Driving West Maui
West Maui is one of the most popular parts of the island and my favorite part mostly because I get to call it home as I live in Lahaina. A day exploring West Maui should always be on someones Maui itinerary especially if you are staying on this side. Driving around this side of the island really showcases Maui’s diversity and is a great alternative to driving the road to Hana.
I have the stops listened in order driving north from Maalaea Harbor.
Best Stops While Exploring West Maui
1. Lahaina Pali Trail
If you’re looking for a caloric burn in a hike then you can’t go wrong with the Lahaina Pali Hike. This isn’t a quick stop as the whole hike is 5 to 10 miles depending on if you hike all the way through or turn around at the top when you reach the windmills. The Lahaina Pali Trail offers ocean views where you can see Lana’i, Kahoʻolawe, and Molokini. I do this hike often by myself. It is 2.5 miles uphill to get to the windmills and of course 2.5 miles to get back to your car.
This area is highly susceptible to brushfires and strong winds. Going earlier in the morning or checking the weather before you hike is crucial. On a clear, hot day the sun becomes a challenge as the trail is open and offers little shade. Hiking on a partly cloudy day always make this hike more enjoyable.
Olowalu is the only place you can stop between Maalaea Harbor and Lahaina. There is a small general store and a pop up market selling fresh fruits and smoothies. Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop can also be found here and they bake amazing fresh pies every morning. They also serve hot and cold sandwiches. You must try the lilikoi (Hawaiian for passion fruit) if its in season or the Olowalu lime.
3. Lahaina Town
Lahaina has such a special place in my heart. Not only have I been blessed to call it home for the majority of the past decade but its one of my favorite places in the world. Lahaina is a historic whaling village and was once the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom in the early nineteenth century.
Today the main drag Front Street is packed full of boutique shops, bars, restaurants, and art galleries. Near the beginning of town is the iconic banyan tree that spans an entire block. This is a great place to take shade from the cruel, relentless sun. You could easily spend a morning exploring this charming Hawaiian town. Check out some Lahaina reads below.
4. Ka’anapali Beach
If you love soft, golden sand beaches that stretch for as long as the eye can see then you’ll instantly fall head over heals for Ka’anapali Beach. Make your way to the end of the beach to black rock which is closest to the Sheraton.
Black Rock is a popular spot where you can jump off the black lava rock into the crystal clear waters below. The highest jump is about 15 feet. Don’t forget a mask as this is also a great place for a snorkel and a common area to spot sea turtles! I mean who doesn’t love turtles!
5. Cliff House
If you dream of cliff jumping in Hawaii and black rock wasn’t enough, then don’t miss the Cliff House. If you’re staying at the Montage in Kapalua on West Maui then you’ll spend all of your free time here. There are several spots where you can dive off the cliffs into the ocean below. When you are gathered on the rocks you will see the Cliff House building on the left which is also a lovely place to enjoy brunch and champagne.
6. Napili Bay
Napili Bay is a sandy cove close to several resorts including the Napili Kai and Napili Shores. This family friendly beach is perfect for swimming and snorkeling on a calm day. The Sea House restaurant sits on the East end of the beach and has one of the BEST happy hours on Maui. Paradise is waiting.
7. Dt Flemings Beach
You can find this beautiful beach at the foot of the Ritz Carleton Resort in Kapalua. The quarter mile golden sand beach is a perfect place to spend the day basking in the sun or body boarding some waves. The black, lava rock on the south side of the beach is fun to walk out onto and see the powerful waves crash against the shore.
You’ll first set eyes on this picture perfect Hawaiian beach from an aerial view above. To access the beach you’ll have to make the 80 some stair trek down to the sea level. The large white sand beach is perfect for sun bathing. Explore on the rocks on either side of the beach for the ultimate experience.
Parking is scarce so earlier the better. And remember if you pack it in, pack it out!
9. Honolua Bay
Every time I take a stroll through Honolua Bay I feel like I’m inside a fairy tale with princesses locked in tall towers and dragons. In the sudden dream like state you’ll forget you’re even on Maui!
Parking will be on the left hand side directly after a one lane bridge. It’s a short 10 minute walk through wooden area to get to Honolua Bay. Although the walk is short it’ll take much longer as you’ll be mesmerized and want to take pictures of all the magically trees.
Honolua Bay is a great spot to go snorkeling when there’s no surf. It’s rocky where you get in so water shoes are never a bad idea. If you do choose to snorkel down here you MUST where reef safe sunscreen. There will probably be a local Hawaiian sitting down there to make sure you follow the rules. Plus who doesn’t want to save the reef?
10. Windmills Lookout
Three minutes continuing down the road from Honolua Bay is the lookout over Windmills Beach and break. On the left hand side of the road just before a sharp right hand bend. On a winter day when surf is up you could possibly see some gnarly surf. This is a short and quick stop that can be enjoyed on the return trip if you’re not doing a full loop. You’ll be on the right hand side of the road on way back to Lahaina.
11. Ohai Trail
The Ohai Trail is a perfect stop to take in the views, “stretch” your legs, and walk around. This trail is 1.2 miles round trip and is suitable for every fitness level. I run this trail often because its nice to get out of town, there’s hardly anyone ever here and it makes me re-appreciate the gorgeous island that I live on. As you walk the loop you’ll get sweeping coast line views. On a clear day the greens of the foliage and blues of the sky and ocean are very vivid.
12. Nakalele Point & the Blow Hole
Located just before mile marker 38 on the left hand side of the road if you are going north. There’s a small parking lot and wooden sign that says “Blowhole Parking.” Parking is limited as with many of the stops on this road trip.
The path down to the blow hole takes 20 minutes and can be very slippery at times. The path is sandy/slidey on a slicker rock. If your knees are weak you don’t have to walk all the way down to the blowhole as you can see it from far away. Shortly after beginning the decent the blow hole will come into view.
13. Olivine Pools
These natural tide pools can be found on West Maui about 20 miles north of Lahaina in Kahakuloa. Rough waves crash against the rugged lava rock coastline and soak the lower lying rocks. The water thrusted over the rocks gather in small natural tide pools that you’re able to swim in and calm days. Getting down to the tide pools can be tricky as you have to scramble down a rocky trail. There are no signs pointing you to the tide pools, just a patch of dirt on the side of the road but it’s easy to spot as there will be loads of cars parked along the side of the road. It is about 4 miles past the blow hole and one of your last West Maui stops.
#JESSATRAVELTIP It is pertinent to check the surf and not to venture down on a rough day. People have been swept away by the waves which resulted in death. Always be aware of your surroundings and do your research!
14. Julia’s Banana Bread
This is always a highlight of all the stops I take my friends and family on when we are exploring West Maui. Just when you think you should turn around and go back the way you came you’ll see a small stand on the left hand side of the road. This is Julia’s and she bakes and sells the BEST banana bread on Maui. The drive to get there is an adventure in itself and Julia’s banana bread is just icing on the cake. Make sure you have cash and buy one for me…I don’t get out there as often as I’d like.
15. Waihee Ridge Trail
The Waihee Ridge Trail is a popular hike on Maui. The trail offers scenic valley and coastal views as you descend up the ridge. The hike is about 5 miles up and back with 1,500 feet in elevation gain. The trail takes you through several different forests including pine, koa, and rainbow eucalyptus. At the top of the top on a clear day you’ll see sweeping views of Maui’s coastline and the island of Molokai.