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).
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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