Hike your way to a West Maui wind farm via the Lahaina Pali Trail, and enjoy sweeping vista views of Haleakala, Lanai, and the ocean. Just leave the sandals at home. Loose rocks and strenuously steep terrain make this hike a tough journey.
In this post
- About Lahaina Pali Trail
- Quick facts
- What to bring on your hike
- Lahaina Pali Trail map and hiking options
- 6 Tips for hiking Lahaina Pali Trail
- Where to park
- More West Maui hikes
- Places to eat near the Lahaina Pali Trail
- Lodging near the Lahaina Pali Trail
What I love:
- The trail’s history as a foot transportation path before the highway was built
- The scenic views of the ocean and Haleakala on a clear day
- The physical challenge of completing the hike
Good to know:
- Most of the hike is steep and rocky — I spotted several hikers turn around less than a mile in
- Don’t count on any shade
About Lahaina Pali Trail
In the early 1800s, Mauians traversed what is now the Lahaina Pali Trail to make their way from Wailuku and Lahaina, and back.
Today, recreational hikers venture up what was originally a footpath and horse trail to a collection of 34 behemoth wind turbines. The twirling white giants bisect the historic trail along the West Maui mountain ridgeline.
Hikers can start on either side of the mountain, at either the west trailhead (the Ukumehame side) or the east trailhead (the Maalaea side). Both are accessible via Honoapiilani Highway.
With a 1,400-foot elevation gain in just over two miles, the hike quickly lives up to its challenging reputation — the uphill climb starts right away. Along with the heart-pumping terrain, navigate loose rocks and small boulders — each placed by hand when the trail was built — as you make your way to the trail’s peak at Kaheawa Wind Farm.
Maneuver past switchbacks and false summits — just when you think you reach the turbines, you discover another set of switchbacks — before finally finding yourself at the base of the towering structures.
A stunning vista awaits: Haleakala, Maalaea Bay, and surrounding islands come into view on a clear day. Sharp-eyed hikers scanning the ocean waters may spot flukes or spouts during whale season.
Many hikers choose one side of the trailhead to summit, then turn around at the peak. Or continue on to the opposite side of the mountain. Keep scrolling for hiking options and tips on how to approach the trail.
Quick facts about the Lahaina Pali Trail
Distance: 4.8 miles point to point (one way) or 9.6 miles out and back
Difficulty: moderately difficult to difficult
Elevation gain: 1,407 feet
Hike time: 3 hours
Facilities: No bathroom
What to bring on your hike
Lahaina Pali Trail is considered a strenuous hike. Don’t skimp on these essentials before setting off on this hike.
- Sturdy hiking shoes. The trail is rocky and steep, and ankle support is a plus. There aren’t any water crossings on this hike, so water resistant shoes aren’t necessary (unless you’re hiking in the rain).
- Hat. You’ll need something to shield you from the sun’s rays. Lahaina Pali is exposed — there aren’t any trees or foliage to provide shade on this ridge.
- Sunscreen. Bring home memories from your Maui vacation, not badly sunburned skin.
- Sunglasses. Sun protection for your peepers.
- Water. Bring it with you, as there is no potable water on this hike. Bring a water bottle (I love my Yeti) or camelback to stay hydrated on this tough ascent.
Lahaina Pali Trail map and hiking options
Not your typical out-and-back or loop trail, Lahaina Pali’s two trailheads give hikers multiple options for tackling the trip.
Option 1: Hike Lahaina Pali from one side and turn back at the wind farm
Choose a side (east or west) and park at that trailhead. When you reach the wind farm at the summit, turn around and make your back to your vehicle.
You won’t experience the entire trail, but this method avoids the transportation logistics needed when hiking from one end of the trail to the other.
Option 2: Hike point to point, from one trailhead to the other
Park one vehicle on either the east or west trailhead. Have a hiking buddy pick you up from your car and drive you to the opposite side of the ridge. Park your buddy’s vehicle at the opposite trailhead and start the hike from that point.
Hike to the other side of the ridge to where you originally parked your vehicle. Then drive your hiking buddy back to the car where you started the hike.
Or, start hiking from one side of the ridge and pre-arrange a pickup for when you reach the other side.
You get views from both sides of the ridge without doubling back to your car.
Option 3: Hike the full length of Lahaina Pali and turn around (for double the fun)
If you like a good challenge (or can’t figure out a better way to get back to your car), park at either the east or west trailhead. Hike to the opposite side. Then turn around and make your way back where you started.
Earn bragging rights and a major leg workout.
6 Tips for hiking Lahaina Pali Trail
1. Start early
With a trail that’s significantly exposed to the elements, like Lahaina Pali, we recommend starting early. You’ll appreciate not having the beating sun on your back as you sweat your way up the trail. And there are fewer people on the trail in the mornings. We recommend starting your hike at sunrise, or earlier.
2. Leg day? This is your workout
Besides the sun exposure, the other element that gives Lahaina Pali its reputation as a butt-kicking hike is how steep the terrain is.
Just how steep is steep? The Lahaina Pali Trail has a typical grade of 11.9%. And 35% of the trail has between 13% and 29% in steepness. To put that into perspective, home treadmills typically max out at 15%.
3. Wear sturdy shoes. Bonus points for ankle support
At just over five feet tall, I didn’t have to scramble up rocks while on my hands. But I did have to spring and hop onto some boulders that were too tall for my little legs to reach.
