Yes, Waihou Spring Forest Reserve is the official name for Olinda Forest. Whatever name you know this area by, it is a great place to get out of the summer heat (it is above 3,000 feet) and have fun outdoors with the kids.
The forest is found near the top of Olinda road, with parking on the right, just after you pass the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project. For those unfamiliar with Upcountry, Olinda Road is situated on the side of Haleakalā starting at the crossroads in Makawao between Casanovas and Polli’s Mexican Restaurant. The picturesque drive from this four-way-stop will take about fifteen minutes.
Originally the reserve was grazing land, but in 1909 the Waihou Spring Forest Reserve was established by the Governor of Hawaii for the purpose of protecting the sources of Waihou Spring (one of the few perennial springs on the west slope of Haleakalā). The State planted an experimental pine forest, although you can also find other timber, such as, Monterey cypress, eucalyptus, ash and redwood, as well as the native tree species `ala`a, halapepe, and koa, which is why it smells so great up there.
When you get to the reserve you will see a sign with TREE GROWTH RESEARCH AREA written on it. Walk through the gate and start along the Waihou Spring trail, a wide path carpeted with pine needles and cones. About ten minutes in you will arrive where the loop joins back around to the path. Keep to the right. A few minutes along the trail you will come to another fork, where signs will direct you either to keep going to the left to take the loop (about half a mile), or take a right, down towards the overlook point (which is now overgrown) and the spring.
If you choose to go down to the overlook you can either turn around here or if you are up for an extended adventure continue a steep hike, switch back style, down into Kailua Gulch and the spring below. Bring your baby carrier if you are going to contemplate this with small children, as they will be safer on your back, and don’t forget water and snacks. But please go with caution and avoid if wet. There is a hazard sign and it can be closed due to weather and most recently COVID.
If you do get to the bottom you will find a dry stream bed where a water fall used to be and large moss covered boulders. It is behind this waterfall that small water diversion tunnels were made. It can be fun to poke your head into the tunnels that weave in and out of the cliff or venture more inside with a flash light. Besides the tunnels, the forest is a fun place to play hide and seek or scavenger hunt and is a safe place for the kids to run around while your family practices social distancing.
For whatever reason you go, Waihou Spring Forest Reserve is a great place you can hike, explore, and have fun as a family.
Image Credit: Anna Hakes