Time: 3-4 HOURS (Full Trail)
Distance: 5.5 MILES
Elevation Gain: NEGLIGIBLE
Foot Traffic: MODERATE
Challenges: Shadeless, Rocky and uneven footing
What to see: Molokini Crater, Kaho'olawe, King's Highway
What to Bring: Sunscreen, Closed Toed Shoes, Water (>1L)
Located in Southern Maui, this coastal trail gives you a bit of history and beauty in the form of a rugged and hot hike. The trail takes you through a landscape of lava rock, created from one of the last Maui eruptions in 1790. As you hike, you will have views of landmarks on both sides of you-- look towards the ocean for views of Molokini Crater and the island Kaholo'lawe, or look inland for views of Haleakala Crater. For those with a destination in mind, you can hike towards Cape Hanamanioa or make the trek along the most distinct parts of the historic King's Highway to Kanaio Beach. Whether it's a quick hike or a longer one, you will likely find something to enjoy on this pretty and historic landscape.
Day 2 of my Maui adventure was turning out to be another dive/hike combo day. After exploring the mystical back wall of Molokini Crater in the morning, I decided to squeeze in an afternoon hike to round out the day. Since I was already in Southern Maui, I decided to make my way even farther south to the Hoapili Trail and King's Highway. I was excited to stroll through this unique place of Hawaii history.
The trail offer a few options. The official Hoapili Trail trail (red) follows a portion of the Kings Highway all the way to the Kanaio Beach for roughly a 5.5 mile round trip. You can also opt for a shorter hike to Cape Hanamanioa (blue) home to a light beacon, anchialine pools, and beautiful coastal views.
The trailhead is located at the end of Makena Road. There's some space for parking just after the road ends and some a bit closer to the ocean. The road in this area is a bit rocky, but sedans shouldn't have a problem driving around. Facing the bay, head left towards this sign and begin the trail.
The trail starts out hugging the ocean.
There are multiple offshoots where you can go to the beach for a closer ocean view. That hump in the back is the island of Kaho'olawe, AKA "The Target Isle".
10-15 minutes into the hike you will see a section of Kiawe Trees to your right (they are the only trees around). This marks the split in the path. If you continue pas the trees, you can follow the path to the Cape Hanamanioa. If you backtrack from the trees just a bit and look towards the mountains you will see this small, clearly man made wall. This is the path that will allow you to walk along the King's Highway.
We will head to the Cape first. The path here takes you a bit deeper into the lava fields, as you become surrounded by those large brown chunks of rock. Despite the minimal elevation gain on this hike, trekking along this trail is kind of brutal. The trail is packed with rocks of different shapes and sizes, making the footing very uneven. After 2 days of diving and hiking, my knees and ankles could definitely feel it.
40 minutes from the start of the hike, I arrived at the Cape. This structure is a light beacon utilized for navigation. Maybe not as impressive as lighthouses, but at least it gives you a nice place to sit.
You can actually continue past the light beacon to a very unique and secluded beach. The beach was full of different colors-- black lava rock, polished white coral, and this unique colored tide pool. I found out later that this is actually an anchialine pool, a mixed fresh and saltwater pool whereby the freshwater is connected to the ocean subterraneously. This isn't the first time I've seen one of these on Maui, you can also find anchialine pools at Wai'anapanapa State Park.
Looking mauka (towards the mountains) you can see some more unique landscape. This shot had so many layers of color--a radioactive looking yellow foreground, brown lava rock midground, and the green/red Haleakala Crater in the background. This whole area really was wild looking and ended up being the most unexpected scenery of the whole hike.
But the main reason we are here is to walk along King's Highway. I backtracked to the fork in the road, made a right, and then another right to follow the highway to Kanaio Beach.
And it really does look like an ancient road. While the beginning of the trail looks like it could have been shaped by human erosion, this section clearly looked like it was created by humans. Which of course it was. What's crazy is the full extent of this highway and the vision and amount of work spent to build it. It actually spans for 138 miles around a significant portion of the island. It was originally built over 500 years ago under the reign of King Pi'ilani as a vital trade route connecting many subdivisions of the island, promoting commerce and defense. Over time, much of the highway has been destroyed or overgrown by forest. However, there are some sections, like this one, that remain mostly intact and preserve that piece of historic Hawaii.
I continued along the Highway and about 30 minutes after the fork, I made it to Kanaio Beach.
I trekked down to the ocean and discovered this nice little log swing. It was a perfect shaded spot to have a little snack and rest before making the hot trek back.
But before I started the return trip, I ventured a bit farther to an area that looked to be the remains of an ancient heiau (temple). In the backdrop is the exterior of Haleakala Crater, with some of its prominent looking red cinder cones in view. So much geological and cultural history all in one place.
Having gotten my history and hiking fix, it was time to begin the trek back. I had to make sure I was well rested so I could be mentally and physically prepared for my final day in Maui. I had planned a 3 hike marathon day full of ridges, waterfalls, and epic views. Can't wait!
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Also Check Out:
- Maui Hikes write up of the Hoapili Trail and Cape Hanamanaioa
- This article about some the history of King's Highway and efforts to preserve it