The most surprising part about hiking in Maui? The diversity of the landscape. When people think of Maui, they usually envision lush trails draped with waterfalls and tropical foliage – and they wouldn’t be wrong – but you’ll also find trails that drop into volcanic moonscapes, twist through bamboo forests, bump over lava beds and ribbon beside golden beaches.
The best part is that most trailheads are within a two-hour drive of popular resort areas. Some are right by the shoreline, including paved walks overlooking the water in many resort towns. You might even see whales breaching off the coast, depending on when you decide to visit.
The most spectacular trails can be found in Haleakalā National Park, which has two separate sections; summit trails explore the park’s enormous crater, while coastal paths seek out waterfalls and freshwater pools in East Maui. Across the island, trails at state parks and regional preserves plunge into forested ravines and climb wooded slopes, offering bird’s-eye views of the coast.
Important things to remember? Be wary of flash floods in steep valleys and ravines, and remember that darkness arrives quickly after sunset on Maui. Also, be sure to obey signage at culturally significant sites and dangerous locations. Other than that, embrace the fact that there are no snakes or poison ivy plants on Maui! Here’s our pick of the seven best trails on Maui.
Waiheʻe Ridge Trail
Best day hike in Maui
5 miles roundtrip, 3 hours, moderate
Kicking off at 1000ft, this lush trail climbs to the 2563ft summit of Lanilili Peak in the rugged West Maui Mountains. The route serves up the quintessential Maui: guava trees and groves of eucalyptus, a ridgeline view of the deep-green Waiheʻe Gorge, open pastures that evoke the island’s rural roots, and a breathtaking glimpse of Makamakaʻole Falls in the distance.
The climb is fairly steady, and it can be muddy and slippery, but there are benches and level spots along the way so the hike never feels strenuous. A cloud-snagging peak with 360-degree views marks the end of the trail; if it’s foggy, wait about ten minutes as the clouds may blow away. After rain, you might catch the scent of fallen fruit as you scramble through the mud.
The road to the trailhead begins on the inland side of the Kahekili Hwy just south of the 7-mile marker; it’s a drive of about a mile to the parking lot. Start before 8am to avoid clouds that tend to obscure views by late morning.
Best waterfall hike
4 miles roundtrip, 2 hours, moderate
With its mango and guava fruit trees, majestic banyans and gorgeous view of Makahiku Falls dropping over fern-covered cliffs, this hike in Haleakalā National Park in East Maui definitely qualifies as memorable, particularly once you enter the bamboo forest.
The walk through this otherworldly grove flips this tropical hike from memorable to downright magical. Get your camera ready. A boardwalk navigates a dense grove of soaring bamboo stalks, all knocking together overhead in a gentle tropical chorus. The hike, which runs parallel to the ʻOheʻo streambed, concludes with a view of Waimoku Falls, a graceful 400ft waterfall dropping down a steep rock wall.
The trail starts a short distance from the visitor center in the Kipahulu section of the national park, which is 10 miles south of Hana. You can extend the hike with a stroll on the short Kuloa Point Trail, which overlooks a series of photogenic freshwater pools in the ʻOheʻo Gulch. The pools are linked by gentle cascades that flow toward the coast.
Keoneheʻeheʻe (Sliding Sands) Trail
Best hike for an out-of-this-world landscape
17.8 miles roundtrip (with shorter options), up to 2 days, strenuous
Long switchbacks drop hikers into a lunar-like crater that hunkers dramatically beneath the summit of Haleakalā, the majestic volcano that anchors Maui’s only national park. The start of the trail is stark and nearly barren, with just a few green kūpaoa plants and shiny silverswords dotting the crater’s southern wall, but the multi-hued cinder cones ahead provide plenty of wows.
The most striking feature of this walk? The silence, broken only by your footsteps crunching against the volcanic cinders underfoot. Turn around at the first overlook after half a mile, or continue another 3.5 miles to the crater floor, a drop of almost 2,500ft from the trailhead. In the crater, the trail passes cinder cones, a spur trail to a volcanic pit and the Kapalaoa and Paliku camping cabins.
