Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pools of Oheo

About 15 miles past Hana—on a highway section that squirms through waterfalls and greenery—visitors come to the end-point of a long day trip: The Pools of Oheo at the Kipahulu sections of Haleakala National Park, at the coast. Under optimum conditions (dry, sunny weather) the pools are a zoo, filled like a public pool with frolicking bathers. On other days (after heavy rains) brown water churns over the cataracts and becomes an extreme hazard to anyone who ventures near. Swimmers have been flushed to the sea.

Back in the Hippie Days, these bedrock tubs were known as the Seven Sacred Pools—although there are more than seven. Most visitors take the trail from the visitors center to the pools that are below the highway bridge. Harder-to-reach pools (though not as nice) are upstream the bridge.

One of Hawaii's best waterfall hikes begins at the bridge, a hike through bamboo forest over two steel bridges in a stream gorge to two falls, the Falls at Makahiku and Waimoku Falls. Long sections of boardwalk make for fast going. The roundtrip to bag both falls is a little over four miles and around 1,000 feet of elevation gain. A few other trails and beaches are worth a look at Kipahulu, but most people have to turn the rental cars back toward Kihei or Lahaina if they want to get back anywhere near cocktail time.