Na’ili’ili Haele Stream & Waterfalls (aka “Bamboo Forest”)

Last updated 01. Aug, 2012 by in Adventures, Adventures & Sights | Rd to H, Hikes, Pools (natural), Road to Hana, Road to Hana Sites, Waterfalls

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A Na'ili'ili haele waterfall

Na'ili'ili haele waterfall #3 (or #2, depending how wet it has been.)

Rating: ★★★★½

In a nutshell: Na’ili’ili Haele, for most, will be a nice short hike to two or three waterfalls and pools. The more able hikers will be rewarded with more significant sights.
Minuses: Access may be restricted by EMI. Can become dangerous to nearly impossible depending on conditions/how far you go.
Sound-bite: “Is that really a ladder?”

This is a great place for everyone from the novice to the extreme hiker, and everyone in between – you really can make this as much adventure as you wish. There is a bamboo forest to walk through on your way to the stream bed (and beyond if you wish), and a string of waterfalls and pools to access (the quantity you will see depends on how extreme a hiker you are!) The first few waterfalls are typically within easy reach of most folks.

Important: Sadly, on New Years Day 2012 a visitor was killed from a fall at this location. Please remember that all outdoor activities in rugged wilderness can be dangerous. Know your limits, respect nature, and understand that there are always risks in places like these.

When you first get here it can be tricky to find the waterfalls. So that you don’t wind up wandering aimlessly though bamboo forest trails that lead to nowhere, the number one key to remember is that the waterfalls are all found along the main stream flow.

Start at the road, and look for openings into the bamboo. You can pick any opening and head downhill – they all lead to the main trail. The main trail soon heads down a sometimes slippery incline (good news is it is short) – hint: bamboo is extremely strong, and most is exceptionally rooted into the soil, you can hold on to it to anchor yourself on slippery sections.

Note: This hike is on private EMI property. Please see the EMI page for more information.

Next you will come to an EMI Ditch, which you will have to step across. It’s deep, but that makes it look worse than it is. The distance across is actually about the length of a person’s stride, so you’d have to be careless and/or unlucky to actually end up in the ditch.

After you have crossed the ditch, you will be presented with a decision: take the high-road, or the low-road. (Those not bound by metaphor can feel free to take either as they both go to the same place.) You’ll soon be at the main stream bed. Depending on how much rain there has been, this may be a trivial crossing of hopping across large boulders, or you may want a length of bamboo to help you keep your balance and/or survey the depth as you walk across.

Note: Please be aware of unsafe high water or flash-flooding that can occur in North and East Maui streams.

Once across the stream, remember the of “follow the stream bed.” Don’t be fooled in following what appear to be prominent trails away from the stream, these are false trails, maintained by the constant foot traffic of lost tourists trying to figure out where the waterfalls are!

As you follow a trail that parallels the stream (headed upstream) you will either discover a giant raging waterfall, on the opposite bank feeding into the Na’ili’ili haele stream, or perhaps you’ll pass it, dry and unnoticed. This huge disparity in description (and why it has been left out of most other guidebooks completely) is because it lies directly on the other end of a reservoir that feeds the main EMI diversion ditch, and except during the wettest times, most (or all) of the water that feeds it has been diverted.

Continue upstream for a bit and you will come upon another waterfall, with a pleasant swimming hole. If you are moderately sure-footed, you can continue across the stream, and up a steep, and somewhat slippery hill. There are some protruding rocks for footing, and bamboo-backup for anchoring yourself should the footing fail. I’ve seen all types of folks get past this one, but it is a place you could take a fairly painful fall if you happened to slip.

As you follow the trail you will quickly come to another set of falls with a large, deep pool, and many rock-jumping, and waterfall climbing/sitting options. To get to the next and subsequent pool, the hiking gets a bit more extreme, requiring climbing a makeshift wooden ladder. To get to the fifth waterfall, which is about 35′ and in a particularly dramatic setting, you’re going to have to swim (which shouldn’t be a biggie, since you’re probably wet, muddy and hot by now!)

After number five, the hiking gets much more extreme – however, if you take a look around the Google satellite shots (link below) you’ll observe an outstanding opportunity for the more experienced jungle hiker, with what appear to be truly dramatic waterfalls and gigantic pools further upstream (I have marked the “big” pool described above for scale). I have not yet hiked that far as I’ve got to take out more life insurance before tackling the rockface on #5. Seriously, though – the best way around #5 is *not* the rockface, you can access views of at least one of these larger falls from a hike past the reservoir that feeds waterfall #1. (Access at the mauka gate on the Hana Hwy just past the bamboo.)

