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Maui’s Magnificent Kapalua Coastal Trail


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Lexine Won



With its breathtaking views, rugged coastline, and tranquil ambiance, the Kapalua Coastal Trail on the island of Maui is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. Spanning approximately 3.5 miles along the northwest shore, this picturesque trail offers visitors a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of Hawaii.


Known for its stunning panoramic vistas, the Kapalua Coastal Trail provides a scenic escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just looking for a leisurely stroll, this trail offers something for everyone. From towering cliffs and pristine beaches to lush greenery and vibrant wildlife, the trail presents a diverse array of landscapes to explore.


The Kapalua Coastal Trail is not only a place of natural beauty but also holds great historical significance. It was originally part of an ancient Hawaiian footpath used by the native people to travel between coastal villages. Today, it serves as a tribute to the rich cultural heritage of the Hawaiian islands.


As you embark on your journey along the Kapalua Coastal Trail, you’ll be enchanted by the rhythmic sound of the waves crashing against the shore and the gentle ocean breeze caressing your skin. The trail offers numerous opportunities for solitude, reflection, and connection with nature.


Whether you’re seeking a serene escape, breathtaking views for photography, or a chance to spot local wildlife, the Kapalua Coastal Trail has something for everyone. So lace up your hiking boots, pack your camera, and get ready to embark on a memorable adventure along this magnificent trail.


History of Kapalua Coastal Trail

The Kapalua Coastal Trail holds a rich historical significance that dates back centuries. Originally, the trail was used by native Hawaiians as a footpath to connect the coastal villages of Maui. This ancient footpath was an essential part of their daily lives, enabling them to travel, gather resources, and access the bountiful shoreline.


Over time, the trail evolved, and in the 1800s, it became an access route for the bustling sugar cane industry. The trail provided a means for workers to transport supplies and harvest the sugarcane that was the economic backbone of the Hawaiian Islands.


In the early 20th century, the sugar cane industry declined, and the trail was forgotten. However, in the 1980s, the Kapalua Land Company recognized the historical and cultural significance of the trail and decided to restore and preserve it for future generations. Working in collaboration with community organizations, the company transformed the old footpath into the Kapalua Coastal Trail we know today.


Through the careful preservation of the original route, the Kapalua Coastal Trail allows visitors to step back in time and experience a glimpse of the ancient Hawaiian way of life. Interpretive signs along the trail provide insights into the cultural significance of the area, helping to educate and connect visitors to the history of the land and its people.


Today, the Kapalua Coastal Trail stands as a testament to the enduring connection between the Hawaiian people and the land. It serves as a reminder of the resilience and resourcefulness of the native Hawaiians, as well as their deep appreciation for the natural beauty that surrounds them.


As you walk along the trail, take a moment to reflect on the generations that have traversed this path before you. Let the history and spirit of the Kapalua Coastal Trail guide your journey and deepen your appreciation for the land and its cultural heritage.


Trail Features

The Kapalua Coastal Trail boasts a wide range of features that make it a captivating and unforgettable hiking experience. From stunning vistas to hidden coves, each step along the trail reveals new wonders to behold. Here are some of the notable features you can expect to encounter on your journey:

  • Breathtaking Ocean Views: As you traverse the Kapalua Coastal Trail, you’ll be treated to jaw-dropping views of the sparkling blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. The rugged coastline and dramatic cliffs create a backdrop that is truly awe-inspiring.
  • Pristine Beaches: The trail winds its way along some of Maui’s most beautiful and secluded beaches. Whether you want to soak up the sun, take a refreshing swim, or simply relax and enjoy the sound of crashing waves, these beaches offer a perfect escape.
  • Rock Formations: The trail showcases fascinating rock formations that have been shaped by centuries of wind and ocean erosion. Keep an eye out for unique geological features, such as lava tubes and tidepools, which provide an up-close look at the island’s geologic history.
  • Lush Vegetation: The trail is lined with lush vegetation, including tropical plants, colorful flowers, and swaying palm trees. Take a moment to breathe in the fragrant scents and appreciate the vibrant colors that surround you.
  • Whale Watching Opportunities: During the winter months, the waters off the coast of Maui become a playground for humpback whales. The Kapalua Coastal Trail offers several vantage points for whale watching, allowing you to witness these majestic creatures breaching and tail-slapping in their natural habitat.

