Hawaii’s island of Maui has some of the most gorgeous and diverse landscapes in the Hawaiian chain. It might be hard to believe all of these different landscapes and environments are all on the same island. From otherworldly looking locations to your quintessential lush rain forests, it’s always better to get up close and personal in nature with a vigorous jungle hike or meditative forest or beach walk. Here are 8 of the best hikes in Maui, from vigorous to relaxing.
Some Helpful Tips Before Taking the Best Hikes on the Island:
- Bring lots of water! Some light healthy snacks are a great idea too. Trail mix, seasonal tropical fruit, dried fruit, nuts, etc, will keep you going without weighing you down.
- Don’t hike alone. Always a good idea to go with a buddy or several.
- Bring your fully charged cell phone with you. Turning on your GPS is a good idea too.
- Put on that sunscreen! Even when making your way through a dense jungle brush, you’ll still meet with sunny areas. Some non-toxic bug repellent is a good idea too, as some thick areas can be mosquito-laden.
- Good sturdy shoes with great ankle support are a no brainer.
- Call the Maui County Automated Information line at 808-986-1200 ext. 1 for Maui Emergency Management Agency emergency notifications like flash flood warnings and advisories. Those flash floods are no joke!
- As always, wherever you park, do not leave valuables in your car.
1.) Mt. Haleakalā (Various, .5 mi to 20 mi, Easy to Very Strenuous)
This is easily one of the best and most interesting hikes on the island of Maui because hiking in the crater of a dormant volcano is a must for the avid hiker! With a terrain that resembles the surface of the moon in some areas and a stunning painted desert in others, there are photo ops around every bend. You can spot native birds you won’t see at lower elevations, and take photos of ‘Ahinahina, (Silversword) an endangered plant with silvery long leaves, found nowhere else on the entire planet!
Mt. Haleakalā National Park has over 30 miles of hiking trails, and these hikes are like no other in Maui. There is a parking fee. Check out their website to contact a ranger if you have any questions about fees/weather conditions/etc.
A quick trail is Pa Kaoao Trail, a short path (less than .5 mile round trip) that leads to the top of Pa Kaoao, a small cinder cone. This trail has stunning views of the crater, as it offers one of the highest vantage points in the park.
Keoneheehee Trail (Sliding Sands) is a strenuous trail for the experienced hiker. The trailhead sits at about 9,700 feet and heads downhill for about 4 miles descending 2,500 feet to the crater floor. This is a trek you need to be well prepared for! At over 16 miles round trip, (You don’t have to do the whole thing if you get tired) you can reserve a cabin here in the crater for a nice over-nighter and rest. Halemauu Trail is another all-day trail that starts at 7,990 ft. and ends at the summit.
Love forests? The Hosmer Grove Loop Trail is for you. Stroll through pine, spruce, cedar, and fragrant eucalyptus. Whichever hike you choose, an experienced park ranger can help. Note: Dogs are not allowed on the trails in the park.
2.) ‘Iao Valley State Park (Various trails, Easy)
The lush greenery and towering mountains of ‘Iao Valley State Park make it popular with tourists and locals alike. Just a few miles west of central Maui’s Wailuku town, this is more of a nature walk than a hike and has remained a must-visit destination for decades.
This serene 4,000-acre, 10-mile long park is home to one of Maui’s most recognizable and photographed landmarks, the 1,200-foot Iao Needle. The iconic “needle” is a pointy-shaped and lush green outcropping that overlooks ‘Iao stream. So, definitely pack a picnic lunch and bring the family. There is a 135-step staircase to climb with breathtaking valley views from the top. With nature walks and hiking along ‘Iao stream (wear your swimsuit and take a very COLD dip here too!)
The park also includes facilities, picnic areas, and a lovely cultural center to walk. Note: Mosquitoes can be heavy here, especially near the stream, so be sure to pack some non-toxic repellent.
3.) Twin Falls (Various Trails, Fairly Easy)
Twin Falls is a popular spot for visitors and locals looking for the best hikes in Maui. It’s actually multiple waterfalls (explore and find them!) and with fairly easy lower trails, this attraction is great for families with children who love to swim. Twin Falls is unique as it’s privately owned and open to the public. With a yummy fresh farm/snack stand at the entrance and friendly folks running the place, this is a great place to stop and go for a nice nature hike. You’ll stumble across some interesting features, like irrigation ditches carved right into the rocky landscape, forming tunnels. Wade into a ditch and head through a tunnel to the other side. This is a fairly muddy trail, and it typically rains quite a bit here. The upper trails can be challenging, so plan accordingly. So, wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty, and pack swimming clothes!
