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Hikes On Maui: The Hoapili Trail (King’s Highway)

Basic Information

  • Name: Hoapili Trail (King’s Highway)
  • Where: Makena, Maui
  • Distance: 2.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: Sea level hike
  • Time: 1-2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • More Information: Maui Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook

Picture from the King's Highway

Google Earth Map of the Hoapili Trail

Google Earth Map of King's Highway

Narrative

A quick hike that I went on early one morning during my visit to the Hawaiian island of Maui was on the Hoapili Trail.  The trail more commonly known as the “King’s Highway” received its name because it is believed that the Maui King Pi’ilani built the trail to promote commerce around the island 500 years ago.  Today a section of this highway can be hiked at Le Perouse Bay in south central Maui:

Getting to the trailhead is fairly easy because there is one road, Makena Road that travels through the resort area in southern Maui.  At the end of this road is where the trailhead is located.  For most of the way the road is in good shape, but once it reaches the lava fields that dominate southern Maui the road is not as well maintained and has many potholes:

Picture from the King's Highway

However, my compact rental car was able to navigate the road with careful driving to avoid the potholes.  The trailhead is located adjacent to the Makena Stables which is a ranch that offers horse rides through the lava fields.  From the parking area I walked towards the beach and admired these large lava rock walls someone had built:

Picture from the King's Highway

The lava fields here in southern Maui are believed to be the last ones to occur on Maui back in 1790.  According to the Maui Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook when the British explorer George Vancouver visited Maui in 1794 he noted the lava fields around Le Perouse Bay that were not depicted on the map made by French explorer La Perouse back in 1786.  This created the belief that the eruption happened some where in between around 1790.  However, Le Perouse’s map was of very poor quality and he may not have been accurate thus meaning the lava flow is older than 1790.  No one at the time could personally ask Le Perouse what he saw because the expedition he was on disappeared in 1788 after stopping in Australia.  There are Hawaiian accounts that date the lava flow to sometime in the 1700’s, but the lack of a written Hawaiian language at the time makes it impossible to confirm.

French explorer Jean François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse via Wikipedia.

From the coastline the trailhead for the hike was easily found I began my hike through the youngest lava field on Maui, how young is anyone’s guess:

Picture from the King's Highway

These lava fields are not as expansive as the ones on the Big Island, but still pretty impressive to hike through.  Within the lava fields there are the remains of various structures built using the lava rocks that are considered native Hawaiian cultural sites that visitors are reminded to be respectful of:

Picture from the King's Highway

In the distance I could see the large mass of the 10,023 foot volcano Mt. Haleakala which dominates all views in southern Maui:

Picture from the King's Highway

As I walked through the lava fields I noticed this small volcanic cinder cone on the slopes of Mt. Haleakala which appeared to pour out the lava I was currently walking through:

Picture from the King's Highway

The trail I was followed stayed close to the shoreline with very few areas where sand could be seen:

Picture from the King's Highway

Here is a view from the shoreline looking back at the uninhabited Kahoolawe Island:

Picture from the King's Highway

Kahoolawe was once inhabited by ancient Hawaiians, but they quickly used up the resources on the island by chopping down all its trees to make canoes.  The rain shield created by Mt. Haleakala makes it difficult for vegetation to grow back and over time the erosion made the island uninhabitable.  In modern times the island was used by the US Navy as a bombing range before being shut down in the 1970s.  Today efforts have been made to restore the island to its natural habitat, but it will be many decades before that is possible.  Here is a prior aerial picture of Kahoolawe I took:

In this next picture some of the revegetation work done by volunteer groups can be seen:

More aerial pictures of Kahoolawe can be seen at the below link:

After taking in the views from the coastline I continued down the trail and made sure to avoid the random horse poop left all along the trail by the morning horse rides offered by Makena Stables:

Picture from the King's Highway

The trail next entered into a stretch of coastal forest between two lava fields:

Picture from the King's Highway

Within this forest I saw about a dozen wild goats.  Here is a picture I captured of one of the goats I saw:

Picture from the King's Highway

I next came out of the forest and entered into another prominent lava field:

Picture from the King's Highway

The below aerial picture shows the route I took on my hike between the two lava fields with the forest in between them:

Route Through the Lava Field

In the next lava field I saw yet another large structure built with lava stones along the coast:

Picture from the King's Highway

I saw a group of people who were using the lava stones and coral rocks to make this tower:

Picture from the King's Highway

Here is a view from the second lava field looking back towards Kahoolawe:

Picture from the King's Highway

Here is the view looking back towards the always impressive Mt. Haleakala:

Picture from the King's Highway

From the structure I followed the trail up a bluff created by lava that provided a view of Le Perouse Bay where I could see all the way back to the trailhead at the far end of the bay:

Picture from the King's Highway

From the bluff I left the coastal trail and followed a trail that led deeper into the lava field:

Picture from the King's Highway

As I walked deeper into the lava field I had a really good view of where on Mt. Haleakala that this lava had a one time spewed from:

Picture from the King's Highway

Here is another aerial image that shows that the lava flowed out of a vent about a third of the way up the side of the volcano:

I could also see a sign in the distance that the trail led to:

Picture from the King's Highway

Once I reached the sign I noticed I reached the section of the trail known as the King’s Highway.  This section was built in its present form by Governor Hoapili between 1824-1840 supposedly using convict laborers:

Picture from the King's Highway

The King’s Highway can be followed to the east for two miles to Kanaio Beach:

Picture from the King's Highway

However, I decided to turn around and follow it west back to the trailhead:

Picture from the King's Highway

Conclusion

In total I hiked 2.5 miles around the lava fields in southern Maui, however for those wanting a longer hike the King’s Highway does extend much further down the coastline.  However, I had saw enough lava rock for one day and wanted to maximize my time on Maui checking out other things.  Overall though I am glad I did this short hike through the lava fields and got to experience this remote and little visited area of the island.

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