Maui has no shortage of awe-inspiring natural wonders. Between the moonscape at the top of Haleakala volcano to the pristine beaches and ancient lava flows on the coast, the Valley Isle is a romantically wondrous island to explore. Some of the most fantastical natural wonders on Earth, and possibly at the top of your top bucket list of activities is bearing witness to several of Maui’s thunderous waterfalls. Some are easy-to-spot roadside wonders, while others are towering cascades buried deep in the thick, lush jungle. There are more than 15 waterfalls on Maui, mainly concentrated around the Road to Hana on the east side of the island, which makes viewing them an accessible activity that can be accomplished in one day. Visiting the waterfalls on Maui is definitely not to be missed as it will remain imprinted in your memory as one of the most exotic and wild experiences of your vacation. You can’t go wrong with any of the waterfalls on the Valley Isle, so we’ve compiled a list of the best waterfalls on Maui to help you plan your concourse with nature’s majesty.
If you are driving the Road to Hana, which we suggest doing if you are staying a week or more, stopping to find waterfalls must be high on your list of things to do. Here are the one's you should make an effort to see.
Twin Falls, just past mile marker 2 on Hana Highway, is the first major stop on the Road to Hana to view a system of cascading waterfalls and clear swimmable pools. Twin Falls is considered one of the best hikes on Maui with waterfalls. The hiking trails are well marked and easily accessible for families and children. The path to the first waterfall is a short hike in a gorgeous jungle setting. The parking lot around Twin Falls can get crowded, but most visitors are interested in just taking a quick photo of the falls and then moving on, so it rarely feels overwhelming once you’re at the waterfalls themselves. Make sure to grab some fresh fruit at the fruit stand on the side of the road. Nothing beats an invigorating swim in crystalline freshwater pools with a tropical fruit for dessert.
Waimoku Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls on Maui, spills from a staggering 400 foot cliff located in Haleakala National Park in the Kipahulu District Oheo Gulch. This waterfall is located at the end of the Pipiwai Trail, approximately 4 miles round trip, above the Seven Sacred Pools. The trek to this waterfall can be challenging at times, but there's plenty to enchant you along the way with idyllic banyan trees, clear pools and the famous bamboo forest. The accessibility of the trail makes it one of the best waterfall hikes in East Maui.
Just past mile marker 19 on the Road to Hana, is the brilliant Upper Waikani Falls, also known as “Three Bears Falls,” a triple waterfall tumbling down at different heights from a 70 foot cliff into a picturesque pool. You can view a part of Upper Waikani Falls from a bridge overlooking it on Hana Highway, or take a quick 1/10th mile hike from the road to the falls for an even closer communion with its majesty. There’s a mild drop off to get to the pools and the terrain can get slippery on the hike, so adorn the proper footwear.
If you’re hiking to Waimoku Falls make sure you make a stop at the sublime Makahiku Falls for a spectacular treat for your senses. As you hike Pipiwai Trail in Haleakala National Park Kipahulu District, about a ½ mile from the trailhead lies Makahiku Falls. Known to be one of the most beautiful waterfalls on Maui, Makahiku Falls cascades down a glittering 185 foot drop off. Surrounded by lush jungle vegetation, you can observe this waterfall from an unique overhead vantage point. The Pipiwai Trail can be slippery and muddy, so make sure you wear good shoes for the journey.
Near mile marker 25 on the Hana Highway, you’ll cross directly over the Makapipi Stream which feeds into Makapipi Falls. This unique waterfall extends from a striking lava stream bed that falls down into an immaculate blue swimming hole. Most waterfalls along the Hana Highway are viewed from the bottom up, but Makapipi Falls offers a rare perspective as you peer down at it from the highway bridge at the edge of the drop off. The amount of water flow at this fall depends on how wet it’s been in on the Windward side of the island, so during particularly dry spells, there may be no waterfall at all, but it’s still worth pulling over to check for yourself. Park just past the bridge in a small pull off on the east side of the highway and carefully cross traffic to view the waterfall. Make sure you are cognizant of how far over the railing you lean so as to not lose your balance and fall over the bridge. There have been fatal accidents here due to reckless viewing.
Alelele Falls is another glittering stop in Haleakala National Park Kipahulu District. As this is one of the less popular stops on the way to other destinations in the park, such as the Seven Sacred Pools, this slot canyon waterfall is usually less crowded and more peaceful than others. The access to the waterfall’s trail is just beyond mile marker 39. You will come to a white bridge with “Alelele” engraved on it. Cross the bridge and park on the shoulder. You can check if the water is flowing under the bridge to determine if the fall is active before making your hike in. A short hike from the highway will lead to the 80 foot waterfall and plunge pool. This is a seasonal waterfall, and the amount of water flow from the incoming stream is dependent upon how dry or wet it’s been in the region. If it’s been particularly wet or is raining heavily, proceed with caution, and do not cross the stream if it’s flooding. There may be hazardous terrain, flash floods and rock fall from overhead due to rain and wind.
