This guide to the best waterfalls in Maui (or Mau’i) showcases our favorites in the so-called Magic Isle or Romantic Isle of Hawaii. And true to the word, it also shows you how to reach these Maui Waterfalls.
We’ve compiled this page as a result of a few trips spanning several years apart so we can also tell you what has changed over the years, and we can even suggest which of these waterfalls you can swim in provided you are fully aware of the risks (e.g. leptospirosis, flash flooding, etc.).
As for the waterfalls themselves, we have a list of the Top 10 Best Hawaii Waterfalls where we showcase our favorites throughout all of the Hawaiian Islands. And if you check out that list, I think you might be surprised to find that a waterfall from this island was represented there.
In addition, we’re also including the island of Molokai (or Moloka’i) on this page because it’s technically part of Maui County. Besides, you can ferry to the island from West Maui so it’s possible to get there on the same car rental.
If you want to see our full survey of Maui Waterfalls, we also have a larger compilation that you can check out on this page as well as our Moloka’i page (including those that did not appear on the post that you’re reading right now). Moreover, if you plan on island hopping or are considering other islands to visit, we also have a broader page of all the Hawaii Waterfalls that we’ve been to and made write-ups about.
By the way, in these focused write-ups, we show you how to visit each one of these waterfalls should you be interested in trip planning for your own waterfall chasing throughout the state let alone on Mau’i.
The Best Waterfalls We’ve Seen In Maui
Let’s just cut right to the chase and show you what the best waterfalls in Mau’i are and how to access them.
I’m a visual guy, and it’s better to just show you the beauty of this island. Besides, pictures are worth thousands of words, right?
So without further ado, here are the best of the Maui Waterfalls that we’ve personally seen and shared with our write-ups…
Admittedly, the Road to Hana Waterfalls can be a bit of a hit-and-miss affair, which I get into in the next couple of sections. However, one roadside waterfall that I’ve singled out among these waterfalls is the Wailua Falls, which has its own roadside parking area as well as a good size and pretty reliable flow. Indeed, we pretty much stop for this guy just about every time we make the Road to Hana Drive though technically this waterfall is beyond Hana Town.
By the way, we also feature a comprehensive guide specifically for the Waterfalls of the Road to Hana, which I’ve provided a link to below.
Visit Wailua Falls and see the complete Road to Hana Waterfalls Guide.
POOLS OF OHEO
When we first came to this area that was informally dubbed the “Seven Sacred Pools”, it was on a beautiful sunny day that was perfect for people swimming near the upper two waterfalls while also bathing in the sun. However, when the Pipiwai Stream is in flood like you see in the picture above, you can’t swim in the these pools though it does put on a scenic multi-tiered cascade display as it dumps into the wild and scenic East Maui coastline. That said, in order to get the first experience again, we really have to pay attention to the weather, which is not a guaranteed thing considering this is the rainier side of Maui.
Visit the Pools of ‘Ohe’o.
WAIMOKU FALLS & THE OHEO GULCH WATERFALLS
Waimoku Falls is my favorite of the waterfalls on Maui, and while this 400ft waterfall alone is a reason why, I also found the Pipiwai Trail (the route to get to this waterfall) to be every bit as interesting. After all, it skirted by other waterfalls (including the 200ft Makahiku Falls) and a grove of banyan trees along the way before traversing a couple of swinging bridges and passing through an atmospheric bamboo forest. Indeed, after going through this much stimulation, finally reaching Waimoku Falls at the end of the trail was like one fellow hiker said to be “a spiritual experience”.
Visit Waimoku Falls, Makahiku Falls, and Other ‘Ohe’o Gulch Waterfalls.
This is the first of the waterfalls in Moloka’i listed on this guide, and I think it’s the most gratifying. We had to partake in a Halawa Valley Cultural Tour to access the falls, which taught us about taro growing, some of the cultural issues going on in the most Hawaiian of the Hawaiian Islands (i.e. Molokai), and give us teasing glimpses of Hipuapua Falls. But once we got to the large plunge pool at the base of this waterfall, we also had a chance to have a swim without dealing with crowds.
Visit Moa’ula Falls (or Mo’oula Falls) and Hipuapua Falls.
