5 of Maui’s Best Hikes
You may already know that we have some of the world’s most incredible scenery here on Maui, from black sand beaches and bamboo forests to volcanoes, waterfalls, and sea cliffs. So it’s probably no surprise to hear that the Valley Isle is truly a hiker’s paradise! If you’d like to experience the island on foot, here are five standout options.
1. Pipīwaī Trail
Looking for some of the most lush and uniquely beautiful surroundings on Maui? Take the infamous Road to Hāna for 60 miles of curves and switchbacks, over 59 bridges, with breathtaking sea cliff views along the way, until you get to Haleakalā National Park in Kīpahulu. The Pipīwaī Trail offers an approximately 3.8-mile out-and-back hike with a total elevation gain of just over 900 feet.
Cross bridges over a stream, pass an impressively giant banyan tree, make your way through a dense bamboo forest, gawk at waterfalls along the way, and end at the dramatic 400-foot-tall Waimoku Falls. This moderately challenging trail is well-maintained overall, with stone steps in several places and a boardwalk over the muddier parts – but it can be rocky/uneven in other areas, with exposed tree roots and slippery conditions at times. The full Pipīwaī experience takes an average of around two hours, but if you’re short on time, hike just 0.5 miles in to an overlook at 200-foot Makahiku Falls.
Whatever route you choose, bring your bug spray and a credit card to pay the $30-per-vehicle fee for a space in the lot at the National Park, where there are also bathrooms and water fountains. When planning your trip, check the website for the latest info about what time the parking lot closes – or for details about an overnight stay at the scenic Kīpahulu Campground!
2. Haleakalā Crater
This one is for strong hikers with stamina! For the ultimate Haleakalā trek, drop off one car at the Halemau`u (also known as Switchbacks) parking lot at around 8,000 feet above sea level, and continue in another car to the Keonehe`ehe`e (or Sliding Sands) parking lot at around 9,800 feet. Before you get started on your adventure, take a moment to admire the rare and endangered silversword plants peeking through the lava rock around you. On the Sliding Sands trail, you’ll stroll for miles through an otherworldly landscape of brown, red, and orange cinder cones, followed by black lava fields that give you a sense of walking on the moon.
When you reach Hōlua cabin 7.4 miles in, you’ll find running water (which requires purification before drinking), a composting toilet, and the start of the Switchbacks trail. Here, keep an eye out for the state bird of Hawaii, the endangered nēnē goose. On this last 4-mile section, you’ll see green meadows with yellow wildflowers scattered throughout the lava fields. Soon you’ll begin a series of climbing switchbacks (this route really lives up to its name!), lined with red, orange, and yellow ferns, with spectacular peak and valley vistas. Sunny days offer ocean views as well, while cloudy days bring cooling mists and rainbows.
Along with sturdy shoes, Haleakalā hikers should wear layered clothing and bring everything from water and food to hats and sunscreen. The visitors’ center has restrooms and water fountains, and it may be helpful to check the National Park website for real-time updates about summit conditions before you go.
3. Waihe`e Ridge Trail
Views, views, views! And did I mention the views? This challenging 5-mile out-and-back hike near Wailuku has a total elevation gain of 1,593 feet – but it’s absolutely worth the effort!
You’ll spot cows and horses grazing in nearby fields before your feet even hit the ground, and then enjoy varied vegetation like stately Norfolk pines, `ohi`a and guava trees, and endless ferns and wildflowers as you make your way to a series of overlooks. During the 2-to-3-hour trek (depending on how often you stop to take pictures), you’ll encounter butterflies, waterfalls, Waihe`e Gorge, Makamakaole Gulch, and panoramic views of central Maui and the Kahakuloa region.
Also well-maintained, Waihe`e Ridge Trail has a few benches along the way, and even a picnic table at the top. Leashed dogs are allowed. Check the weather before you go, as there is often cloud cover and the views are significantly better when it’s clear. Even on sunny days, the route can be cool enough for layered clothing.
4. La Perouse Bay/Hoapili Trail
At the bottom of the majestic slopes of the Haleakalā volcano, this hike begins as far south as you can go by car on Maui, past the large pu`u (hill) that marks the site of the island’s last eruption. Hoapili Trail is 5.5 miles in its entirety. From the La Perouse parking area, walk through a grove of kiawe (mesquite) trees, where you’re likely to see wild black goats. The path meanders mauka (toward the mountain), then makai (toward the sea) again to Kanaio Beach (where there are old Hawaiian stone walls and house foundations), and then mauka again.
As another option, stay along the sea cliffs for an approximately 3.6-mile out-and-back hike to the Cape Hanamanioa “lighthouse,” a large white structure that once provided nautical warnings. Lava rock arches, small beaches with interesting coral, and brackish ponds dot the landscape. Watch for pods of spinner dolphins along the way!
Both routes are moderately difficult, not because of any notable elevation changes, but because of the uneven lava rock terrain. Wear good hiking shoes, bring water, and use sunscreen!
5. Pali Trail
The final entry on our list is another sunny one! This one involves two trailhead parking locations about 6 miles apart on Mauna Kahālāwai, more commonly known as the West Maui Mountains. Leave one car at the Ukumehame parking area (about 0.25 miles north of the Pali tunnel on Honoapiilani Highway), and drive on to the parking area across from Maalaea Harbor. You’ll start the hike at around 200 feet above sea level and enjoy great views of the harbor, the Keālia fishponds, south and central Maui, and the Haleakalā volcano as you go.
At around 2,000 feet, you’ll reach the Kaheawa wind farm. The rest of the rugged 5-mile trail provides west-facing views that include the neighbor islands of Kaho`olawe and Lāna`i, along with the Molokini crater and (in the winter months) humpback whales at play.
Set out in the morning, wear sunscreen, and bring water if you plan to do the whole route – this is the windiest part of the island, but you’re very likely to have sunny conditions the whole way. Especially hearty hikers may opt for a 10-mile out-and-back hike (beginning and ending on the Maalaea side), but even those who choose a shorter section will have a memorable experience. If these hikes are making you curious about life on Maui, contact me today with your questions about Maui real estate!