Many Maui visitors employ "fast food" eco-tourism on the Road to Hana. They drive down the windy road with a checklist and camera. They put down the window just long enough to snap a pic. Don't let that air conditioning out! Then it's on to the next check.
You should savor the Road to Hana. Invest a bit of time understanding the history and lore behind each stop. Pick a few favorites, open that car door and sink your teeth into what Maui has to offer.
Now, close your eyes to imagine a beautiful Hawaiian waterfall. The Seven Sacred Pools of Oheo are likely even more beautiful than what's in your imagination. A verdant valley cascades crystal clear waters to give you seven cooling pools. This stop offers spiritual bliss, physical activity and perhaps the best social media pics on Maui.
The modern history of this popular attraction can have you a bit confused about the name. Is it The Seven Sacred Pools? Is it Ohe’o Gulch? Or is it Kipahulu? Well, the answer is all three.
Ohe'o is Hawaiian for "something special" which means natives have been visiting this beautiful spot for centuries. Seven Sacred Pools is actually a bit of a misnomer. The former owner of the property, Travaasa Hana, renamed the area Seven Sacred Pools to attract tourists to the eastern side of the island, but you'll find many more pools than seven. In fact, the entire stream cascades with waterfalls and pools deep into the heart of Haleakala National Park.
Now, this special place is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. The NPS decided to name the area Kipahulu. The word literally translates into “fetch from exhausted gardens." Kipahulu and the national park are where thousands of native Hawaiians used to live, and the land is a source of many Hawaiian legends.
A woman from Kipahulu left her native land and family to be with another on the nearby island of Oahu. Her heartbroken husband sought the solace of a shaman who instructed the man to speak his essence into a conch shell. The shell was then thrown into the ocean where it made its way to the woman on Oahu. She picked it up, heard her husband's voice and ventured home.
This is one of the most beautiful spots on all of the Hawaiian Islands. It's also incredibly popular. You'll want to get to the pools well before noon to escape the crowds. Do yourself a favor. Book a hotel near the pools or camp at the national park's campground to get a leg up. Otherwise, you'll have to leave your comfy hotel extra early. It's the only way to have a chance of seclusion.
The Seven Sacred Pools are located inside Haleakala National Park. You'll have to pay admission for the national park in order to enjoy this Road to Hana stops. You can choose between a three-day pass for the Maui-specific park, or you can splurge a few extra bucks for an annual all-Hawaiian parks pass that also includes entry to Volcanoes and Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Parks on the Big Island.
Your parks pass allows you to park your vehicle at the trailhead and gives you access to a ranger station, campground, and bathroom.
Want to head straight down to the pools? Take the Kūloa Point Trail a half-mile from the Kīpahulu Visitor Center past a demonstration area to the mouth of the seven pool's verdant valley. You'll descend about 80 feet, and then it's up to you how far you want to explore.
Or you can escape the crowds on the Pīpīwai Trail. The trail winds past several pools, cascading waterfalls and takes you to the base of the 400-foot Waimoku Falls. The Rangers have done a fantastic job on this four-mile round trip trail by installing steps and boardwalks over muddy areas. You can burn a little energy ascending the trail's moderately strenuous 800-foot elevation gain before coming back down.
You'll see plenty of warning signs at the Seven Sacred Pools of Oheo. The ranger station features a storyboard of those who have lost their lives at the popular tourist destination. The pools can be dangerous when the water is high, and jumping is prohibited. It got so bad this past year that they have closed the pools to swimming. Even so, the hikes around this area, especially Pipiwai Trail are amazing.