The incredibly beautiful Na’Ili’Ili-Haele hike AKA Bamboo Forest is a Maui hidden gem, giving you a chance to experience the surreal beauty that Maui has to offer. You’ll journey through a bamboo veil, which opens up into lush jungle, fresh water swimming holes, and a number of amazing waterfalls. The very last waterfall is by far the most spectacular. With a short swim down a chasm, and an easy climb up a small waterfall, you’ll be rewarded with a gorgeous and completely isolated 100 ft waterfall.
This hike was the highlight of our time in Maui. A must do for anyone with an adventurous spirit.
The Details of Hiking Na’Ili’Ili-Haele (the Bamboo Forest)
Getting to the Trailhead
One of the most magical hikes on Maui, as difficult to find as it is beautiful. Drive along HWY 360 and keep a look out for mile markers 6 and 7. Be warned, there are no signs whatsoever. Once you pass mile marker 6 look for cars parked on the side of the road. If you see them – you’re in the right place. Park your car here (but be sure to tuck it in as far as you can) and get ready for a great hike.
Mile Marker: #6.7 (Hana Hwy aka Hwy 360)
The Easy Stuff
Starting at the road, look for openings into the bamboo. You can pick any opening and head downhill – they all lead to the main trail. You will then follow this pathway and head down a sometimes slippery incline. Next you will come to a ditch, which you will have to step across. It’s deep, but the distance across is fairly short (about the length of a person’s stride). After you have crossed the ditch, you will find yourself at a small fork. You can either take the high-road, or the low-road – feel free to take either as they both go to the same place. Shortly after, you’ll find yourself at the main stream bed.
*Note* Depending on how much rain there has been, this may be a trivial crossing of hopping across large boulders, or you may want a length of bamboo to help you make your way.
Once across the stream, remember “follow the stream bed.” Don’t be fooled in following what appear to be prominent trails away from the stream, these are false trails. They exist only because of the constant foot traffic of lost travelers trying to make their way to the waterfalls.
As you follow a trail that parallels the stream (headed upstream) you will either discover a giant raging waterfall on the opposite bank, or you’ll pass it, dry and unnoticed. Continue upstream for a bit and you will come upon another waterfall with a pleasant swimming hole. Take a dip if you’d like and then continue on across the stream, and up a steep, and somewhat slippery hill.
As you follow the trail you will quickly come to another set of falls with a large, deep pool. We took a short break here, taking the opportunity to do some rock jumping (about a 30 ft jump). This may be as far as some people may go – but for the adventurous, you’ll climb a rope, then a makeshift wooden ladder, then hike along a ledge to the upper stream. The rope and ladder are plenty safe, and not terribly difficult to use.
For the Adventurous
Once you hike up a bit further there is another waterfall only accessible by swimming down a 100 yard chasm. At the end of the chasm, you’ll reach a small waterfall. Climb up the side of it, and take a short hike along some large boulders where it will open up to reveal a grand 100 ft+ waterfall surrounded by beautiful vegetation and a large pool.
Because of the nature of the hike, and the relative secrecy of the trail – there’s a good chance you’ll be the only ones here when you get to it. Take some time to enjoy your moment of solitude in paradise. Words just don’t do it justice.
*Note* Some people bring a dry bag to pack valuables when we swimming down the chasm, others feel safe leaving their gear at the chasm entrance.
When returning back you’ll need to make a choice – make a 20ft jump beside the waterfall into the chasm’s pool, or climb down the side of the waterfall where you came up. We decided to jump – it’s plenty safe, possibly more so than attempting to clamor down the slipper rock face.
Tips for the Bamboo Forest
Flash Floods & Safety
Take the warning about flash-flooding in this area very seriously. This lazy creek can turn into a raging river within a few minutes. The area is like a bowl with steep sides all around and it can get chilly from the mist of the surrounding waterfalls. Make sure to check with the locals before attempting to go to far. If it is raining or has rained recently, I would avoid this area all together.
Footwear & Clothing
This is not a hike to be doing in sandals. Bring a pair of sneakers or hiking shoes (you don’t need full out boots) and you’ll be glad you did. The terrain varies between dirt, rock, wild-boar trails, mud and puddles. Wear shoes that can get wet and muddy. And don’t forget your bathing suit!
Water and Snacks
Definitely don’t forget to bring plenty of water – you’re going to be out there hiking for a while. Also, do bring a snack. This is the kind of hike you’ll thank yourself for bringing lunch with you and enjoying it while you’re out there. There is also a lot of fresh and delicious fruit growing from the trees all around you as you hike through. Don’t be afraid to pick some guava and enjoy its tasty goodness.
We stopped by a small grocery store on our way to make sure we had plenty of food for lunch and were parking our car by 8:30AM. Starting early allowed us to get there before the crowds, and it spared us from dealing with the hot sun for a good portion of the hike.
Enjoy the beautiful scenery. This hike is absolutely gorgeous and we had an incredible time just taking it all in. This hike is hands down one of the best hikes on Maui.