Another week, another family hike. This time we drove out to the West side, past Lahaina and Kaanapali to hike the Kapalua Coastal Trail.
We’ve been out there before of course, to hike around Dragon’s Teeth and for the PGA Tournament which always takes place early January. But this was our first time walking the Kapalua Coastal Trail. The trail description marked it as easy, so we didn’t worry too much about our foot wear. Next time, I would at least wear enclosed shoes. No matter.
We parked at the end of Office Road and followed the signs. The section in front of the Ritz was fenced off for security since the hotel is closed. So we headed south instead. It was really a sweet adventure. The sky was overcast and there was a nice breeze coming off the ocean.
It turns out, despite the signs, I managed to take the family off course. Just around the Montage, we veered off the trail and ended up at Akin’s Jumping Rock where there a group of 40+ local kids were having a party and cliff jumping. Oops. That trail appeared to dead-end. At that point we turned around and headed back towards the Ritz and our car. Long story short, we clearly did not do the entire walk. However, the portion we walked was beautiful. I would definitely do this again.
If you’ve walked the Wailea Beach Walk, this path is in parts narrower. I have no idea how busy it is regularly. But now during the Covid-19 shut-down, it was pretty ideal with nearly noone on the trail.
Different lava rock
I love looking at the rock formation. Hopefully someone with more geology background can explain it to me sometime, but some of the lava rock is all bubbly-looking. I presume from the ocean water hitting, or I could be way off base. It is very neat.
Have you been on the Sugar Beach walk? Last weekend the pool at our Sugar Beach Resort condo reopened for condo owners and guests. With Covid-19 restrictions in effect, there are very few owners and guests on property. Sig has been doing a lot of work at our condos and wanted to sit in the hot tub, so off to the pool we went.
I felt the need for exercise and went for a Sugar Beach walk prior to joining him in the hot tub. If you have never been, this is a five mile stretch of beach in North Kihei in front of our Sugar Beach condo. It can get pretty windy, so you may want to time your walk to a less windy time of day to avoid the free exfoliating treatment! One of the best things about this walk is, if you get hot, just step into the ocean to cool off!
I do enjoy walking the beach. There were a number of people enjoying the sun, playing in the water, bringing in a sail boat and fishing. A few years ago we saw a fisher catch and then of course release a ray at this beach. That’s certainly not something I’ve seen caught before but I suppose it happens.
A portion of the beach is lined with Keawe trees. You will want to be very careful around these trees. They have thorns which are painful to step on especially when barefoot. Incidentally it seems every time my brother-in-law goes on a bike ride when on Maui, he gets a flat tire thanks to Keawe tree thorns.
A rare direct flight!
In other news, while sitting at the pool after my walk, I saw a plane flying into Maui. These days with Covid-19 that is sooo rare. There are currently three direct flights to Maui from the mainland. They are all Delta Airlines and arrive from LAX. If you are flying anywhere else, you have to first fly to Honolulu (HNL) on Oahu and then off. Life sure has changed.
Another day, another hike with the kids, this time the Waiakoa Loop Trail in upcountry Maui.
I’ve been wanting to go explore the hikes at Poli Poli for a while now. Last fall my cross-country running kid had a team practice up there. It turns out, I had a completely mistaken idea of where the hikes were.
The car adventure
Of course, to preface this – you drive all the way from Kihei past the Kula Farm stand along the Kula Hwy, then turn up the mountain and, just next to Kula Botanical Gardens, turn right up Waiopuli Road which takes you what my teenager had told me was Poli Poli. It’s the bottom of a large meadow with signs featuring hang-gliding. That portion alone is about a one hour drive from Kihei.
To get to the hikes, you traverse a large meadow with a newly paved one lane road featuring many hair pin turns, then continue up through forested areas (with more hair pin turns) until you get to the first of a series of trails. The hairpin turns aren’t so bad, and there are occasional pull-outs to allow for oncoming traffic. The sketchy part is – the newly paved road has steep dropoffs on either side of the asphalt (4-8 inches for sure which is great for the car). However, this balances out with the spectacular bicoastal views.
After our car adventure, we chose to go with the first trail we came upon – the Waiakoa Loop Trail.
