It might have been this park that started my unholy obsession with hiking and climbing. I lived on Maui for over a year while working for a Maui resort management firm in Lahaina. I lived in Kahana, and I got a lot of days off and free time. Every chance I could, I got my butt over to this Papalaua State Park that is right along the highway on the way from Lahaina to Kahului on Maui Highway 30. GPS coordinates: 20.794315,-156.574504

I had climbed a lot over on Oahu for five years, and Maui had some nice climbs too, but I really fell in love with this hike at Papalaua because it was – convenient – right on the highway, and close to my house. It’s short – 2 hours if you hoof it. It’s challenging – the initial climb will leave you winded. It’s beautiful – the views are stunning.

Though most people know Papalaua as the beach park where you can get permits to camp easily – and it’s very picturesque… I knew it for one thing – the great climb up the hill of the west Maui mountains. The trail is dirt and well marked. There are numerous trails one could follow. It winds in and out and all around – giving some awesome views of Kahoolawe island in the distance, and the cool blue hues of the Pacific Ocean.

I must have climbed this mountain 100+ times over the time I stayed in Maui. I really enjoyed it, as it was hot and steep in some sections. It was really beautiful and completely different from some of the other hikes on Oahu I did regularly – with a lot of trees and green forest. This one is dry like a desert, and a great hike.

I’ve tried to find elevation maps for Maui and can’t find one. I think the trail rose 1,500 feet vertically, but I’m not positive about that. I think on the trail itself are signs about the elevation – or maybe at the park entrance at the bottom where you park your car?

Note of caution – though it ruins the mood, if you’re going to visit this park – either leave your car doors open, or, have someone sit with your car until you return (couple hours). Car break-ins are popular in this, and any Hawaii park in the parking lot areas.