Kīpahulu Hike: This Way To the Waterfall

Bamboo is not native to Hawai‘i; Polynesian settlers introduced the plant to these islands long ago. Still, bamboo is undeniably beautiful, and traversing the path through this “forest” can be a soothing meditation.

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banyan tree
This enormous banyan tree has been a childhood playground for generations of Maui visitors and residents, and is photographed by nearly everyone who passes underneath it.

At about the 1.5-mile point we let ourselves through a gate in a fence that used to help control cows from the neighboring ranch, and approached the magnificent banyan tree that generations have climbed, swung from, taken photos with, and generally obsessed over. It is one of the better-known trees in the park, though it’s not a native. (Hawai‘i’s banyans originated in India and China). This tree is a celebrity on Instagram.

Once past some wild coffee trees growing into the path, we crossed a moss-slippery bridge over a small, frothy falls, and drifted into a tunnel of bamboo, taking our time to traverse this wind-chime “forest.” One more slick bridge across the rushing stream, and we were engulfed in deep green infinity. Bamboo is not native to Hawai‘i, either, and it has run unchecked here for decades. The effect—as we navigated the helpful boardwalk that suspended us above the nearly-year-round mud—is of walking in a tall, verdant dream of shifting light, a symphony of soft, echoing knocks.

Pipiwai Trail
The park’s mission includes restoring cultural sites like this hale.

It is my theory that the bamboo creates a bit of a barrier for the upslope spread of exotic plants, because it wasn’t until we burst out of the bamboo that we could see bird’s-nest ferns, ‘ōhi‘a trees, and other native flora. A few minutes later, our eyes tracked upward—we had entered the amphitheater that showcases Waimoku Falls. On a wet day, this deeply curved headland is often silvered with slender falling streams in their own fern-bordered tracks.

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