Mother Nature made sure to pull out all the stops for the breathtaking wonder of Hanawai Falls. Quite possibly the most photographed waterfall on Maui, this 30-foot tumbler located around mile marker 24 on Hana Highway flows year round. The 9 mile descent from the Hanawai Stream to the Pacific Ocean allows 450 million gallons of rainfall to tumble down the upper and lower cascades of Hanawai Falls. Surrounded by opulent jungles, endemic plants, endangered species and crystalline pools nourished by the pristine freshwater stream, you’re guaranteed to feel a communion with the awesome power of nature surrounding you. One of the best places to view this beauty is from the Hanawai Stream’s bridge. Park just beyond the bridge on the shoulder of the road and make sure not to block traffic with your vehicle as this stop can get crowded. Although you may be tempted to hike down from the bridge to the pool, proceed with caution as the terrain can be slippery and prone to landslides. Further downstream is the 200 foot lower cascade of the Hanawai Falls. The land surrounding the lower falls is owned by the East Maui Irrigation company, and they don’t allow hiking on the private property, so please be respectful and do not trespass.
Punalau Falls is another secret gem along the Road to Hana. About ¼ mile east past mile marker 13 an unmarked trailhead sits adjacent to a single unsigned parking spot. The hidden trail starts just beyond a pile of debris and snakes its way through the rainforest and up the creek bed. Since there is no marked trail, you will walk over the partially submerged rocks of the stream. Depending on the weather conditions, the stream may be a trickle or a raging river. Do not attempt to hike this stream if there’s heavy rainfall, as the narrow gulch has no outlet to safety from flash flooding and falling rocks. If the conditions are favorable, after about a 15 minute hike upstream through a scenic canyon, you’ll come upon the 135 foot waterfall and plunge pool. Since Punalau Falls is easy-to-miss from the road, it’s pretty quiet there and you’re likely to have this luxuriant waterfall all to yourself.
Puohokamoa Falls is a sweet waterfall standing at a mere 30 feet high. Because of its accessibility by foot, the upper Puohokamoa Falls was once a popular stop that drew many crowds on the Road to Hana. However, the falls are now located on private land and are closed to the public. Despite not being able to get up close and personal to the falls themselves, you can gander a bird’s eye view from the Garden of Eden, a paid attraction that houses lovely botanical gardens about a half mile past mile marker 10 on the Hana Highway. The lesser known lower Puohokamoa Falls stands much taller than its upper counterpart, towering from 200 feet, and is located off a steep and dangerous trail that is closed to the public. You can view this waterfall from afar as well at a lookout point around 0.8 miles past mile marker 10.
Lahaina, Ka'anapali, Napili, and Kapalua, the towns that make up West Maui are best known for their luxurious resorts, long sandy beaches, heavy traffic and a plethora of food options. But there are a few waterfalls that are also worth exploring when staying on the west side.
Honokohau Falls is one of a few waterfalls located in West Maui, and holds the behemoth title of the tallest waterfall on Maui, towering at 1,119 feet in the sky. You may recognize this beautiful waterfall as it was popularized by its appearance in “Jurassic Park.” This waterfall is a hidden gem deep in the remote jungle of the West Maui Mountains and can only be accessed by helicopter. We recommend booking with Sunshine Helicopter Tours, a kama’aina (local) eco-conscious tourism company that has been operating their fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly helicopters for over 25 years. The best viewing conditions are in the morning, so we recommend booking your tour early in the day.
Makamaka’ole Falls is another tucked away wonder in the West Maui Mountains. This stunner is located around 0.9 miles in along the 13 Crossings Trail in the West Maui Forest Reserve in Wailuku, and is one of the only waterfalls in West Maui that is accessible by foot. As you approach the 0.9 mile mark, you’ll come to a fork in the stream. Follow the stream to the right and continue to the falls. This is a lightly trodden trail and moderate level hike with several stream crossings (hence the name 13 Crossings), so make sure you wear water shoes, and preferably bring walking sticks for balance, as hiking boots probably won’t be enough on the slippery and wet terrain. Exercise extreme caution if heavy rainfall is in the forecast, as this stream is prone to flash flooding. The journey to this waterfall is full of natural beauty as you’ll brush up against trees dripping with strawberry guavas, a bamboo forest and a mighty banyan tree. There are two waterfalls along this hike, one is 270 feet high and the other cascades from 60 feet. To view the upper falls, hike about one mile up the Waihe’e Ridge Trail.
Honokohau Falls in the West Maui Mountains is the tallest waterfall on Maui, with two titanesque tiers that drop a staggering total of 1,119 feet.
Honokohau Falls and Makamaka’ole Falls are both located in the West Maui Mountains. Honokohau Falls is only accessible by helicopter, while Makamaka’ole Falls are the only West Maui waterfalls that are accessible by foot.
East Maui along the Road to Hana has hands down the most. If you want to catch a few while on your Maui vacation, these are definitely the ones to check out as you can either see them by car or get there by hiking. Plus, you can explore multiple of them in a short distance.
Have a favorite waterfall in Maui? Tell us in the comments below.
After many years of nomadically bouncing around the world as a yoga instructor (From Nebraska to DC to London to Chicago to New York to Thailand to Maldives to Martha’s Vineyard to Abu Dhabi), I landed in Hawaii 7 years ago. I spent my first two years on Lana’i, but I knew my heart belonged in Maui, so we moved in early 2018 before the birth of our son to lay our official roots. I love the year-round tropical weather and unparalleled aloha spirit from my friends and neighbors. In my free time you can find me practicing yoga near the ocean, spending time with my family on the beach and submerging in the icy cold waters of Iao Valley. Maui is a culturally rich island with beauty at every turn, which makes living and raising my child here an honor.Becca Coren