Itinerary: Shelby's Kipahulu Day

A full day dedicated to the National Park, Kipahulu


A visitor named Shelby emailed me, telling me about a wonderful memory she had visiting ‘Ohe’o as a child, and hiking the Pipiwai trail. She wanted to hand down the gift of such fond family memories to her children, and generously gave a gift to sponsor my writing. I have written some articles about her trip. This is part of the itinerary I have written for guiding her family on a trip that I hope the whole family will return to revisit for generations to come. (Also see the Road to Hana day I planned for them.)

Please note that Shelby communicated that the whole family is athletic, in good shape and strong swimmers. The children are not typical for their ages, but much advanced in hiking and swimming ability. This itinerary will need to be adjusted appropriately for those who don’t fit this fit description – please be aware that Maui is natural, rugged, and you can be unprotected. Survey the environment and proceed appropriately. If you are ever in doubt as to something being safe, skip it. Don’t become a tragic addition to the stories of people who didn’t give the respect to the power of our ocean and land.

So, Shelby wanted a day with a very strong focus on ‘Ohe’o – and I think that is one heck of a good idea! I have two articles that do a great job of focusing on the two highlights at this part of Haleakala National Park, so I won’t cover information already in either of these points again. If you really want to do this place right , you need to get here before everyone else, and spend the better part of your day here. This post is for Shelby’s family, detailing exactly how they can best meet their desires – if you’re not them, your mileage may vary!

Related Articles
‘Ohe’o Gulch article
Pipiwai Trail article
Back Side of Haleakala
Keokea through Ulupalakua

– Spend as much time at HNP Kipahulu and make memories!
– Have a nice leisurely hike with time to stop and really take in and savor the experience.
– Accommodate the needs of athletic adults and their four very fit children who range from 6-12.

Items To Bring
– Everything may get wet/muddy.
– Food & Water (there is no drinking water at HNP Kipahulu)
– Backpack(s) may be useful.
– Sunscreen
– Consider bringing mosquito repellent (may not be required) & a simple first-aid kit
– Pocket Knife (for fruits you may find)
– Bathing Suits
– Changes of clothing
– Camera
– Towels
– Plastic trash bags for wet/muddy clothing
– Ziplocks for camera/phone/etc.
– Good footwear for mud and water.
– Printouts of all the articles suggested below (there is no Internet/cell service in most areas on the way, though you might have service at the parking lot.)

Practical Decisions
I suggested that you try and overnight in Hana or Kipahulu since you wanted to focus so strongly on the park, but I also that the Road to Hana is absolutely not something to be missed and we just can’t squeeze it all into one day. Since you communicated that staying there overnight was not a viable option on this trip, I’m suggesting that you do the Road to Hana on a different day than Kipahulu in order that you don’t rush the Road to Hana. The back side of Haleakala being very scenic and wonderful as well, I’ve paired that up as the route for this day since it will get you to ‘Ohe’o traffic-free and ahead of the masses.

The Day of Your Trip
Important! Call 808-572-4400 Option 2 ahead to check that the pools are open – they are closed when there is even a minuscule chance of flooding.

For your goal of focusing on the Pipiwai Trail, you can still go there with the lower pools closed, however it will be better to reschedule to a day when they are open since you will need to be more cautious if it is raining enough for the potential of flash flooding. (I have detailed risks below.)

– Start early. The earlier you can leave, the better. (How does 6:45 sound? *try and make it happen!)
– Bring plenty of snacks, food and water. There is no potable water in the park in Kipahulu, and very few places to stop on the way.
– Top off on gas the night before.

So, looking at the map below the first thing you may say to yourself is “why is this guy sending me on that big circle to Keokea?” Well, bottom line, there is no other option. That is the only route between Wailea and Keokea! (Ignore any maps you see that show a road from South Maui to Upcountry, there are private gated 4WD roads, but no paved public road exists.) Consolation: It is highway the whole way.

If you leave Wailea at 6:40, you should be in Keokea around 7:30-7:45 am.

Stop at Grandma’s Coffee House in Keokea (just before Ulupalakua) for breakfast! Be sure to grab some yummy baked treats for the road, you won’t be sorry (other than in pounds gained!)

After breakfast you will get back on the road for a very scenic drive called the Back Side of Haleakala. The articles Keokea through Ulupalakua and Back Side of Haleakala are written from a reverse perspective – print these out and bring it with you. (Don’t rely on the ipad, you won’t get Internet out here!)

Use your morning trip as a sight-seeing from the car trip, check out the articles, and make mental notes of places of interest to the family to visit on your return trip. Getting to the pools early is key to a full enjoyment there (if you called and the pools are closed, you can adjust this advice to take your time and stop along the way, and maybe see something in/around Hana after your Pipiwai trail hike.)

You should arrive at Haleakala National Park Kipahulu before 10:00. 10:00-noon is when the first visitors beyond the few that camped there start showing up to the lower pools (the most popular area of the park.) When you get here before the masses (before noon) it is quite a special place you can really appreciate in a way that is more difficult once throngs of people descend in the afternoon. Spend plenty of time swimming and having fun. You can also hike to the second pool by climbing along the ridge on the far end of the larger lower pool. Jumping form the rocks is also popular here – though (technically) prohibited. (more details in the article.) Being an outdoorsy and athletic family I assume you can assess the risks and have fun here, but do be careful and take all the required precautions – if you have any questions or require clarification, please ask me!

So, you may have stayed down here close to lunch time. If so, picnic lunch down here. You can also bring your lunch with you for your Pipiwai Trail Hike. (See my email for more details about your lunch.)

Now it is time to take the Pipiwai Trail Hike. Consider taking all the side-trips suggested in the detail article since you have plenty of time.

After you have done the trail, I’m suggesting that you head back to the hotel the way you came. If you feel that you had enough of the back side, or if you somehow come out of here early, you could take an option of returning on the Road To Hana and add in some select spots – if you do that, focus on those between here and Hana, it will shorten the drive time on your Road to Hana Day. (Borrow from the Road to Hana itinerary for suggestions.)

I don’t want to be a bummer for this trip, but especially with children, you need to know some things often glossed over in other guidebooks. (I would rather be your bummer, than an act of nature that was unexpected but avoidable be.)

If the pools are closed, you may want to weigh minimizing or completely eliminating your exposure to any of my suggestions to enter the water (depending.) I know that this isn’t as straightforward as it should be, because due to a lawsuit settlement, the park has been forced to close in a “little boy who cried wolf” manner. If the water downstream is closed, you may be able to get a ranger to talk to you “off the record” as to the true suitability of entering it upstream. If there is any doubt, or any time the water is visibly swollen, avoid entering.

Also, be very careful at Waimoku Falls (at the top of the hike) if you choose to pass the sign as you will observe many doing. Don’t allow the children to play on the rock hills this area is very unstable and the rocks you’re standing on all got there from falling from above. (A very small rock will kill a person, and this so tragically happened just a couple months ago.) In my opinion a life fully lived is not possible without some calculated risk taking. But it is also very important to know what risks your taking to make informed decisions. If you choose to pas the sign, respect the risk you’re taking, and minimize your exposure time. (Definitely do not let the kids climb the rock hill there.)

Above all, so long as you always remember that there is an element of risk to this whole hike. Keep that in mind, and that this is a natural and wild area – doing that and you will be much safer than those who don’t.

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