When Mother Nature pieced together the planet, she spent a little extra time in Hawaii.
Each island is spectacular in its own right, but Maui, less tarnished by the stains of urban development, is particularly ripe for outdoor pursuits. From the martian volcanic peaks that stand watch over the Pacific through the lush rainforest to its idyllic beaches, nature should be the focal point of any visit.
Sure, you can sample its beauty from the foggy window of a tour bus. But, as any outdoor fanatic will tell you, the best views are earned in sweat.
Strap up your boots and slather on the bug spray. These are the best hikes in Maui.
The best hikes in Maui
If you only do one: Pipiwai Trail
Length – 4 miles out and back
Difficulty – Moderate
Popularity – The busiest on the island
If your trip is short and limited to only one quintessential Maui hike, the Pipiwai Trail is your go-to. Located in Haleakala National Park, the four-mile roundtrip is breathtakingly beautiful and frames some of Maui’s most famous natural landmarks. This is the most popular hike on the island, so bite the bullet and get rolling first to beat the crowds. Early bird catches the worm and all that.
If you’re in good shape and zipping through, you can finish the trail in just over two hours, but with so much nature on show, it’s not uncommon for that to stretch to as much as five. You’ll hit Makahiku Falls after just half a mile, but don’t stop there. A little further along, you’ll come to a raised walkway that mazes through a towering bamboo forest before the star of the show, Waimoku Falls, a 400-foot waterfall cascading through the greenery.
While in the area, check out the stunning Seven Sacred Pools. You won’t be sorry; an afternoon dip will be heaven after your hike.
If you’re feeling adventurous: Sliding Sands Trail (Keonehe‘ehe‘e)
Length – Up to 11 Miles
Difficulty – Hard
Popularity – Busy but regulated
For the avid hiker, Sliding Sands Trail is unmatched. A far cry from the lush jungle setting of Pipiwai Trail, Keonehe‘ehe‘e sends hikers across a martian landscape of volcanic rock and into the crater of Haleakalā.
This is not first-hike material. Some routes are far shorter than others but know that descending into the crater means a grueling climb back out. Although you’ll be at over 10,000 feet, the island’s highest point, the trail starts only half a mile from the summit. It’s essential to plan your day by starting early but remember, hikers heading out before 7 am need to get a permit.
If you want to do the entire, stunning 11 miles, you’ll need to do a bit of hitchhiking. Parking lots are at either end, so park at the finish and hitchhike to the top or vice versa.
If you want the sea as your soundtrack: Waianapanapa Coastal Trail
Length – up to 3 miles
Difficulty – Easy to moderate
Popularity – Moderate
The Waianapanapa Coastal Trail runs through the state park of the same name, following the breathtaking coast the whole way. Depending on your preference, leave from the middle of the trail and head north or south a mile before turning back. It is possible to do the whole trail, but you’ll be on a tight timeline as entry to the park is limited to 2.5-hour windows.
Along the well-signposted path, you’ll be gifted stunning views of the volcanic coastline, where jagged black rock formations, black sand beaches, and crashing waves fuse to form a dramatic scene of nature in motion. Look out for explosive blowholes firing seawater high into the sky above.
The trail is easy, but wear suitable footwear to avoid hurting your toes and feet on the rocks.
If you want incredible views: Waihee Ridge Trail
Length – 4 miles out and back
Difficulty – Hard
Popularity – Off the tourist radar
Suppose you’ve never been to Hawaii and seen the diversity of its landscapes. In that case, you’re probably picturing soaring valley tops blanketed in lush rainforest, giving way to the ocean at one end and a waterfall on the other. While you’ll find a lot of that on Maui’s sister island, Kauai, the Waihee Ridge Trail is the closest thing to your imagination here.
The trail starts steep and keeps climbing. You’ll begin at 1,000 feet, building to 2,600 feet over a two-mile route. Trust us when we say your thighs are going to burn. But those willing to climb are rewarded with spectacular views.
If it’s a clear day, expect to see the looming summit of Haleakalā in the distance, the endless wonder of the Pacific Ocean, and of course, the breathtaking valley you’ve just traversed.
If you need a recovery walk: Iao Valley State Park
Length – 1 Mile
Difficulty – Easy stroll
Popularity – Popular
If you’ve worked through some of the hikes above, you’ll need a little recovery hike to help drain the last of the lactic acid and stretch your stiff legs out. Iao Valley State Park offers the perfect place to do just that and throws in one of the most breathtaking natural treasures on the island.
The valley itself is steeped in history and sacred to the Hawaiian people. The valley’s sheer cliffs were used to protect the dead, while its main attraction is linked with ancient Gods. The centerpiece in question is the Iao needle, a staggering 1200-foot peak that’s been weathered into a steep point over the centuries. While it’s not immediately apparent from the tourist viewing deck, Hawaiian communities refer to it as the phallic stone of the God of the Ocean. The view from the parking lot offers an angle that affirms this description.
Of course, these are just five of the many hikes available on Maui. If you have the time and energy, ask the locals for even more off-the-beaten-path routes to help transform your trip into something extra special.