GEE, EVERYTHING’S CLOSED!
It was a few minutes before 6am when we left the Ka’anapali Beach Club in Honokawai and made our way to Hana. Learning from our last two day trips through Hana nearly four years ago, we had booked a night at the Hana Kai Resort in sleepy Hana town so the experience wouldn’t be as rushed as before.
Even though it was still a little bit dark, there was already an accumulating volume of cars on Hwy 30 as we swung around the bottom part of West Maui and made our way through the Central Valley towards Pa’ia town.
It was about 7:30am when we reached out first stop. It was the familiar unsigned but fairly well-known pullout for a view of Lower Puohokamoa Falls. It was just as we parked the car that the rain started to come down hard. This caused Julie to stay in the car.
Meanwhile, I donned a rain poncho and headed down the familiar path. With the fresh rain, the path was muddy as expected, and the newly purchased Keens were immediately put to the test. It was barely another five minutes later before I got my clean looks at the Lower Puohokamoa Falls.
Given the heavy rain, I had expected the falls to be gushing, but it was in a state that was between thin and gushing. I had trouble trying to keep the lens dry with the falling rain. Man, I wish I had my lens hood, which I had lost at Kipu Falls in Kaua’i just a couple of months earlier.
After getting my shots, I headed back up the somewhat steep path and returned to the car. I had passed by a handful of people who had probably noticed our parked car.
Ah yes, the lemmings effect on the Hana Highway was in full swing. I had totally forgotten about that!
Just a few minutes later, we reached the pullout adjacent to the bridge for the Upper Puohokamoa Falls. I had recalled this was a very popular stop on the last trip.
But before I took another step towards the trail, a sign was posted on a heavy-looking forbidding gate. That sign read that the access to the falls was closed because someone got hurt and the landowners are worried about getting sued.
Great, another case of a tourist who couldn’t take responsibility for their own actions and now ruined it for everyone else! The sign went on to urge its readers to write to the lawmakers so landowners are immune from such frivolous lawsuits and keep places like this open to the public.
I can totally understand why locals are getting frustrated with tourists. It’s already bad enough that they have to deal with the increased development and traffic (especially if they don’t pull over when they’re holding people up on narrow roads like Hana Highway).
Now, you have idiots trying to milk something from a screwed up American legal system who don’t understand that nature has inherent risks and you assume them when you venture there. Apparently, they think places of natural beauty should be treated like Disneyland, which it is NOT.
Anyways, venting aside, I went back into the car and continued onwards towards the next waterfall. Having bypassed Ha’ipua’ena Falls (we had seen it on our last Maui visit), we made it point to go to Punalau Falls.
This was one waterfall we missed before and I was anxious to see it. However, I was also nervous about the possibility of flash floods due to the threat of a downpour further upslope. Anyways, at 8:15am, we pulled over at the far side of the bridge over the Punalau Stream and I sprayed on deet in anticipation of the mosquito assault.
Once again, Julie stayed in the car. So with a pair of hiking sticks ready, I once again put the Keens to the test as I would spend a few minutes walking in the Punalau Stream, which was full of very slippery boulders and downed trees. Clearly, there was evidence of past flash floods here, which made me even more hasty in my pursuit of the falls.
As expected, the stream walking was a bit treacherous as most of the steps I took were on the slippery submerged boulders. Even with the hiking sticks, I managed to slip on one occassion and knock a big lump into my shin while creating a cut further up on the shin.
After another 15 minutes of hasty scrambling amongst seemingly clouds of mosquitoes, I finally saw the 100ft waterfall. Even with the rain, the falls was still flowing a bit thinly. I’m guessing it has a rather short season.
Still with the danger of flash flooding in the back of my mind, I took as many photos as I could before I hastily made my way back to Julie and the car. And after a few more minutes of scrambling without any additional mishaps, I returned safely to the car at 8:40am.
Next up was another little waterfall I anticipated visiting called Ching’s Pond. This was one we had missed on the previous trip as well.
When we pulled out next to a Miconia in Hana sign, I got out of the car and walked towards the trail by a big tree leading to the pool. But on the tree, a sign was posted that said no trespassing nor swimming.
I guess this was understandable since the Keanae taro farmers rely on its runoff for their taro production. Still, I was now getting the sense that lots of falls that were once accessed by tourists and locals were becoming kapu (or forbidden).
Well, I went down the trail anyways and finally saw the tiny waterfall and swimming hole. I had no intention of swimming (and hence contaminating the water feeding the taro fields) and was content to take my photos and leave.
