One of the best features about Hawaii is the fact that mountains/volcanoes and ocean exist right next to each other, so one can go from playing in the crystal-clear waves to forging trails up the side of a volcano in the same day. Hiking is one of my favorite things in the entire world, and I spend as much time as possible wandering the Maui hiking trails. I’ve compiled a list of four of the absolute best (in my opinion) hiking trails on Maui, so if you’re on the island for a short period of time and are wondering which are the must-do Maui hikes, here ya go!
**Originally it was going to be ‘The 3 Best Hikes on Maui,’ but I couldn’t decide whether to include #3 or #4 in the list, so after great deliberation I decided to add a 4th ‘Best Hike’ so I could include both. Choosing between a bamboo forest trail (with a massive waterfall at the end) and a steep ridge trail (with epic panoramic views) is impossible. For real.
I did this hike for the first time in a couple months today and was reminded of how incredibly stunning it is, which is why it is #1 on the list. It would be impossible for me to choose a favorite between a hiking trail that follows a ridge line, with epic views on all sides, or a thickly forested trail, with sturdy pines and oaks or mysterious jungle that makes you forget any other world exists. They are both magical in their distinct uniqueness. Waihee Ridge Trail one of my favorite hikes on Maui because it has both: the ridges with the panoramic vistas and the forests with their captivating magnetism.
Although not in the jungle, it passes through forest areas alive with vibrant colors, towering pines, softly carpeted pine needle floors, and winding paths illuminated by the speckled sunlight filtering through the treetops.
The trailhead starts off of Kahekili Highway near Mendes Ranch, and climbs 2.5 miles and 1,500 feet through a forest of ferns, ohi’a, guava, and kukui, with sweeping views of Waihee Valley, Makamakaole Falls, the West Maui Mountains, and Haleakala. It’s a 5-mile round-trip trail that transitions back and forth between cool, shaded forests and hot, sunny ridge lines, with the steepest part right at the beginning. After parking, hikers have to climb a 200-ft cement path before reaching the start of the actual trail that may have you questioning whether it’s worth it, but… it is. Don’t stop. At the top of the path, a sign on the left leads hikers through a pasture and then through a fence and into the forest where the magic begins. The trail ends at Lani’ili, at 2,563 foot elevation with a stunning view of the valley, mountains, and coastline. For more information and directions, see my full Waihee Ridge Trail post here.
#2 – Hiking through Haleakala Crater – Halemau’u and Sliding Sands Trails
Stunning, mysterious, and dramatically haunting, Haleakala is one of the most visited attractions on the island of Maui. With its peak towering above the clouds at 10,023 feet, it is the world’s largest dormant volcano. I’ve hiked a lot of miles since moving to Hawaii, and each one has absolutely captivated me to the point where it would be a complete impossibility to pick a favorite. But the 12-mile Halemau’u Trail through the Haleakala Crater stands out: It is, hands down, the most incredibly amazing hike I’ve done in my life thus far. It is unreal.
With temperatures ranging from 30-60 degrees F (and an occasional snowfall,) Haleakala’s crater is home to a dramatic landscape, with rugged sand dunes (in a variety of contrasting colors,) sharp peaks, craggy cliffs, stretches of black lava as far as the eye can see, grassy meadows, shrubland, desert, and many endangered plants and species. The summit has over 30 miles of hiking trails, ranging from short, easy “strolls” to strenuous, 2 (or more) day “backpacking” trips. For more information on hiking in Haleakala and the Halemau’u & Sliding Sands Trails, visit my main post here.
The Pipiwai Trail lies in the Kipahulu Section of the Haleakala National Park, which is located about 12 miles beyond Hana. The Kipahulu Section is also where the Ohe’o Pools (Seven Sacred Pools) are located…perfect for some cliff-diving or swimming to cool down after the hike.
A short, 4-mile roundtrip hike, The Pipiwai Trail is magical from start to finish and has four main things to see: a huge Banyan tree, beautiful views of Makahiku Falls, the Bamboo Forest itself, and the 400 ft Waimoku Falls.
I’ve hiked the Pipiwai Trail numerous times since moving to Maui, because I am obsessed with the bamboo forest. It is a private sanctuary hidden away in the jungle with countless secrets waiting to be discovered. It’s not a strenuous hike (I do it in my slippers,) and is meant to be savored. One of my favorite things about the Bamboo Forest is that it is different every time I visit, and each visit is equally entrancing. I love the way the forest smells in the rain. I love the way the sun sparkles and glitters through the umbrella of the towering trees on a sunny day. But my favorite is those days when the wind is fierce and the whole forest comes to life with the haunting music…the Bamboo Forest song. You can hear it (and view more information about this hike) at my main Pipiwai Trail post here.
This is a five-mile trail leading over the mountains from Maalaea to Ukumehame, with a steep climb from 100′ above seal level all the way up to the Kealaloloa Ridge (over 1600′ elevation). There are trailheads at both ends, so hikers have the choice of parking at one end, hiking halfway up (2.7 miles), and then returning to your car for a total of five miles, or hiking the whole way across (5.5 miles) and either leaving a car at both ends, having someone pick you up, or hitchhiking back to your car, or hiking the entire way across (5.5 miles), and then the entire way back across for a total of eleven miles.
To sum it up: this trail involves 5-11 miles of rugged verticals, uneven terrain, loose rocks and dirt, scorching sun, no shade, and fierce wind. It also involves sweeping views of the coastline and Haleakala Volcano, windmills chasing each other’s shadows across the mountainside, softly-blanketed valleys that look like something from Lord of the Rings, peace and tranquility (at least, when you’re not in the fierce wind section,) and a great workout.
Historically, the Lahaina Pali Trail was built for horse and foot traffic between Wailuku and Lahaina. It was hand-built and treacherous, but the only direct path cutting through the steep mountains of West Maui and as such, was quite the bustling “highway.” In addition to the killer views of Haleakala, hikers can usually see the nearby islands of Kahoolawe and Lanai. The terrain constantly changes from semi-wide dirt paths to narrow, steep, uneven ground with sheer drop-offs. Good trail shoes are essential! For more info on the Lahaina Pali Trail, view my main post on the hike.