Tropical Haleakala: Oheo Gulch at Kipahulu

If you're thinking about heading out to the so-called Seven Sacred Pools, out past Hana at the Kipahulu end of Haleakala National Park, let's clear this up right now: There are more than seven pools -- about 24, actually -- and all water in Hawaii is considered sacred. It's all a PR campaign that has spun out of control into contemporary myth. Folks here call the attraction by its rightful name, Oheo Gulch, and visitors sometimes refer to it as Kipahulu, which is actually the name of the area where Oheo Gulch is located. No matter what you call it, it's a beautiful sight. The dazzling series of pools and cataracts cascading into the sea is so popular that it has its own roadside parking lot.

Even though Oheo is part of Haleakala National Park, you cannot drive here from the summit. Even hiking from Haleakala to Oheo is tricky: The access trail out of Haleakala is down Kaupo Gap, which ends at the ocean, a good 6 miles down the coast from Oheo. To drive to Oheo, head for Hana, some 60 miles from Kahului on the Hana Highway (Hwy. 36). Oheo is about 30 to 50 minutes beyond Hana, along Hwy. 31. The Hwy. 31 bridge passes over pools near the ocean; the other pools, plus magnificent 400-foot Waimoku Falls, are reachable via an often-muddy, but rewarding, hour-long uphill hike. Expect showers on the Kipahulu coast. The admission fee is $5 per person or $10 per car.

The Kipahulu Ranger Station (tel. 808/248-7375) is staffed from 9am to 5pm daily. Restrooms are available, but there's no drinking water. Kipahulu rangers offer safety information, exhibits, books, and a variety of walks and hikes year-round. Check with the park rangers before hiking up to or swimming in the pools, and always keep one eye on the water in the streams; the sky can be sunny near the coast, but floodwaters from Kipahulu Valley can cause the pools to rise 4 feet in less than 10 minutes.

There are a number of hikes in the park, and tent camping is allowed.

Lindbergh's Grave

A mile past Oheo Gulch on the ocean side of the road is Lindbergh's Grave. First to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, Charles A. Lindbergh (1902-74) found peace in the Pacific; he settled in Hana, where he died of cancer in 1974. The famous aviator is buried under river stones in a seaside graveyard behind the 1857 Palapala Hoomau Congregational Church, where his tombstone is engraved with his favorite words from the 139th Psalm: "If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea."

Even Farther Around the Bend

Be careful, as the road here is unpaved all the way to the fishing village of Kaupo. It narrows to one lane at times, wandering in and out of valleys with sharp rock walls and blind bends hugging the ocean cliffs. You may encounter wild pigs and stray cows. About 6 miles and 60 minutes from Oheo Gulch, you'll see the restored Huialoha Congregationalist "Circuit" Church, originally constructed in 1859. Across from the church and down the road a bit is the Kaupo Store (tel. 808/248-8054), which marks the center of the ranching community of Kaupo. Store hours are officially Monday through Friday from 7:30am to 4:30pm, but in this arid cattle country, posted hours often prove meaningless. The Kaupo Store is the last of the Soon family stores, which at one time stretched from Kaupo to Keanae.

From the Kaupo Store, the landscape turns into barren, dry desert. In the lee of Haleakala, this area gets little rain. There are no phones or services until you reach Ulupalakua Ranch, where there is a winery and a general store. The gas station is no longer there, however, just 5.5 miles past Ulupalakua is Ching's Store, which sells gas.

Between mile markers 29 and 30, look for the ancient lava flow that created an arch as it rolled down Haleakala. Keep an eye peeled for cattle -- this is open-range country. Eventually the road will wind uphill, and suddenly the forest and greenery of Ulupalakua will come into sight. From here, you're about 45 minutes from Kahului.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.