For most people the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Maui are the beautiful clear water beaches but the island has so many other natural wonders to explore. If you know me at all, you know my favorite way to explore a new place is hiking. Hiking allows time to soak in all the surroundings, doubles as exercise, and helps connect us with mother nature. Plus, after a couple days of pina colada sipping your body will thank you for a little movement. So, I wanted to share a beautiful and challenging hike on the island and all my hiking essentials because after all, you really only want to pack the necessities when flying to the Hawaiian islands because luggage space is so valuable!
The first step in hiking is to get dressed and pack your bag so let’s start there. Luckily Maui has a pretty moderate climate and very few predators so the packing can be light. I have created a list of essentials to use as a jumping off point for any hike but there are always special considerations for each trail and the Mahana Ridge Trail is no exception.
The first mile and a half of the Mahana Ridge Trail is not well maintained and requires walking through thigh-high grasses so I recommend wearing long pants to protect you from bugs and injuries. I made the mistake of wearing shorts and ended up with a few scratches on my legs so learn from my mistakes and cover your legs. If you are doing this hike at sunrise like we did I would also recommend packing a swimsuit in your car! The parking lot for the hike is right on the beach so you can jump straight from the trail into the water to cool off when you are done!
We did not encounter any bugs on the Mahana Ridge Trail but that may vary with the time of day and the season so you may want to add some bug spray and tick repellent to the bag.
- A well fitted backpack: If you are hiking more than a couple miles you will want a well fitted pack with a support strap to prevent back pain, bonus points if you use it as your carry on for the plane!
- Water: ALWAYS pack more water than you think you need. You never know what curve balls are going to be thrown at you on your hike so it’s best to be prepared.
- Snacks: You know this dietitian isn’t going to let you hike without snacks! Hiking snacks should be lightweight, small in size, and calorie dense. I typically like to bring some form of nut to sustain me on the hike and some fruit to replenish glycogen stores if we are going longer than 7-8 miles. My snack of choice these days is the Diamond of California Snack Walnuts. They come in different flavors so I usually pack one savory and one sweet. The Salted Dark Chocolate Walnut flavor is my favorite, they legitimately taste like a walnut brownie and I cannot get enough of them!
- Hiking Boots: While technically this is optional if you are hiking more than a few miles or more than a few times a year I highly recommend a good pair of boots. It’s the only piece of hiking apparel I really think is worth splurging on because it can save you from trips, foot pain, back pain, blisters, etc.
- First Aid: A small first aid kit with a couple band-aids, some benadryl (in case you encounter a new plant or bug you are allergic to), disinfectant and a compress wrap are musts!
- Maps: It’s a good idea to download your map ahead of time in case there is no reception on the trail. I use All Trails to map out and record all my hikes and love the convenience.
- Sun Screen: This hike took us about 4.5 hours to complete, and although it is mostly shaded it’s always a good idea to reapply sunscreen every couple hours!
- Safety extras: Depending on where you are hiking you may need bear spray, bug spray, pepper spray, hiking poles, snow spikes, extra layers, etc so remember this list is just the bare bones essentials, you will want to adapt it to your hiking location!
Mahana Ridge Trail
To get to the trailhead you park at D.T Fleming beach. The trailhead is unassuming and begins just to the left of the pre-school. It’s a misleading start because you almost immediately enter a rainforest-like environment full of tall grasses hooded by trees. The grasses are a bit overgrown at the beginning of the trail but don’t let that deter you, after the first mile or so the environment changes and the trail is no longer overgrown. Personally, I think the grasses added to the experience, it felt like hiking through the set of Jurassic Park.
About a half mile into the trail there is a road leading to a golf course. Simply cross the street and resume the trail on the right. After you pass the golf course you will encounter a few more patches of tall grasses before starting the incline. The whole hike has roughly a 2,500 ft incline but it’s broken up throughout the hike so don’t be intimidated by the elevation. As you climb up the hill you will notice the scenery starting to change, this hike has 4 or 5 distinct ecosystems that change as the path progresses. This is the perfect hike to experience all that Maui has to offer.
Just shy of two miles into the hike you will reach a switchback with a colorful view of the ocean and the forests below you. As you move onto the next portion of the hike you will pass through yet another change in scenery. The air gets a little less humid and the trees become more wooded. You might even think you were hiking in the pacific northwest if it weren’t for the fruit trees and tropical flowers sprinkled in the mix. At this portion of the hike keep an eye out on your left side for an old broken down tractor that has been encapsulated by roots. It’s really a unique waypoint.
About 4.5 miles into the hike you will encounter a gate to enter the Maunalei Arboretum, don’t forget to close it behind you. From there it is a short trek to the final viewpoint. There are signposts along the way to direct you to the viewpoint but keep an eye out on your left side because it could be easily missed. There’s a large information guide that will signal a turn. There’s a small bench to sit and enjoy the view and snack by. We brought a little sampler platter of Diamond of California Snack Walnuts and fruit and set out a little snack plate to enjoy before turning around to make the journey back. The Himalayan Pink Salt is perfectly seasoned, and the Sweet Maple is a delicious treat but my favorite has to be the Salted Dark Chocolate which is reminiscent of a walnut brownie!
If you are looking for one hike that encapsulates all that Maui has to offer, look no further. The Mahana Ridge Trail has lush vegetation, steep clay mountains, elevated ocean views, and expansive jungle surroundings! This hike is a perfect way to get away from the resort feel of Maui and see the natural beauty of the island, just make sure to pack a few snacks so you can actually make it to the top to see the view.