Trekking through Maui

Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii
Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

When I visit any of the Hawaiian islands, I rarely spend much time on palm-fringed beaches. Instead, I either lace up my hiking boots and hit the trails or I escape to any of dozens of parks and gardens. These are some of my favorite walks and hikes on Maui. In addition, because I gravitate to accommodations that have an aura of low-key authenticity, one of my fave accommodations is the Kaanapali Beach Hotel. It's right on the beach, and has some authentic cultural performances as well.

Most people who visit the volcano, Haleakala, do so either by gazing out of their car windows, or from a bicycle seat as they cruise at high speed downhill from the summit. Instead, I tackle some of the many trails that crisscross this landscape with lava cones, lush fern life and ash-laden surfaces. The Sliding Sands Trail, aptly named, given its surface coated with ash and cinder, seems to head into the clouds as you have misty views of the gaping crater. On the Kaloa Point Trail, you'll have staggering views of the Maui coastline.

Once you've reached the crater floor, you're confronted with a barren-scape as you cross rough lava fields. But even here there are portions dappled with shrubs, and wildflower- and fern-spotted meadows. Other botanical species include native Hawaiian blueberries and the red-flowering ohia trees. Not far from the Holua cabins is a long, dark lava tube that you can crawl through – definitely not for the extremely claustrophobic -- but worth checking out.

If I didn't sign up for a trek with Hike Maui, I might very well have ended up with the masses that crowd the ever popular Seven Sacred Pools. Instead, my group hiked in the early morning through a dark bamboo forest to some desolate pools. On the way, we found mango trees, guava orchards, petite waterfalls and swimmable pools without meeting more than a handful of people. The trail was plenty slippery but worth it for the many snacking opportunities: Our guide had us sample tropical almonds, pineapple guava, thimble berries, nectar from yellow ginger and mountain apples. After just two miles, Waimoku Falls cascades more than 400 feet and the tropical amphitheater makes for a perfect secluded picnic where the only sound is the pounding waters.

–Jeanine Barone of J The Travel Authority

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