Blog: A taste of what you may find on Maui

The Lahaina Pali Trail

The Lahaina Pali Trail has been on my bucket list for some time. Ok, not the whole trail, but starting it on the West (Lahaina) side.

As you drive from Ma’alaea (the Maui Ocean Center area) to Lahaina, look up to your right (up the West Maui Mountains) and you will periodically see what looks like a very narrow old road that winds itself around the curves of the gulches and at times comes quite close to the main road (incidentally called, the Pali Hwy). This old roadway is the original pre-1950s road that you would take to get to the West side. Imagine driving that narrow road in a car. I can’t imagine. Before that road was built, there was a foot/horse trail across the West Maui Mountains that leads roughly to the windmill area. This is the Lahaina Pali Trail.

The Lahaina Pali Trail is approximately 10.5 miles long in its entirety. It starts at the first parking lot on the right side, a little past the tunnel (the only road tunnel on Maui). The total elevation gain is 3200 ft, the grade averages to about 11 degrees. The path is rocky and difficult.

So why do it? Because the views are amazing!

the view from our hike

Our hike

The Lahaina Pali Trail is hot and unsheltered from both sun and wind, so plan ahead. Another friend hikes this with some regularity, always around 5pm. So we took her advice, left Kihei at 4:30pm and pulled into the parking lot past the tunnel just after 5pm. There was a whole smashed windshield in the parking lot, a good reminder that car break-ins do happen. Once you park, don’t show what you have in the car – just park, and go. Preferably have an empty car, or if you have things in it, don’t have them visible.

one of two signs marking the start of the Lahaina Pali Trail
one of two signs marking the beginning of the Lahaina Pali Trail

The trail begins in the back left corner of the parking lot. There are two signs with historical information. Here is a link to the trail’s history. Download it to your phone so you can refer back to it at the trail markers for information. You want to be wearing good sturdy shoes as the path is mainly rocks. Within a minute you end up on the old paved road from 70+ years ago, but shortly after are directed onto the original Lahaina Pali trail which is a rocky hike.

We stopped a lot as we climbed the mountain, both to take a breath but mainly just to take in the view. This side of the mountain is so brown. The dry grasses are in such stark contrast to the ocean below, it is really stunning.

How far did we go? We hiked a total of 0.75 miles until we saw the highway tunnel at a distance below. We had just passed the fourth marker and came through a cut-rock spot after which the trail for the first time went downhill a little to travel across a gulch. It got really windy at this point. We had previously decided to hike til 6pm and then turn around to return to the car just before sunset with plenty of light. Truth is, it was just before 6. However, my friend’s shoes had both lost their soles as we clambered up the rocky trail. She kept walking in them and they amazingly held up til we reached the parking lot. Yay.

Shoes losing their soles? Shoes and rubber disintegrate here on Maui – between the high humidity and salt in the air they just don’t last long.

Olowalu Landing for sunset

After our hike we needed to turn left to head back to Kihei. However anyone who has driven the road to Lahaina knows there is a lot of traffic. We decided to turn right and head five minutes further to Olowalu Landing and enjoy sunset there. I’ve blogged about this historic site a few months ago. Do check it out. There was a wedding happening next door and wedding photos at the Landing itself.

Olowalu sunset

Do you enjoy hiking? Check out the other Maui hikes we’ve gone on!