Next, we drove into the Wailua Settlement looking for the Lower Waikani Falls. I had recalled how nice that waterfall was. But this time, Julie and I got this sense that tourists aren’t welcome here as signs were posted saying something to the effect that you’ll know if you don’t belong here.
So we made sure to stay on the paved part and not linger on anyone’s property.
On our last visit, we remembered a nice view in the open over some taro fields where a side road started to become unpaved. But today, a no private driveway sign was posted on a tree just before the view opened up. So we settled for a distant view above some trees back on the main road. Then, we quickly got out of there and continued onto the Three Bears Falls (real name – Waikani Falls).
And on this day, the three bears appeared as three barely discernable fat bears this time. This was one waterfall where less is more since a lower flow meant you could see Papa Bear, Mamma Bear, and Baby Bear in succession. You had to look a little harder today to make out the three bears.
Waterfall fatigue was already setting in as the rainy weather made even the usually dry streams raging and the more known roadside waterfalls raging. Wailuaiki Falls was flowing a lot more powerfully than its wishboned state we had seen on our last Maui trip.
At least since we knew to look for this waterfall, we knew exactly where to stop and where to walk. So this didn’t take long, and plus we had a little more time to better compose our shots to make them look interesting.
There was a waterfall we didn’t expect to see upstream from the bridge over the Kopihula Stream (probably Kopihula Falls). It was then that another couple started following us in search of the Hana Highway sights using the Blue Bible as a guide. Julie and I had a brief chat with them and we would continue chit chatting with them as we each would stop at the same spots for what seemed like several stops in a row.
I remembered on one stop that the other couple asked if we were going to the Blue Pool. I told him probably not today given the heavy rains. But we both knew that this was increasingly becoming iffy given the disagreements between the property owners at the end of the ‘Ula’ino Road regarding access to the falls.
We had made a stop at the Pua’a Ka’a State Park, but orange barricades made it painfully obvious that it was closed.
“Gee, everything’s closed!” exclaimed Julie.
And given the way things were going on this day, it certainly looked that way.
Anyways, that other couple and us explored the area where the orange barricade wasn’t erected. But the raging waters, the heavy rain, and the overgrowth was enough for us to abandon the idea of walking along the ditches in search of waterfalls further upstream from the main one, which was already gushing.
So we hopped the fence and viewed the main waterfall from the desserted picnic area behind more erected orange barricades. The falls was tiny and not really worth lingering for, but at least this time we finally got to see the falls at this park.
We knew there was another waterfall further upstream but given the fact that we breached the closure barricades, we didn’t want to push our luck.
By now it was after 10:30am and as we started to leave Pua’a Ka’a State Park, we saw the reason for the closure – a sign that said sewage improvements were taking place.
The next falls we saw was a familiar-looking twin waterfall, which turned out to be on the Kapaula Stream (thanks to the live GPS tracking and Topo! updating). At this moment, the sun was out and the falls was difficult to photograph. Not long after getting back in the car, we made a brief stop at the bridge before Hanawi Falls. And once again with the sun, the gushing waterfalls weren’t really all that photographable with the shadows.
Once again, we didn’t bother trying to get to the bottom of this waterfall (as tempting as that was). Also, it was kind of comical seeing the quantity of No Trespassing signs strewn everywhere around this waterfall.
It was now about 11am when we reached the turnoff for ‘Ula’ino Road. We decided to turn onto the road to perhaps try our luck.
But we saw some tourists driving the other way with one of them shaking her head so that was enough to convince us not to proceed any further.
As we got back on the Hana Hwy and continued to head towards Hana, Julie got me to pull over at a stand selling banana bread not far from where we just turned onto Hana Hwy. The bread was nice and warm and had a nice crispy texture at its outer edges. Yum!
We took the $5 loaf of bread to the Waianapanapa State Park, which was yet another place we didn’t get to see on our previous Maui visit. I was really looking forward to see the lava arches and possibly blowholes.
We eventually got to an area with some blowholes, but even despite the crazy ocean, the blowholes didn’t really go off. I did manage to get a better look at the lava arch, but I was worried about any rogue waves that might crash above the lava bench behind the blowholes and wash me into the open ocean.
Anyways, we got back to the car and headed into the Hana town hoping that we might be able to check in even though it was 1pm and the check-in time was supposed to be 2pm. And fortunately, we were able to put our overnight baggage into the room.
Certainly this room at the Hana Kai doesn’t quite compare to luxury of the Ka’anapali Beach Club, but we did get to see the ocean and it was decent enough for us.
So now that we were able to travel lighter, we continued our waterfalling tour past the Hana town and towards the ‘Ohe’o Gulch.