Ho’opi’i Falls Trail

A nice short hike, about 2 miles, on an excellent trail most of which is ideal for running as well as enjoying the scenery. Furthermore, getting there is a piece of cake, even though the trailhead is neither clearly marked nor easy to see from the road. From Kapa’a via Olohena Rd and Ka’apuna Rd, turn right at the stop sign by Kapahi Park, then almost immediately left onto Kapahi Rd. Coming down Kuhio Highway from the north, turn right just past Kealia Beach onto Ma’ilihuna Rd, then at the stop sign beyond Kapa’a High School, turn right onto Kawaihau Rd. Follow Kawaihau road past the Meneheune Store, and turn a sharp right where the road veers sharply to the left, just before Kapahi Park. Kapahi Rd is a short, narrow road so please respect the neighborhood and drive slowly. The trailhead is below the roadbed on the left, at a dip in the road about halfway down to the end, and parking for the trail is ONLY permitted on the left side, past the trailhead.

gate at end of old dirt road
Ho’opi’i Falls Trailhead

Initially, the trail is down a steep, old dirt road to Kapa’a Stream. Along the way you will see the beautiful Makaleha Mountains to your left, and the ubiquitous Monstera (monstera deliciosa) all around.

Dirt Road to Kapa’a Stream
Pohaku Pili (2,592 feet) and Makaleha Mountains



















Just before the end of the road, the trail hooks to the left around some fallen trees, and then turns right at the intersection with Kapa’a Stream where someone has constructed a low stone dam.

low stone dam
Not a Waterfall

Continuing downstream, the trail runs parallel, within 10 feet of the stream, most of the way. You will see trails shunting off here and there, but again, please respect the neighborhood and know that these trails are on private property rather than state lands. Hau Trees (hibiscus tilliaceus) can be a curse (i.e., impenetrable) or a blessing as revealed below. These twisty intruders were originally planted to serve as a windbreaks, consequently impenetrable by hikers as they have spread wildly beyond their intended location.

Hau trees bending over the trail
Tunnel of Hau Trees

At breaks in the understory, you will glimpse a narrow stony gorge above and between the waterfalls. Placid and serene as it appears, you can hear the roaring upper falls a short distance away.

stony gorge above the first waterfall
Stony Gorge Above the Upper Falls

Moments later, you find yourself looking down on a steep path to a waterfall that cuts deeply into a stone shelf downstream.

steep descent to the upper Ho'opi'i Falls
Steep, Narrow Access to the Upper Ho’opi’i Falls

…and do not be surprised to find the rocks, as well as the splash pool beneath teeming with young swimmers, especially on a hot day after school. Note that swimmers jump in from both sides of the stream, while some only ponder. There ARE sharp rocks in the stream bed, so I DO NOT GO THERE. It is far safer to enter the water downstream and hike/swim as desired.

upper ho'opi'i falls
Upper Ho’opi’i Falls

Not long after I returned to the main trail, I found myself at the edge of the stream, again facing a spectacular stony gorge that could only be captured in panoramic mode.

stony gorge on Kapa'a Stream
Lower Gorge on Kapa’a Stream

A little further along, I saw what a Toyota Tundra might look like after the “Smoke Monster” was through with it…

decaying pickup frame with wheels and 4-cylinder engine
Abandoned Chassis with Wheels and 4-Cylinder Engine

…and finally the lower falls, lacey and elegant. No place for jumping, although someone strung a mooring line in a tree on the opposite bank downstream. Mahalo!

broad waterfall
Lower Ho’opi’i Falls

Pressed for time and because I left my water in the car, I ran most of the way back to the trailhead, excluding the steep dirt road which exceeds the rated hauling capacity of my 65-year old chassis.


4 thoughts on “Ho’opi’i Falls Trail

  1. Ha ha ha, “smoke monster”!! I wonder how many readers will get that reference? Thanks for the post, this looks like a short but beautiful hike. Hoping to be back that way next January or February – Jim wants to watch the Super Bowl there again! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t “get” the smoke monster reference! Must be from your wild days in the 70s…? Thanks for the armchair hike. Do you have any Banyan Trees in Hawaii? My husband and I spent a couple of years in Saipan right after we were married, in the 1990s, and I loved those trees.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. From the ABC series “Lost,” some of which was filmed on Kauai, the smoke monster was an undefined malevolence, kind of like the fool killer ~ a being that will get you if you’re incredibly foolish, or sometimes, just not lucky.

      And yes we do have banyan trees, in fact there’s one in our back yard, but nothing like you might see in Hong Kong, or Guangzhou, or Thailand, places like that. The most prevalent trees are Albizia, Koa, Strawberry Guava, Mango, Avocado, Pandanus (Hala), Palms, and Hau Trees, and a Spanish Long Needle Pine.


Comments are closed.