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Top 10 Best Hikes in Maui | Epic Views, Waterfalls, Black Sand Beaches, & More.

Waihee Ridge Trail showing off Maui.

These are our picks for the Top 10 best hikes in Maui, Hawaii.  While you may be picturing relaxing on a beach during your Hawaii vacation, there’s actually good reason to hit the trail.  Maui is a nature lover’s paradise that is extra rewarding to those willing to get out and explore.

You can find lush rainforests, stunning waterfalls, barren lava fields, black sand beaches, bamboo forests, and endless ocean views.  And there is a large variety of trails to match your ability level, from absolute stair-master climbs to mellow coastal walks, and lots in between.  It’s easy to find a suitable hike in Maui to add to your trip itinerary.

#10: Kapalua Coastal Trail

2.5 miles, 209 feet elevation, Easy

Kapalua Coastal Trail looks out on lava rocks, pacific ocean, and Molokai.
Photo by Justin Busa on Unsplash

The Kapalua Coastal Trail is a family-friendly ocean-side trail about 20 minutes north of Lahaina.  This easy hike is a great place to watch ocean waves crashing against the coastal lava rocks.  The trail begins (or ends) at the picture-perfect Kapalua Bay.

The trail has a mix of pavement, dirt, and wooden planks. There are a couple of chances to go out and explore on the volcanic rocks.

This is one of the best hikes in Maui, but be prepared to share with many other people. The proximity of this trail to touristy areas (hotels, restaurants, and a golf course) means it’s often busy.

#9: Hosmer Grove Trails

0.4 miles, 75 feet elevation, Easy

This easy, family-friendly loop trail in Haleakala National Park takes you through forests and shrublands.  The Hosmer Grove Loop Trail is in the “up-country” region of Maui, where the climate is ideal for hiking.

Hosmer Grove is named after Ralph Hosmer, one of the founders of the US Forest Service.  His efforts helped to establish around 800,000 acres of forest reserves in Hawaii.

But somewhat ironically, his forestry experiments also introduced many non-native plants to Hawaii.  A few “successful” species like eucalyptus, weeping pine, and Monterey pine require ongoing management to prevent them from out-competing native plants.

The trail is around 7,000 ft above sea level, so prepare for cooler temps.

#8: Nakalele Blowhole Trail

1.2 miles, 108 feet elevation, Moderate

Nakalele Blowhole & Acid War Zone Trail is one of the best hikes in Maui.
Nakalele Blowhole.

The Nakalele Blowhole Trail is found at the northernmost tip of Maui, about 30 minutes drive from Lahaina.  The blowhole is a hole in the rocks that creates geyser-like eruptions as waves pound the shore.  As waves enter a hollow cavity in the rocks, the sudden pressure creates a jet of water blasting up out of the hole.

Use extreme caution around the blowhole and view from a safe distance.  And watch out for unexpected sets of waves that can sweep you right off the shelf surrounding the blowhole.

This area is also sometimes referred to as the Acid War Zone Trail.  Just past the blowhole, there’s an area with severely pock-marked rocks, as if they were eroded by acid.

The trail is considered moderate only because of some steep sandy slopes and rocky terrain.  Otherwise, it’s quite short and easy.

There are two parking lots for this hike.

The western parking lot is better for hiking the entire trail, seeing the acid warzone, lighthouse, and exploring the tide pools on the rocky point.

The parking lot to the east is better if you just want to view the blowhole from afar and not necessarily hike down to it.

And when you are done, don’t forget to buy some of Mamalei’s homemade banana bread being sold near the parking lot.

The mountainous road between Lihue and Nakalele Blowhole is not something to underestimate. It becomes a very windy single-lane road with steep cliff edges. So if you are wondering why your GPS is sending you “the long way” around, you might want to listen to it.

Pu'u Koa'e is an impressive mountain on Maui's northwest coast.
Pu’u Koa’e on Maui’s northwest coast.

Bonus Tip: If you are over in this area, it’s worth driving a little bit further to see Pu’u Koa’e. This viewpoint gives a great angle to see this dramatic peak on Maui’s northwestern coast. There’s not really much to do here besides admire the mountain, but I think it’s pretty impressive and picturesque.

But beware that the road gets pretty sketchy past this point heading towards Lihue. Probably best to turn around here and drive back the Lahaina way.

#7: Twin Falls Trail

1.8 miles, 347 feet elevation, Moderate

Twin Falls is one of the best hikes in Maui.
Photo by Rina Miele on Unsplash

The Twin Falls Trail is a short hike that leads to two waterfalls.  The trail is relatively easy except for a few water crossings, so prepare to get your feet wet.  It’s one of the best waterfall hikes for families of all skill levels.

Swimming in the cold water at the upper falls is a refreshing bonus at the end of the trail.

The cost to park is $10 per car, but be sure to ask if the upper falls is open.  It’s often closed because of rain and water levels, and the parking attendants aren’t always forthright with that information.

Twin Falls is one of the first and most popular stops along the Road to Hana (mile marker 2), so it’s often crowded.  You can beat most of the crowds if you get an early start in the morning.

