#Kauai: Ho’opi’i Falls, New Pathway

Ominous clouds appeared over the Makaleha Mountains as I started down the old road to Kapa’a Stream, just above the Upper Ho’opi’i Falls. Since I had walked from the house, I wondered if I would get to see the falls and home again before the rain arrived. However, the wind was calm, and the rain appeared to be on a southerly track, so I hurried down to the falls, just in case.

Green Pasture, and Rain in the Makaleha Mountains
Makaleha Mountains from the Road Down to Upper Ho’opi’i Falls

Romantic though it may sound, ho’opi’i either means “to breed or impregnate,” or “to litigate” concerning land title. My most recent experience there seems to indicate the latter meaning is most likely because someone had posted hand made “Private Property” and “No Trespassing” signs just beyond the upper falls.

upper waterfall on Kapa'a Stream
Upper Falls

In addition to posting signs, someone had felled trees across the trail, and left some trees almost cut through like booby traps. A newly gouged, but also blocked, long, steep side trail appeared to the left of the first sign. So, knowing no other way to the lower falls, I went beyond the first obstruction and continued down the old trail, encountering even more vandalism as it were, and more half-sprung traps.

After meandering through the recently created obstacle course, I saw that the old trail was completely clear by the point that it returned to the stream—no more hand made signs nor further vandalism as proof of ownership the rest of the way to the lower falls.

lower Ho'opi'i Falls
Lower Falls

Refreshed after listening to the familiar roar, I headed back upstream, to see what I could see. One of my first encounters was one of the ‘ancestors’ I hadn’t noticed before, an outcropping that seemed to express contempt for my presence.

Frowning Boulder
Wary Ancestor

 Then, struggling in the understory, beneath the aggressive buffalo grass, beautiful lavender stars.

lavender wildflowers under Buffalo Grass
Wildflowers under Buffalo Grass

 When I got back to the point where the trail led away from the stream, the first No Trespassing sign was accompanied by a letter in a document protector nailed to a tree, about 15 feet above the trail: “Private Property, Go Back And Return to the Road by the Path beside the [Kapa’a] stream.” Having never seen or heard of a path along Kapa’a Stream, I went down by the water, and sure enough there was a narrow path.

At times, I thought I might be better off rock hopping, but although the trail was seldom used, it was passable. Once the trail crossed the head of a diversion trench that it generally followed back to the upper falls, it was quite scenic.

Returning to Upper Falls
Returning to Upper Falls

Looking back, I realized that I had passed this way heading downstream just to get a shot of the Upper Falls and simply didn’t recognize it as a trail.

Stream Trail from the Upper Fallls
Stream Trail from the Upper Fallls

After arriving at the upper falls, I could not believe how simple, and how beautiful this “new” pathway was. I would have gone this way from the beginning, if only I had known.

Home Again
Home Again

So, thank you disgruntled landowner for making the undisputed trail apparent!

9 thoughts on “#Kauai: Ho’opi’i Falls, New Pathway

  1. Seems that the owner would have had better luck if he had just posted arrow signs pointing to the correct trail


  2. Beautiful photos! I love a hike that includes a waterfall. So relaxing and memorizing to watch. Glad you found the trail!


    1. Thanks; I tried to reply a couple days ago, but somehow it was lost in transition.
      Yes, I learned to add a ‘purpose’ from my eldest daughter years ago. She was of the opinion that hearing all about the flora and fauna on the trail and throughout the forests was boring. But, the first time we broke out on a pinnacle overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, oh THAT was worthwhile. So vistas are now a part of every hike.


  3. When I moved to Kauai with my family, my friends and I use to visit the falls all the time. It’s a great spot and I appreciate your update on the trail conditions. I keep thinking I should bring my kids there. Not sure if I could find it again but with Google maps and the Internet, I’m sure I could figure it out.

    I’m guessing the landowner was tired of the trash and perhaps worries about someone getting hit. It would be nice if the state or county could purchase the property.

    Again, thanks for the post and the photos!


    1. I’ve heard that landowners in the vicinity are angry with Andrew Doughty for publishing its location. As trash goes, I’ve seen very little, and what does exist, an old pickup chassis with nearly complete engine, was abandoned by previous landowners (perhaps around Iniki timeframe).

      I too wish the county might step in to preserve it, and it would be nice if they’d at least purchase an easement for people to get to the falls up in Kilauea. That said, I’d be just as intolerant as the homeowners up there if people parked all over my yard/blocked me in my driveway, etc.


      1. Yes, I would be upset if everyone knew about it (darn that pesky Internet). It is just like “secret falls”…you Google it and an endless stream of photos appear of the supposed secret falls.


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