Punalau Falls

Hana Highway, Hawaii, USA

About Punalau Falls

Hiking Distance: 1/2 mile round trip scramble
Suggested Time: 30-45 minutes

Date first visited: 2007-02-23
Date last visited: 2007-02-23

Waterfall Latitude: 20.85834
Waterfall Longitude: -156.17281

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Punalau Falls is a relatively hidden yet gorgeous 100ft waterfall.

In fact, it’s not visible from the road (we missed this on our first two Hana Highway excursions).

Punalau_Falls_004_02232007 - Punalau Falls
Punalau Falls

So in order to see this waterfall, I had to earn it with a real tricky and nontrivial 800ft stream scramble over a bunch of volcanic boulders.

I definitely had to watch my footing and go slow for it was real easy to turn an ankle or get cut on one of the sharp rocks.

Any open wound would introduce the risk for a leptospirosis infection.

The waterfall itself blocked any further upstream progress so it would be the end of the excursion.

In hindsight, I wish I had brought hiking sticks and sticky rubber water shoes to negotiate the slippery and sometimes submerged boulders in the stream.

I think it took me about 15 minutes each way though it could’ve easily been as little as 10 minutes or as much as 30 minutes I reckon, depending on stream levels.

It was in pretty low flow during my visit in February 2007.

Given the nature of stream scrambling and the narrowness of the gulch, I really had to watch out for flash floods and falling rocks.

If it’s raining or you notice dark clouds upslope (even if it’s fine along the Hana Highway), do not attempt this scramble!

You’ll have nowhere to go if a sudden wall of water comes rushing towards you!

The whole time I did this scramble, it was always on my mind.

Typical of an East Maui Gulch

By the way, I suspect just about every gulch in the windward slopes of East Maui (comprised of the Haleakala Volcano) has at least a waterfall.

That’s because volcanos tend to leave behind very hard rock layers that are more resistant to erosion by water than most of the softer rock layers.

Thus, you have the conditions necessary for waterfall formation.

So even though Punalau Falls is being pointed out here (thanks to the Blue Bible pointing it out), I’d imagine stream scrambles in other gulches would yield similar results.

I have to believe that was what the authors of that book had the time to do and subsequently did.

And that’s why they were able to trailblaze and identify many of the obscure waterfalls this side of Maui.


Punalau Falls resides on the island of Maui, Hawaii. As far as I know, it is not administered by any official authority. For information or inquiries about the general area as well as current conditions, you may want to try visiting the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) website.

Punalau_Falls_002_02232007 - View of boulders fronting Punalau Falls
Punalau_Falls_009_02232007 - A closer look at Punalau Falls

The Punalau Falls pullout is just beyond the far side of the Punalau Stream bridge, 0.25 miles past the 13-mile post. A primitive path leads from the pullout right down into the stream to start the waterfall scramble.

For some context, the drive to get here from Ka’anapali or Lahaina was at least 52 miles (2 hours drive). Coming from Hana, it would be 21 miles (an hour drive) going northwest.

Find A Place To Stay

Tagged with: hana highway, hana, windward, maui, east maui, hawaii, waterfall, scramble, stream, awkward, flash flood, boulders

Visitor Comments:

Got something you'd like to share or say to keep the conversation going? Feel free to leave a comment below...

No users have replied to the content on this page

Share your thoughts about what you've read on this page

You must be logged in to submit content. Refresh this page after you have logged in.

Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

If you have a waterfall story or write-up that you'd like to share, feel free to click the button below and fill out the form...

No users have submitted a write-up/review of this waterfall

Have you been to a waterfall? Submit a write-up/review and share your experiences or impressions

Review A Waterfall

Nearest Waterfalls

The Waterfaller Newsletter

The Waterfaller Newsletter is where we curate the wealth of information on the World of Waterfalls website and deliver it to you in bite-sized chunks in your email inbox. You'll also get exclusive content like...

  • Waterfall Wednesdays
  • Insider Tips
  • User-submitted Waterfall Write-up of the Month
  • and the latest news and updates both within the website as well as around the wonderful world of waterfalls

How To Build A Profitable Travel Blog In 4 Steps

Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.