Maui hikes: Volcano, mountain, coastal and waterfall hikes on Maui

Maui is the best Hawaiian island for families with kids and the go-to destination for gorgeous beaches and luxury resorts. Nothing wrong with that of course: we all need some r&r from time to time. But there’s so much more to the Valley Isle than this family-oriented and glamorous cover. There’s actually a whole adventurous side to this island too, one that’s very different from the polished Kaanapali and Wailea resort areas. No better proof of that than the Maui hikes in this article, which are guaranteed to unleash your inner adventurer. Or the legendary Road to Hana for that matter but that’s another story. Are you ready to discover some of the best hikes on Maui?

Map of the 7 most scenic Maui hikes

Here’s a custom map indicating the trailheads of all the hikes mentioned in this article:

Maui waterfall hikes

Twin Falls hike and Caveman Falls hike

  • Length: 1.3 miles (2.1 km).
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate, perfect for beginners and families.
  • Cost: Free but you are encouraged to make a donation to support the locals who maintain this area. There’s a donation box at the entrance.
Caveman Falls, a short hike from Twin Falls, a popular stop along Maui's popular Road to Hana

Since this is one of the first Road to Hana stops, just passed mile marker #2, it can get very crowded (and the parking packed). So, you’re better off visiting when the day-trippers are continuing their way to Hana, around noon or in the afternoon.

To reach Twin Falls, there’s actually no need to hike: these lower falls are pretty accessible from the parking lot. Most visitors don’t bother to explore the Ho’olawa Valley beyond this point, since they have so much more stops planned on their way to Hana. The upper falls, however, known as the Caveman falls, make for a great photo and swimming op. The trail for this Maui hike is formed by a gravel road and not very well signposted. After half a mile of walking on the wider path, you’ll see this fork where you need to take the left path (with a wooden plank over the stream). You’ll need to continue your way downhill and cross a few streams to get to the waterfall. Depending on the season, you might spot some gorgeous flowers along the trail.

Do note that, after a period of extended or heavy rainfall, the streams are transformed into raging rivers and impossible to cross safely. The Wailele farm-holders that manage the trail might therefore limit public use of this trail under these circumstances, just out of precaution. 

If you prefer to opt for a guided excursion of the wider area around Twin and Cavemand Falls, then check out this tour by Hike Maui.

Tip: Some of the dreamiest Airbnbs in Maui can be found in this area.

Pipiwai hike

The bamboo forest of the Pipiwai Trail, one of the most popular hikes on Maui

The Pipiwai trail counts as one of the best Maui hikes. Despite its remote location past Hana, it’s very popular among tourists. To avoid the crowds, it’s best to arrive really early or rather late (you could spend the night at the nearby campsite).

This amazing that starts out alongside the ‘Ohe’o Gulch, also known as the Seven Sacred Pools, is very well sign-posted and has an elevation gain of 800 feet. You’ll be in for a satisfying hike thanks to the many highlights along the way. The first one, 200 feet (60 meters) tall Makahiku Falls, can already be admired after about good half a mile of hiking. Continue your way past the massive banyan tree and the magical bamboo forest until you reach the final point of this Maui hike, Waimoku Falls, plunging 400 feet (120 meters) into the pool.

This area is sensitive to flash flooding so take the warnings seriously.

Mountain hikes on Maui

‘Iao Valley hike

  • Length: 0.6 miles (1 km).
  • Difficulty: Easy, perfect for beginners and families.
  • Cost: Vehicle entrance to ‘Iao Valley State Park ($5 per car).
Mystic 'Iao Valley offers a short yet very interesting hike in Maui

The famous ‘Iao Needle or Kuka’emoku rises 1200 feet (360 meters) from the valley floor or 2250 feet (685 meters) from sea level. Arriving early is recommended, not to avoid to crowds but rather to stay ahead of the clouds and rain. On the other hand, as you can tell from our photo, the clouds add a certain mystical touch to the scene. The valley is a sacred place and the Needle, also known as the phallic stone of the god of the ocean, Kanaloa. Millenia of erosion by waterfalls and streams resulted in this specific shape.

Next to the parking lot, you’ll first walk through a small botanical garden with plants that were brought to Hawaii by early Polynesians and that were cultivated here long ago by Hawaiians. You’ll then cross a small stream where local daredevils try to catch the attention of visitors. Several signs dot the path and inform about the historic significance of the sacred site. Follow the steep, paved pathway and the 133 steps leading to the scenic viewpoint.

‘Iao Valley State Monument is one of the more effortless hikes on Maui, yet one that shouldn’t be missed. The setting is very spiritual and truly spectacular.

Waihee Ridge hike

  • Length: 5 miles (8 km).
  • Difficulty: Moderate to difficult.
  • Cost: Free.
The Waihee Ridge Trail counts as one of the most breathtaking Maui hikes

Known to be one of the most scenic Maui hikes, the Waihee Ridge Trail offers both stunning mountains views with distant waterfalls and sweeping ocean vistas. When you start this hike early enough, before the clouds roll in, unparalleled views of central Maui, Wailuku and Mount Eke await the end of the trail, at 2 563 feet (780 meters).

Arriving early has yet another advantage which is that you’ll be able to use the main but small parking lot. There’s a secondary lot 2 miles down the road, which is not ideal given the intensity of the hike ahead. After you’ve parked your car, you pass through a cattle-proof gate and walk up a pretty steep cement road. Your first reward is right there, a first peek of Makamakaole Falls. The Waihee Ridge hike alternates flat terrain and steep climbs.

Since the West-Maui mountain reserve is a very rainy area, the trail can get can get very muddy. This could mean trouble for inexperienced hikers, especially because of the many switchbacks and the pretty steep ascent / descent of 1,500 feet (450 meters). So, do check the conditions before you go on this Maui hike, especially after a period of intensive rainfall.