Waiakoa Loop Trail
The Waiakoa Loop Trail has a very small parking lot (fitting maybe 3-4 cars) next to an ominous-sounding ‘hunter check-in station’. Consider yourself warned. The road continues up the hill promising further adventurous driving, but instead you head down a dirt access road (as of today this road has some deep ruts in it, my van would not have done well on it had it been open for driving – it’s not). The trail starts off with a steep downhill section, followed by a steep uphill section (not quite as bad as the beginning steep uphill section at the Waihee Ridge Trail). After that it levels out with alternating uphill/downhill parts, but not bad at all. This coming from an inexperienced hiker.
After 0.7 miles you get to the beginning of the loop trail. Close the gate behind you and brush your shoes to prevent carrying non-endemic plant seeds onto the trail. This hike is completely in the forest (no views beside forest). We were partly in the clouds. It was however absolutely beautiful. We heard so many birds (my dad would have had a field day with his bird watching app). We saw absolutely no wildlife on the trail (though we had seen a nene bird near the trail head).
Disclaimer, we did not walk the entire trail. The entire trail is 3.8 miles (from the parking lot). We walked about 0.7 miles past the gate and then turned around, so a respectable 2.8 miles total.
Yesterday we hiked Waihee Ridge Trail. It was absolutely beautiful.
School is basically out for the year. Normally we would be planning a Canada trip to visit grandparents and then some additional travel to teach the kids more about ‘the world’.
However, Covid happened and so we aren’t going anywhere soon. We are faced with another 2 1/2 months of summer (in addition to the 2 months of kids doing ‘at home’ school. So in an attempt to maintain some form of sanity, we’re determined to do some hiking and exploring within the government approved parameters. Check here for some Maui hikes we’ve done in the past few years.
Yesterday’s actual plan was to hike at Poli Poli. However as we were headed towards Kahului on the highway we saw it was raining upcountry. Change in plans. I suggested we try the Waihee Ridge Trail. We’ve never done that hike and I’ve heard it’s beautiful. With next to no visitors on island, I figured chances were good the parking lot wouldn’t be full. I was right.
The drive to Waihee Ridge Trail
To get there you drive through Wailuku and Waihee and end up on the road that circles the island counter-clockwise. Not a good idea, by the way, to circle the island from this direction. If you do want to drive around the island, I’m told always to start in Lahaina and then drive clock-wise towards Wailuku from there. This road is very windy and in part one lane only. Always better to be on the inside against the mountain as opposed to on the cliff side. Note, I saw a sign that portions of this road are closed to all but local traffic (similarly to the Road to Hana).
When you get to Mendes Ranch, the road turns left and you immediately turn up the driveway on the left where there is a large parking lot. Do not stop there, continue through the gate and up the mountain to the Waihee Ridge Trail parking lot (end of driveway). There is a private residence and also the boy scouts camp (Camp Maluhia) which you pass enroute.
The trail itself begins with a steep uphill paved climb. I think it’s to discourage you from trying it. Oh my word. Once you get to the water towers (you can see them from the parking lot), you veer off onto a regular path and it gets significantly easier. You then continue the uphill climb through a forest until you get to the ridge, peering down into Waihee Valley. It is absolutely beautiful. Waihee river looks like a creek from up high, but based on the sound, you know it’s more than that. From there on I’m told we got lucky. This portion of the trail can be very muddy and slippery. We had in fact worn our hiking boots (thankfully) but the trail was dry. It continues uphill.
We sent the two older kids ahead with Sig and I and our youngest bringing up the rear. At some point they texted us they had made it to the top and started returning. Honestly, we called it a day at that point as our youngest was having a hard time of it.
Was it worth it?
Absolutely. It is a stunning hike with gorgeous views. I loved seeing all the ferns and plants. At the beginning of the trail hike there are boot brushes with instructions to wipe shoes so as to avoid bringing non-endemic plants up the path.
Will we do it again?
Maybe. Probably. But for now we have other hikes to try, such as Poli Poli and the Lahaina Pali Trail. How about you? What is your favorite Maui hike?
This weekend one of the kids needed to be upcountry for a 7 AM cross country run. To put this in perspective, we needed to leave our home in Kihei at 6:10 AM to meet at Grandma’s Coffee House which was their chosen meeting point. The coach chose one of my favorite upcountry walks for the run, so I made coffee and headed up the mountain with my athlete.
We made fantastic time, getting there early. I left the teens to do their run and started off on a walk, stopping regularly to take pictures of trees, flowers and of course the view. It is just breath-takingly beautiful upcountry. And cool. I am always warm, so I particularly enjoyed cooling down a little from Kihei’s heat.
