By Kyle Ellison
November 05, 2014
Ron Niebrugge / Alamy

Maui is known as a watersports playground and for good reason. But many visitor are surprised that many of the island’s best outdoor experiences are actually found back on land. Swim beneath waterfalls as they splash through the jungle in verdant, time-sculpted canyons, or trek past isolated, little-known beaches that are only accessible by trail. Even with all of the adventures, however, hiking on Maui can be a sensitive issue, since many of the island’s hidden hikes tend to pass over private land. “Kapu” signs are a warning to “Keep Out,” and accidents while hiking can—and do—happen, so always be aware of the dangers and risks before setting out on the trail. That said, the hikes listed below are all legally accessible and offer a diverse range of island experiences, and are trails that I’ll visit when friends are in town or it’s time to commune with nature.

Pipiwai Trail

The hiking directions for this Kipahulu trail seem like a treasure map out of a fairytale: Past the towering banyan tree and its radiant network of branches, cross the bridge to a forest with bamboo so dense it blocks out the sun. At the end of the nearly two-mile trail lies 400’ Waimoku Falls, the most captivating, neck-craning, and time-stopping cascade found anywhere on Maui’s east shore. When finished, cool off in the nearby Pools of Ohe‘o.

Hoapili Trail

Be sure to start early, because this trail is hot. Weaving through craggy black lava formations created by Maui’s last eruption, the Hoapili Trail traces the ancient footpath of Hawaiian nobility and kings. There is little shade and the sun can be scorching, but abandoned Hawaiian village sites and views of the volcanic coastline make this one of Maui’s most adventurous hikes.

Kapalua Coastal Trail

Bookended by beaches that have both been voted as the #1 beach in America, this 1.75 mile coastal trail is the perfect morning stroll. Begin in the parking lot of Kapalua Bay and head north towards D.T. Fleming Beach Park, passing hidden Oneloa Beach and its frequently empty shores. For an adventurous side trip, take the spur trail to Hawea Point to watch turtles surfacing for air.

Keonehe‘ehe‘e-Halemau‘u Trail

Between the colorful cinder, the thin mountain air, and the epically lunar landscape, it’s easy to see why astronauts have trained here before blasting off for the moon. Colloquially known as “Sliding Sands to Switchback,” this 12-mile trail across Haleakala Crater is scenic, serene, and silent.

Waihe‘e Ridge Trail

For the most part, the steep ridgelines of West Maui aren’t accessible to the general public. The one exception is the Waihe‘e Ridge Trail, a guava-laden path that weaves 2,600 feet above the blustery Central Maui shoreline. Mornings are best to beat the clouds, and you can often see whales adding splashes to the whitecaps when hiking from December-April.