The Best Hikes on Maui
Since I moved to Maui back in 2010 I’ve had a chance to do virtually every known hike here on Maui and have done a few of the relatively unknown hiking adventures as well.
From the very western end of Maui in Kapalua to the very eastern end of Hana up to the 10,000 ft summit of Mt. Haleakala, there are a great variety of great hiking trails to choose from. I’ve assembled a list of my favorite 7 hikes on Maui to help you narrow down your choices and get the most out of your time.
Preparing For a Hike on Maui
Being Considerate of a Delicate Ecosystem
Before getting into the list I should cover a few bases on a few things to be aware of about hiking on Maui in general. First, it’s important to remember that many of these areas are environmentally sensitive. Maui has a pretty delicate ecosystem and we always want to make sure that we are doing our best not to disturb native vegetation, leave any rubbish, or create new trails, especially in Haleakala National Park.
Hydrate and Use Sun Protection
Second, some of these trails are intense and require some preparation as well as good conditioning. It’s very easy to get dehydrated in the tropics and especially at the altitude of the hikes in Haleakala, so always plan ahead by bringing a CamelBak or other convenient way to stay hydrated. Sun protection is next. I like to use a breathable sun shirt for longer hikes in the sun rather than having to use a ton of sunscreen.
For hikes like the Pali Trail on the hillside above Ma’alaea Harbor, you’ll be in the sun virtually the entire time so plan accordingly. Also, and perhaps as important as anything, don’t take your brand-new white shoes on any of these trails! They are either dusty, wet, muddy, or all three on the same trail, so you’ll want to wear some appropriate hiking shoes.
Plan The Timing of Your Hike To Enjoy Your Time The Most
The third thing to be aware of is timing. Going for a hike early in the morning or later in the afternoon can be a great way to beat the heat. Some of the hikes can be extremely hot in the middle of the day. You’ll also get the added benefit of enjoying a beautiful sunset or sunrise during your hike, but be careful not to start too late unless you have adequate lighting to get back to the trailhead safely.
Hiking on Maui is Amazing!
These hikes aren’t ranked in any particular order, I’ve included a cross-section of shorter hikes and longer hikes around the island. Each hike is beautiful in its own way and some are way more challenging than others. So, just go with what you’re comfortable with and have a great time!
The Kapalua Trail Network
The hiking in Kapalua is epic. It’s also extremely convenient for those staying nearby in resorts like the Montage Residences or one of the condo communities like the Kapalua Bay Villas. There are several trails in the Kapalua trail network, so this is kind of a three-for-one on the list.
Kapalua Coastal Trail
The best place to start the Kapalua Coastal Trail is in front of D.T. Fleming Beach Park. This 1.76-mile out-and-back trail(3.52 miles round trip) crosses in front of the Ritz Carlton then goes down to an oceanfront boardwalk that takes you by Ironwoods Beach, the rugged volcanic outcropping that is a seabird preserve, and then to Kapalua Bay.
From the trail, you can also get to Cliffhouse for some cliff jumping or snorkeling. The trail is relatively flat without much elevation gain and is a fun way to explore the beautiful Kapalua Coastline.
The Village Walking Trails to The Duck Pond
This hike starts at the parking lot for the Kapalua Bay Golf Course located on Office Rd. This is a loop trail with several different ways to create shorter or longer routes, some of which will take youtube to the water reservoir locally known as the Duck Pond. There is some significant elevation gain and at its longest, the trail is around 4 miles in total.
You’ll actually be hiking on what used to be golf cart paths as the whole area was once a golf course that was abandoned when the Kapalua Plantation Course was developed. It has since turned into a beautiful forest that is also the home of a portion of the yearly Exterra competition. One of my very favorites for getting a good cardio workout as it is inclined all the way to the top.
Mahana Ridge Trail
This is the most rugged, difficult, and least used trail in the Kapalua trail network. Starting at sea level at D.T. Fleming Beach park you will ascend roughly 2,000 feet over 8.5 miles if you take it to the very top where it meets the Arboretum. It is an out-and-back trail.
Much of the trail is in the jungle, but at several points, your hard work will be rewarded with very beautiful panoramic views and a change in the diversity of the vegetation. On portions of the trail, you can even find wild pineapple growing right beside the trail. This one is a tough one, it's hot and can be a little humid there sometimes too in the jungle. Stay hydrated and be ready for a workout.
Waihee Ridge Trail
The Waihee Ridge Trail is a 4.2-mile out and back trail located just past Wailuku, in Waihee, on the road towards Kahakoloa. If that sounds like a lot and it's new to you, just put it into Google Maps and you’ll get there. Parking can be tricky here as it fills up quickly, early birds will get the worm with this trail. If the parking is full you will just need to extend the hike a little and park at the lower parking area.
