In a nutshell: The Pools of ‘Ohe’o are the most popular attraction in East Maui. Beautiful waterfalls and pools in an absolutely stunning setting. Easy access and full NPS facilities.
Minuses: It gets very crowded as the day goes on. Access to pools is closed off frequently in wet weather.
Sound-bite: “Is that guy really going to jump from there?”
Tip: Call 808-572-4400 Option 2 on the day of your trip to find out if the pools are open.
Verdant and diverse, ‘Ohe’o Gulch is an idyllic valley cut deeply over countless millennia by an equally idyllic rainforest stream. The stream is punctuated regularly along its course by cascading waterfalls and plunge pools until it empties into the deep-blue Hawaiian ocean along the rugged Kipahulu coastline.
The most accessible pools are also very well suited for swimming and cliff-jumping – which is what makes this remote site among the most popular in all of Maui.
So, you’ve probably heard this place referred to by many names, and you may be asking: “Which is it? ‘Ohe’o Gulch, Haleakala National Park Kipahulu, or Seven Sacred Pools?” The proper name of this attraction is ‘Ohe’o (Oh-Hey-Oh). “Seven Sacred Pools” is a name coined decades ago by the owner of what is now Travaasa Hana (previously Hotel Hana Maui) for the purpose of marketing this deservingly spectacular (but then unknown) remote location to tourists. Since this is part of the Haleakala National Park, the NPS has also added their own name to the mix “Haleakala National Park, Kipahulu.”
Whatever you call it, this collection of (many more than seven) pools and waterfalls is absolutely spectacular!
Since ‘Ohe’o is Part of the Haleakala National Park, the fee you pay here will also get you in to the Haleakala Summit (and vice versa – so save your receipt!) Admission to the entire park is $15 for a three-day pass or $25 bucks gets you an annual pass to Haleakala, Volcanoes (Big Island) and Pu’uhonua O Honaunau (Big Island) National Parks.
There are full National Park facilities at ‘Ohe’o, including a Ranger Station (with displays and great information), campground, large paved parking lots and bathroom.
The park has unenforced and largely ignored signage prohibiting jumping. There is a notice-board by the ranger station that contains clippings of newspaper articles documenting the many tragedies that have occurred over the years. In fact I tragically lost an acquaintance here in April 2013.
That understood, I believe a life worth living is not without risks. I pay my respect by always remembering, and explaining to others that this place, like much of Maui, is a wild and untamed place that demands respect – not taming.
If you decide to jump, keep in mind that injuries often happen at times other than the jump itself. Expect to slip on wet rocks when you’re moving around, and always know what your backup is gonna be when you lose footing, grip, etc – whether that is to hold on to an alternate anchor, or safely launch away from the rock face before that split second expires when gravity decides where you’re headed. It also should go without saying to get good information on where it is safe, understand your own limitation, and always survey the landing area first.
Aside: If you choose to jump with your jewelry on, the local guys that regularly come prospecting with snorkel gear thank you very much!
Avoiding/Minimizing the Crowd
The pools are very popular, so you should expect the place to become more and more crowded as the day progresses – and there is such a difference between a crowded ‘Ohe’o madhouse and the less crowded majesty offered to the few that get here earlier in the day.
There are a number of ways to avoid the crowds at ‘Ohe’o – all involve getting there before noon. Staying in, or along the Road to Hana (or in the campgrounds at the park) can get you there well before the afternoon rush. Another option is to get started very, very early (isn’t this your vacation?!?) and go through the back side of Haleakala. This will put you one step ahead of the critical mass of visitors all day.
All the above said, if you have only one day devoted to your Road to Hana adventure, rushing through it to get here early would be a mistake. Save enough time to do a Pipiwai Trail hike (see below) and that will get you away from the crowd at the pools 🙂
A Spectacular Hike
Another spectacular activity in the park (that doesn’t ever get madhouse crowded) is mauka the road – hiking the Pipiwai Trail which passes stunning vistas, pools, waterfalls (including the 200′ Makahiku Falls), jungle, a bamboo forest, culminating at the base of the 400′ high Waimoku Falls. (See the Pipiwai Trail and Waimoku Falls post for more detail.)
If The Drive Is Discouraging You
Some people skip this highlight of Maui because they simply can’t enjoy a day built around driving winding narrow jungle and cliffside roads. If that’s you, check out my article about Valley Isle Excursions who offers an incredible way to experience the Pools of ‘Ohe’o and the Road to Hana.
Mile Marker: #42* (Hana Hwy aka Hwy 31 – *After Hana markers go back down)
GPS Coordinates: 20.661458,-156.045299
Facilities: National Park Rangers, Information Facility, Camping (no add’l fee/no permit req’d), grills, picnic tables and bathrooms. No potable water is available in the park.
Fee: $15/car – NPS Info: http://www.nps.gov/hale/planyourvisit/kipahulu.htm
View Seven Sacred Pools aka ‘Ohe’o Gulch in a larger map