In the past 3 decades, Maui has grown from a rural island to a fast-paced resort destination, but its natural beauty remains largely inviolate; there are still many places that can be explored only on foot. Those interested in seeing the backcountry -- complete with virgin waterfalls; remote wilderness trails; and quiet, meditative settings -- should head for Haleakala's upcountry or the tropical Hana Coast.
Camping on Maui can be extreme (inside a volcano) or benign (by the sea in Hana). It can be wet, cold, and rainy, or hot, dry, and windy -- often all on the same day. If you're heading for Haleakala, remember that U.S. astronauts trained for the moon inside the volcano: Bring survival gear. Don't forget both your swimsuit and your rain gear if you're bound for Waianapanapa. Bring your own gear, as there are no places to rent camping equipment on Maui.
For more information on Maui camping and hiking trails, and to obtain free maps, contact Haleakala National Park, PO Box 369, Makawao, HI 96768 (tel. 808/572-4400; www.nps.gov/hale); or the State Division of Forestry and Wildlife, 54 S. High St., Wailuku, HI 96793 (tel. 808/984-8100; www.hawaiistateparks.org). For information on trails, hikes, camping, and permits for state parks, contact the Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources, State Parks Division, 54 S. High St., Wailuku, HI 96793 (tel. 808/984-8109; www.hawaiistateparks.org/camping/fees.cfm). Note: You can get information from the state's website but you cannot obtain permits there. For Maui County Parks, contact the Maui County Department of Parks and Recreation, 200 S. High St., Wailuku, HI 96793 (tel. 808/270-7230; www.co.maui.hi.us/departments/parks).
Tips on Safe Hiking & Camping
Water might be everywhere in Hawaii, but it more than likely isn't safe to drink. Most stream water must be treated because cattle, pigs, and goats have probably contaminated the water upstream. The Department of Health continually warns campers of bacterium leptospirosis, which is found in freshwater streams throughout the state and enters the body through breaks in the skin or through the mucous membranes. It produces flulike symptoms and can be fatal. Make sure that your drinking water is safe by vigorously boiling it, or if boiling is not an option, use tablets with hydroperiodide; portable water filters will not screen out bacterium leptospirosis. Firewood isn't always available, so it's a good idea to carry a small, light backpacking stove, which you can use both to boil water and to cook meals.
Remember, the island is not crime free: Never leave your valuables (wallet, airline ticket, and so on) unprotected. Carry a day pack if you have a campsite, and never camp alone. Some more do's and don'ts: Do bury personal waste away from streams. Don't eat unknown fruit. Do carry your trash out. And don't forget there is very little twilight in Maui when the sun sets -- it gets dark quickly.
Over a few brief decades, Maui transformed from a rural island to a fast-paced resort destination, but its natural beauty has remained largely inviolate. Many pristine places can be explored only on foot. Those interested in seeing the backcountry—complete with virgin waterfalls, remote wilderness trails, and quiet, meditative settings—should head to Haleakala or the tropical Hana Coast.
For details on Maui hiking trails and free maps, contact Haleakala National Park (www.nps.gov/hale; tel. 808/572-4400) or the State Division of Forestry and Wildlife (www.hawaii.gov/dlnr/dofaw; tel. 808/984-8100).
For information on trails, hikes, camping, and permits for state parks, contact the Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources (www.hawaiistateparks.org/camping/fees.cfm; tel. 808/984-8109); you can reserve and purchase electronic permits online as well. For Maui County Parks, contact the Department of Parks and Recreation (www.co.maui.hi.us; tel. 808/270-7389 or 808/270-7230).
Guided Hikes--If you’d like a knowledgeable guide to accompany you on a hike, call Maui Hiking Safaris (www.mauihikingsafaris.com; tel. 888/445-3963 or 808/573-0168). Owner Randy Warner takes visitors on half- and full-day hikes into valleys, rainforests, and coastal areas. Randy’s been hiking around Maui for more than 30 years and is wise in the ways of Hawaiian history, native flora and fauna, and volcanology. His rates are $69 for a half-day and $169 for a full day, which include daypacks, rain parkas, snacks, water, and, on full-day hikes, sandwiches. Private half-day tours are $150 per person ($75 per additional person).