Throughout your hike, be sure to take advantage of the numerous viewpoints and rest areas that dot the trail. These spots provide ideal locations to pause, take photos, and soak in the beauty of your surroundings.


Whether you’re a nature lover, a photography enthusiast, or simply seeking a serene escape, the Kapalua Coastal Trail’s remarkable features are sure to captivate your senses and leave a lasting impression.


Wildlife and Vegetation

The Kapalua Coastal Trail is not only a feast for the eyes with its stunning landscapes but also a haven for a diverse range of wildlife and vegetation. As you explore the trail, you’ll have the opportunity to encounter unique species and immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Maui.


One of the most remarkable sights on the trail is the abundance of marine life. Keep an eye out for Hawaiian green sea turtles, also known as honu, as they gracefully navigate the coastal waters. These gentle creatures are a symbol of good luck and are deeply respected in Hawaiian culture. Remember to maintain a safe distance and refrain from touching or disturbing them.


Whale sightings are another highlight of the Kapalua Coastal Trail. From December to April, humpback whales migrate to the warm waters of Hawaii to mate and give birth. You may be lucky enough to witness these magnificent creatures breaching, tail-slapping, or even hearing their haunting songs. Remember to maintain a respectful distance to avoid disturbing their natural behaviors.


As you venture further into the trail, you’ll be surrounded by an array of vibrant and fragrant vegetation. Look out for indigenous plants like naupaka, a small flowering shrub that blooms with delicate white flowers. You’ll also encounter kiawe trees, with their thorny branches and sweet-scented flowers. In addition, the trail is adorned with swaying coconut palms and tropical flowers that paint the landscape with bursts of color.


For bird enthusiasts, the Kapalua Coastal Trail offers an opportunity to spot various avian species. Keep your eyes and ears open for the distinctive cries of the Pacific golden plover or the melodious songs of the Hawaiian honeycreeper. The trail provides an excellent vantage point to observe these feathered beauties in their natural habitat.


As you navigate the trail, it is essential to respect the delicate ecosystem that exists along the coast. Stay on designated paths, refrain from picking or disturbing plant life, and carry out any trash to keep the area pristine for future visitors and wildlife.


Whether you’re an avid wildlife enthusiast or simply appreciate the beauty of nature, the Kapalua Coastal Trail’s abundance of wildlife and vegetation will undoubtedly leave you in awe of Maui’s natural wonders.


Access Points

The Kapalua Coastal Trail can be accessed from multiple points, making it convenient for visitors to embark on their hiking adventure no matter where they are on the island of Maui. Here are the primary access points to start your journey along this scenic trail:

  1. Kapalua Bay Beach: The trail begins near Kapalua Bay Beach, a stunning crescent-shaped beach known for its calm and clear waters. This access point is easily accessible for those staying at the resorts in the Kapalua area. Simply follow the signs directing you to the trailhead, and you’ll be on your way to exploring the coastal beauty.
  2. D.T. Fleming Beach Park: Located just north of Kapalua Bay Beach, D.T. Fleming Beach Park offers another access point to the Kapalua Coastal Trail. This popular beach park provides ample parking and facilities, allowing visitors to start their hike from a well-equipped location.
  3. Merriman’s Restaurant: Situated along the trail, Merriman’s Restaurant offers visitors the opportunity to access the trail directly from their premises. After a delicious meal or a refreshing drink, you can easily join the trail and continue your hike.
  4. Ritz-Carlton Kapalua: If you’re staying at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, you can access the Kapalua Coastal Trail from their property. Enjoy the convenience of stepping out of your resort and immersing yourself in the natural beauty that awaits.

Regardless of where you choose to start your hike, it’s important to plan ahead and familiarize yourself with the specific access points and parking availability. Consider checking with your accommodation or local visitor information centers for the most up-to-date information on trail access and parking facilities.


As you begin your journey on the Kapalua Coastal Trail, take a moment to appreciate the easy accessibility of this remarkable natural gem and let the captivating beauty of Hawaii’s coastline unfold before you.