#6: Wai’anapanapa State Park Trails

0.5 miles, 68 feet elevation, Easy

The Black Sand Beach at Wai'anapanapa State Park.
The Black Sand Beach at Wai’anapanapa State Park.

There are a variety of short hiking trails to explore at Wai’anapanapa (Why-ah-napa-napa) State Park.  Visiting the park requires advanced reservations ($10/car, plus $5 per person).  It’s another popular stop on the Road to Hana (mile marker 32).

The trail highlights include black sand beaches, a blowhole, sea arches, sea caves, and other rock formations.  But you can explore farther along the south coast or north coast trail if you want a longer hike.

The scenery at Wai’anapanapa State Park is so vivid and colorful.  The black volcanic rocks, bright green plants, and blue ocean are a dazzling combination. So despite not having that many miles of trail, Wai’anapanapa State Park has some of the best hikes in Maui.

Wai'anapanapa State Park has some of the best hikes in Maui.
Wai’anapanapa State Park.

The black sand beach is really more of a black pebble beach, but still impressive nonetheless, and a really unique place to swim.  And there are sea caves located on the right side of the black sand beach.

The Waianapanapa Coastal Trail isn’t very long or strenuous.  However, it’s hard to find good footing while navigating the jagged volcanic rocks.  Bring sturdy footwear, otherwise you’ll be one of the many people in flip flops turning around.

Fun Fact: Wai’anapanapa State Park is one of the few places in all of Hawaii that allows campervans to camp overnight.

#5: Lahaina Pali Trail

5.0 miles, 1,564 feet elevation, Hard

Lahaina Pali Trail is one of the best hikes in Maui.
Photo by Lyle Wilkinson on Unsplash

This strenuous point-to-point offers some of the best views to see why Maui is called the Valley Isle.  You get incredible views of the central valley that connects east and west Maui.

The trail climbs across the dry grasslands on the south ridge of West Maui.  The trail crosses through the line of windmills that line the ridge.  Even with the constant wind, expect hot and dry conditions, with lots of sun exposure.  One of the best ways to avoid the heat is to get an early morning start.  Make sure you bring plenty of water (3 liters per adult).

The trail is also very rocky, so progress may be a little slower than you expect.

The lack of trees and shade, however, means epic views the entire way.  Along the trail, you get views of Haleakala, Kahoolawe, Lanai, and Molokini Crater.  And you can often spot whales spouting/breaching in the bay.

If you have a second car, you can coordinate a shuttle, or simply hike out-and-back as far as you are comfortable.

#4: Iao Needle Lookout Trail

0.4 miles, 127 feet, Easy

Iao Needle Lookout Trail in Iao Valley State Monument.
Photo by Ganapathy Kumar on Unsplash

This one is more of a paved walk than a proper hike, but its location in Iao Valley State Monument is gorgeous.  This is a great family-friendly trail to experience the beauty of Maui.  The area also holds great cultural and spiritual importance to the Hawaiian people.

A visit here takes you right into the heart of the West Maui Mountains.  The most iconic natural feature is the Iao Needle, a pointy mountain that rises 1,200 feet.  The trail also includes a botanical garden to learn about the rare plants brought by Hawaiians who settled in the valley.

The surrounding valley is insanely lush with vegetation and the rushing Iao stream at the valley floor.  But prepare for rain, since it’s one of the wettest locations on the island of Maui.

The cost to visit Iao Valley State Park is $10/car, plus $5 per person (free for Hawaii residents).

{Landslides have closed the area for repair until April 15, 2023}

#3: Sliding Sands (Keonehe’ehe’e)

11.2 miles, 3,054 feet elevation, Hard

Photo by Jelle de Gier on Unsplash

If you are someone who loves a challenge, and other-worldly experiences, then Sliding Sands Trail should not be missed!  It’s one of the best hikes in Maui to experience the dramatic volcanic landscapes.  And after trying to pronounce Keoneheehee (or Keonehe’ehe’e with proper diacritics), you can see why most people just call it Sliding Sands Trail.

The hike begins with 360-degree panoramic views at the top of the volcano in Haleakalā National Park.  This is a popular place to watch an epic sunrise (which requires a separate $1 reservation, found here).

Beginning at 10,000 feet above sea level, you are worlds away from the peaceful sunny beach weather.  But the hike descends all the way down to 6,600 feet elevation at the crater floor.

The hike descends into the volcanic crater, passing cinder cones and a striking palette of colors despite the arid, high-elevation ecosystems.  Most notable of the vegetation is silverswords, which look kind of like a sea anemone.

The full hike is an 11.2-mile point-to-point hike that requires hitchhiking back to your car at the summit (or bringing 2 cars).  Most people elect to hike from top down, because the trail will be mostly downhill.  EXCEPT for the 1,300-foot elevation climb at the very end.

Or if you are not up for the full adventure, you can hike out-and-back as far as you please.  Even hiking a mile or two into the trail will still feel like a sizeable hike for most people given the elevation.

The weather on the Haleakala Volcano is highly unpredictable, but overall, you should prepare for much colder temps up here.  Dress in layers to adapt to the dramatic daily temperature swings.  And a rain jacket is an essential layer, not necessarily for rain showers, but for strong winds that are common in this region.

