Wonder

Olo’upena Falls (Oloupena Falls)

Olo'upena Falls from above, marked with red arrow
Olo’upena Falls from above, marked with red arrow / US NOAA/NOS Aerial Photography by Pacific Disaster Center, 2000, public domain

WorldBlue  In short

Some of the highest seaside cliffs in the world – Haloku Cliffs – are stretching along the northern coast of Moloka’i island. The highest ones are some 4.2 km wide cliffs between Pelekunu and Wailau valleys, reaching up to 1,010 m height.

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GPS coordinates
21.1600 N 156.8565 W
Location, address
Oceania, United States, Hawaii, north coast of Moloka’i, Haloku cliffs between Pelekunu and Wailau, between Haloku and Pu’uka’oku Falls
Alternate names
Oloupena Falls
Height
Roughly 900 m

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail

Here are located several spectacular and extremely high waterfalls, including the highest falls in the United States and Oceania – the 900 m high Oloupena Falls.

Description

Volcano, rain and ocean in the north-eastern part of Moloka’i have created one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world.

Lower part of Olo'upena Falls. Haloku Falls seen in the right side
Lower part of Olo’upena Falls. Haloku Falls seen in the right side / carmelinhawaii, screen capture from Youtube

Volcanic activity over the last 1.5 million years has created mountains here. Summit of East Moloka’i volcano (1,514 m high) gets a lot more rain than the western part of Moloka’i island – approximately 4,000 mm per year – thus the rainwater has cut spectacular valleys in the volcanic shield and formed very tall, nearly vertical ridges. Rain maintains lush vegetation – even very steep slopes here are covered with an emerald green cover of plants. Waves of the Pacific ocean have washed out the volcanic shield, creating spectacular cliffs.

The highest cliffs – Haloku Cliffs – are located in some 4 – 5 km long section between the Pelekunu and Wailau valleys. Here the ocean meets nearly vertical cliffs rising up to 1,010 m above the sea. Cliffs end abruptly in the sea and in Hawaiian are called “Na Pali” – sea cliffs.

There are numerous small streams falling over the edge of the cliff. These streams are small (only 1 – 3 km long) and seasonal – during the dry season there is little water. But during the rainy season (November – March) enormous cliff becomes adorned with numerous white ribbons.

Olo’upena seems to be the highest fall here – estimates in topographical maps show that the fall is approximately 900 meters tall. The water here is not falling in a free fall – for the most part, it slides down along the nearly vertical cliff.

Waterfall is thin and deeply etched in an inaccessible cliff. Due to this it is rarely seen and photographed.

Falls can be observed from the sea – there are tourist companies offering guided boat tours along this rugged, extremely impressive coast. One can go closer to the falls and experience a mist falling from this wonderful nature monument. Even more impressive sight opens from the helicopter. Boat ride and helicopter though require good weather conditions.

When the weather is windy, the wind catches the falls and raises them up in the air. Unfortunately very few see such sight – boats and helicopters do not go there in such weather.

Only 300 m to the west there is another very tall waterfall – Haloku Falls (roughly 700 m). 500 m to the east is even higher fall – Pu’uka’oku Falls (around 840 m).

Some misconceptions

Fourth highest in the world?

Very often there is written with a sure hand that Olo’upena Falls is the fourth highest in the world.

In fact, we should not be that sure about this – nobody has measured and accounted for all the waterfalls of the world. There also is no clear border dividing true waterfalls and seasonal streams floating down a slope. It is well possible that in Venezuela and some other countries there are numerous unaccounted seasonal falls higher than Olo’upena Falls.

Nevertheless Olo’upena certainly is in the league of highest waterfalls in the world.

Wrong pictures

Very often there are published other Hawaiian waterfalls under the name of Olo’upena Falls. Some Websites under the name of Olo’upena publish the wonderful Papalaua Falls (more than 500 m high) located 5.5 km to the east.

Don’t believe that you see the true Olo’upena Falls if the image shows a waterfall in a valley, with a plain between the falls and the ocean. Olo’upena Falls are falling down along rugged cliffs directly into the sea.

References
  1. Olo’upena Falls, image. WorldReviewer. Accessed on June 6, 2010
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