Maui’s Magical Bamboo Forest Along the Pipiwai Trail
January 1, 1970
by Nichole Pine
Maui’s Gem on the ‘Road to Hana’
In the United States, Maui’s Pipiwai Trail is probably one of the most unusual and interesting places to visit while in Maui. The trail is about four miles long and will take about two hours to hike. The Pipiwai Trail begins at the end of Maui’s famous “Road to Hana” and sits on the east side of the island. It’s actually just outside of the well-known Hana town itself. The Pipiwai trail and all of its organic glory will help you feel and understand what Maui was like prior to its commercialization of parts of the island. Along the four-mile trail, there are unique and memorable sights that will make you glad you went!
Stop by the Welcome Center
When you first arrive, you have to pay to get into the Haleakala National Park. However, if you keep your receipt, you can go to any of the other national parks in Hawaii for free. It’s a pretty sweet deal considering all of the beautiful parks there are on the islands.The trail starts off near the welcome center which is a great place to stop before you head out on the trail. There is a large parking lot and the facilities at the welcome center are extremely clean and well maintained. They have a gift shop, bathrooms, and water bottle fill up station. The park rangers stationed in the gift shop are super friendly and can answer any questions you have. You can also purchase a gift from their gift shop or get a stamp for your National Park book like my friend did. Stopping at the welcome center will also give you a chance to freshen up before you head out. Trust me. Take a few minutes here and get settled in before you start your hike.
Prepping for the Trail
Before you head out on this magical trail, it’s important to know that good shoes and comfortable, breathable clothing are a must. It’s not unlikely for it to rain, so having a rain jacket or poncho on hand would be useful. When we went, it rained super hard and water started streaming up along the walkway. But being surrounded by the beautiful, lush forest was enough to distract us from the rain. Bringing water and snacks in a small backpack is also a must in my book because the end of the trail makes for a great place to stop and have a snack before heading back. It’s also a great idea to have a change of clothes (especially socks) for when you get back to your car for a more comfortable journey back to your hotel or Airbnb. When we went, we brought a change of clothes, towels, and brought snacks and water with us on the trail. This made the experience much better and the ride back to Lahaina more comfortable.
Difficulty Level of Trail
The Pipiwai Trail is a relatively easy trail to complete and it’s great for most people. People of all ages would be capable of completing and enjoying this trail. The most ‘difficult’ part of the trail is the stairs. There are two sets of stairs along the entire trail; one at the beginning and one in the middle. There are also a few bridges that suspend over the rivers. Unlike some of the hiking trails in Hawaii, the Pipiwai Trail doesn’t have much of an incline. During our hike, we saw young children with their parents as well as elderly with their families.
The Trail, Banyan Tree, and Bamboo Forest
At the start of the Pipiwai Trail, it looks like an average trail with normal trees and plants similar to the ones scattered all over Maui. The nice thing about the trail is that it’s manmade and sits a bit above the ground. The trail is well maintained and the boards were being actively replaced with more sturdy, slip-proof boards when we were visiting in August 2017. Early on along the trail, the magic starts to unfold when you get to the gigantic banyan tree that stands alone in its own little clearing. This spot is great for a photo opp. It’s not every day that a banyan tree as big as this one is just sitting in a forest. Once you continue on the trail past the banyan tree, all the trees start to disappear and you’re surrounded by miles of bamboo. It’s almost as if an invisible line has been drawn between the trees and the bamboo. It feels like you’re in a completely different place! As you meander through the bamboo on the manmade trail, you will take bridges across the beautiful rivers and mini waterfalls. You will climb some stairs and continue up and along the trail.
As you make your way around the bend, you will hear the roaring of the Waimoku Falls. And the sight of the falls is quite astounding. The waterfall itself seems as if it’s miles to the top! At this point in the journey, you can either bask in its beauty from where the trail “ends” or you can wade across the little stream to get a closer look. Most, if not all the people we were hiking with, ended up crossing the stream to get closer. We crossed the stream too and it is recommended that you cross in pairs to be as safe as possible. After it rains, the current tends to get stronger. Each person should cross at their own risk. Once you reach the waterfall, this is another great spot for a picture and a good time to relax for a bit before you journey back down the path. The path itself doesn’t actually loop around, so you’ll be going back the same way you came. By heading back the same way, you’ll get a second chance to look at sights along the trail and take additional pictures of your journey