June_Maui_Kapalua Coastal Trail

When was the last time you went on a whale watch, but also threw on your hiking boots?

Some of Maui’s best hiking trails run right along the coast, and in winter they offer a scenic perch for spotting humpback whales.

Even in summer when the whales aren’t around, Maui’s coastal hiking trails are a great way to learn about island history, enjoy stunning views of the coast, and get a workout.

On the island’s windswept, northwestern shore, the Ohai Trail loops along 1.2 miles of rugged island coastline. This is one of the best places on the island to watch whales from the shore.

The Lahaina Pali Trail is another great trail to spot whales. Located on Maui’s southwestern hillside, a dusty, switchback trail explores the bluffs above the famous West Maui sea cliffs. Though one of the trailheads is in Maalaea, not far from the Maui Ocean Center, the section of trail with the best coastal views starts at Honoapiilani Highway across from Papalaua Beach Park. Be sure to bring water and hike early in the day since the trail has very little shade. The trail is also important to Maui’s history, and was how visitors would travel to and from Lahaina – often while riding on horseback!

You’ll also encounter some early history on the Hoapili Trail in South Maui, which was commissioned by Governor Hoapili and built in the 1830’s. Impressively built using nothing but stone, the trail runs for just over two rocky miles and crosses the island’s last lava flow, as well as passes home sites and heiau (temples) that were built by early Hawaiians.

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Dating back even further, the trail at Waianapanapa State Park in Hana was commissioned by Kiha-a-Piilani, who ruled the island in the 16th century during a period of prosperous growth. Just steps from the famous black sand beach, the trail follows a lush, rocky shoreline that’s shaded by rustling hala trees. The trail is three miles long, though most hikers turn back earlier. Along the way you’ll pass blowholes, heiau, and crashing waves.

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The windswept shoreline of Waihee is another beautiful spot to explore, and is home to a two mile coastal trail in Waihee Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge. This sandy stretch of north shore coastline is one of the island’s undeveloped white sand beaches, and thanks to the efforts of Hawaiian Islands Land Trust, has historical placards that bring the rocks, streams, and fertile shoreline to life.

Finally, as if Maui wasn’t already graced with a wealth of coastal trails, it’s home to the only trail in America that’s bookended by beaches that have both been named as the #1 Beach in America. Nearly two miles long and incomparably scenic, the Kapalua Coast Trail begins on the sands of Kapalua Bay and then hugs the coast before finishing at D.T. Fleming Beach Park. It also spans white sand Oneloa Bay—known as Ironwood Beach—and a spur trail leads to Hawea Point, which aside from being Maui’s westernmost spot, is also a place where it’s easy to spot Hawaiian green sea turtles and humpback whales from shore.