There aren’t nearly as many hiking trails on the West Side of Maui as you might expect. Much of the access in West Maui is blocked by private land or lack of proper trails. Also, since much of West Maui sits in the lee of Mauna Kahalawai, there aren’t any accessible waterfalls as there are in East Maui. Nevertheless, the hiking options in West Maui offer their own sort of beauty, from stunning coastal treks to grueling ridgeline hikes.

The Ohai Trail awards hikers with panoramic vistas of the island’s North Shore.

The Ohai Trail awards hikers with panoramic vistas of the island’s North Shore. Photo © daveynin, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Kapalua Coastal Trail

Even though it’s only 1.75 miles long, the Kapalua Coastal Trail might just be the best coastal walk in Hawaii. The trail is bookended on each side by beaches that have each been named the number-one beach in the United States: Kapalua Bay and D. T. Fleming Beach Park. While most walkers, joggers, and hikers begin the trail at Kapalua Bay, you can also access the trail from other junctions at the Kapalua Bay Villas, Oneloa Bay, the Ritz-Carlton, and D. T. Fleming Beach Park.

In the morning Oneloa is one of the most gloriously empty beaches you’ll find on Maui.What makes the Kapalua Coastal Trail legendary are the various environments it passes through. If you begin at Kapalua Bay, the trail starts as a paved walkway paralleling the beach and weaves its way through ultra-luxurious residences. At the top of a short hill, the paved walkway reaches a junction by the Kapalua Bay Villas, where the path suddenly switches to dirt. Signs point to the continuation of the trail, and a spur trail leads straight out toward Hawea Point, a protected reserve that is home to the island’s largest colony of ‘ua‘u kani (wedge-tailed shearwaters). If you follow the grass trail to the left of the three-way junction, it connects with the trail to Namalu Bay—the rocky, Mediterranean cove hidden in the craggy recesses.

Continuing along the main Kapalua Coastal Trail leads over a short rocky section before emerging at a smooth boardwalk along Oneloa Bay. The boardwalk here was constructed as a means of protecting the sensitive dunes of Kapalua, and in the morning Oneloa is one of the most gloriously empty beaches you’ll find on Maui. At the end of the boardwalk, the trail leads up a flight of stairs and eventually connects with Lower Honoapi‘ilani Road. From here, take a left and follow the sidewalk as it connects with the trail running in front of the Ritz-Carlton before finishing at the water’s edge at D. T. Fleming Beach Park. For a side trip, hike out parallel to the golf course to Makalua-puna Point—otherwise known as Dragon’s Teeth.

Village Walking Trails

The village walking trails are the next most popular hikes in the Kapalua resort area. Weaving their way up the mountainside through the cool and forested uplands are the 1.25-mile Cardio Loop or the 3.6-mile Lake Loop, an uphill, butt-burning workout popular with local joggers. More than just a great morning workout, there are also sections of the trail that offer sweeping views looking out toward Moloka‘i and the area around Honolua Bay. To find the access point for the trails, park in the lot for the Kapalua Village Center (between Sansei Restaurant and the Kapalua Golf Academy) and follow a paved cart path winding its way down toward an underpass, where you will find the trailhead for both loops.

Map of West Maui, Hawaii

West Maui

Maunalei Arboretum Trail

To climb even farther up the mountainside, follow the Maunalei Arboretum Trail as it winds its way through a forest planted by the great D. T. Fleming. The manager of Honolua Ranch during the 1920s, Fleming forested the mountainside with numerous plant species from across the globe in an effort to preserve the watershed. Today, over 85 years after the arboretum was established, hikers can still climb the ridges of this historic upland and be immersed in a forest of wild banyan trees as well as coffee, guava, and bo trees. Trails in the arboretum range from short 0.5-mile loops to a moderate 2.5-mile round-trip that winds down Honolua Ridge. To reach the trails, you have to hike six miles up the scenic Mahana Ridge Trail, or book a guided hiking tour ($99) through Ambassadors of the Environment (808/669-6200) at the Ritz Carlton.

Mahana Ridge Trail

The Mahana Ridge Trail is the longest continuous trail in the Kapalua resort area and the best option for serious hikers. Though you can access the Mahana Ridge Trail from the village trails, a less confusing and more scenic trailhead is in the parking lot of D. T. Fleming Beach Park along the access road from the highway. The trailhead is a little hard to find, so look for the thin trail leading up the inland side of the road about 20 yards back from the parking lot. This trail climbs up the ridge for nearly six miles, all the way to the Maunalei Arboretum, and is a proper hiking trail with narrow sections, moderate uphills, and sweeping views of the coast. It is an out-and-back trip, and maps are available online at www.kapalua.com.

Ohai Trail

The 1.2-mile Ohai Trail awards hikers with panoramic vistas of the island’s North Shore. This area is often windy, and the way in which the wind drowns out all other sounds makes it a peaceful respite on the northern coast. The Ohai trailhead is 10 miles past the entrance to Kapalua, by mile marker 41, between the Nakalele Blowhole and Olivine Pools. Along the moderate, winding trail are a few placards with information on the island’s native coastal plants. This is also a great perch to watch for tropical seabirds soaring on the afternoon breeze. There isn’t any readily available water on this stretch of coast, so be sure to pack a water bottle with you. There is sometimes a vendor selling drinks in front of Nakalele Blowhole, or a food truck (Mon.-Sat.) parked by Kahakuloa.


Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon Maui.