Top 5 Favorite Maui Hikes
Maui offers fabulous hiking, from leisurely coastal paths to more challenging volcanic, rainforest, and mountain terrain. There are many top Maui hikes awaiting you! Whether a novice or an expert hiker, you’ll be rewarded on Maui’s trails with wonderful surprises like hidden waterfalls, lush forests, rare plants, native birds, and jaw-dropping views. There are numerous excellent resources — both online and in print — that will provide you with detailed information on Maui’s hiking trails. Make sure you do your homework and prepare properly before embarking on any Maui hike.
I won’t even attempt here to cover all the possible hiking experiences on Maui, but to whet your appetite, we’ve listed our top five favorites covering various regions of the island. I’ve enlisted the help of my niece, Tiffany, who has (unlike me) hiked most of Maui’s trails, so mahalo to Tiffany for sharing her personal tips below. Now, put on your shoes, get out there, and do some walking!
(UPDATE: This blog was updated in February 2021, but due to the constantly evolving impacts of COVID-19, some of the trails, businesses, or activities mentioned in this blog might change their operations temporarily or permanently. Please check directly with them to verify access, operating status and hours. Mahalo!)
Five Top Maui Hikes
Pipiwai Trail (East Maui)
Four miles roundtrip, this is a moderately strenuous trail located in Haleakala National Park in East Maui, 12 miles past Hana at Kipahulu. A ranger-led guided hike is offered on a weekly basis (temporarily suspended due to COVID restrictions). Places to stay nearby: East Maui Accommodations.
Tiffany’s Tips: Sometimes people refer to this hike as the Bamboo Forest Trail, because that’s such an amazing part of this experience. But there is so much more! This hike has everything, and pretty much anyone can do it if you don’t mind walking 4 miles. You start/end at the beautiful Pools of Oheo (aka Seven Sacred Pools), hike through tropical rainforest, and pass by a magnificent banyan tree. Then you’ll get chicken skin (goose bumps) as you walk through the bamboo forest, it feels so mystical. Stand quietly and listen to the wind funneling through the massive bamboo stalks as they sway. And if that’s not enough, this hike ends at a viewpoint for a 400-foot waterfall – so massive, it hurts your neck to look up at it! This is my number 1 recommended top Maui hike!
NOTE: Don’t hike this trail if a storm is predicted. The Pipiwai Trail is very dangerous if the weather turns bad, as it is prone to flash floods. Pristine mountain streams can turn into raging floods, sweeping people away. You shouldn’t be on ANY Maui hiking trail in stormy weather, but this trail, in particular, requires extra caution. So plan all Maui hikes with an eye on the weather forecasts.
Twin Falls (North Shore)
A relatively easy hike, less than a mile one-way. You’ll find this trail on the north shore as you drive along the famed Road to Hana. The only disadvantage to this hike is the area can get crowded. Places to stay: Condos in Hana.
Tiffany’s Tips: This hike is perfect for those who don’t have time to drive all the way to Hana but want a little sample of the tropical beauty of this area. There are two waterfall trails here, both easy to do. You can swim in the pools created by the waterfall, and go underneath the waterfall itself. You’ll likely see locals jumping off the cliff into the pool! This trail gets EXTREMELY muddy and mushy after a rain so be prepared for that. Slippers (flip flops) will only get stuck in the mud, so wear solid shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy.
Sliding Sands (Keoneheehee Trail at Haleakala)
The summit of Mount Haleakala features more than 30 miles of hiking trails. This trail is extremely strenuous and the high altitude, varying weather conditions, and cold temperatures make Haleakala hikes even more challenging. So don’t undertake this hike without plenty of planning and preparation. Or even better, take part in a guided hiking tour of Haleakala trails!
Tiffany’s Tips: This is an amazing hike, but it is extremely difficult . . . so not for anyone looking just for a leisurely stroll! The sand inside the volcanic crater is incredibly beautiful with varying colorful layers and textures, but it does slide and can be tricky. On a clear day, the colors are vibrant and the views from the summit are breathtaking. On a cloudy day, you can literally be hiking inside a cloud at this elevation. Be aware on your return that each step you take back up the crater takes twice the amount of effort because of the sliding sands. I suggest you start this adventure by watching the sunrise at the summit, followed by the hike down into the crater for a truly incredible and well-rounded Haleakala experience.
