Swinging Bridges


This gets our vote for the number one hike on Maui. This is a rain forest hike, best done in the morning before the clouds roll in. Drive to Kahului, going straight into town on Puunene Road at the big Assembly of God church. Turn left on Kaahumanu Highway (the main drag north that goes up to Wailuku). Turn right on Kahului Beach Road (Highway 340) and follow the signs, first to Waiehu, then Waihee. Once through the little town of Waihee, go about ¾ mile and turn mauka on Waihee Valley Road. Drive up the hill, and turn right at the end. A toll booth will confront you in a few blocks. The landowner charges $6 a head to hike the trail through their property and onto other private property owned by Wailuku Water Company. At that point, you are officially trespassing. So far, there is no enforcement. You will walk along the irrigation canal built by Chinese labor about a century ago, enjoying life to the fullest—it doesn’t get any better than this The canals are a marvel of engineering. From the "parking' area it is only a mile to the swinging bridges and another mile to the end of the line. It is in some of Hawaii's most scenic tropical settings. Explore the irrigation tunnels and water works along the trail. They are amazing. One in particular has its own cooling misting system as a side creek roars through a tunnel into the main canal. All of the tunnels were hewn out of solid rock by hand. The two swinging bridges are long and somewhat unstable. Many people leave stones wrapped in ti leaves at the foot of the bridges as thanks offerings for safe passage! Past the second bridge, and past the little bamboo forest, and well past the huge banyan tree, you might spot a tiny foot path leading left. This marks the optional cliff-side trail loop that bypasses two fordings of the river. (In low water times, you can cross on rocks. In higher water periods, you will probably get your shoes wet. In flood, the river is impassable.) If you like heights and hanging onto tree roots as you wind your way along a narrow trail hewn out of the face of a solid rock cliff, endless vistas over the top of the rain forest, and seeing numerous waterfalls cascading down steep valley walls, take this loop trail. It involves hiking, not walking—there is some rock scrambling and muddy sections as well as a negotiation of a spillway at the end. The cliff-side trail joins the main trail at a major water works and spillway system upstream. This trail allows irrigation workers access to the dam in periods of flooding. The trail ends at a small dam and wonderful swimming hole. Try swimming behind the falls and get shot out in the center as a cannonball. Immediately swim to the right (or left) or else you may find yourself body-surfing down the rapids. The Swinging Bridges trail is a mostly shady walk, with only one steep hill to climb. Try to pick a day when the trades are not too strong and the cloud buildup over the West Maui Mountains is minimal.

On the way is the turn-off to Haleki‘i and Pihanakalani Heiau—ancient Hawaiian temples made of stones. While on Waiehi Beach Road (Highway 340), turn mauka at Kuhio Place. First left on Hea Place and go uphill to parking lot. Drive through gates and look for the Hawaiian Visitor’s Bureau signs. Enjoy good views of the islands.

Nakalele Point and Blowholes

This is on the very northern tip of Maui, past Kahana, Napili and Kapalua. Follow Highway 30 (Honoapi'ilani Highway) north from Kapalua. The Acid War Zone trail is near Mile Marker #38 where a gravel parking lot is located. A dirt, jeep road begins the trail which takes approximately 30 minutes to hike. The second trail to the blowhole is located ½ mile past Mile Marker #38 and is marked by a dirt pullout along the side of the road. The blowholes are especially wonderful to watch when there is a north swell. The blowholes are on the right-hand (east) side of the point away from the lighthouse. On the drive up, check out Kapalua Bay and Honolua Bay for surfing action if there is a north swell. It can be misty or rainy up here, so it’s best to go in the morning. Some people enjoy the drive around the north side of the island over narrow twisty roads back to Kahului. A beautiful drive!