The Mahana Ridge Trail might be more trafficked if the shuttle that once served it still ran. At one point, you could ride a shuttle between D.T. Fleming Beach Park, one of the lower Mahana Ridge trailheads, and the upper trailhead in the Maunalei Arboretum. That’s no longer the case, which means the Mahana Ridge Trail is now only an out-and-back hike.
It also means the only way to see the Arboretum—established by D.T. Fleming himself, manager of the Honolua Plantation that phased into the Kapalua Resort—is by hiking Mahana Ridge.
Not counting any add-on hiking on the trails of the Maunalei Arboretum, the Mahana Ridge out-and-back is about 12 miles. It’s a moderately challenging endeavor, given the better than 2,000 feet of elevation gain involved.
Many hikers opt to do just part of the trail, a perfectly valid approach. There are a number of logical turnaround points. But doing the entire thing does offer the rewards of the Maunalei Arboretum’s sights, including intriguing trees and the Puu Kaea Lookout.
You can access the Mahana Ridge Trail from the Kapalua Village Center or from D.T. Fleming Beach Park. We’ll describe the route from the latter. (The two lower trailhead segments are similar in length and soon converge.)
Find the Mahana Ridge Trailhead in D.T. Fleming Beach Park beside a green schoolhouse. The trail starts wending its way uphill, crossing under the Honoapiilani Highway and edging the Kapalua Golf Club’s famous Plantation Course. This partly paved section sees some decent foot traffic, and you’ve got some views out to Molokai and Lanai to enjoy.
Parts of the Mahana Ridge Trail are overgrown, including areas of the lower part bristling with tall grass, dense ferns, and other underbrush. Long pants are definitely a good idea, particularly if your skin’s sensitive to plant contact.
Indeed, you’ll see a wide variety of vegetation, both native and non-native, on the Mahana Ridge Trail. Passionfruit, guava, and some pineapple shrubs—summoning the old days of the Honolua Plantation—are evident.
The trail crosses and skirts some impressive gulches on its way. Much of the higher, deeper segment of the route doesn’t afford much in the way of long views, but transfixing highland forest vibes make up for that.
About midway along the trail, you’ll come to a reservoir. If you’re looking for a shorter hike, this is one of those good turnarounds.
There are several short loops along the Mahana Ridge Trail beyond the reservoir, including the Uluhe and the Pineapple loops, but these are mostly overgrown to a nearly impassable degree. Not so, though, the Pine Loop, which circuits through a statuesque stand of exotic Cook pines.
The Pine Loop is another natural turnaround point on the Mahana Ridge Trail. But if you keep going a bit farther, you’ll reach the junction with Maunalei Arboretum’s Honolua Ridge Trail, giving you access to some intriguing spots. There’s a Sugi Pine Grove loop, for example, featuring the beautiful Japanese conifer Cryptomeria. And the partial-view lookout on 1,683-foot Puu Kaeo provides nice vistas deeper into the West Maui Mountains.
There’s no flashy, must-see landmark or any one particularly extraordinary spot on the Mahana Ridge Trail. It’s more about the experience of trekking from the coastal zone into the highlands, and the ambiance of the backcountry forest.
Expect mud along the Mahana Ridge Trail, particularly higher up in the heavier forest. It’s best tackled in dry weather because of this.