Grandma’s Coffee House
After my beautiful walk (and the team’s run), we all gathered at Grandma’s Coffee House for some breakfast. This is a small mom and pop shop, one of few restaurants in the area and consequently a bit of a gathering place. The coach struck up a conversation with an older gentleman reading his paper. Turns out he’s Grandma’s son. His own son, Alfred Franco, now runs Grandma’s Coffee House. He talked story with us for a while, telling of the coffee growing/roasting they do.
I had a small black Americano – one of the best coffees I’ve had in a while – and a pineapple coconut muffin. It hit the spot!
Last weekend we went on a family hike. One of my favorite hikes on Maui is the Waihou Spring Trail in Olinda. I should qualify, usually we just do the 1 mile loop in the pine forest and call it a day. It’s an easy stroll and generally not busy at all. There is an off-shoot from the loop leading to the Waihou Spring Trail which we always walk down. But – there’s always a but – then you get to a danger sign, warning you of certain death.
The thing about hiking upcountry Maui is that it very often rains up there, so the switchback trail to the springs is often wet. This past Sunday however it was dry. Add to that, we had family along that are generally more adventurous than we are, so we thought – well, why not. Down a series of switchbacks we carefully walked to the bottom of the gorge where we found a sweet waterfall with caves behind it. And a rooster. Don’t ask me what the rooster was doing in the middle of nowhere at the bottom of the gorge. I didn’t see any chickens around. I can only presume he got lost, or accidentally went down there. Who knows. The hike out of the gorge was steep, but we all made it back out and lived to tell the tale! I would not recommend this hike if it’s wet.
Where is the Waihou Spring Trail
This trail is located upcountry Maui. To get there, drive up to Makawao. Turn right onto Baldwin and just follow the road up the mountain. The road will get narrower and narrower. Slow down, take your time and enjoy the views and watch for traffic. Eventually you pass the Maui Bird Conservation Center (to your left) and enter into a pine forest. You will shortly see parking on the right side. It will take you about an hour to get here from Kihei.
It’s been a while since we last drove to the Iao Valley. This is the wettest accessible part of Maui, with the wettest part at the far end of the valley (Pu’u Kukui) averaging 386 inches of rain/year. Compare that to Kihei’s 8-13 inches/year.
A few years ago there was a severe flood in the valley, washing away a portion of the park and parking lot. It has since been re-built/reinforced.
Iao Valley itself carries great historical significance to Hawaiians. It is a valley leading into a collapsed and extinct volcano. It was a special place for the Hawaiian ali’i (royalty). The valley was also the site of one of Maui’s bloodiest battles in 1790 between the ruler of Hawai’i Island (Kamehameha the Great) and the people of Maui (led by Kalanikupule). Ultimately Kamehameha succeeded in his quest to unify all the Hawaiian islands under his rule.
The Iao Valley is a state park with paid parking. To get there, drive into old town Wailuku. Pass the old church and the Bailey Museum (I highly recommend checking the museum out) and continue up the mountain. Soon the road splits in two, you take the right road which dips down into the valley, and then follow it to the end where you will come to the paid parking lot. Parking is $5. You can walk up stairs to a lookout and also walk a short loop through the rain forest to the Iao Stream where you can often see locals enjoying the water.
For some this valley and the water in the stream hold spiritual significance, so do be respectful.
Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens
Just before you reach the Iao needle parking lot, there is a turnoff to the Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens. If you have time, stop here and check it out. It celebrates some of the cultures of Maui’s immigrants (specifically Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Portuguese and New Englanders). There is also a nice picnic area with numerous pavilions and bathrooms. Unfortunately this garden has been neglected and fallen into severe disrepair. However, the plaques are interesting to read and tell of Maui’s history.
We’ve been meaning to go hiking in the Makawao Forest Reserve. This past weekend we finally made it there. Compared to the Olinda hike, this is quite an extensive trail system and is actually set up for mountain bikers. Some of the trails are strictly for bikers, so do pay attention to the signs.
The hike itself is a 6.5 mile loop in the forest. We didn’t go nearly that far, but hiked past the two sets of ramp areas for bikes and then through the ravine. I really enjoy seeing this different (non beach) side of Maui. There are tall pine trees and beautiful trees with stripped bark.
This trail is covered with leaves and often wet. Do bring sturdy shoes, slippahs are not appropriate here.