4.) Pali Trail (10 mi Round Trip, Strenuous)
This is a rugged and challenging climb and can be brutally hot, especially in the summer months. This trail is on the dry South West side of the island, and begins in arid Ma’alaea and ends in arid Ukumehame (near Olowalu) There are boulders to climb and loose stones, so take heed.
Walk past towering wind turbines on the Ma’alaea side. The views at the top here make this trek so worth it! Spectacular views of the Central Valley, Ma’alaea Bay, and Haleakalā on the other side of the bay are definitely photo-worthy. Climb the gnarly and often rocky parts slowly and leisurely as you make your way up.
You can park either on the Ma’alaea side (my fave) or on the Ukumehame side. Round trip it’s about 10 miles. Some folks go with 2 cars (park one on both sides to do the round trip) or choose a side to go up and back. There are no facilities – you’re definitely on your own here, so prepare!
5.) Kapalua Coastal Trail (1.76 mi, Easy)
Kapalua Coastal Trail is a beautiful and leisurely trail for everyone. A nearly 2-mile walk along Maui’s northwest coast in Kapalua, the views are stunning. Beginning at the boardwalk in Kapalua Bay, then turning into a dirt and lava trail that winds North through ancient lava fields and wilderness, this is a good scenic stroll for families and folks who just want to see the nature of Hawaii while still relaxing. The trail ends at DT Fleming Beach, where you can have a cooling swim, so wear your suits! Daring swimmers can jump into the deep water near The Cliff House, which juts from a lava outcropping.
This is an awesome hike for all skill levels, and for that reason, it’s usually pretty busy, so try to go early! There’s no shade either, which is another good reason to take this hike as early as you can.
6.) Haycraft Park to Sugar Beach (3 mi, Easy But Long)
Another coastal walk, this one is 3 beautiful, serene, and interesting with miles of beach. Walk the entire way to Kihei or just part of it, whatever you feel like. Park at Haycraft Park in Ma’alaea, (at the end of Hauoli Street) take the short path to the beach, go left and keep going! You’ll see rolling sands, gravely areas for beachcombing and shell collecting, turtles, tide pools, and a wildlife wetlands refuge with a 2200 ft boardwalk. (Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge) Take a little side tour on the boardwalk! It’s a must for wildlife watchers, so take your camera.
The sunsets and whale watching (wintertime only for whales) can be spectacular also. Tip: If you’re wanting to stay for sunset, street park on Hauoli St, because the park gates do close promptly at 7 pm, and you won’t be able to drive out.
7.) Kaupo and Maui’s Backside (Very Strenuous)
This hike is rugged and recommended only for very experienced hikers! Finding a trail guide who’s familiar with this arid and mountainous trek is a good idea. It takes at least 2 full days to complete this hike, so it requires preparation.
The Kaupo Trail up to the Kaupo Gap are on the backside of Mt Haleakalā where you end up at the top, then out and back. Some choose to end at the summit and arrange pick-up. You can rent a cabin in the crater, but that must be booked far in advance. You can check here for reservations and camping info.
Some opt to begin at the top, then hike down through the Gap and into Kaupo. After the tropical rain forest and jungle hikes in Maui, this one will feel like you’re not in the tropics at all. With usually arid dry weather and rolling hills of yellowish grasslands, you’ll feel more prairie than tropics. With grazing cattle and rugged steep mountains, you’ll feel more South West than South Pacific in some parts.
The Kaupo Gap, at the top, was at first believed to be an old lava flow path into the sea. Recently scientists have determined that it is heavy winds and rains over time that caused the natural opening to the summit of the mountain.
8.) Pipiwai Trail-Oheo Gulch (4 mi, Moderate to Challenging)
The Pipiwai Trail is part of Haleakalā National Park. Pipiwai is located on the backside (South-East Side) of the mountain, in Kipahulu, and begins at Oheo Gulch. (Seven Sacred Pools) There is parking as well as a helpful visitor’s center. Restrooms and water are available at the park store. Pipiwai is a gorgeous trail that meanders through some diverse scenery, like a bamboo forest, several streams and rivers, waterfalls, (Makahiku Falls & Waimoku Falls) and ancient trees. This tends to be muddy hike most of the time as it is, but rains can make it even more challenging. Watch the weather!
Often considered one of the best all-around hikes on Maui, make sure you don’t miss this one! Come early too, as it can often get crowded.
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