From the dry cold summit of Haleakala, to the desert of Kihei, to the steamy wet rainforests of Hana, Maui's 730 square miles houses 11 of the world's 13 climate zones. This extraordinary fact means there is literally an environment here for every outdoor enthusiast. And because so much of the island is undeveloped, opportunities for hiking abound. One could visit Maui every year for many years without hiking the same trail twice.
Because there is so much to do, it is often overwhelming to decide on a hike. One of the best ways to do so is to choose a region of the island to explore for a day or two. Maui is large enough that hikers staying in Wailea, for example, would not want to do an East Maui hike unless they were already planning to drive the road to Hana. The joy and beauty of the hike would be undermined by the long drive.
To combat this issue, the following hikes are presented by region. A favorite hike from each of the north, east, south, west, and upcountry regions of Maui has been chosen to help you plan your adventures. When determining where to go, keep in mind that the northern, eastern, and western regions of Maui tend to be very wet, especially during the winter rainy season, while the southern region of Maui is very dry. Upcountry Maui is high alpine country, and the weather changes rapidly. Generally speaking winter temperatures range from freezing to low 60s while summer temperatures range from 50s to high 70s.
North – Rainforest Hikes
Expect morning sun and afternoon showers. Terrain is relatively flat and occasionally muddy. Trails are wide, well marked, and shady.
Twin Falls – Short and easy. Bring a bathing suit and towel and play on the rope swing. Start just past mile marker 2 on the Hana Highway (Hwy 360). Park at the Twin Falls fruit stand.
Waikamoi Nature Trail - Easy. Located between mile markers 9 and 10 on the Hana Highway (Hwy 360).
East – Coastal Hikes
Expect variable conditions including occasional rain showers. Terrain follows coast line and does not change in overall elevation, but is very rocky and may require large up and down steps. There are occasional shady spots, but expect to spend most of the time in the sun.
Wai'anapanapa Coast Hike – Moderate. Up and down stair-like footing over solid lava rock. Start at the Wai'anapanapa Black Sand Beach State Park. Turn left off the Hana Highway just past mile marker 32.
Red Sand Beach - Aerobically easy with difficult footing. Expect loose sand and narrow paths with sheer drops. Bring a bathing suit and towel. Start at the end of Uakea Road in Hana just past the Youth Center and just before the Sea Ranch Cottages.
South – Desert Hikes
Expect rough terrain and hot sun. Bring a lot of water and wear sunscreen – there is very little shade. Start early to beat the heat and the trade winds which blow hard on this side of the island.
Kings Highway - Moderate. Rough, very sharp footing over lava rock. Start at the end of Makena Alanui Road at La Perouse Bay.
Lahaina Pali Trail - Difficult. Smooth, well-marked trail with a lot of elevation gain. Best if done with two cars, one at each trail head. If hiking alone, start on the Lahaina side, hike to the highest point, and then turn around. Park near mile marker 5 on the Honoapi'ilani Highway (Hwy 30) just North of Ma'alaea harbor or at mile marker 11 just past the tunnel. Parking is on the mauka (toward the mountain) side of the road in both cases.
West – Rainforest Hikes
Expect morning sun, afternoon clouds with showers, and high humidity. Iao Valley is very well shaded; Waihe'e Ridge Trail is very hot and humid after 10 AM with occasional shade. Both areas cool off considerably when the clouds roll in. Trails are well marked.
Iao Valley Needle and Stream - Easy paved trails in the state park. Muddy, narrow, unmarked trails if you choose to explore the stream or ridges. Start at Iao Valley State Park located at the end of Highway 320 in Wailuku.
Waihe'e Ridge Trail - Difficult. Smooth, steep, well-marked trail with a large elevation gain and phenomenal views of Maui's north shore. Travel north on Highway 340 from Kahului. Just before mile marker 7 make a left following the signs to Maluhia Boy Scout Camp. Parking is on the right just past the trail head about a mile up the road.
Upcountry – Alpine/Temperate Hikes
Generally speaking, mornings are sunny and afternoons are cold and wet, but the weather upcountry is always extremely variable. Expect everything from hot sun to near freezing temperatures and rain. All hikes are 6000 feet above sea level or higher. Drink plenty of water to combat altitude sickness and dehydration.
Hale-mau'u Trail – Difficult. One of the easiest and most scenic ways to hike into the crater. The trail is smooth and well marked, but narrow with sheer drops to one side. There is no shade. Located at 8,000 feet above sea level on the Crater Road inside Haleakala National Park between mile markers 14 and 14. $10 fee to enter the park.
Polipoli State Park – Moderate. Home of several excellent trails through redwood and eucalyptus trees. Trails are well marked but often very muddy and criss-crossed with cow and pig trails. Expect constant shade and cool temperatures when the mid-morning clouds arrive. Located at 6,000 feet above sea level at the end of Waipolipoli Road off the Kula Highway (Hwy 37) above Kula. The last four miles of the road are very rough but passable by all cars unless it has been raining a lot. Jeep drivers will love the road.
Note to all Hawai'i hikers
Car break-ins can be a big problem in Hawai'i, particularly at well-known hiking spots. Vandals target rental cars specifically and usually grab small items they can take quickly, so unless you are borrowing a friend's island beater, do not leave anything valuable in your car. In fact, the best strategy is to bring all of your gear with you and leave the car unlocked. This allows potential thieves to check out the car without breaking a window, and prevents you from having to deal with insurance claims while on vacation.
Another thing to be careful of in Hawai'i is Leptospirosis, a bacteria found in Hawai'i's fresh water. Leptospirosis can enter the body through open cuts, through the eyes, or by drinking. The bacteria can be treated easily if caught early, but it is best to avoid fresh water if you have any open wounds.