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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Moments later, you find yourself looking down on a steep path to a waterfall that cuts deeply into a stone shelf downstream.
…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.
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.
A little further along, I saw what a Toyota Tundra might look like after the “Smoke Monster” was through with it…
…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!
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.