The hike is steep, slippery, and often in a cloud if you don’t start before 8 am. However, the views are incredible and you’ll notice it's a lot cooler at the top due to the elevation gain and common cloud cover.
Wailea Beach Path
The Wailea Beach Path isn’t necessarily a ‘hike’ so to speak, but it is certainly a great path to go for a walk or a run. It is such a great walking path that I include it in my favorite hikes. My office is in Wailea and many days before or after coming to the office I love to get in a circuit on the beach path and I’ve probably done more miles on this path than any other on Maui.
You can start at either the Ulua Beach or Polo Beach parking lot on this out-and-back paved walking trail. Roundtrip the Wailea Beach Path is about 3.2 miles and goes past the best beaches in Wailea. There are coffee shops along the path and many points of interest. This trail is especially great for those staying in a resort in Wailea looking for that early morning walk or for an after-dinner sunset stroll.
Keonehe’ehe’e aka The Sliding Sands Trail in Haleakala
Haleakala is, without a doubt, the most beautiful and scenic place to go hiking on Maui. There are several different trails in this National Park and I could spend pages just talking about Haleakala hiking, but for the purposes of this article and for your time on Maui, I’ll just talk about the most popular trail in the crater. That trail is Keonehe’ehe’e also known as the Sliding Sands Trail.
I personally like doing the Sliding Sands Trail out to Paliku which is about 22 miles round trip. However, once you’re in the crater you can kind of make your own adventure. I definitely recommend taking a small detour and including Pele’s Paint Pot on your hike, which is about 5.7 miles into the hike, it’s definitely one of the most colorful parts of the crater which is already an incredible palette of reds and browns. Be really, really prepared for this one. Lots of water and sun protection as well as some food to refuel on. The hike coming back out can be particularly grueling as the last few miles of a hike this long usually are when they are straight uphill.
Hoapili Trail aka The Kings Trail
La Parouse Bay is a very unique zone located in South Maui just past Makena. You’ll notice the black volcanic rock and rugged coastline when you visit the youngest part of Maui created by the island’s most recent volcanic activity in 1790. The King's Trail is a really fun, but also very hot hike.
If you start at the La Parouse Bay parking lot, just past Jeff Bezo’s 72 million dollar home, you can hike this rugged coastline trail all the way over to Kanaio Beach. If you like hiking barefoot, this is not the trail to do it on! Much of the volcanic rock that was used to make the trail is very sharp and good shoes are definitely a must on this trail. I have hiked it in Vibram Five Finger shoes though as I do like the barefoot feel myself.
Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls
Hana is full of waterfalls and amazing scenery and the Pipiwai Trail is no exception. The 400-foot Waimoku Falls is a worthy reward for this uphill hike with the Kipahulu District of Haleakala National Park in Hana. This is a very popular trail, so you will see many other people on it, but it’s relatively short at 1.8 miles each way and you’ll pass through a beautiful bamboo forest along the way.
The area is also great for camping. There is a campground at the Park in Kipahulu. The camping is reservation only, which I think is an improvement to the previous system of first come first serve. There are a handful of really beautiful oceanfront camping sites that are very private, when you’re booking online look for one of these to make the experience even better.
Makawao Forest Reserve
The climate and scenery in Makawao Forest are not what one would first expect to find on a tropical island. The forest resembles something more out of the Pacific Northwest, but is perhaps one of the most beloved areas by local hikers and mountain bikers on Maui. This trail is one of my go-to’s for a nice before-work morning hike as I live nearby in Pukalani.
The forest is beautiful, quiet, and mature. There is a 6-mile complete loop that you can hike that is uphill for the first 3 miles and then mainly downhill for the other 3 miles. This is really great for downhill mountain biking as there are separate beginner and advanced downhill mountain biking trails. If you’ve been feeling the heat staying in a hotter area like Ka’anapali or Wailea, coming for the cooler weather and shade of Makawao Forest can be a welcome respite.
Ok, One More Hike. The Lahaina Pali Trail
This is arguably one of the toughest trails on Maui, right up there with a full hike to Paliku at Haleakala Crater. The Lahaina Pali Trail crosses some rugged, exposed terrain on West Maui and goes from Ukumehame Beach Park over to Ma'alaea. It is customizable and be either 5 miles to the top and back from either trailhead or can be a 10-mile total hike if done. out and back. But, be prepared! This is a hot one with very little shade. Sunscreen, a hat, and lots of water along with good sturdy shoes to navigate the rocky terrain are all a must.
Get Hiking On The Trails on Maui
There really is a hiking trail for everyone in every area of Maui. It’s one of my favorite ways to get some exercise while enjoying the incredible beauty of the Valley Isle. I hope you get plenty of opportunities to hike here yourself!
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Posted by Evan Harlow R(S) 82003 on