Remember that with the steep climb, the hike out takes twice as long as the hike in. For a full but rewarding day, reserve a ticket to watch the spectacular sunrise from the summit. The combination of clouds, morning light and chilly temperatures is unforgettable. Author Mark Twain wrote that the Haleakalā sunrise was “the sublimest spectacle I ever witnessed.”
Best hike for Hawaiian history
4 miles roundtrip, half-day, moderate
This remote trail begins on the South Maui coast at La Perouse Bay, kicking off beside a carpet of spiky black volcanic rocks known as aʻa lava. The trail rolls past the ruins of an ancient Hawaiian settlement then follows the photogenic coastline to a small cove and a kiawe forest; look out for spinner dolphins in the bay early in the day.
The trail then swings inland to link up with the Kings Highway, which bumps through another lava field. King Piʻilani instigated the construction of this lava-bed road more than 500 years ago to encourage commerce, and the 138 mile route once circled the entire island. The trail then swings back to the coast, eventually dropping you at Kanaio Beach.
For additional hiking thrills, retrace your steps, then follow the spur trail that continues along the coast after you emerge from the kiawe forest, leading to a light beacon at the tip of the bay. The Hoapili Trail is mostly unshaded and walking on the lava can be tiring, so bring lots of drinking water and start early. The nearby ʻAhihi-Kinaʻu Natural Area Reserve has excellent, if crowded, snorkeling.
Kapalua Coastal Trail
Best seaside trail
3.5 miles roundtrip, 1-2 hours, easy
This breezy coastal walk in West Maui is downright cinematic. With golden strands of beach, tropical trailside flowers, black lava cliffs and multi-hued sunsets illuminating the ocean’s calm horizon, this trail is where the full Maui movie montage unfolds. If you’re here in winter, you might even spot a whale breaching the surface of the Pacific.
This popular walk links Kapalua Beach with DT Fleming Beach Park, passing the swanky Montage Kapalua Bay and the equally posh Ritz-Carlton resorts along the way. Park for free in the lots at DT Fleming Beach Park or Kapalua Beach on Lower Honoapiʻilani Rd.
The path passes sites of cultural and historic significance to native Hawaiiains: Makaluapuna Point, where deep blue waves crash against jagged lava cliffs, and the Honokahua burial site, which dates to 610 BCE. Both should be appreciated respectfully and from a distance.
Best forest trail
6.6 miles, half-day, moderate
Mountain bikers hurtle down muddy trails in the Kahakapao Recreation Area, a thick swath of canopied woodland in the Makawao Forest Reserve on the slopes of Haleakalā, and you can join them on foot. This atmospheric forest was planted in the early 1900s to protect the watershed after native flora had been destroyed, and it’s now impressively lush.
The multi-use Kahakapao Loop Trail, which climbs from an elevation of 2800ft, draws hikers, bikers, dog walkers and equestrians. This upcountry trail doesn’t have sweeping views of the coast, and it’s a bit chilly and remote, but lush gulches and the dark forest – home to Cook pine, tropical ash and eucalyptus trees and wildflowers – will evoke thoughts of your favorite literary fantasyland.
To get here, take Piʻiholo Rd north from Makawao then turn left onto Waiahiwi Rd. Follow it for half a mile then turn right onto Kahakapao Rd and continue into the reserve. The parking area is 0.6 miles from the entrance gate.
Best hike for families
0.6 miles roundtrip, 1 hour, easy
Some may quibble that a 0.6 mile stroll doesn’t qualify as a hike, not to mention the fact that the trail is part of a privately owned tourist site that requires an admission fee. But really, where else can you walk through an underground tube hollowed out by volcanic lava? And wear a hard hat while you’re doing it?
Formed by ancient lava flows nearly 1000 years ago, the cave-like tunnel is dotted with interpretive signage about its fascinating geology. At the end of the trail you can switch off your headlamp to experience complete, mind-rattling darkness.
About 4 miles west of Hana in East Maui, the lava tube is one of many fascinating attractions along the popular Road to Hana. The tunnel once served as a slaughterhouse, and 17,000 pounds of bones had to be cleared out before it could open to the public. Above ground you can let the kids loose in a fun botanical maze made from red ti plants.