This is perhaps the most dramatic singular waterfall entity on the North Shore of Moloka’i, and given its near coastal position, it’s practically a guaranteed sighting on a West Maui/Molokai Helicopter ride. I’ve surveyed the height of this permanent waterfall in my Topo Software to be about 1300ft tall, which makes it one of the tallest in the Hawaiian Islands though whether it’s the tallest in all the islands or not is up for debate. The chopper ride can also show us other waterfalls on the Moloka’i North Shore (though just how many and how rigorous their flows are depends on the conditions), which further adds icing to the cake, so to speak.
Visit Papalaua Falls and the Other Moloka’i Waterfalls.
Even though this was another waterfall that can potentially be seen in a West Maui/Molokai Helicopter ride, I singled out Honokohau Falls because in my experience, it’s not a guaranteed sighting due to its position very deep within the West Maui Mountains. In fact, it’s that remoteness that also makes it elusive even from the ground as there’s no sanctioned trail that goes there. Moreover, it has a temperamental seasonal flow, which further adds to this tallest of Maui Waterfalls’ elusiveness.
Visit Honokohau Falls.
Even though I wasn’t able to get close to the Makamaka’ole Falls (though I have entertained doing the 13 Crossings Trail to get there), I did do parts of the Waihe’e Ridge Trail which gave me views of this falls as well as a birds eye view of the Waihe’e Valley as well as parts of the Mana-nole Falls. Especially with the Waihe’e Valley Trail closure (aka, Swinging Bridges Trail), places like the Waihe’e Ridge Trail are increasingly rare, and on fine days, you get great views towards Haleakala as well as the rugged beauty of the West Maui Mountains.
Visit Makamaka’ole Falls and Mana-nole Falls.
LOWER MAKAMAKAOLE FALLS
It took me a couple of times before I finally saw the actual Lower Makamaka’ole Falls, which was kind of baffling considering that this was a roadside waterfall on the (narrow) Kahekili Highway. Even though I’ve been only able to manage the top down roadside views of it, I did notice some use-trails that I presume would go down towards it. Maybe one of these days, I’ll do the adventurous thing and check it out provided I don’t go somewhere kapu in the process.
Visit Lower Makamaka’ole Falls.
What About The Rest Of Maui’s Waterfalls? Aren’t There More?
There are indeed many more waterfalls in Mau’i than what I’ve put on this guide. If you care to see some of the other ones I’ve had write-ups about, we have a page dedicated to our entire survey of Maui Waterfalls.
That said, a good deal of waterfalls that we have visited are no longer “legally” accessible due to a rather confusing situation concerning private property rights. Some are in direct conflict with shoreline access laws while others have seen increased vigilance on the part of locals at preventing access. Then, there are others concerning water rights (whether agreeable or not) that prevent public access to waterfalls as well. Finally, there are still those where owners who once generously allowed access to waterfalls on their land had to give that up due to perverse liability precedents and rulings that put the responsibility of mishaps on landowners instead of on an individual’s personal responsibility.
If you’re interested in delving into this land rights rabbit hole, I chanced upon a very good article written in the independent MauiTime publication about this very topic concerning the Waihe’e Valley, which you can read about here.
Anyways, among the waterfalls that have fallen under the closed category (that I’m aware of) include Ali’ele Falls (Swinging Bridges), Helele’ike’oha Falls (“Blue Pool”), The Falls of Na’ili’ili’haele, Upper Puohokamoa Falls, Waiohiwi Falls, and Lower Hanawi Falls.
I’m sure there are more, and the list of kapu waterfalls seems to be ever growing.
Where Are The Waterfalls In Maui?
Besides the detailed descriptions and directions to each of the waterfalls listed above, I thought I’d show you this map of the locations of Maui Waterfalls as well as the Molokai Waterfalls.
As you can see, they are pretty much concentrated on the east-northeastern side of Maui Island, which pretty much coincides with the eastern slopes of the Haleakala Volcano. There are also a few on the northeastern slopes of the West Maui Mountains as well as the east side of the North Shore of Molokai Island.
That’s because Hawaii experiences trade winds that scoop up moisture from Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and blow into the islands as northeasterly winds.
