On the road to Hana, I like the waterfalls without people. The kind where I can rock-hop naked and suck wild ginger and generally behave like a mad woman. How do you find one like that? By walking. Caveat: you might get muddy. You might get lost. Hell, you might find a waterfall I haven’t found yet. But it’s totally worth it.
Start at the Keanae Arboretum. After the 16 mile marker and before the 17th, the road curves (haha) and there’s a metal gate on the right. Park across the street, and walk past the gate.
The beginning is paved. Apparently Little Red Riding Hood only made it this far.
You walk through the usually empty grounds. There is no fee, no box office and no introduction, just plaques of the plants. There are Rainbow Eucalyptus and a variety of palms of the Pacific.
This is not your normal arboretum. There are a wide variety of plants, and clearly things are being done, piles of dead trimmings lay waiting for…someone? But there’s no gloss here. My favorite part was the captepillar tree, fancy name unknown. This giant specimen drops several inch long, fuzzy… caterpillars. Seeds? I’m gonna stick with caterpillars. At first pet, I mistook one for a matte of dog fur. But there were lots of them. Either a dog got- naw. Never mind. I looked up from the trail later on, and spotted the source, towering over the river, loaded with fuzz. These captepillars do grow on trees.
Soon you can see the river on your left dotted with shallow pools, under a canopy of kukui among other trees, like java plum, guava and breadfruit. This is the view of the river from near the destination, but you get the idea.
Walk all the way though the arboretum (.5 mile) to the first metal gate. There’s no lock, just hook it back up behind you. There’s no super definitive trail, but you continue the same course keeping the river on your left, alongside the lo’i (taro ponds) in some stage of rehabilitation. You’ll get to the next gate. Hook behind you and continue. Here is where it gets a little interesting. There is a trail, and you should follow it. But if you get to a small river with little mini-waterfalls and boulders, shrouded in greenery and fairy dust, you need to wade through it back towards the main river that’s been on your left the whole time.
It’s maybe twenty feet of wading until you can see that here, the little river with meets the main one. This is where you scamper up the rocks separating you from the main river, and DA TA!! The Blue Grotto.
I explored above the grotto and found more adorable pebble lined pools and more little waterfalls. Nothing as deep as the grotto, but lots of options. I’m curious what it looks like even further up. Please tell me if you probe deeper.
On the way back, maybe fifty feet from the grotto it’s (a little) easier to spot the trail you probably missed that leads straight here without wading through the little natural water park. There’s an opening in the jungle on the left side of the river that looks like this:
Duck through, and continue back in a straight line to the arboretum, keeping the river on your right. And don’t forget to suck the ginger flowers.