Trail Etiquette

When hiking the Kapalua Coastal Trail, it’s important to follow proper trail etiquette to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all visitors. By being considerate of others and respecting the natural environment, we can preserve the beauty of the trail for future generations. Here are some essential trail etiquette guidelines to keep in mind:

  1. Stay on designated paths: Stick to the marked trail to avoid trampling delicate vegetation and to minimize your impact on the ecosystem. Avoid taking shortcuts or creating new paths.
  2. Share the trail: The Kapalua Coastal Trail is a popular destination, and you’ll likely encounter other hikers along the way. Be courteous and yield to oncoming hikers, allowing them to pass safely.
  3. Keep noise to a minimum: Be mindful of the tranquility of the trail and the desire of fellow hikers to enjoy the sounds of nature. Keep conversations at a moderate volume and avoid playing loud music.
  4. Respect wildlife: Hawaii is home to unique and delicate ecosystems. Do not approach or feed any wildlife you encounter along the trail. Respect their space and observe them from a safe distance.
  5. Pack out what you pack in: Keep the trail clean and free from litter by carrying out any trash or waste. Leave no trace behind and help maintain the pristine nature of the trail.
  6. Be mindful of cultural sites: The Kapalua Coastal Trail holds historical significance for the local community. Be respectful of any cultural sites you may encounter along the trail and refrain from touching or disturbing them.
  7. Follow rules and regulations: Observe any posted signs or regulations along the trail, such as restrictions on swimming or jumping from cliffs. These rules are in place to ensure the safety of hikers and protect the natural environment.
  8. Leave nature untouched: While the trail may offer opportunities to collect seashells or rocks, it’s best to leave them in their natural habitat for others to enjoy. Avoid taking anything from the trail to maintain the integrity of the ecosystem.

By adhering to these trail etiquette guidelines, you contribute to the preservation of the Kapalua Coastal Trail’s natural beauty and ensure that future hikers can enjoy the breathtaking scenery it has to offer.


Safety Tips

While exploring the Kapalua Coastal Trail, it’s important to prioritize safety to ensure a pleasant and secure hiking experience. By following these safety tips, you can minimize risks and fully enjoy your time on the trail:

  1. Stay hydrated: Hawaii’s tropical climate can be warm and humid, so it’s crucial to stay hydrated throughout your hike. Carry an adequate supply of water and drink regularly to prevent dehydration.
  2. Wear appropriate footwear: The trail can be uneven and sometimes rocky, so wearing sturdy and comfortable footwear is essential. Opt for closed-toe shoes with good traction to ensure stability and prevent any injuries.
  3. Apply sunscreen: Protect your skin from the strong Hawaiian sun by applying sunscreen before starting your hike. Reapply as necessary to prevent sunburn and reduce the risk of skin damage.
  4. Watch your step: Be mindful of your footing, especially when navigating rocky sections of the trail or near cliff edges. Watch out for loose rocks or slippery surfaces and take your time to ensure each step is secure.
  5. Bring snacks and food: Pack a small supply of energy-boosting snacks and food to keep yourself fueled during the hike. This will ensure you have enough energy to complete the trail and stay satiated throughout your journey.
  6. Respect the ocean: While the coastal views may be tempting, it’s important to exercise caution near the water. Avoid swimming in rough surf or areas with strong currents and always heed any warnings or advisories posted along the trail.
  7. Stay informed about weather conditions: Check the weather forecast before your hike and keep an eye on changing conditions. It’s best to avoid hiking during periods of heavy rain or storms, as this can make the trail slippery and unsafe.
  8. Hike with a buddy: Whenever possible, hike with a companion. Having someone by your side adds an extra layer of safety and support in case of an emergency.

Lastly, if you plan to venture out on the trail for an extended period or explore further away from access points, consider informing someone of your plans or bringing a means of communication, such as a fully charged cell phone or a two-way radio.


By following these safety tips, you can have a worry-free and enjoyable adventure along the Kapalua Coastal Trail, knowing that you’ve taken the necessary precautions to keep yourself safe.


Recommended Gear

When embarking on a hike along the Kapalua Coastal Trail, it’s important to come prepared with the right gear to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience. Here are some recommended items to bring along:

