Most travelers come to Maui, looking for rest and relaxation in a tropical paradise. And while it’s absolutely perfect for that, this incredibly diverse and lush island offers SO much more, with epic volcanoes, towering waterfalls, and bamboo forests just waiting to be explored.
If you want to experience the more adventurous side of Maui, you came to the right place- here’s eight of the best hikes in Maui, from dramatic coastline cliffs to the tippy top of one of the most massive volcanoes on the planet.
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BEST HIKES IN MAUI
1. Sliding Sands Trail
Trailhead is located here
Length: 11.5 miles
Elevation gain: 2,834 feet
Permits or entrance fees: To enter Haleakalā National Park, it’s $30 per vehicle for a one-week pass. Alternatively, you can pick up an incredible America the Beautiful Pass, which provides unlimited access to EVERY U.S. national park—and more—for an entire year, for just $80!
Haleakalā is the largest dormant volcano on the planet, towering 10,000 feet above sea level. The Sliding Sands Trail takes you from the summit of the volcano down into its crater, crossing rocky lava fields, vibrant volcanic cinder cones, and impossibly barren landscapes. The scenery here is straight up otherworldly, like some kind of cross between Mars and Mordor from Lord of the Rings (where my nerds at?).
Along the way, you’ll get a chance to see some of the most endangered species on the planet, like the unique āhinahina (or silverswords), a rare plant only found on the slopes of Haleakalā and Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island and the nēnē (or Hawaiian geese).
One thing to note is that, unlike other volcano hikes in Hawaii, like the Mauna Kea hike on the Big Island, you hike this trail downhill first and have to finish by climbing up. This makes the trail feel deceptively easy at the onset— between the intense Maui sun, the high elevation, and the loose volcanic gravel, the hike back up is pretty intense, so give yourself plenty of time and bring along more water than you think.
2. Pa Ka'oao Trail
Don’t have the time or energy to tackle the 11+ mile Sliding Sands trail? Pa Ka’oao is an excellent family-friendly alternative, departing from the Haleakalā Visitor Center parking lot and climbing along a small hill, strewn with volcanic rocks.
From the endpoint of the hike, you’ll have stunning views to the southeast, down into Haleakalā’s colorful crater and to the northwest, the volcano’s slopes and beyond, the sparkling turquoise ocean. Plus, you’ll get to see some of the park’s rare plants along the way, like the aforementioned silverswords.
If you really want to see the trail at its most gorgeous, time your visit with golden hour. While the most visitors gather at the western edge of the Visitor Center parking lot to watch the sun sink beneath the crowds, the top of Pa Ka’oao is undoubtedly one of the best places to watch sunset at Haleakalā—there’s waaaaay less people here than the parking lot below and you’ll have unobstructed views of the sun sinking beneath the clouds.
3. Pīpīwai Trail
At the end of the famed Road to Hana, you’ll find the incredible southeastern coastline of Maui, like its Black Sand Beach and the coastal portion of Haleakalā National Park. Here, you’ll find the stunning Pīpīwai Trail—beyond being one of the best hikes in Maui with waterfalls (with a whooping five along the trail!), you’ll also pass under ancient banyan trees and through epic bamboo forests.
You’ll begin the trail with a steady climb through a dense tropical forest before reaching the first landmark—Makahiku Falls. The viewing platform is perched on a cliff above the river—you’re not allowed to get too up close and personal with the waterfall, due to the dangerous gorge below.
You’ll continue to meander through more jungle, cross a river on a wooden bridge, and eventually reach one of the stunning parts of the trail—–a dense bamboo forest, with some of the bamboo shoots towering up to 60 feet high!
The final landmark is Waimoku Falls, a spectacular 185-foot cascade dropping down a rocky cliff. In order to reach the final viewpoint about 100 feet away from the base of the falls, you’ll need to wade through a few sketchy water crossings—be sure to wear appropriate footwear, like hiking sandals or waterproof hiking boots, for additional traction on the slippery and rocky terrain.
If you couldn’t tell by all the talk of waterfalls and rivers and whatnot, this side of Maui is famously wet—so along with your sense of adventure, don’t forget to include a rain jacket (like this one for men and this one for women) for this hike on your Hawaii packing list!
Recommended by Carrie of Trains, Planes, and Tuk-tuks
4. Waihe’e Ridge Trail
Trailhead is located here, in the West Maui Forest Reserve.
Length: 4.0 miles
Elevation gain: 1,610 feet
Permits or entrance fees: It’s free!
If you’re looking for scenery straight out of Jurassic Park, one of the best hikes in Maui to consider is the Waihe’e Ridge Trail. This incredible trail takes you up and along the spine of one of the West Maui Mountains, with panoramic views down into the Waihe’e Valley. This unbelievably green valley is formed by two towering mountains, dating back to 1.7 million years, and carved over millennia by erosion.
Along the way, you’ll pass the Makamaka’ole Falls, a 270-foot two-tiered waterfall, off in the distance, and overhead, dozens of helicopter tours (like this one or this one!) zooming by as they weave around the West Maui Mountains. At the summit, you’ll have panoramic views of the entire island, including all the way to the Molokini crater, a volcanic caldera off the southwestern coast that’s renowned for offering some of the best snorkeling in Maui.
Try to hit this trail in the morning—clouds usually roll in by the afternoon and obscure the incredible views along the trail!
5. Ohai Loop Trail
Trailhead is located here
Length: 1.2 miles
Elevation gain: 177 feet
Permits or entrance fees: It’s totally free, baby!
If you’re looking for one of the most stunning hikes on Maui, the Ohai Loop Trail—on the northwest side of the island—should absolutely be on your Maui itinerary.