Starting from the west Maalaea trailhead, you’ll waste no time putting your legs to work. From the parking lot, the level dirt trail quickly morphs into boulders the size of a labrador retriever (and larger). Along with the boulders, you’ll contend with loose stones the size of baseballs underfoot.
The path starts steep and stays that way for most of the hike up to the windmills, at least two thirds to three quarters of the way up. Besides the rocky and steep terrain, there aren’t any other impediments such as tree roots or water crossings — unless you count the wind.
4. Secure your hat. It gets windy
Now, the wind isn’t always intense on this trail. However, we happened to hike Lahaina Pali on a staggeringly windy day. At first, I welcomed the wind’s cooling effect as I labored up the ridge trail. But as I ascended higher, the gusts grew crueler, buffeting me sideways as I lifted my (notably short) leg to step onto a high boulder.
The extreme wind also sent my hat flailing, so you should consider wearing a hat that you can tie around your chin. And you’ll need a hat, considering that there is virtually no protection from the sun while on the Lahaina Pali Trail — hikers are exposed.
5. Don’t forget to look behind you
Your head will probably be down to navigate the trail’s loose rocks to avoid an ankle sprain. And while the steep terrain may influence you to take frequent rest breaks, don’t forget to turn around and enjoy the view. The scenery helps motivate weary hikers to carry on for the summit. Hikers traveling the west side of the ridge have another reason to keep their eyes peeled — they might catch sight of a whale fluke or spray with their ocean view.
6. Don’t count on a rideshare if you’re hiking point to point
Depending on your service provider, getting a cell signal could get tricky at the trailhead. A better plan would be to either arrange a ride ahead of time or double back at the summit if you don’t want to hike the entire 9.6 miles.
Where to park
Parking for hikers is free on both the west and east Lahaina Pali trailheads.
Parking on the west side: Ukumehame
Look for the dirt parking lot under a grove of trees just off of Honoapiilani Highway. The parking area turnout lies approximately half a mile north of the Pali Tunnel.
Parking on the east side: Maalaea
The road to Lahaina Pali Trail’s east trailhead lies 0.3 miles west of the Honoapiilani Highway and North Kihei Road intersection.
If you’re driving eastbound from Lahaina, there isn’t a left turn option from the highway to access the road. You’ll have to keep driving and backtrack in the opposite direction.
Some hikers park in the small turnout just off the highway. Or continue driving past the gate via the dirt road. Veer left with the road to find a parking lot that puts you right on the trailhead.
More West Maui hikes
Check out some of our favorite hikes on Maui: 6 JAW-DROPPING MAUI TRAILS FOR EPIC NATURE HIKES
Iao Valley State Monument
A short walk leads you past a botanical garden and through dense rainforest to the Iao Needle viewing platform. The 200-foot geological formation erupted from the valley floor, at a height just shy of New York’s original Empire State Building.
Iao Valley State Monument at 54 S High St, Wailuku
Waihee Ridge Trail
Hike above the clouds on this moderately steep trail through lush greenery. The payoff? Sweeping ocean views (if the clouds and rain don’t roll in).
Waihee Ridge Trail at Kahekili Hwy, Wailuku
Places to eat near the Lahaina Pali Trail
Recover after your hike with a well-earned feast. These are a few suggested spots to rest and refuel before conquering the next Maui adventure.
Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop, Olowalu
Known best for their island flavor pies (hello Olowalu Lime and Chocolate Haupia), Leoda’s also serves classic comfort food at the plantation-style restaurant. Try their “Pork, Pork…Mmmm Pork” or spicy tuna sandwich.
Leoda’s at 820 Olowalu Village Rd, Lahaina
Seascape at the Maui Ocean Center, Wailuku
Snag a water view with your post-hike meal at Seascape Maalaea, which lauds both its ocean-friendly sustainable operations and local island cuisine. Polish off a few pork belly bao buns and a plate of poke nachos before waddling over to the Maui Ocean Center’s Turtle Lagoon (admission required). Seascape is open for lunch only.
Seascape at 192 Maalaea Rd, Wailuku
If you’re headed toward Kihei after your hike, grab a hearty bite at this smash burger and noodle carry-out joint just off of Piilani Highway. This low-key spot may share a space with a Shell gas station, but don’t be fooled by its modest surroundings. Esquire named Havens one of the best new restaurants in America in 2021.
Havens at 30 Manao Kala Street, Suite 102, Kihei
Don’t miss 13 LOCAL DISHES YOU NEED TO TRY WHEN YOU’RE IN MAUI
Lodging near Lahaina Pali Trail
Pitch a traditional camping tent on this beachfront property, or glamp it up in one of Camp Olowalu’s tentalows. Car camping sites are also available for #vanlife enthusiasts.
Camp Olowalu at 800 Olowalu Village Road, Lahaina
If crisp sheets and spa robes are more your vibe, rest your head at Hotel Lahaina. Housed in what was once a general store built in 1938, the modern boutique enjoys a prime location smack dab in the middle of historic Lahaina town.
Hotel Lahaina at 127 Lahainaluna Rd, Lahaina
Ho’oilo House Bed and Breakfast
For a secluded getaway without being too remote from island activities, look into Hooilo House. The serene bed and breakfast enjoys uncrowded ocean views and Balinese-influenced decor.