The Pools of Oheo (or the Pools of ‘Ohe’o) is the name given to the series of picturesque waterfalls and swimming holes not far from the Ohe’o Gulch car park. This series of pools was also informally called the “Seven Sacred Pools” in a shrewd easy-to-remember marketing attempt at bringing more visitation to the area by a local businessman. It was shrewd because there weren’t seven pools and they weren’t sacred from a Hawaiian historical perspective.
In any case, this was really a succession of several waterfalls tumbling from one pool into another and so on, eventually leading to the tiger shark-infested ocean (so you definitely want to stay out of the turbulent ocean).
Our first visit here was under very benign conditions where lots of people were sun bathing, swimming, or just checking out the falls itself. It turned out that this was but just one section with waterfalls in the gulch as there were several other waterfalls found in ‘Ohe’o Gulch.
Back when the Hana side of Maui was unknown to travelers, it was said that the owner of the Hotel Hana dubbed this area the “Seven Sacred Pools” to lure more tourists. Apparently the marketing scheme worked (as much as the locals hate this name) as I’m sure this is now windward Maui’s most popular attraction.
It was amazing that this waterfall (which we liked enough to put in our Hawaii’s Top 10 List) ended up being as publicly accessible as it is now. For in 1960, it took Sam Pryor (former Pan Am Airlines executive) and locals who shared concerns that the falls would be forever lost as a public attraction in its natural form to convince Pryor’s friend, billionaire venture capitalist Laurence Rockefeller, to buy a chunk of the area and then protect it in what eventually was to become the Kipahulu District of Haleakala National Park in 1969. If not for such foresight and generosity, this could’ve easily succumbed to a private resort or might even be developed for hydro or irrigation (like so many other streams and gulches this side of windward Maui).
From the car park (you have to pay a National Park fee), we walked a loop of about 0.5 miles to reach the falls. Since the Lower Pools of Oheo were at the opposite side of this loop, no one direction was shorter than the other. I believe the loop trail is called the Kuloa Point Trail, and it took us about 15 minutes to get to the falls.
After a little exploring of the area, we managed to find a spur trail providing a comprehensive look back at the falls and pools as well as the coastline. If the pool is off limits due to flooding, this spot may be the only good place to view the scene (though it’s just as good to check out even when it’s not flooding).
The car park for the Lower Pools of Oheo is just before the 42-mile post, near a blind turn where motorists blow their horns to warn drivers coming from the other direction. It’s about 9 or 10 miles beyond Hana (i.e. south of it; yep, that’s right, the there’s a lot more to see after Hana).
There is a National Park fee at the car park, but the National Parks pass is good here. Parking is plentiful (at least when we were there), though it might appear crowded.
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 another half-hour to continue driving 10 miles to ‘Oheo Gulch.
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