  1. Hiking Shoes: Opt for sturdy and comfortable hiking shoes or boots that provide good traction and support. This will help you navigate the varying terrain and ensure a stable footing.
  2. Sun Protection: Protect yourself from the strong Hawaiian sun by wearing a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF to shield your skin from harmful UV rays.
  3. Water Bottle: Stay hydrated throughout your hike by carrying a refillable water bottle. It’s important to drink regularly, especially in the warm and humid climate of Hawaii.
  4. Snacks and Food: Pack energy-boosting snacks and a light meal to keep yourself fueled during the hike. Choose lightweight and non-perishable options that are easy to carry and provide sustained energy.
  5. Backpack: A small backpack is essential for carrying your water, snacks, sunscreen, and any other personal items you may need during the hike. Look for one with adjustable straps and compartments to ensure comfort and organization.
  6. Light Layers: Hawaii’s weather can be unpredictable, so it’s advisable to bring light layers of clothing. Opt for moisture-wicking materials that will keep you cool and dry as you hike.
  7. Insect Repellent: While not always necessary, it’s a good idea to have insect repellent on hand, especially if you plan on hiking during dawn or dusk when mosquitoes are more active.
  8. First Aid Kit: Carry a basic first aid kit with essentials like bandages, adhesive tape, antiseptic wipes, and any personal medication you may require.
  9. Camera or Smartphone: Capture the stunning vistas and memories along the trail by bringing a camera or smartphone with a good camera. Be sure to secure your device in a waterproof case or pouch to protect it from any unexpected splashes.

Remember to pack lightly and only bring what you truly need to prevent unnecessary weight and discomfort during the hike. Be sure to check the weather conditions before setting off and adjust your gear accordingly.


By having the recommended gear on hand, you’ll be well-prepared to tackle the Kapalua Coastal Trail and fully enjoy the breathtaking beauty it has to offer.


Nearby Attractions

While the Kapalua Coastal Trail itself is a stunning attraction, there are also several nearby points of interest that you may want to explore during your visit to Maui. Here are some notable attractions that you can consider adding to your itinerary:

1. Kapalua Beaches:

Take the time to visit the beautiful beaches of Kapalua, located near the trailhead. Kapalua Bay Beach, D.T. Fleming Beach Park, and Oneloa Bay, also known as Ironwoods Beach, are all within easy reach. These picturesque beaches offer the perfect opportunity to relax, swim, or simply soak up the sun.

2. Dragon’s Teeth:

A short distance from the Kapalua Coastal Trail, you’ll find the unique Dragon’s Teeth formation. These jagged, lava rock formations were created by ocean erosion and make for a fascinating sight. Take a stroll to this nearby attraction and marvel at the natural beauty of the rugged coastline.

3. Honolua Bay:

If you’re a diving or snorkeling enthusiast, make sure to visit Honolua Bay. Located just a short drive from the Kapalua Coastal Trail, this marine sanctuary offers crystal-clear waters teeming with vibrant coral reefs and marine life. It’s a perfect spot for underwater exploration and is considered one of Maui’s top snorkeling destinations.

4. Kapalua Golf Courses:

For golf enthusiasts, a visit to the world-class golf courses in Kapalua is a must. The Plantation Course and the Bay Course boast breathtaking views of the ocean and lush landscapes, providing a unique golfing experience like no other.

5. Napili Bay:

Napili Bay, located in close proximity to the trail, is another idyllic beach worth visiting. This crescent-shaped bay offers calm waters and picturesque surroundings, making it an ideal spot for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling.


These are just a few of the many attractions near the Kapalua Coastal Trail. Whether you’re looking for more outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, or simply relaxation, there is something to suit every taste and interest in the surrounding area.


Remember to allocate enough time to explore these nearby attractions and make the most of your visit to the beautiful northwest coast of Maui!



Embarking on a journey along the Kapalua Coastal Trail is a truly unforgettable experience. From its rich historical significance to its breathtaking views and diverse wildlife, the trail offers a remarkable opportunity to connect with the beauty of Hawaii’s coastline.


As you traverse the trail, you’ll be captivated by the stunning ocean vistas, pristine beaches, and fascinating rock formations. The trail’s accessibility and various access points make it convenient for visitors from all around Maui to embark on this incredible adventure.


While enjoying the natural wonders along the Kapalua Coastal Trail, it’s important to practice proper trail etiquette, ensuring the preservation of this pristine environment for future generations. By staying on designated paths, respecting wildlife, and leaving no trace, we can protect and honor the richness of this remarkable natural gem.


So, lace up your hiking shoes, pack your camera, and set out to discover the wonders that await you on the Kapalua Coastal Trail. Immerse yourself in its history, marvel at its awe-inspiring landscapes, and let the tranquility of the trail rejuvenate your spirit.


Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a deeper connection with nature, the Kapalua Coastal Trail offers a journey that will leave you with lasting memories and a deep appreciation for the beauty of Maui’s northwest shore.


So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure along the Kapalua Coastal Trail!