Key Info:
Mile Marker: #6.7 (Hana Hwy aka Hwy 360)
GPS Coordinates: 20.885207,-156.208211
Facilities: No facilities
Get directions

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7 Responses to “Na’ili’ili Haele Stream & Waterfalls (aka “Bamboo Forest”)”

  1. Tim Potter

    07. Mar, 2010

    Take the warning about flash-flooding in this area very seriously. My girlfriend and I, along with another hiker, were trapped at the base of the fifth waterfall (the one you swim to) when the lazy creek turned into a raging river within a few minutes. The area is like a bowl with steep sides all around and it can get chilly in this area from the mist off of the 35′ falls. I suspect EMI opened a flood gate because the water level changed so rapidly that it could not be due to natural causes like rain.

    The problem is that a good portion of the hike back relies on using the boulders in the creek as a trail, which is not possible once the water level rises. It took us 4 hours of strenuous crawling through the rain-forest & mangrove thicket to get out. Not to mention we had to jump off the 4th waterfall (about 8-10′ drop) into the pool without knowing the depth or being able to see into the muddy water. Luckily it was deep enough, but was very hard to fight the current once in the pool.

    Our biggest fear was if we had to cross the creek once we made our way through the thicket because you end up on the opposite side of the creek from where your car is when you swim to the fifth falls. Fortunately, you do not have cross the creek on the way out if the water level is too high. About a 1/2 mile below where you initially crossed the creek on the way up to the falls is a bridge. There is a path through the bamboo to the bridge. Put simply, if the water level is too high to easily wade across the creek, don’t risk it and walk down to the bridge!

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  2. Mark

    07. Mar, 2010

    Wow Tim – thanks for sharing that. Jumping into the water at that level was dangerous – I’m glad it turned out OK for you. I’d suggest that no one reading this ever try and enter the streams when they flood. .

    Believe it or not, flash floods most frequently do come from rain upstream. The mountain is 10,000′ high and these falls are at the bottom of a huge watershed encompassing countless square miles .

    The effect is so dramatic, however, because the damming diverts up to a certain capacity above normal flow levels and then the rest spills over the top – in other words, the only reason this is a “lazy river” most of the time is that at typical stream flows the streams are usually sucked dry at the lowest diversion point, and then the only water you usually see is coming up from springs beneath the subsequent pools between you and the diversions.

    Once the diversion reaches capacity, an almost immediate addition of water is restored to the upstream flow, and it is a significant change almost immediately downstream.

    While not a daily occurrence, flash floods can happen at any time, and I always pay close attention to the water level during any stream hike – glad you’re here to tell us your story!

    PS – For folks that are not confident in their ability to be safe, there is an awesome guide named Alicia (search for Awapuhi Adventures here) – Alicia is very knowledgeable and experienced and can take folks to enjoy places like these safely.

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  3. Heath

    29. Jun, 2012

    I wish I would’ve read this before I did the hike by myself. I went all the way back and climbed the falls to the big waterfall. Took it in for a while then headed back. Swam back and realized that a flash flood had just came through. I had to wait 8 hours to be rescued by helicopter. Talking to locals they said to make sure to check with the locals before attempting to go to far. Take this advise please my trip could’ve been a lot worse.

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  4. Randy

    16. Jan, 2013

    My kids and I went a day after a heavy rain and it was raining as we started. No problems other than the water was quite muddy. We had an awesome hike and it was one of the highlights of our time in Maui. So not sure how to tell when to stay out of there.

    Both times we were there we met numerous other hikers. I think the area is relatively popular and gets a lot of visitors.

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  5. Bri

    22. Apr, 2013

    I love this hike. I live on Maui, and have done this hike several times. As with most surrounding areas, if it is raining or has rained recently, I would avoid this area all together. Just use common sense, check the weather for the day, and you should be fine. There is a lot less people here than in other spots on the road to Hana, which is a breath of fresh air.

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  6. Cri

    07. Sep, 2013

    I’m trying to figure out where do i park? And am i suppose to jump the fence if I have a permit?

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  7. Melissa

    18. Sep, 2014

    Thanks for the info – I love sharing insights on Maui with my customers before they head to the island

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