Maui’s oldest hiking-guide company is Hike Maui (www.hikemaui.com; tel. 866/324-6284 or 808/879-5270), headed by Ken Schmitt, who pioneered guided hikes on the Valley Isle. Hike Maui offers numerous treks island-wide, ranging from an easy 1-mile, 3-hour hike to a waterfall ($85) to a strenuous full-day hike in Haleakala Crater ($165). On the popular East Maui waterfall trips, you can swim and jump from the rocks into rainforest pools. All prices include equipment and transportation. Hotel pickup costs an extra $25 per person.
For information on hikes given by the Hawaii Sierra Club on Maui, call tel. 808/573-4147 or go to http://mauisierraclub.org.
HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK HIKING/BIKING ROUTE
Hiking into the Wilderness Area: Sliding Sands & Halemauu Trails
Hiking into Maui’s dormant volcano is the best way to see it. The terrain inside the wilderness area of the volcano, which ranges from burnt-red cinder cones to ebony-black lava flows, is astonishing. There are some 27 miles of hiking trails, two camping sites, and three cabins.
Entrance to Haleakala National Park is $10 per car. The rangers offer free guided hikes (usually Mon and Thurs), a great way to learn about the unusual flora and geological formations here. Wear sturdy shoes and be prepared for wind, rain, and intense sun. Bring water, snacks, and a hat. Additional options include full-moon hikes and star-program hikes. The hikes and briefing sessions may be canceled, so check first. Call [tel] 808/572-4400 or visit www.nps.gov/hale.
Try to arrange to stay at least 1 night in the park; 2 or 3 nights will allow you more time to explore the fascinating interior of the volcano (for details on the cabins and campgrounds in the wilderness area of the valley). If you want to venture out on your own, the best route takes in two trails: into the crater along Sliding Sands Trail, which begins on the rim at 9,800 feet and descends to the valley floor at 6,600 feet, and back out along Halemauu Trail. Before you set out, stop at park headquarters to get trail updates.
The trail head for Sliding Sands is well marked and the trail easy to follow over lava flows and cinders. As you descend, look around: The view is breathtaking. In the afternoon, waves of clouds flow into the Kaupo and Koolau gaps. Vegetation is spare to nonexistent at the top, but the closer you get to the valley floor, the more growth you’ll see: bracken ferns, pili grass, shrubs, even flowers. On the floor, the trail travels across rough lava flows, passing by rare silversword plants, volcanic vents, and multicolored cinder cones.
The Halemauu Trail goes over red and black lava and past native ohelo berries and ohia trees as it ascends up the valley wall. Occasionally, riders on horseback use this trail. The proper etiquette is to step aside and stand quietly next to the trail as the horses pass.
Some shorter and easier hiking options include the .5-mile walk down the Hosmer Grove Nature Trail, or just the first mile or two down Sliding Sands Trail. (Even this short hike is exhausting at the high altitude.) A good day hike is Halemauu Trail to Holua Cabin and back, an 8-mile, half-day trip.
One section of Haleakala National Park is not accessible from the summit: Lush and rainy Kipahulu is all the way out in Hana. From the ranger station just off of Hana Highway, it’s a short hike above the famous Oheo Gulch (aka the Seven Sacred Pools) to two spectacular waterfalls. The first, Makahiku Falls, is easily reached from the central parking area; the trail head begins near the ranger station. Pipiwai Trail leads you up to the road and beyond for .5 miles to the overlook. Continue on another 1.5 miles across two bridges and through a magical bamboo forest to Waimoku Falls. It’s a challenging uphill hike, but mostly shaded and sweetened by the sounds of clattering bamboo canes. In times of hard rain, streams swell quickly. Never attempt to cross flooding waters.
