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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Honomanu Uka (Maui) -- Eric Stelene

On Memorial Day, I took a long hike on EMI roads to the very back of Honomanu Valley then on to the rim of Keanae Valley. I did a write up on Honomanu Valley a few weeks ago. Above the falls I hiked to then, the Valley continues on to another amphitheater and falls. On this trip, I followed a wide road cut into the steep pali that circled the back of that amphiteater at about 1200 feet elevation.

I named this hike Honomanu Uka and its about 14 miles round trip. I posted a hike a few weeks ago called "The Best Hike on Maui". Honomanu Uka is one of the best, but not quite. It goes through similar terrain but is long and boring, however it ends with one hell of a bang.

The hike starts at about mile post 10 of the Hana Hwy. Go past the Waikamoi Ridge Trail and then past the serene little Waikamoi Falls. As the Highway turns out of Waikamoi Gulch there is a pull-off on the mauka side by a gated road. I have often seen locals parked here, so after a good recon of the topomap (Keanae Quadrangle) I was set to go!

I print the maps I need for my hikes from topozone.com so I don't get my good maps ruined on trail. This gated dirt road had no signs or anything telling people to stay out, so I don't know the legality of using this road. There were a couple of cars parked there already.

The road climbed steeply into the jungle. According to the topo, there was a cemetery somewhere on the right but I saw no evidence of one. The road ended at a juntion with an irrigation ditch and a contour trail much sooner than I expected. To make a long story short, there are many side roads along this route that are not on the topo, and roads that are on the map don't do what they're supposed to. Turn left on the contour trail for a little ways and come to another junction (not on the map). Go mauka(right) and come to another juntion (also not on the map). Continue up and to the right. To left there is a sign that says "Attention Hunters-No vehicles beyond this point" Come to a fork in the road and go left. Soon the road splits into 3 roads.

Take the middle road and keep climbing. This road ends at another contour trail along an irrigation ditch. Go left. Soon come to Puohakumoa gulch. Cross the stream on a concrete bridge by 2 nice waterfalls. Switchback out of the gulch and keep climbing. Pass a small shack along the water ditch. Cross Haipuaena Stream by a waterfall. Come to another bridge and a locked gate at Kolea Stream. There is a sign that says "Unauthorized Vehicles Keep Out". Not being a vehicle, go around the gate and follow the road on the final leg to Honomanu.

Suddenly the trees disappear and you find yourself looking into the green abyss of upper Honomanu Valley. The streambed runs dry almost 1000 feet below you, the water having been snatched away by the irrigation ditches so I can flush my toilet in my Kihei condo. Native forest birds zip around as you follow the descending road to the very back of the valley. This road is amazing! Imagine a road that circles Haiku Valley on Oahu. Now imagine that that road is 1000 feet up, cut into the sheer pali! Now you may have an idea of this road. An engineering marvel.

You'll pass several disappearing waterfalls as you follow the road around the valley. "Disappearing" because the waterfalls exist only above the road. The water is collected into the irrigation ditch right by the road and below the road there is only a dry waterfall chute. The very back of the valley has a huge waterchute with a big empty pool at the bottom. Continue around and out of the valley and back into the forest. Go another mile or so and come to a jaw-dropping view of Keanae Valley. Directly across the valley is the amphitheater that the Lost Pali Trail ascends (See my Best Hike on Maui write up). The road continues down into Keanae, but its about 7 miles from the Hana Highyway to this point (plus the extra distance getting lost on all the unmapped roads)so I ended my hike here. Also, my 5 qt collapsible canteen sprung a leak and I was almost out of water.

It would be possible to combine Wailua-Keanae and Honomanu Uka into one superhike, but a shuttle would be needed as the trailheads are about 11 miles apart. Or if you are a mountain biker you could do it as loop.

BTW I met a dude near the start of the hike who asked me if I knew of any resevoirs in the area. It seems he heard about a resevoir somewhere that had big lava tubes nearby and he was out looking for it. Sound familiar to anyone?

You can check out some poor quality pics of this hike at my photo album and in the meantime I'll be out exploring new undocumented routes. If anyone spent time on Maui and has some suggestions, I'd love to hear from you.



  1. How well do you know these EMI roads? My g/f and I have recently begun randomly exploring the roads... and even streams.

  2. If you had continued on into Keanae Valley, you would have come to a fence across the jeep trail. The fence was erected after a huge landslide took out a great portion of the switchback trail into Keanae valley. You should not try to cross the landslide. A few years ago a local doctor did and fell to his death.

  3. I bet the reservoir he was talking about is the Papaaea Reservoir and the lava tubes are those on the so-called "Commando Hike" which is also on the road to Hana, a few miles before the hike you describe here.

  4. Off-topic, please.

    Does anyone have first-hand knowledge of a hike from Olowalu into Iao valley and exiting out the park?

    I've been to the head of the Olowalu stream and in the Olowalu 'meadow' and quite a ways into Iao but never crossed over.

    Any kokua you have is thankfully welcomed. Mahalos.