Getting to the Makawao Forest Reserve is a little adventurous.
From Kihei you are looking at about a 50 minute drive. Driving on Makawao Ave (from the Haleakala Hwy), go straight through the 4 way stop with Baldwin and then take your first right after the church and cemetery. Pass the Piiholo Ranch Ziplines and when you come to a Y intersection, turn left (Waiahiwi Rd). The road gets narrower, windy and there are very few signs. There will be a few ‘no outlet’ signs. Eventually you turn right onto Kahakapao Road (don’t go straight onto private Piiholo Ranch property). Eventually you get to park gates (open 7am-7pm). Now the road is quite narrow with some pretty good ‘dips’ in the road (they are marked, slow down). Pull into the second parking lot on the right (after the horse trailer parking lot). It’s a fairly large parking lot with good signage.
Bring your own snacks and water along. There is a port-o-potty.
Do not leave any valuables in your car.
If you are interested in mountain biking it, there are a few bike rental places on Maui – Krank Cycle is likely easiest as it is right in Makawao.
Have you driven up Haleakala for sunrise? Confession, in 6 1/2 years of living here I have not drive to the summit for a Haleakala sunrise. A couple reasons for this. I am not that interested in taking a 2 1/2 hour drive in the dark from Kihei, only to find out Haleakala is clouded in. Also, I am told it is complete mayhem up there, often with no places to park. No thanks.
Beginning February 1st, 2017 everyone wishing to enter the national park for a Haleakala sunrise must make advance reservations. Check out this website, choose your date and pay $1.50. Print out your confirmation and bring it along with your photo ID. Also, you will need to purchase admission to Haleakala National Park ($20 for a several day re-entry or $25 for an annual pass).
Starting February 1st the national park is allowing only 150 vehicles plus one tour bus to enter the park for sunrise (between 3-7am), which will guarantee parking for all. Please remember to be respectful of the fragile vegetation (stay on the path) and any cultural activities taking place.
Note: as of now this reservation can be made up to 60 days in advance and is non-transferable. Reservations cannot be made at the national park gate, so please make sure you do this BEFORE you drive.
If you plan to enter the park AFTER 7AM you will not need a reservation. Then you just drive up and purchase admission or use your National Park pass.
Personally, my favorite time to drive up Haleakala is during the day to admire the amazing crater valley and take in the view. There are several hikes you can do (just be aware of the 10,000 foot elevation and thinner oxygen levels). I also love driving up at night to go stargazing (I have found the best viewing to be at a pull-out at about 6000 ft, just before you enter the forest before the national park gate). If the moon is small and the mountain is not clouded in, do try it! The stars are amazing. You’ll need to wait until about an hour after sunset for the stars to start popping. Unlike sunrise, there are very few cars at night.
Waihee Ridge Trail closure
The popular scenic Waihee Ridge Trail is temporarily closed from January 3-February 28th for some much-needed maintenance. For more information, please check this MauiNow article. Do check before you go in March that the trail has really re-opened, as everywhere, there can be unexpected delays.
This weekend our family went hiking on the Waihou Springs Trail. Actually we had planned to go to the Makawao Forest Reserve, but after doing a bit of reading, decided this one would be more up our alley. It is designated for hikers only, and is a short 2.5 mile loop hike (as opposed to 5.7 miles) with no bikes. Perfect.
To get there, you drive to Makawao, and then turn right (up the hill) at the only four way stop in town (Makawao and Baldwin Ave). When you turn right at this intersection, you are actually on Olinda Road. You follow Olinda for 5+ miles into the Waihou Springs State Forest Reserve. The road is narrow and winding and in parts quite steep (go slow). After passing the bird sanctuary you will see parking for it on the right hand side of the road (by an experimental pine forest).
The hike itself is a relatively easy walk through the forest. Watch out for tree roots. There are a lot of pine needles and later leaves on the path. If it’s wet or muddy, I imagine hiking here would be very slick. We didn’t quite walk down to the Waihou Spring (a side-trail off the main trail) as the path was narrow and steep and a little more excitement than we had in mind for a Sunday afternoon walk.
We picked the perfect afternoon – it was dry, the sun was shining. Within the forest it was about 72F (perfect weather for walking or hiking).
The kids tried to talk us into dinner at the Makawao Steak House or at minimum the Stop Watch (sports bar in Makawao). Instead we stopped at Costco, bought steak and bbqed it at home. A perfect afternoon!