Oheo Gulch and Red Sand Beach

The road to Hana is definitely about the journey and not the destination.  That being said, there are a lot of amazing things in and around Hana to see and do.  In my Marathon to Hana post yesterday, I talked about Wai’anapanapa – one of the gems in the area.  Although we couldn’t stay overnight in Hana on this trip, we were not about to miss out on the other gems.  So the very next day, we drove along the south route on the east side of Maui, in order to get to our destinations.  (The Road to Hana is the northern road on the east side of Maui.)

The south route to Hana is also a beautiful drive, but far fewer people see it compared to the north route.  That’s because there are parts of the road that are unpaved, and some rental car companies don’t want you to drive it.  No worries though; we had done it before and knew it was no problem as long as you go slowly over the unpaved parts.  The clouds were moving around like crazy that morning, and it rained on and off.  The south road can sometimes get washed out so we decided to keep an eye on things throughout the day.  We took lots of photos of the gorgeous cliffs, waterfalls and peninsulas as we drove.

Ohe’o Gulch, also known as Seven Sacred Pools, is not sacred and doesn’t contain seven pools, yet it is one of my favorite spots in the world.  “Seven Sacred Pools” sounded more appealing to tourists than “Ohe’o Gulch, “ so it stuck.  The area consists of hiking near waterfalls, pool, falls pool, falls pool – the pools being excellent for swimming – basically Stephanie’s perfect playground.  As soon as we arrived at there, the park ranger said the waterfalls and pools were too dangerous for swimming.  She said the previous day was perfect but there had been too much rain overnight.  I didn’t want to believe it and decided I would judge for myself.

We started my favorite hike in the world (yup, I’ve got a lot of favorites in the state of Hawaii), the Pipiwai (bamboo) trail!  Although I’ve hiked it twice before, it turns out it is much shorter than I remembered – just two miles each way.  I got so excited when I saw lots of bamboo and we entered the bamboo forest.  The wind wasn’t strong enough to make the bamboo stalks knock against one another, which I love to hear, so here and there we swayed the bamboo manually to create the knocking sounds.  At one point we heard a different type of noise and realized it was pouring rain!  We hardly felt it though in the thick of the bamboo.  It was really cool to do that hike while it was raining like that.

Towards the end the trail was very, very wet, and we had to cross not one but two rivers/streams.  This was extra difficult considering we didn’t have our waterproof hiking boots, or Tevas, or reef shoes!  Neither one of us wanted to submerge our sandals.  At the first crossing, we managed to climb upriver a little bit and get across using a big stick and a few huge rocks in the river.  Then we just had to bushwhack our way back to the trail.  At the second crossing, which was just before the falls, I had to go barefoot.  Elliott wasn’t going to cross because we could already see our reward – Waimoku Falls thundering down over 400 feet.  But I wanted a better view.  I left all my stuff except for my camera and off I went, using one hand to lean on rocks, and one hand to hold the camera out of the water.  Elliott decided to follow and came in his flip-flops.

The falls were gorgeous – and so full!  I’ve never seen them anywhere near this full.  The downside was that there was no WAY we could get right up in or swim in the falls.  We were getting super wet just standing for photos, and it was impossible to keep the camera dry.

After spending some time with our waterfall we hiked back down the trail.  I reluctantly admitted that the park ranger was right – the pools were all very full, and swirling, and the water was all brown and muddy from all the intense churning.  There was no way it was safe to swim in them today.  Waaaah.  We got to the bottom and crossed the street and I got my national park stamp.

We hiked to the lower pools, where I wanted to eat lunch on a rock with a great view of some falls and the ocean, but it wasn’t meant to be.  It kept raining on and off and it was really pouring at points, so we and all of our stuff got pretty drenched.  I eventually ate on the floor of a covered “hut”.

Our day wasn’t over.  We drove the nine miles to the best access point for the Red Sand Beach, and did the hike to the beach in 10-15 minutes.  This beach not only offers red sand, but a whole rainbow of colors in the lava cinders along the way there.  Awaiting us was this completely gorgeous red beach, with its high red rock walls and blue blue water, and suddenly I couldn’t decide if my favorite beach is Wai’anapanapa (the black sand beach just before Hana) or the Red Sand Beach!

We had a great time, admiring the red sand and swimming in the rough surf.  It was the roughest I’ve ever seen it, but since the beach is in a protected cove, we knew there was no danger of being swept out to sea.  We also got to check out a large naked man who swam out and climbed up on some of the big rocks and started sunning himself.  I put on my goggles to check out the sea life.  It’s not abundant since its hard for fish to get in and out, but I found a few cool fish here and there.

Elliott got in and out and then came back in once more before he declared big clouds were moving in and we should leave.  Since he had been right about the rain clouds at Ohe’o Gulch, I trusted him and we left.  During the last two minutes hiking back to our car, it started to downpour again!  Because of all the rain, we decided not to try the south route home in case the remote roads were flooded, and we took the road to (from) Hana once more.   No hitch hikers today.

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