NOTE: On this trail, you’ll see Haleakala Silverswords, extremely rare plants (a threatened species) found nowhere else in the world — only at high elevations on Mount Haleakala. Haleakala Silverswords can live up to 90 years, but they bloom only once, with a spectacular flowering stalk, then die soon after. So if you see one in bloom, consider yourself very lucky!
The Haleakala environment is precious and fragile, a sacred area to Native Hawaiians. Please respect it. Dispose of your trash properly and don’t gather any natural “souvenirs” on your hike. It is illegal to take rocks or minerals from Haleakala National Park; and don’t even think about uprooting a Haleakala Silversword plant to take home. They are protected by Federal law, and theft of a Silversword can be charged as a felony crime.
Pali Trail (West/Central Maui)
This is a strenuous 5-mile (one way) hike in the mountains overlooking Maalaea. You’ll need to decide before embarking on this hike whether you want to hike one-way (in which case, you’ll need to leave a vehicle for yourself at the other end), or whether you plan to hike in and hike back out the same way (10 miles total if you walk the entire trail).
Tiffany’s Tips: This hike is best after a few days of rain, so the surrounding area is green and lush. You’ll hike above the two-lane highway that connects West Maui and Central Maui, but you’ll be high enough (after a certain point) that you won’t hear the cars, and the view is amazing. Do this hike during whale season (December-March) and you could sit for hours just watching the whales. Midway through the trail you come across the huge wind turbines on the mountainside, which is an interesting experience. But be forewarned it is VERY windy up there (obviously) and can get cold fast. Hike past the wind farm down to the conclusion of the trail in Maalaea, or head back the way you came. Places to stay nearby in Maalaea.
Waihee Ridge Trail (West Maui)
Approximately 4.5 miles roundtrip, this trail is located in the West Maui Forest Reserve. Entry to the trail is located on the northern side of West Maui. Places to stay in West Maui: Condos.
Tiffany’s Tips: This is a fairly challenging hike up into the West Maui Mountains. The trail is never crowded, and you’ll see a lot of local residents enjoying this hike. Unbelievable views! Once you get high enough, you can see the entire island from Kahului Harbor on one side, to the island of Molokai and the ocean beyond on the other side. There is a picnic table at the end of the trail so you can sit and have a bite to eat, but the best views are during the hike itself. When it’s a hot, clear day it’s very muggy on the trail, but the views are stunning! When it’s been raining or in colder weather, this trail is foggy and refreshing, and you’ll see some waterfalls, as well.
OTHER MAUI HIKING TIPS
The Maui Chapter of the Sierra Club hosts some great guided hikes for just $5 ($3 for Sierra Club members). Take a look at their schedule of upcoming hikes and consider joining in. (Temporarily suspended due to COVID.)
There are some wonderful (and free!) ranger-led guided hikes in Haleakala National Park at the summit, on the Pipiwai Trail in Kipahulu, and in the protected Waikamoi Preserve. More information here. (Temporarily suspended due to COVID.)
HeleWai Eco-Tours offers a small-group hike guided by trained naturalists in the Pu’ukukui Watershed Preserve, a spectacular 15,000-acre natural preserve that is closed to the public. A truly unique, one-of-a-kind hiking experience.
Walk down waterfalls and explore jungle cliffs, canyons, and natural freshwater pools with Rappel Maui (pictured) for a day of rappelling and canyoneering in lush East Maui, along the Road to Hana. No experience is required, and all gear is provided.
Free Coastal Walks
Kapalua Coastal Trail (pictured): Starting at Kapalua Beach, you can enjoy this easy to moderate walking path (approximately 1.5 miles, part paved, part dirt and rocks) as it meanders north along the beautiful rugged coastline, past the Ritz-Carlton, ending at D.T. Fleming beach. (Places to stay nearby: Kapalua Condos)
Kaanapali and Wailea Beach Paths: For really easy (but beautiful) strolls, take a walk along the beach paths fronting the Kaanapali (West Maui) or Wailea (South Maui) resort areas. The paved paths run adjacent to the beach fronting all the big resorts. Easy walking and lovely ocean and sunset views.
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