The Road to Hana boasts an incredible number of accessible waterfalls in a short 64-mile, winding and incredibly scenic stretch of road. Upper Waikani Falls definitively positions itself as one of the grandest, most accessible along the journey. Naturally, that means you’ll almost always be sharing it with hordes of other visitors, but there’s no room for being snooty about solitude when you’re able to access a breathtaking view after only a short scramble from your car.
While many choose to take in the splendor and the sheer height of the falls from above (oftentimes due to the fact that it’s pretty tough to find parking), we’d assert that the steep trail down to the base of the falls is worth the effort. The verdant and downright prolific plant life that overtakes this area is arresting. The first you’ll probably notice is the red torch ginger. This cheerful, bright red perennial grows quite well all throughout Hawai'i, but it seems particularly content with the Wailua Valley’s staggering 100 to 300 inches of rainfall per year. Keeping pace with Hawai'i’s other endemic plant like, it seems cartoonish and at times otherworldly, with some stems reaching up to 15 feet toward the sky.
At the base of the falls, the reasoning behind “Three Bars Falls” will become immediately evident. The three parallel cascades are perfectly incremental in height, with the smallest plunging about 70 feet into the water below. The tallest, over 150 feet can grow to a volume of epic proportions in the winter months. Though it can be quite cold in the winter months, the swimming is always lovely (though can take a bit of working up to for someone relatively unaccustomed to the cold).
If you’re disappointed by rainfall, take a moment, instead, to appreciate the gentle mist that shrouds the falls. As the story goes, the demigod Maui was first to discover the natural splendor of Hana. He was so enthralled that he named his daughter after the delicate rain that characterizes the rainy season. Legend has it that Noenoe Ua Kea O Hana lived up to the gravity of her name.