Skyline Trail, Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area
This is some hike -- strenuous but worth every step. 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 located just outside Haleakala National Park at Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area; however, you access it by going through the national park to the summit. The Skyline Trail 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 lunarlike 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.
There's a campground at the recreation area, at 6,300 feet. Permits and reservations are required. Fees are $18 for the first camper and $3 for each additional camper to a maximum of $30 per campsite per night, and your stay must be limited to 5 nights. One eight-bunk cabin is available for $90 per cabin per night; it has a cold shower and a gas stove, but no electricity or drinking water (bring your own). To reserve, contact the State Parks Division, 54 S. High St., Room 101, Wailuku, HI 96793 (tel. 808/984-8109; www.hawaiistateparks.org/camping/fees.cfm).
Polipoli State Park
You'll find one of the most unusual hiking experiences in the state at Polipoli State Park, part of the 21,000-acre Kula and Kahikinui Forest Reserve on the slope of Haleakala. At Polipoli, it's hard to believe that you're in Hawaii. First of all, it's cold, even in summer, because the loop is up at 5,300 to 6,200 feet. Second, this former forest of native koa, ohia, and mamane trees, 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 Polipoli Loop is an easy 3.5-mile hike that takes about 3 hours; dress warmly for it. To get here, take the Haleakala Highway (Hwy. 37) to Keokea and turn right onto Hwy. 337; after less than 1/2 mile, turn on Waipoli Road, which climbs swiftly. After 10 miles, Waipoli Road ends at the Polipoli State Park campground. 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.
The Polipoli Loop is really a network of three trails: Haleakala Ridge Trail, 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 and a run-down cabin before joining up with the Redwood Trail, which climbs through Mexican pine, tropical ash, Port Orford cedar, and, of course, redwood.
Camping is allowed in the park with a $18-per-night permit from the State Parks Division, 54 S. High St., Room 101, Wailuku, HI 96793 (tel. 808/984-8109; www.hawaiistateparks.org/camping/fees.cfm). There's one cabin, which is available by reservation.
Kanaha Beach Park Camping
One of the few Maui County camping facilities on the island is at Kanaha Beach Park, located next to the Kahului Airport. The county has two separate areas for camping: 7 tent sites on the beach and an additional 10 tent sites inland. This well-used park is a favorite of windsurfers, who take advantage of the strong winds that roar across this end of the island. Facilities include a paved parking lot, portable toilets, outdoor showers, barbecue grills, and picnic tables. Camping is open 5 days a week (closed Mon-Tues) and limited to no more than 3 consecutive days. Per-night permits fees are Wednesday and Thursday $5 per adult and $2 per child ages 17 and under; and Friday through Sunday $8 adults and $3 children ages 17 and under. Permits can be obtained from the Maui County Parks and Recreation Department, 700 Halia Nakoa St., Unit 2, Wailuku, HI 96793 (tel. 808/270-7389; www.mauimapp.com/information/campingcounty.htm). The 17 sites book up quickly; reserve your dates far in advance (the county will accept reservations a year in advance).
Waianapanapa State Park
Tucked in a tropical jungle on the outskirts of the little coastal town of Hana is Waianapanapa State Park, a black-sand beach set in an emerald forest.
Hana-Waianapanapa Coast Trail -- This 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, that flourishes along the beach. Upon close inspection, you'll see that the Naupaka has 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: As the story goes, 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.
Camping -- Waianapanapa has 12 cabins and a tent campground. Go for the cabins, as it rains torrentially here, sometimes turning the campground into a mud-wrestling arena. Cabins are $90 per night, tent camping is $18 per night for the first camper, $3 per person after that up to $30, but limited to 5 nights in a 30-day period. Permits are available from the State Parks Division, 54 S. High St., Room 101, Wailuku, HI 96793 (tel. 808/984-8109; www.hawaiistateparks.org/camping/fees.cfm). Facilities include restrooms, outdoor showers, drinking water, and picnic tables.
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 Hotel Hana-Maui, 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 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 the breathtaking view.
About 47 miles from Kahului, along the Hana Highway and just after the Keanae YMCA Camp (and just before the turnoff to the Keanae Peninsula), is an easy walk through the Keanae Arboretum, which is maintained by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. The walk, which is just over 2 miles, passes through a forest with both native and introduced plants. Allow 1 to 2 hours, longer if you take time out to swim. Take rain gear and mosquito repellent.
Park at the Keanae Arboretum and pass through the turnstile. Walk along the fairly flat jeep road to the entrance. For .5 mile, you will pass by plants introduced to Hawaii (ornamental timber, pomelo, banana, papaya, hibiscus, and more), all with identifying tags. Next is a taro patch showing the different varieties that Hawaiians used as their staple crop. After the taro, a 1-mile trail leads through a Hawaiian rainforest. The trail crisscrosses a stream as it meanders through the forest. My favorite swimming hole is just to the left of the first stream crossing, at about 300 feet.
This strenuous 3- to 4-mile hike, with a 1,500-foot climb, offers spectacular views of the valleys of the West Maui Mountains. Allow 3 to 4 hours for the round-trip hike. Pack a lunch, carry water, and pick a dry day, as this area is very wet. There's a picnic table at the summit with great views.
To get here from Wailuku, turn north on Market Street, which becomes the Kahekilii Highway (Hwy. 340) and passes through Waihee. Go just over 2 1/2 miles from the Waihee Elementary School and look for the turnoff to the Boy Scouts' Camp Maluhia on the left. Turn into the camp and drive nearly a mile to the trail head on the jeep road. About 1/3 mile in, there will be another gate, marking the entrance to the West Maui Forest Reserve. A foot trail, kept in good shape by the Department of Land and Natural Resources, begins here. The trail climbs to the top of the ridge, offering great views of the various valleys. The trail is marked by a number of switchbacks and can be extremely muddy and wet. In some areas, it's so steep that you have to grab onto the trees and bushes for support. The trail takes you through a swampy area, then up to Lanilili Peak, where a picnic table and magnificent views await.
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.