The island of Maui, known as the Valley Isle, provides a handful of diverse hiking experiences all within the smaller island. Below, I'm sharing some of my thoughts and photographs from the trails, as well as recommendations. I'm sharing this map from MauiAccommodations.com which shows the island and its regions, as well as the major city points. As a heads up, this post will likely be followed by (and updated with links to) individual trail posts where I share more pictures and stories. (Spots are estimations for the most part.)
On the far east side of Maui and just north of Hana lies Wai'anapanapa State Park. Wai'anapanapa apparently translates to "glistening water" or "water flashing rainbow colors," and let me tell you, the views along the trail are breathtaking. The park offers campsites, burial grounds, and historical sites to visit from early Hawaiian cultures. Most famously, though, the park contains Pa'iloa Beach, made up of beautiful black sand and rocks. When you park, you have a bit of a walk to head north to the beach. Continuing north through the beach, you'll get to hike the Wai'anapanapa Coastal Trail. We stayed on this path for about 2 miles towards Pukaulua Point. It should be noted that the park is largely comprised of collapsed volcanic tunnels/tubes. There are several blowholes, not all marked. We only did the portion of the trail north of the beach. You can turn back on the loop and head south of the beach to see some caves, burial sites, city ruins, and more. This trail can continue all the way to Hana, but it's a little more perilous and the best views are contained within the park.
The park is largely this vibrant green popping out of stark volcanic black. It's stunning, and provides a really nice contrast to the white and blue of the ocean that is inescapable as you walk along the trail.
Lots of climbable rock formations. The volcanic rock is harsh, and it gets windy up at the cliffsides which provide a sharp 80-foot drop over the ocean.
2. The Pools of O'heo (Seven Sacred Pools)
Admittedly, we didn't get to visit the Seven Sacred Pools. On our second day, we booked it out through the south side of the road to Hana after a hike at Haleakala (more on that next) in the afternoon. We just didn't time it well and got to the park as they were closing (we'd heard seeing the sunset at the pools was an optimal viewing time). The trail is 0.6 miles and I believe it's more of a trek to see the bamboo forest in this part of Haleakala, but we missed it. This poor planning on mostly my part is my biggest regret--the night drive on the north Hana Highway after missing both the Seven Pools and the Red Sand Beach was decidedly not worth killing our afternoon to try and get there.
3. Keonehe’ehe’e Trail (Sliding Sands Trail) at Haleakala
The Keonehe’ehe’e Trail Trail is an extensive one, but with breath-taking views. To preface, this is a 12-mile hike in desert conditions covering a 8000-ft steady drop in elevation. You hike about an hour or two down to an unnamed trail intersection that leads just northeast of the Halali’i cinder cone, then hike up and out the last mile around the Halali'i cone to get to the other visitor's center and then hitchhike to your car at the first visitor's center.
We only made it to the Pu'uopele cone before we agreed to turn back. We knew this would be our most intense hike, and going into it, we said we'd be brutally honest about how we were feeling, taking breaks, and more. We also considered the volume of people we saw on the trail dwindling and decided against taking a chance on hoping to be picked up as a set of two female hitchhikers.
We were cold for the first mile or so before the crater protected us from a lot of the island winds, and at that point, I was grateful to have the ability to ditch my light jacket as I felt like we began to cook under the sun. This was the day we got sunburned! We definitely consumed most of our water, were thankful for our PB&J's, and the sugar hits we got from clementines/applesauce. It also gave us a much needed break in our hike before we continued our hike back. Also, despite our best efforts, we did not apply enough sunscreen, but we brought that along, too (noting this for my mother and PA sister).
It feels like you're hiking on Mars or the Moon. The topography truly seems other-worldly.
You start the trail at about 10,000 ft elevation.
All you do for the first few hours is drop down to 2000 ft elevation. Altitude sickness is likely a reality for people who haven't prepared and go a bit too quickly down or up.
If you look just up and to the left of my shoulder, you can see the Ka Moa O Pele Loop wrap around Halali'i... I think at this point it was 7 or 8 miles away? You have near severe clear visibility up here. Overall, amazing hike, but it knocked the wind and sun protection out of us
So, for starters, I think we did this one wrong. Apparently, some locals and bold tourists will hop the fence at the end of the viewpoint (I think?) and hike up the needle formation.
But let me say this: we worked our way down to the stream and then walked upstream along the rushing water for a few miles. There was a well-worn path and many other people along the trail, hopping into the water or continuing up, so we felt like we were respecting the area without treading where we might not be welcome. This was a gray, cloudy day for us, and the lush forests made this entire little exploratory walk so moody. Soggy overgrowth and damp leaves reminded me of humid hikes from youth.
Admittedly, there were some spots we needed to "climb" out of with the use of damp roots and rocks on our hike back. Still, beautiful and worth it! We happened to go on a day with free admission, which was an added bonus.
6. Waihe'e Ridge Trail
The Waihe'e Ridge Trail is the only one I'd recommend getting up early to go visit. We had read online to start by 7:30, and we got there by 7:43. Even still, I think getting there by 6:45 might've been best. You want to get well into the trail before the rain clouds form and move into the island and maximize your views. To be honest, because of the cloud coverage we hiked into, the best photos we got were fairly early into our hike.
Cloud coverage was consistently threatening our walk ahead but seemed to be kind to us. We passed people hiking down on our way up who told us we were "10-15 minutes out from torrential downpours," and "complete white-outs," but every 10-15 minutes we'd pass someone new who would tell us the same.
The topography quickly changes throughout this trail, and this easily has enough treetop coverage for us to get through the bursts of rain as we felt comfortable. The trail did get muddy, and I got concerned about transmitting any possible fungal spores related to the rapid Ohi'a death (the trail asks that beforehand you sanitize your shoes, gear, and clothes so as not to unintentionally bring in the rapid-death inducing fungus apparently on Maui).
7. Olivine Pools
These bad boys are easily getting their own post later, so watch out for that. Also, this isn't quite a hike so much as it might be more of a rock climb? I did it in flip-flops but definitely used all four appendages to safely maneuver down the rocky mountainside to access the Olivine Pools.
Let me also note: this is NOT a perfectly safe place. The water surrounding the pools (especially to the left of the formation, not pictured below) is by far the most turbulent I have ever gotten to see up close, and I come from a family no stranger to the waters (be it on lakes, bays, deep-sea fishing on the East Coast, nearly a dozen cruises, etc. I'm very familiar with Caribbean and Atlantic waters, and this was insane). The pools are filled with residual splashes from this choppy water. Multiple people have died. If you go here, never turn your back on the water, and double-think through every step you take.
You can see a bit on the right here a small portion of the rocky terrain that the climb down was! It was much steeper and less step-friendly at the top, but still navigable for me. We found a little spot off to the far right of the frame in the picture above where we left our bags and ditched our clothes to get on into the exploration of the pools.
Footnote to #7: Near the Kapalua resort area there is a SMALL bit of public parking for access to the Kapalua Coastal Trail. If you get to, it's a quick, fun, ~2-hour trail that leads to the rocky Dragon's Teeth and labyrinth, not unlike the topography visible at the Olivine Pools. Super windy as the Dragon's Teeth formation sort of jettisons far out into the ocean without a whole lot of wind-protecting mass!
Anyways, those are the 7 trails I'd recommend if you get to go to Maui!