Maui volcano hike

Sliding Sands hike (a.k.a. Keonehe’ehe’e)

The views one can expect when hiking the Sliding Sands Trail, an epic volcano hike on Maui, Hawaii

The Valley Isle in’t all about ocean vistas and lush greenery, it’s also home to the mighty Haleakala volcano. So, If you’re looking for a change of scenery on the Valley Isle, then this intensive full-day hike is for you. It’ll take you to an actual crater floor and show you the most spectacular views along the way. You may even discover some colorful wild flowers dotting the landscape.

This strenuous trail starts on a downward slope of about 2,500 ft (762 m), towards the crater floor, over a distance of 4 miles (6,5 km). This is the easy part and at this point you might wonder why it is classified as one of the more ‘difficult’ Maui hikes. When you reach Pele’s Paint Pot or Kawilinau (the bottomless pit), you’ve reached the halfway point. The hard part is making your way back out of the crater, which will take you twice as long. Plus, the Sliding Sands trail is located at the summit area – the Haleakala summit is at 10,023 ft (over 3 km) – which means that there’s less oxygen and thus it’s harder to catch your breath. Therefore you could opt to get a permit beforehand and spend the night at the Kapalaoa Cabin.

This epic Maui hike is not a loop trail; the trailhead of the hike is at the Haleakala Visitor Center and the endpoint of the hike at Halemau’u. Since there’s no shuttle service offered between those locations, it’s strongly recommended to park at the Halemau’u ‘Hitchhiker’ Parking and catch a ride there to the Sliding Sands trailhead higher up. Here’s a map that will help you visualize the hike.

Psst… Did you know that Haleakala is the largest dormant volcano in the world? We dedicated an entire article to the most surprising facts about Hawaii.

Coastal hikes on Maui

Kapalua Coastal hike

  • Length: 1.9 miles (3,1 km).
  • Difficulty: Easy, perfect for beginners and families.
  • Cost: Free.
The trailhead for the Kapalua Coastal Hike, the most family-friendly hike on Maui

The Kapalua Coastal trail is the perfect hike to start or end a day at the beach in order to get some activity on a lazy day.

This Maui hike starts at Kapalua beach and ends at DT Fleming Beach, with our favourite part being the cliffs near Oneloa Bay. Take in the gorgeous ocean views, feel the wind in your hair, listen to the sound of the breaking waves and keep your eyes peeled because chances are you might spot some turtles here. During winter months, you could even be lucky enough to spot a humpback whale. Do note that dogs are not allowed on some parts of the Kapalua Coastal Trail because of it’s a shearwater (seabird species) preserve.

There’s ample parking in Kapalua Bay, next to the Napili Kai beach resort and also at DT Fleming Beach Park. Plan your hike in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat since there’s little shade along the trail.

Hoapili hike (a.k.a. King’s Highway Trail)

  • Distance: 6 miles roundtrip (9.5 km).
  • Difficulty: Medium.
  • Cost: Free.
La Perouse Bay forms the stunning location for the Hoapili Trail, a challenging coastal hike on the Valley Isle

The trail starts out pretty normal at first, taking you to a beach and a grove. But soon you’ll see what makes the Hoapili hike on Maui so unique: You’ll be finding yourself amidst lava fields of La Perouse Bay, named after the French officer and first European to set foot on Maui. When the Haleakala volcano last erupted hundreds of years ago, the lava created this raw, jagged coastline. Tidal pools and coral beaches dot the scenic landscape and the turquoise water beautifully contrasts with the dark lava, making this one of the most impressive Maui hikes.

Make sure to come early: the lava absorbs the heat and temperatures can be stifling. As a bonus, confident snorkelers could take a refreshing dip post-hike. Since La Perouse Bay is located near the fragile Ahihi-Kina’u Natural Reserve, the underwater life is said to be just as unique as the lava fields along the King’s Highway Trail.

Under these scorching circumstances, it’s vital to pack a sunhat, sunglasses, plenty of water and sunscreen. But do remember to buy the right type of sunscreen to protect the reefs too. Here are some suggestions:

Which Maui hiking trails are on your list?

Much to our regret, we didn’t get to do all these Maui hikes during our 5 day visit. The weather has been a bit of a dealbreaker on some days (on the windward side, anyway), one of the trails was closed and we were traveling with young kids. Check out some of the other things we’ve been up to on the Valley Isle:

But since Maui had so much more to offer than we had anticipated, we can’t wait to return. By then, we should be able to tackle some of the more challenging trails on the island as a family. Until then, we decided to share a mix of personal experience and our research on these epic Maui hikes. We can’t wait to find out which one(s) you’ll put on your list! And if you give one of these Maui hiking trails a go then let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!

Looking for more adventure on Hawaii? Then The Big Island has plenty to offer. We tackled some of the best Big Island hikes, including the pretty challenging Kilauea Iki trail in Hawaii Volcanoes Nation Park and remote Papakolea green sand beach, and went in search of the most sparkling black sand beaches and majestic waterfalls on the Big Island.

Pinning one of these images would be much appreciated!

Looking for the most scenic Maui hikes? You'll find them in this article: Maui's waterfall hikes, mountain hikes, coastal hikes and an epic volcano hike, all thouroughly explained and indicated on a handy map. #travel #hawaii #maui #hiking #outdoor
Looking for the most scenic Maui hikes? You'll find them in this article: Maui's waterfall hikes, mountain hikes, coastal hikes and an epic volcano hike, all thouroughly explained and indicated on a handy map. #travel #hawaii #maui #hiking #outdoor

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. For more information, visit the Disclaimer page. Some images are ours, others are courtesy of friendly photographers on Unsplash and Pixabay.

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