Maui’s Bamboo Forest in Haleakala National Park, just past Hana on the Road to Hana Drive, is the impressive Bamboo Forest hike you’ve probably heard about on Maui! I’d seen photos like this on blogs, with the comment that since it’s at the end of the road, there often wasn’t time to do this because of needing to drive back to the resort area. But even though they didn’t spend much time there, you should make sure you see it! I got the impression that those bloggers had gotten to the edge of the Bamboo Forest, snapped a photo, and then not had time to explore around inside it. But the truth is, the bamboo forest is a LONG way into the hike and you need to be prepared. You can’t just see it and leave. We decided to stay a night in Hana, so that we would have time to see sights like this. BONUS: the best waterfalls on Maui are on this hike – not just one, but two waterfalls!
Because we planned enough time, we saw the bamboo forest. Bloggers who said they didn’t have time to explore must have used stock photos – this is my own photo. We were actually there! And it was impressive and other worldly.
It was totally worth it!
To see the bamboo forest and the best waterfalls on Maui, you’ll need to be prepared with both time and supplies.
What we thought the walk to the Bamboo Forest would be like
Before we got there, everything I remembered reading, showed the boardwalk through the bamboo and said it was an easy walk or an easy hike or something to that effect. Because of that, we expected something like you find at most park sites where you have a short walk to see a waterfall or other sight. We got the impression (somehow) that there would a twenty minute walk on a path or walkway, likely with railings. (Like what we found at the Iao Valley later in our trip.[link]) That easy path would then arrive at an easy boardwalk through the Bamboo Forest. We would wander around for awhile in the bamboo, probably in some type of loop, and then walk back.
What the park attendant at the gate said confirmed our belief that it was an easy hike. She said it took awhile, but she didn’t remember how long. It was a long way if we went all the way to the falls at the end, but we could turn around before then. The path goes past some earlier falls, then through the Bamboo Forest, and then ends at some upper, more impressive falls. She did rightly say that the upper falls were more than an hour away, but we wouldn’t need to go that far.
We were there mid-morning when most tourists arrive in the late afternoon. So we figured it was doable and we would go to the Bamboo Forest, which was described as about halfway, then turn around and come back and skip the falls at the end. We figured one set of falls and the Bamboo Forest would be enough, and wouldn’t take too long.
Well, the Bamboo Forest is on the Pipiwai Trail. Here’s what it’s like when you set off for a short jaunt and end up doing the entire trail!
Hike to and through the Bamboo Forest
We didn’t expect to be gone long, a little over an hour. But we did grab a water bottle each and a snack or two as we hopped out of the car, slathered on the sunscreen, and donned our hats. We also took with us more sunscreen (which we needed) and bug repellent (which luckily we didn’t need.)
I started to wonder what we had in store when I saw prominent signs in the restrooms saying “PLEASE to NOT wash off mud in sinks!”
Hmmm… This did not sound like it was going to exactly be a walk in the park.
Still, while we had seen lots of waterfalls along the road, we were really intrigued by the idea of the Bamboo Forest. So we set off. We figured we could always turn back at any point.
This is where I started to understand that what our guidebook’s definition of an “easy walk” might differ from our definition. And it wasn’t quite the boardwalk all the photos led us to expect!
Still, we set off at a pretty good pace. Our teen girls are in very good shape as dancers, and could have gone faster. But if you go too fast, you’ll miss looking at the tropical forest. (Our son was the one with the hurt knee, so he wasn’t the fastest in our party.) And it wasn’t too long before the girls had mud splashed up to their knees. At my slower pace, I got less mud on me.
Bamboo Forest, Maui – Weather
The heat wasn’t unbearable, but the humidity will get to you. Most of the hike is shaded under the trees of the forest, which really helps. Apparently there are some alternate routes, but all of them were closed the day we were there and we stayed on the main path. We also got rained on during this hike to the point that we were damp but not soaking. It was kind of nice, actually. But you might want to pack a disposable rain coat as I’m sure the rain could get heavier some days.
The lower falls were viewed at a distance, but they were already much more impressive than anything we hiked to twenty years ago on our trip to the Big Island.
How long to hike Pipiwai trail to Makahiku Falls
It actually wasn’t too long before we got to the lower falls, about twenty minutes.
Funny thing is, the falls look more impressive in the photos than I remember it being. I think I was too distracted by getting to the Bamboo Forest, which passing hikers assured us wasn’t too much further.
How long to hike Pipiwai trail to magical Banyan tree
At around fifteen minutes later, we reached an huge Banyan tree. Truly a tree climber’s paradise!