#2: Waihe’e Ridge Trail

4 miles, 1,591 feet elevation, Hard

Looking out over Waihee Valley from the wooden viewing deck.
Looking out over Waihee Valley from the wooden viewing deck.

The Waihe’e Ridge Trail is a challenging ridgeline hike in the West Maui Forest Reserve.  This trail is one of the best hikes in Maui to experience spectacular views of spiney green mountains.  It’s a unique opportunity to see scenery that’s usually more typical of Kauai and Oahu.

The trail follows a mostly steep incline up the ridge, with plenty of stairs and switchbacks to make even the fittest hikers out of breath.  But take as many breaks as you like, and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

The final section of the Waihe'e Ridge Trail.

The Waihee Ridge Trail is a little tricky to prepare for because the weather is hard to predict.  Without any clouds, it will be hot with very little shade from trees.  But with clouds, you will get a little relief from the sun, but possibly making the trail even more muddy than normal. 

The official end of the trail has a wooden viewing platform with a picnic table.  However, the best views are arguably along the trail, like from the wooden viewing platform pictured above. Read our entire Waihee Ridge Trail Guide for a more detailed description of one of our favorite hikes.

This is one of the most popular hikes in Maui so the parking lot fills up quickly.  There is an overflow lot down the hill, but it will add like 2 miles onto the hike.  So we think it’s worth it to just wait until someone else finishes the hike.

#1: Pipiwai Trail (to Waimoku Falls)

3.8 miles, 908 feet elevation, Moderate

Waimoku Falls is one of the best waterfalls on the Road to Hana.
Waimoku Falls

The number one on the list of the Top 10 best hikes in Maui is Pipiwai Trail.  This iconic trail in Haleakala National Park is famous for a magical bamboo forest, stoic banyan tree, and TONS of waterfalls!  This moderately challenging hike is still easy enough for families to enjoy.  The trail has plenty of shade to take breaks from the heat.

The Pipiwai Trail’s two most notable waterfalls are Waimoku Falls and Makahiku Falls.  At a half mile, you reach a great lookout point for the 185-foot Makahiku Falls, and the trail ends at the incredible 400-foot Waimoku Falls.

The Bamboo forest on Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls on the Road To Hana (Maui, Hawaii).
The Bamboo forest on Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls.

The trailhead is located in East Maui along Hana Highway, but even past Hana by 40 minutes!  So plan for a full-day adventure on the Road To Hana.

The trail is located in Haleakala National Park (Kipahulu District), so there’s a $30/car entrance fee (valid for 3 days) or bring a National Parks Pass.

Tips For Hiking In Maui

A muddy trail in Hawaii.
  • Bring lots of water.  The hot sunny weather makes you sweat a lot, and you need to replace those fluids to keep safe.
  • Bring a rain jacket.  Almost no matter where you hike, a rain shower isn’t far away.  Especially along the north shores and in the mountains.
  • Always pack sunscreen, sun protection and bug repellent.
  • Most hikes in the Hawaiian Islands require good hiking boots or shoes.  Whether it’s jagged lava rocks, muddy trails, or river crossings, there’s rarely a hike that does have some adverse conditions.  So leave the flip-flops and gym trainers at the hotel, and bring something that will keep you safe and happy.
  • Don’t leave any valuable visible in your car.  Sadly, Hawaii has a problem with frequent vehicle theft.  If you leave a car with valuables visible, you are likely to return to a smashed window.
  • Beware of marked and unmarked hazards.  Despite all the warning signs in Hawaii, there are plenty more unmarked hazards to watch out for too.
  • Never turn your back on the ocean because the waves can change quickly.
  • Beware of flash flooding near streams and waterfalls.  Even a dry riverbed can turn into a rushing torrent from rainstorms miles away.
  • Don’t underestimate how cold it is on the Haleakala Volcano.  This high altitude region is commonly 30℉ colder than it is at sea level.

Bonus: Other Great Trails In Maui

Hoapili Trail – This ancient coastal trail in South Maui, follows along the coast of La Perouse Bay.  It’s one of the best places to see where lava flows meet the ocean.

Wailea Oceanfront Boardwalk – Also known as Wailea Beach Path, this paved oceanside walk near the touristy hub in Wailea is suitable for everyone, even small children.

The Garden Of Eden – A meticulously cared-for botanical garden along the Road To Hana.  It has many rare and exotic plants and a waterfall viewpoint.

Conclusion |  Top 10 Best Hikes In Maui

The Banyan Tree on Pipiwai Trail.
The Banyan Tree on Pipiwai Trail.

I know it’s tempting to just lounge away your Hawaiian vacation sitting on the beach with a fruity cocktail in hand.  But I promise, if you make the effort to get out on one of the best hikes in Maui, you will be amazed by the true beauty of the island.

There is such an amazing diversity of natural wonders just a short adventure away.  From the barren volcanic peaks of Haleakala, to the dense jungles, to the stunning beaches and coastlines, Maui is a true wonder to explore.

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Top 10 Best Hikes In Maui
Top 10 Hiking Trails in Maui Hawaii