In a nutshell: Twin Falls is the first easily accessible string of waterfalls and pools on the Road to Hana. It also has one of the better snack stands on the journey. Twin falls is typically underrated by guidebooks, and is a worthy stop.
Minuses: You must budget your time properly here if you are cramming the Road to Hana into only one day.
Sound-bite: “How much further to the falls?”
Okay, why in the world does the most popular guidebook for Maui tell you this place is nothing special? The only answer I can think of is that the author performed the same quick in-and-out drive-by that, quite unfortunately, many less informed visitors will as well. I’m going to set the record straight and detail why Twin Falls is well worth at least an hour of your Road to Hana time, and why it is always a must see on my list.
The first thing you should know is that when you drive by, chances are the parking lot will be packed with cars. Don’t let that point alone mislead you, because Twin Falls is a pretty big place, and is often uncrowded even when the parking lot is packed. Most visitors will rush in with cameras blazing, thinking they have seen all there is to see after they capture a photo the first falls they happen to find. They will also be kind enough to leave the rest of the place much more serene for the visitors who took the time to plan their Road to Hana trip (like you!)
In the past couple of years Hike Maui has been bringing a lot of their guided tours through here, and they definitely know where to go. So when they have more than one or two vans there, that is when it can start to get crowded at the pools and falls. (Don’t think you’re in the clear because you see none of their green vans in the parking lot, because you won’t – they park inside a private gated lot that you can’t see.)
Note: Please be aware of unsafe high water or flash-flooding that may be present during periods of heavy extended rainfall. Signs are frequently posted at the entry gate during these times.
Twin Falls has an access road for residents that travels the better part of a mile alongside Ho’olawa Stream. A jungle largely restored by the residents over years of loving care accompanies you as you hike uphill on the well maintained graded and graveled path/road. After about a half mile or so, the wide path splits off into two foot-paths that fork in the general direction of Ho’olawa’s two main tributary streams. To the left lies Ho’olawa li’ili’i (Little Ho’olawa) Stream, and to the right Ho’olawa nui (Big Ho’olawa) Stream. Both streams are tapped at this point by EMI irrigation ditches.
Ho’olawa li’ili’i (the left fork)
Hang a left at the fork, and the foot-path will take you to one of the more popular falls, commonly called “Caveman” by local residents.
As you make your way you’ll first come to an irrigation ditch, then cross a funky old rock masonry weir (kids love to try and release the water with the now nonfunctional levers and gears.) Now you’ll either need to wade across the stream, or walk along the ditch wall.
Ahhh! Look at that! A picture-perfect waterfall oasis spills over a prehistoric looking cave dripping in vines and greenery – complete with a caveman swimming hole. (looks like the caveman was kind enough to provide a perfectly positioned swinging rope, too.) Update: The rope has been removed.
Not only are these falls a great swimming break – you can get a postcard perfect photo in front of the falls (either standing, or swinging Tarzan style) for you Facebook profile (or your desk, for old-school paper-print-photo types!)
After you’re tired of playing here, you can continue on by climbing up a path to the right (as you face the falls) – and through the jungle. This path continues in a loop, passing more waterfalls as it loops back down via Ho’olawa nui Stream. (More on that below.)
Ho’olawa nui (the right fork)
If you follow the right fork you will soon cross over the main ditch and follow another ditch for a pretty cool mini example of a hand-dug ditch tunnel through the rock. After you admire the handiwork (and hard labor) of old Hawaii, you continue on to another set of falls that are nice for photos and swimming. If you climb up the rock wall to the right and follow the path, you will end up at a rarely populated set of falls that have relatively safe opportunities for different heights of rock-jumping (do your homework in any pool you decide to jump in first, and definitely look before you leap!)
Off to the left (as you are facing the falls) a wonderful (sometimes hidden/confusing) trail meanders through the jungle, eventually taking you to Ho’olawa li’ili’i Stream, and to the falls listed above (under Ho’olawa li’ili’i.) Note: This is probably not a good trail to try and follow if you never hike or get lost easily. If you do feel lost, you actually can’t stray too far so long as you remember these simple points: 1) “Out” is downhill (makai – toward the ocean.) 2) Don’t cross any streams ’till you know where you are. (If you stray form the trail too far East (right) you’re going to run into Ho’olawa li’ili’i Stream (which is what you’re looking for- so follow it!) If you stray too far West (left) you will run into Ho’olawa nui. Just follow either downstream and you’ll find your way back.)
Keys to Having Fun at Twin Falls
- Wear clothes and shoes that you won’t care if they get wet or dirty.
- Bring a towel.
- Wear swim gear. (Don’t be shocked if you stumble upon a nude bather along the way!)
- There are several falls accessible along the trail. Listen for waterfalls as you walk and explore! (the stream flows to the left of the main path.)
- Once you have stumbled on “the” falls (and when most people turn back to head to the car) realize that there are many sets of falls here, that you have only just begun!
- It is easy to end up wondering where “it” is if you stay on the main trail without following the small foot paths down to the stream. “It”, is everywhere, and if you haven’t seen many different pools, multiple waterfalls of all different sizes, caves, water diversion ditches with amazing history (more on this coming soon), and stunning jungle wonders on your hike, then you haven’t been off the trail! There really is so much to do here that you can literally spend an entire day here if you want. (I know I have!)
Note: It is also important to remember that even though you probably won’t see them, a number of families do live on this land. If you are exploring and come upon an area that looks like someone may live there, they do!
The snack stand is right in the parking lot, and is really worth a stop. They have tasty and fresh home-grown fruits (many grown right on this land), smoothies, cane juice, and home-made baked goods, to name a few.
Note: There is no charge to enter even though much of the access to Twin Falls is on private Hui (cooperative) land. The owners generously develop and actively maintain trails, pay for port-a-potties, and maintain access for all who wish to visit. Please be sure to give an equally generous donation at the donation box – these people have chosen to allow nature to be open to all.
View Twin Falls in a larger map