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Exploring Maui’s Upcountry

Things to do in Maui Upcountry: Hiking

The Valley Isle offers much more than just a pretty beach. To complement your days beside the sea, look inland and head “upcountry.”

Experience the island’s dramatic, diverse interior — from serene rainforests and waterfalls to striking mountain peaks and valleys. For more great ideas for exploring Maui’s upcountry, we turned to Makalapua Kanuka, Cultural Advisor at The Westin Ka‘anapali Ocean Resort Villas. “Everywhere on Maui is very beautiful,” says Kanuka. “But these places in upcountry are our Wahi Pana — our most celebrated, our most revered.” Here are her top recommendations.


Hike majestic mountains

The enticing Mauna Kahalawai (West Maui Mountains) tower behind Ka‘anapali Beach. You’ll quickly discover why their Hawaiian name means ‘House of Water,’ as you trek through lush rainforest valleys, alongside splashing streams, to gushing waterfalls. Some gently invigorating quarter-day hikes include those surrounding the iconic green ‘Iao Needle, rising up 1,200 feet above the valley floor, and the Waihee Ridge Trail to panoramic views on the northern and windward side of the range. One local word of caution: be prepared with hiking boots and rain gear. “We live on an island; the weather can always change,” explains Kanuka. “Just be aware, especially hiking. You might leave your hotel and go to the mountains and it’s dry; then suddenly there’s a rain shower.”

‘Iao Needle

Watch a sunrise over Haleakala Crater

Head to the upcountry temple of nature Hawaiians named ‘House of Sun.’ By foot, bicycle, horse or open-air SUV, Haleakala National Park is not to be missed. Sunrises over the crater are legendary. Mount Haleakala is Maui’s highest summit, presenting awe-inspiring vantages up to 10,000 feet above sea level. You can even see the Big Island to the southeast and the only two higher mountains in Hawai’i, the soaring twin peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. “Haleakala is one of the sacred grounds where my ancestors gathered,” says Kanuka. “That’s our connection to the land, and we warmly encourage visitors to come and discover their own special connections, both to the surroundings and to their family.”

Haleakala Crater

Take a dip in the Seven Sacred Pools

The idyllic chain of lower pools cascading down to the sea in ‘Ohe‘o Gulch number way more than seven. The profuse freshwater Pools of ‘Ohe‘o carved from black lava rock are as cherished by islanders today as by Maui’s first settlers 1,500 years ago. Because they’re located less than thirty minutes past Hana, many visitors try to cap off their Road to Hana with this culminating spot. But there’s a better way, says Westin Concierge, Michelle Edellstein, the same way locals do it.

Pools of ‘Ohe‘o

“The pools and hikes of ‘Ohe‘o Gulch are must-do experiences that you really don’t want to rush.” She recommends guests enjoy getting to Hana one day, and on another, head straight to the pools to take in the peaceful waters during the quiet morning hours. That gives you time to explore one of Maui’s best hikes. Rising above the gulch 650 feet in elevation and following the stream’s sounds and falls, the four-mile round-trip Pipiwai Trail leads you to the island’s impressive 400-foot Waimoku Falls — well worth the 2-1/2 to 5 hours of scenic hiking to get there and back.

Ready to explore Maui? Your Westin Concierge can help.

Be sure to visit the concierge at The Westin Ka‘anapali Ocean Resort Villas to make reservations and to receive exclusive discounts on many Maui attractions.

E-mail a Westin Concierge in Maui

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