POLIPOLI SPRINGS ARE HIKING/BIKING ROUTE
At this state recreation area, part of the 21,000-acre Kula and Kahikinui forest reserves on the slope of Haleakala, it’s hard to believe that you’re in Hawaii. First of all, it’s cold, even in summer, because the elevation is 5,300 to 6,200 feet. Second, this former forest of native koa, ohia, and mamane, which was overlogged in the 1800s, was reforested in the 1930s with introduced species: pine, Monterey cypress, ash, sugi, red alder, redwood, and several varieties of eucalyptus. The result is a cool area, with muted sunlight filtered by towering trees. There’s a campground at the recreation area at 6,300 feet.
This is some hike—strenuous but worth every step if you like seeing the big picture. It’s 8 miles, all downhill, with a dazzling 100-mile view of the islands dotting the blue Pacific, plus the West Maui Mountains, which seem like a separate island.
The trail is just outside Haleakala National Park at Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area; however, you access it by going through the national park to the summit. It starts just beyond the Puu Ulaula summit building on the south side of Science City and follows the southwest rift zone of Haleakala from its lunar-like cinder cones to a cool redwood grove. The trail drops 3,800 feet on a 4-hour hike to the recreation area in the 12,000-acre Kahikinui Forest Reserve. If you’d rather drive, you’ll need a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
One of the most unusual hiking experiences in the state is this easy 3.5-mile hike, which takes about 3 hours; dress warmly for it. Take the Haleakala Highway (Hwy. 37) to Keokea and turn right onto Hwy. 337; after less than a half-mile, turn on Waipoli Road, which climbs swiftly. After 10 miles, Waipoli Road ends at the Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area campgrounds. The well-marked trail head is next to the parking lot near a stand of Monterey cypress; the tree-lined trail offers the best view of the island.
Polipoli Loop is really a network of three trails: Haleakala Ridge, Plum Trail, and Redwood Trail. After .5 mile of meandering through groves of eucalyptus, blackwood, swamp mahogany, and hybrid cypress, you’ll join the Haleakala Ridge Trail, which, about a mile in, joins with the Plum Trail (named for the plums that ripen in June–July). This trail passes through massive redwoods and by an old Conservation Corps bunkhouse before joining up with the Redwood Trail, which climbs through Mexican pine, tropical ash, Port Orford cedar, and, of course, redwood.
WAIANAPANAPA STATE PARK HIKING/BIKING ROUTE
Tucked in a tropical jungle on the outskirts of the little coastal town of Hana is this state park, a black-sand beach set in an emerald forest.
The Hana-Waianapanapa Coast Trail is an easy 6-mile hike that takes you back in time. Allow 4 hours to walk along this relatively flat trail, which parallels the sea, along lava cliffs and a forest of lauhala trees. The best time to take the hike is either early morning or late afternoon, when the light on the lava and surf makes for great photos. Midday is the worst time; not only is it hot (lava intensifies the heat), but there’s also no shade or potable water available.
There’s no formal trail head; join the route at any point along the Waianapanapa Campground and go in either direction. Along the trail, you’ll see remains of an ancient heiau (temple), stands of lauhala trees, caves, a blowhole, and a remarkable plant, naupaka, which flourishes along the beach. Upon close inspection, you’ll see that the naupaka have only half-blossoms; according to Hawaiian legend, a similar plant living in the mountains has the other half of the blossoms. One ancient explanation is that the two plants represent never-to-be-reunited lovers: The couple bickered so much that the gods, fed up with their incessant quarreling, banished one lover to the mountain and the other to the sea.
Hana: The Hike to Fagan’s Cross
This 3-mile hike to the cross erected in memory of Paul Fagan, the founder of Hana Ranch and the former Hotel Hana-Maui (now the Travaasa Hana), offers spectacular views of the Hana Coast, particularly at sunset. The uphill trail starts across Hana Highway from the Hotel Hana-Maui. Enter the pastures at your own risk; they’re often occupied by glaring bulls with sharp horns and cows with new calves. Watch your step as you ascend this steep hill on a jeep trail across open pastures to the cross and breathtaking views.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.