In a nutshell: Among East Maui’s most spectacular natural pools, situated in rugged and scenic coastline.
Minuses: Access and safety issues mean that the vast majority of visitors should skip this.
Sound-bite: “That last step is a doosey!”
NOTE: I did not rate Waioka Pond because most readers should not be attempting to access this site for the reasons listed below.
Waioka Pond is a spectacular jewel of the Hana coastline. That said, there are many issues with accessing it that you should be aware of.
“Venus Pool” is a made up name used in guidebooks heavy on superlatives and light on practical reality, and calling it by that name has become associated with the problems those sent by these careless descriptions have brought to this area. Taking the extra effort to call this place by its real name not only shows respect, but will also set you apart from those negative associations.
Waioka is believed to be a shortened form of Waioaoaka, which by one translation means “open mouth of fresh water” and is the name written on old maps of the area.
Waioka Pond is not for those unused to scrambling, climbing and off-trail hiking. A misstep in more than a couple critical places could cost you. Like all streams in Maui, this can also flash-flood and flow heavily enough to make entering the pond unsafe.
Flash flood at Waioka Pond 11/11/2013 – Video by Sky Pierce (YouTube)
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.
Access is another significant issue you will face. While the pond, shoreline and stream are on State land, the established access trail is on land belonging to Hana Ranch.
Hana Ranch appears to be having a tough time balancing access for local residents who have the understanding and ability to safely be here, and restrict those who ended up here because of short-attention-span descriptions. Currently, the ability to access via Hana Ranch land can be best described as “ambiguous.”
This ambiguity can be seen on the sign at the trailhead -the wording is much less clear than a simple KEEP OUT. The sign instead contains a liability disclaimer and statement that use is considered recreational. (Perhaps because the previous KEEP OUT signs had angered many local residents who grew up swimming here.) There is also ever-evolving fencing which always has some method of access immediately added to it by local residents.
A good bush/jungle-hiker could avoid the access question by hiking along the stream side of the fence. I took a look over the County plat maps for the area, and they show that this is State owned land. If the brush/jungle thing sounds like it isn’t your speed, save yourself the deliberation and skip this place – because even if you take the easy trail you will need some off-trail skills to get in and out of the pool in one piece.
Once you have reached the pool and shoreline prepare to be impressed. The blue ocean pounding just outside or into the pool, and the rugged scenery surrounding the area is absolutely stunning.
At the top of the cliffs surrounding the Waioka Pond, you’ll find several rough trails down – typically, the easiest to navigate is at the mauka end of the pool. A slip on the wrong spot on any of these trails could potentially result in serious injury, and conditions vary from day to day, so you need to be comfortable assessing the safest entry for your skills and current conditions.
There are plenty of opportunities for rock jumping and swimming. The cliff and stream bed at the mauka end is deep, with lower and high ledges where daring folks can fly (for a moment.) That said, always find someone knowledgeable or go for a scouting swim to check for hidden submerged rocks.
The rounded-rock beach moves with ocean and stream conditions, and can leave a lava-rock island (photo above) with the ocean crashing just outside of the pool. At other times ocean moves the entire rocky beach into the pool, surrounding what was the island, creating a stone bridge connecting it to a skylit cave (someone was living in this cave when I wrote this article!)
View Waioka Pond aka Venus Pool in a larger map