Given how relatively flat and easy the trail is, it’s one of the best hikes in Maui for kiddos or beginner hikers. It also would make an excellent addition to a road trip along the nail-biting Kahekili Highway, which is often touted as the most dangerous—and most stunning—highway in the world. And no need for hardcore hiking boots here—you can get by just fine with hiking sandals, like my beloved Tevas (my husband, Justin, has these and I have this pair).
This loop trail takes you right along the ocean, which can be an excellent spot for whale watching in the wintertime and—if you’re really lucky—sea turtles swimming through the turquoise water below.
Along the dirt path, you’ll pass through lush, green fields and a few areas of craggy volcanic rock. At the very endpoint, though, you’ll have spectacular views up the northern coast of Maui, with the stunning Kahakuloa Head to the east. This rolling green hill is believed to be a beloved cliff diving spot of King Kahekili, the king of Maui in the mid-1700s.
Recommended by Nikki of Inspired Routes
6. Dragon’s Teeth
Trailhead is located here
Length: 3.5 miles
Elevation gain: 65 feet
Permits or entrance fees: None!
The hike to Dragon’s Teeth, located on Makaluapuna Point, is a short one, but it offers one of the most unique landscapes you’ll find on Maui. You can either tackle this hike on its own or as an add-on to the nearby 2.5-mile Kapalua Coastal Trail—which traverses lava fields, a stunning beach, and dramatic cliffs, with the Pacific Ocean pounding below.
Regardless if you do this hike on its own or as a part of the Kapalua Coastal Trail, you’ll eventually hike to a jagged lava formation along a cliffside that has the appearance of—well—dragon’s teeth. This unusual formation was formed by one of Maui’s last flowing lavas- the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean cause the lava to rapidly harden, leaving behind these unusual formations. If you look closely, you can still actually see bubbles within the hardened lava!
Those waves that created Dragon’s Teeth are still unrelenting today, so be careful if you’re standing near the cliffside—there’ve been incidents where hikers are accidentally sucked into the ocean by oncoming waves. Nevertheless, try to (cautiously) sneak a peek into the waters below around Makaluapuna Point- it's one of the best places to see turtles in Maui!
There’s absolutely no shade along the trail, so protect that precious skin with some sunscreen and bring along plenty of water—Justin and I take these comically giant Nalgene bottles everywhere with us!.
Recommended by Karen from Forever Karen
7. ʻIao Needle Trail
Trailhead is located here
Length: 0.4 miles
Elevation gain: 127 feet
Permits or entrance fees: For non-residents, it costs $10 per vehicle to park and an additional $5 per person to enter. Both parking and entrance is free for residents.
To be honest, this is definitely more of a walk, than a hike per say, but no less beautiful! You’ll walk along a paved path, with a few stairs here and there, to a viewpoint to the ‘Iao Needle, towering 1,200 feet above. This striking mound is an erosional remnant of a volcanic column, now covered in lush greenery.
And while the scenery offers some unique geological features, the Needle is most notable for its importance in Hawaiian history. In 1790, King Kamehameha and his army took on the soldiers of Maui to determine—once and for all—whether the Hawaiian Islands should be unified. Even though the Maui chiefs leveraged the Needle as a strategic viewpoint in the battle, Kamehameha was triumphant, leading, in part, to the islands we know and love today.
While the main trail will just take you to the viewpoint of the needle and through a small, but lovely garden, you can follow the walking path to the south, which eventually turns into hiking trails along the ‘Iao River. There are several natural pools here, where you can swim and relax- but word of warning, the water is straight up FROSTY!
8. Twin Falls Trail
Trailhead is located here
Length: 1.8 miles
Elevation gain: 347 feet
Permits or entrance fees: There’s a $10 parking fee. There also happens to be a very cute (and delicious) fruit stand- bring cash!
The Twin Falls Trail is one of the most iconic Road to Hana stops and is one of the first opportunities to stop at a series of waterfalls and pools along the iconic road.
In fact, while it’s called the “Twin Falls”, there are actually three waterfalls you can access here.
The first waterfall is accessed via a trail to the left of the porta potties in the parking area, just a short 0.2-mile walk from the fruit stand.
You can either view the waterfalls from an overlook or take a slippery root-covered hill down to the plunge pool at the base of the falls. While this is a lovely place to cool off before you head off to the other falls, resist the urge to cliff jump—many people have died here, due to hidden and unexpected rocks in the pool.
Head back to the main trail that snakes deeper and deeper into the jungle. About 0.2 miles in, you’ll see a large gate, with a trail leading to the left directly before it. The second waterfall can be seen here.
To see the most stunning waterfall along the trail, called Caveman Falls, walk along the main trail about 0.9 miles through the lush rainforest. Along the way, you’ll need to cross a 10–15 foot section of the Ho'olawa steam, which can sometimes become dangerously high when there’s excessive rain (which, given that we’re in a rainforest… can happen). Accordingly, the trail to Caveman Falls is occasionally closed for safety reasons.
If you’re lucky enough to visit while the trail is open, you’ll cross the stream, Indiana Jones style, and eventually reach a turquoise waterfall, spilling over a cave dripping with greenery into a plunge pool below.
Be sure to wear hiking sandals, like these ones for men or these ones for women, both for while you’re hiking along the trail, like the muddy hill to the base of the first falls or crossing the stream, and for while you’re exploring the falls’ plunge pools. Not-so-fun true story- I ripped my big toenail clean off on a huge rock while wading around Caveman Falls and effectively ruined the rest of my Maui trip. Don’t be me!
Now, lace up those hiking boots and hit the trails–I hope you enjoy exploring some of the best hikes in Maui as I did! Do you have any questions about any of them? Drop ‘em in the comments below!
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