Makawao Forest Reserve

Makawao Forest Reserve – Over 2,000 Acres of Preserved Woodlands Across East Maui
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

At over 2,000 acres total, the Makawao Forest Reserve lets you explore to your heart’s content and take in all the natural beauty of the island. Although there are seven distinct trails to follow, the six-mile Kahakapao Loop gets the most action. On that route, you’ll get to see lush ferns, rainbow eucalyptus trees, and everything in between.

- The Local Expert Team

When you want to explore all the inner beauty of Maui, the Makawao Forest Reserve is a great place to go. These protected woodlands stretch over 2,000 acres across the eastern side of the island. You can explore the lands by walking along one of the seven trails leading through the landscape. The six-mile Kahakapao Loop is the most popular trail for hikers and bikers alike. The two-mile Waihou Spring Trail is a quieter retreat that’s only open to hikers.

Whether you decide to explore the trails on foot or by bike, you can count on seeing amazing sights throughout your trip. Within a moment of arriving, you’ll instantly notice that the lush vegetation creates a woodsy atmosphere. Then, the heavenly scent of blooming flowers will likely flow your way, setting the scene for a memorable trip.

Cook pines and kupukupu ferns line the trails from the start. On top of that, you’re sure to see lilikoi vines, ginger lilies, and many other flowers, although you’ll likely smell them first. Adding to the bright fragrances all around are the lush rainbow eucalyptus trees. Their sweet, minty scent wafts through the air, leading you to their colorful trunks. Be sure to use the trunks as a background for a keepsake photo before venturing on down the path.

Singing birds are sure to light up your day, too. Doves, mockingbirds, sparrows, and many other wonderful birds send their calls through the air, brightening up the ambiance even more. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get to see the gorgeous Hawaiian goose and black-necked stilt hanging around.

As you explore, always stay on the marked trails, no matter what amazing sights you see in the distance. Also, be careful to avoid stepping on the plants along the edges of the trails. Pack out what you pack in as well, so you can serve as a trusted steward of the land.

Top things to do here:

Hike the Trails
Hiking down the trails through the forest reserve lets you get away from it all while continuing to enjoy all the island has to offer. The gorgeous views will keep you enamored, while the chance to see birds and other wildlife promises to keep you going mile after mile. Just don’t forget to listen for bikers in your midst and step aside to let them safely pass.

Ride Mountain Bikes
With all their twists, turns, and even a few jumps, the trails serve as a true bike riders’ paradise. Whether you’re a beginner or expert rider, you can always find a track offering a challenging, yet enjoyable ride. Plus, there are bike repair stations all along the trails, just in case you end up with a flat or other issues.

Take Beautiful Photos
If you’re looking for the perfect backdrop for your latest photos, the forest reserve will come through in a big way. The lush vegetation serves as a wonderful setting for serious and fun poses alike. Be patient and you might even get photobombed by a wily goose as you snap the day away.

Although the forest offers a break from the bright sunshine, you should still have plenty of water on hand while moving down the trails. Bring at least one gallon per person plus extra for any pets tagging along on your adventures. Don’t forget to bring protein-packed granola bars, trail mix, and other snacks as well. Even if you have a picnic lunch on hand, you’ll want to have snacks to keep you fueled up for the trip back.

Insider Tips:
-Wear light layers and closed-toe shoes for your trail explorations.
-Bring locally sourced bug spray to keep the insects from bothering you while on the trails.
-Although you’ll be largely out of the direct sunlight, apply reef-safe SPF 50+ sunblock every two hours while exploring the forest.
-The elevation changes quite a bit on the trails, so consider bringing hiking poles if you need a little extra support on hilly areas.