Finding the Magic on the Magic Isle by Hiking Maui
While most travelers come to Maui to worship the sun on its white sand beaches, locals consider the mountains and rain forests to be the island’s most sacred places. For them, the true magic is found in hiking Maui. It is hidden in the wilderness near waterfalls, rain forests and volcanoes. To discover these places is to find the real Maui.
Related: If you like hiking, check out our post about Hiking to Troll Falls in the Canadian Rockies.
Discover the Power of Remote Places
Maui has an incredibly diverse terrain that supports a mind boggling array of trees, flowering plants, birds, insects and animals. Hiking trails are abundant and geared to varying levels of difficulty. Even those on a short visit can get out and discover the “mana” (power) of these remote places through hiking Maui. Here are the top three places to try hiking Maui.
ʻĪao Valley State Park
In Hawaiian, the word “ʻĪao” is pronounced “ee-ow” and means “cloud supreme.” For centuries the area of Maui currently known as the ʻĪao Valley has been considered sacred. The famous phallic stone known as the ʻĪao Needle represents Kanaloa, the Hawaiian god of the underworld. The lush valley surrounding it is an important site for the Hawaiian god Kane, the pro-creator and provider of life. This valley is one of the wettest spots on the planet. Kane has always been associated with fresh water in all its forms including clouds, rain, streams and springs.
This is a great place for hiking Maui. There is a paved interpretive trail through the park and walking there lets you feel a special kind of peace. The ridge top lookout provides excellent views of the ʻĪao Needle, the valley and Kahului Harbor. A walk through the botanical gardens will introduce you to many of the plants on the island.
Hint: The top of the ‘Iao Needle is often obscured by clouds in the afternoon. Go early to get the best views and to avoid tour bus groups.
Haleakalā – The House of the Sun
Early Hawaiians called the giant peak that dominates Maui “Haleakalā,” which means “house of the sun.” In Hawaiian mythology, the crater of the volcano was home to the grandmother of the demigod Maui. Today it is a national park that is one of the best places for hiking Maui.
From the summit area of the park, you’ll find hikes ranging from .4 km to day-long adventures. Along the trails and throughout the park you will find endangered species of plants and animals, some of which exist nowhere else in the world. The national parks service operates several campgrounds and 3 cabins inside the crater, so visitors can stay overnight in one of the island’s most sacred and unique locales.
Hint: Wear warm clothing. The peak of Haleakalā sits at more than 3000 metres above sea level and it gets cold – especially at night. If you want to watch the sunrise, make sure to book a reservation in advance.
Guided Hiking – Twin Falls
“I think of our valleys as museums,” said our guide Nicholas Batres from Hike Maui. “There’s so much to see and talk about when you’re hiking in Maui and it’s nice to have someone to show you around when you are hiking a trail for the first time.”
The East Maui Waterfalls and Rainforest Hike took us along one of the most popular valleys on Maui’s famous Hana Highway. The 6-hour excursion led to two waterfalls where we had the option to climb along rock ledges and leap into the large natural pools below. Along the way, we passed an abundant array of plants and our guide knew the name of every one of them.
Hint: Book a guided hiking adventure online and get a discount. Make sure to wear water shoes.
A Beachfront Condo as a Home Base
We made Kāʻanapali area our home base and did all of our exploring from there. We tried out two different beachfront condo accommodations and enjoyed them both. Some days we relaxed, hung out at the beach and enjoyed the on-property amenities. Other days we hopped in the car and had a hiking adventure. It was nice having a condo, so we could pack picnic lunches for day hikes. We stayed at Kāʻanapali alii first and liked its close proximity to Whalers Village shopping mall and the on-property amenities -especially the clay tennis courts. Our second condo, Westin Nanea Ocean Villas, is the newest condo accommodation on the island. We liked the restaurants, amenities and modern feel of this new condo resort.