One of the best ways to experience Maui’s varied geography and wide array of ecosystems is on foot. In each region and micro-climate of the island, there are trails and loops for exploring mountain ridges, valley streams, lush rain forests, coastal and lava rock plains. No matter what your preference is, you can enjoy nature walks with easy access or challenge yourself in a remote park area, so get out there and find your Maui!
Part of the ancient Pi‘ilani Trail system that was paved with smooth rock to traverse the island’s coastlines, Lahaina Pali Trail boasts a strenuous hike that rises to 1600 feet in elevation. On the climb, you’ll encounter endemic trees like the twisted wiliwili and dryland shrubs, not to mention native birds nesting and marine mammals frolicking in the sea. When you reach the top of the ridge, you’re rewarded with panoramic ocean and island views from West Maui to Haleakala. The 5.5-mile one-way trail is accessed from Honoapi‘ilani Highway 30 on either the Ma‘alaea or Lahaina side of the tunnel.
Kapalua Resort offers a network of trails that stretch for miles from the scenic coastline through gulches up to mountain ridges. Start at the Kapalua Village Center on Office Road to pick up a clearly marked trail map and plan your adventure. The Village Walking Trails start with a jaunt under Honoapi‘ilani Highway and follow the cart path located on the former Village Golf Course. If you venture to the top, you’ll reach a hidden lake stocked with ducks where you can relax and enjoy panoramic views. Mahana Ridge Trail goes to the highest elevation through rugged land formerly used by Honolua Ranch during the plantation era. Try a shorter loop walk to experience the tranquility of Maunalei Arboretum and scenic overlook of Mokupe‘a. Kapalua Coastal Trail is a more leisurely walk across the beautiful bays of Kapalua, Oneloa and Honokahua. You traverse a manmade boardwalk over sand dunes as well as lava rock promontories.
On a visit to Makawao town, take a drive along picturesque Olinda Road and you’ll come to the lesser-known Waihou Spring Forest Reserve, which is 186 acres of pine forest with natural springs. The Waihou Spring Trail Loop is a casual walk in the cool mountain air for about one mile where you can see native trees like koa and halapepe among the cypress and eucalyptus.
For a more adventurous trek, drive up Kula Highway to Highway 377 and turn on Waipoli Road until you reach Polipoli Springs State Recreation Area. The trail system here at over 6,000 feet in elevation features majestic stands of cypress, cedar and redwood trees ringed by misty clouds. On clear days, you’ll be treated to sweeping views of the central Maui basin, West Maui, Kaho‘olawe and Lana‘i.
Awe-inspiring Haleakala National Park features more than 30 miles of hiking trails branching out from the Summit. They range from leisurely guided hikes (.5 mile round-trip) in Hosmer Grove to 6- to 10-mile treks across the crater. A park naturalist will take you on Keonehe‘ehe‘e (Sliding Sands) or Pa Ka‘oao Trail to walk among the other-worldly painted desert, viewing the volcano’s wilderness of lava rock and cinder cones. The Halemau‘u Trail features a 975-foot elevation change up to mountain cabins and down in the moon-like crater through native shrubs and silverswords.
Kipahulu and Hana
The Kipahulu Area of the national park offers three miles of trails through rain forest and other tropical environments. Perhaps the most famous hike is Pipiwai Trail. At four miles round-trip, it meanders across a freshwater stream and through a magically lit forest of tall bamboo. As you trek into the rain forest, the elevation gradually rises 800 feet, affording spectacular views of Makahiku and Waimoku Falls.
Past the town of Hana, just north of Hana Bay is the Wai‘anapanapa State Park Coastal Trail. This scenic yet challenging walk follows the rugged black lava shoreline of the ancient Ke Ala Loa O Maui - Pi‘ilani Trail. With the blue Pacific on one side and verdant Hana Forest Reserve on the other, you’ll journey back in time on the three-mile trail to discover caves and more.
‘Iao Valley State Monument is other-worldly and magical. Its mountain stream that can rush down like rapids in wet season or meander slowly in dry season was the site of the battle of Kepaniwai where Kamehameha I defeated Maui warriors in 1790. Hike to the scenic lookout to view the 1200-foot high ‘Iao Needle and its noble surroundings. Take a stroll around the ethnobotanical garden loop to see canoe plants that traveled with Polynesians who settled in this valley.
Waihe‘e Ridge Trail is a moderate to strenuous uphill hike that winds along the ridge of the blustery north side of West Maui mountains, offering dramatic views of Central Maui, rugged coastline and lush valleys. The four-mile trail boasts waterfall views and a rain forest ambiance but can also be wet and muddy.
Note: Some trails may periodically be closed due to weather conditions.