailua Falls (0.7 miles past the 45-mile post). You can't miss this one.

Note that you'll pass by Paihi Falls en route as you descend to the Wailua Stream. We used to be able to photograph it from the road bridge, but a temporary replacement bridge made this difficult following damage from the October 2006 earthquake on the Big Island.

For a bit of context, we generally stay on the west side of Maui in either Lahaina or Ka'anapali. The drive from say Lahaina would require us to take Route 30 to Route 380 (taking roughly an hour without traffic). Once we're near the town of Pa'ia, we'd then be on Hwy 36 (becoming the Road to Hana or Hwy 360). Getting to Hana would take at least 2 hours drive (45 miles) east of Pa'ia. It would take nearly a half-hour to continue driving to the falls.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES

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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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