At this point, more returning hikers insisted we were almost the Bamboo Forest and it was really impressive! And the upper falls, it turns out, were right after the Bamboo Forest.
This is, in fact, where you should make your decision about whether or not to turn around. (We did not turn around.) Because at this point you are about halfway to the start of the Bamboo Forest.
How long to hike Pipiwai trail on Maui to the Bamboo Forest
It took us over thirty minutes from the banyan tree to reach the EDGE of the Bamboo Forest.
That means that in total, at a pretty good, but not punishing pace, the edge of the Bamboo Forest was about an hour hike for us.
I’m sure if you’re really in shape, intent on making good time, not too interested in watching the scenery as you hike, and glance at the lower falls as you pass and not stop for photos, you could reach the edge of the Bamboo Forest in 30-45 minutes. But you’d be really hauling it!
Now, 45 minutes to an hour doesn’t sound too long at face value. But, if you had the impression that it was a short walk to the Bamboo Forest, and it’s hot or humid and you’re wondering if you brought enough water, or you’re getting rained on, it FEELS like forever.
As you approach the Bamboo Forest, you take a bridge over part of the Seven Sacred Pools. On the day we passed them, they were muddy and not terribly impressive.
But, oh, the Bamboo Forest! Pictures just do not adequately show how impressive the bamboo is. They are darker and denser and oh so much taller!
Since we had been told by many passing hikers that the upper falls were just past the Bamboo Forest, it seemed shame not to go all the way to the falls at this point.
What we didn’t know was that it would take us almost 45 minutes to get to the other side of the Bamboo Forest and a short ways through more forest to the view of the falls.
That is a LOT of bamboo. I have to confess. The bamboo became less impressive after about half an hour of it.
And what you discover is that there’s not just one boardwalk meandering through the Bamboo Forest. There are lots of different board walks, separated by trails which are presumably less muddy than the ground the boardwalks are constructed over.
So again, the starting edge of the Bamboo Forest is where you can make another choice to turn around. The edge is about halfway to the upper falls, the Waimoku Falls. If you don’t want to double your hike time, go a ways through the Bamboo Forest, maybe until you get to walk the first boardwalk, then turn around.
How long to hike Pipiwai trail to Waimoku Falls
But I must say, if you’re willing to go 30-45 minutes further, the upper falls are really impressive! That’s about an hour and a half total on the Pipiwai trail that it took us to get to the Waimoku Falls.
You will not be alone up here, and when you emerge from the forest to the bottom of the falls, the trail dissolves into less of a trail and more into a lot of rock hopping. We did not try to go too close to the bottom of the falls, but just looked at it from a distance. But really when you get this far it’s a shame if you don’t plan about half an hour to enjoy it. Still, it is a view even from a distance is worth the hike!
How long to hike Pipiwai trail to Waimoku Falls – roundtrip
Usually the way down seems shorter.
It did not.
All told it took us 1.5 hours to get to the upper falls and about as much time to come back down. Plan on at least 2.5-3 hours to do this at a pretty steady pace, and much more time to really enjoy it. By the time we got down the trail we completely forgot that you could continue on past the visitor center, presumably to see where the Seven Sacred Pools enter the ocean.
In this instance it might be best to save some things like really admiring the Banyan tree until your downward hike.
While we did pass some die-hard hikers that were really dressed for the terrain with packs of water on their back, we weren’t the only ones who weren’t fully prepared for what we were getting into. At least we were all wearing hiking shoes. We saw plenty of people on the trail in flip-flops and even dresses!
On the way down our girls saw a couple older women, dressed in white jeans and sandals, breathing hard on their way up. The women had just crossed the road that crosses the trail, one of the major landmarks you’re told about. “I think we’re doing really great!” one of them managed to get out between breathes. The girls had to hide their faces to keep from giggling. They didn’t have the heart to tell them they were less than a quarter of the way to the LOWER falls. I hope they made it at least that far!
The hike through the bamboo forest with the waterfalls is definitely worth doing, but you’ll enjoy it more if you come prepared. Know that it’s going to take you at least two and a half hours of pretty steady hiking. Plan on spending more than three hours if you really want to enjoy it.
Even so, this was my husband’s favorite part of the trip. I guess we’ll have to go back! In that case, check out my tips for what you need to take to hike the Bamboo Forest.
Per car entrance fee. If you visit the Seven Sacred Pools and the Bamboo Forest at Kipahulu within three days, you can see both parks for one fee. When we went, the fee was $20 per car.