These moisture-laden winds ultimately hit mountains, which then causes the vapors to rise and condense into rain clouds over these mountains.
As a result, it’s why the wetter east-northeast side of the island is considered the windward side while the drier west-southwest side of the island is considered the leeward side.
And as far as renting a car to enable exploring Mau’i (or even Moloka’i) on your own, we were able to drive completely around both the West Maui Mountains as well as around the whole of East Maui. That said, they come with caveats.
The West Maui Mountains have a scary, unguarded, single-lane cliff-hugging road around Kahakuloa Bay (around the northern tip of West Maui). Things get really tricky (and dangerous) if there happens to be opposing traffic in this stretch of road.
Going around East Maui pretty much means going around the Haleakala Volcano, where the road becomes narrow and unpaved in one stretch shortly after leaving the southern boundaries of Haleakala National Park. But after that, the drive remains unpaved but more benign before rejoining “civilization” along the Pi’ilani Highway and South Maui.
When To See The Waterfalls In Maui
The Hawaiian Islands tend to experience a “Wet Season” and a “Dry Season”. The Wet Season tends to occur between October through April while the Dry Season tends to occur between May through September.
Of course, Nature is a chaotic system so things work in terms of likelihoods (or probabilities) of things happening and not in absolute terms. Therefore, these Wet Season and Dry Season variations are merely guidelines based on statistical data along with some anecdotal observations.
Moreover, with Global Warming and Climate Change, these seasonal patterns are prone to changing, and the severity of the rains (and conversely the droughts) are intensifying.
Besides, you can still have good weather during the Wet Season and you can have wet weather during the Dry Season.
Nevertheless, when there is wet weather, the differences in the watercourses (and thus the waterfalls) can be dramatic. It’s the main reason why you need to be cognizant of the flash flooding risk whenever you choose to be near or in the streams and rivers.
In any case, I go into far more detail about Hawaii’s seasonal variations in this write-up.
Seasonal variations aside, East Maui also has a bit of a history of water diversion along its famed Road to Hana as a result of a lucrative sugar industry between the Civil War and World War II. This resulted in many ditches robbing the drainages that would have produced countless reliable waterfalls along the Road to Hana, and they’re now pretty much ephemeral waterfalls that only flow during a significant-enough rain event.
The above two photos I have of Paihi Falls just two days apart pretty much illustrate this point.
Anyways, if you’d like to delve deeper into Hawaii’s history of sugar and water diversion, I highly recommend reading “Sugar Water: Hawaii’s Plantation Ditches” by Carol Wilcox.
Where To Stay In Maui
You have quite a few options in terms of places to stay on the island of Mau’i.
However, given that island time (i.e. a mentality about the slow pace at which things can move) tends to conflict with a limited-time itinerary where we wish to fit in as much as we can before going home, there are advantages and disadvantages to specific accommodation locations.
On our first two times that we’ve visited Maui, we stayed on the western side – the first time in Lahaina, the second time in Ka’anapali.
I’m under the impression that this drier part of Maui has more of the night life and charming walking areas (especially Lahaina), but it also means that we had to drive further to reach the waterfalls along the Road to Hana on the far opposite side of the island. You definitely need an earlier start if you’re intending to get to the Haleakala Sunrise from here.
There are also more accommodation options in South Maui such as Kihei and Wailea.
The nice thing about this location is that you’re much closer to the Road to Hana as well as Haleakala Crater so you don’t have to spend as much time on the road for these things. Moreover, if you wish to spend time in Lahaina or West Maui, it’s also not a stretch to do those as well.
Finally, while the vast majority of people visiting Maui are likely to be driving at least part of the Road to Hana, I found that it was very beneficial to stay in Hana Town for a night to not have to rush that drive and really explore some of its less-obvious (i.e. not-so-crowded) parts.
While the town was by no means a luxury or resort area, I found it had a more truly Hawaiian feel all its own in addition to its logistical advantages.
Final Thoughts / Conclusion
I hope you enjoyed reading and seeing what we had to say about the best waterfalls in Mau’i (that you can legally visit).
More importantly, I hope you’ve been able to use this resource for your own trip planning needs so you can go out there and experience them for yourself!
If you have questions or comments, feel free to use the form below and tell us what’s on your mind!
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