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Moa'ula Falls

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 21.1531 N 156.7661 W
No:98        (list of all attractions)
Category:Waterfalls
Values:Geology, Visual
Rank:7
Address:Oceania, United States, Hawaii, near the north coast of Moloka'i, beginning of Halawa Valley
Alternate names:Moaula Falls
Height:more than 76 m, at least 7 drops
Moa'ula Falls from the air
Moa'ula Falls from the air. Far right side shows a glimpe of Hipuapua Falls / S.Kaiser, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The upper part of the beautiful Hipuapua Valley is adorned with two large, high waterfalls. The most visited and somewhat easier to access are Moa'ula Falls (more than 76 m tall). Just some 300 m away are the more impressive Hipuapua Falls (152 - 160 m tall).

Moa'ula Falls looking from the base
Moa'ula Falls looking from the base / Austin MacGee, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Description

Contrary to the Hipuapua Falls, Moa'ula are not that well seen from the Highway 450. Walk to the waterfall takes a bit more than one hour in one direction. It is advised to unite it with a walk to the nearby Hipuapua Falls, which are somewhat harder to access than Moa'ula, but more impressive.

Falls are perennial - formed by a fairly wide river thundering down along the basalt cliff.

Often it is mentioned that Moa'ula Falls have two drops. Aerial photographs though show at least seven drops, each ending with a pool. This rises also doubts about the estimated of height of falls - it is mentioned that the two drops are 76 m tall, what may mean that upper drops are not included in this height. For most part falls are not free falling, water flows along the steep cliff.

The lower pool below Moa'ula Falls is swimmable and deep - but one should be careful - occasionally there fall enormous rocks from above.

Legend

Name of falls - moa-ula - means: "red lizard".

This name originates from a popular legend telling that water spirit - mo'o - in a form of lizard still is living in the deep pool below the falls. He might attack people who swim here.

Before the swimming the mood of mo'o should be tested with a ti (Cordyline fruticosa (L.) A.Chev., 1919) leaf dropped in the water. If it floats - guest can swim. If not - better don't, lizard is annoyed.

Similar legends exist about other waterfall pools in Moloka'i, for example, Papalaua Falls.

Halawa Valley with Moa'ula and Hipuapua Falls
Halawa Valley with Moa'ula (to the left) and Hipuapua Falls (to the right) / S.Kaiser, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Rich history

The beautiful Halawa Valley is one of the first areas to be inhabited in Hawaii. Settlers from Marquesas Islands came here around the 7th century AD. The fertile valley experienced a boom of population - it was densely inhabited and the main foodstuff was locally grown taro. Unfortunately this beautiful valley experienced much warfare.

With the arrival of Europeans the life of native Hawaiians changed. The last blow to the traditional lifestyle though came in the middle of the 20th century, when powerful tsunamis covered the valley with sea salt in 1946 and 1957. Taro fields were not fertile anymore and most people left for cities.

Nowadays in the valley there live few families - but otherwise the valley looks pristine and primeval. Walk through the valley though reveals signs of the past: it leads along the ancient temples - heiau - some as large as football field.

Private property

Walk to the beautiful waterfalls inevitably leads through the private properties. Naturally, locals are not too happy to see endless lines of tourists passing there and back through the peaceful valley. In fact - not so peaceful - there is frequent noise pollution coming from other tourists flying around with helicopters.

Sadly - this is the price for living in extremely beautiful place.

Tourists walking to the falls though are kindly advised to take local guides.

Map

See Moa'ula Falls on the map of Hawaii!

 

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