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 may be the number one rescue spot on the Road to Hana. It’s very popular, and there are many places to slip and potentially get injured if you’re not careful. There are many stories of broken legs, flash floods stranding people on the other side of the stream, and even a recent death.
I’m not trying to scare you – many people will have a blast here – I know I have! BUT – please remember that all outdoor activities in rugged wilderness can be dangerous. Know your limits, respect nature, and understand going in that there are always risks in places like these.
Note: This hike is on private EMI property. The Maui outdoor enthusiast community clearly acts as if there is an implied easement to use these trails after all the years of hiking here – but you’re advised to get permission from EMI. The EMI page has more info about EMI, instructions for obtaining permission and contact info too.
This is a great place for everyone from the fit 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.
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 (thank you Captain Obvious!)
Start at the road, and look for the openings into the bamboo. You can pick any opening and head downhill – they all lead to the main trail. (Note: if you have parked well past the first group of openings – maybe the first 1/10 mile – you may need to follow the stream right.) 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.
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.
Please be aware of unsafe high water or flash-flooding that can occur in North and East Maui streams. This note is found on many articles, if you have not read the flash flood page, taking a minute to do so could save your life.
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 pigs and 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. SOme folks will be perfectly content here – in fact the last outing I took with visitors we never made it past!
But, if you’re here for adventure, and you are moderately sure-footed, you can continue across the stream, and up a steep, and somewhat slippery hill for the waterfall that our lead image for this article is of. 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 definitely a place you could take a fairly painful fall if you happened to slip.
As you follow the trail you will come to the falls pictured at the top of the page, which boasts a large, deep pool, and many rock-jumping, and waterfall climbing/sitting options. I rarely take visitors past this one because it’s perfect.
To get to the next and subsequent pool, the hiking gets a bit more extreme, requiring climbing a makeshift wooden ladder (this changes over time.) 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.
View Na’ili’ili-Haele Stream & Waterfalls in a larger map