This 1.2-mile path wanders the green, wide-open heights of Papanalohoa Point, a broad headland edging Poelua Bay to the southeast of the well-known Nakalele Blowhole. A small parking lot (located right off the main road) a little east of mile marker 40 marks the trailhead. You shouldn’t find it too crowded; this trail isn’t heavily trammeled for the most part. There isn’t a restroom or any other services at the trailhead, by the way.
From the parking lot, a short paved path leads to a fine overlook. The dirt tread of the Ohai Trail Loop proper splits off that path and heads east to a fork. You can do the loop either way, but a counter-clockwise hike gives you the best sightseeing experience. That means taking a right at the fork on your outbound way, returning westward along the directly oceanfront side of the loop.
You’ll find some interpretive signage scattered along the trail. Meanwhile, expect unobstructed views over the rugged basaltic cliffs of Papanalohoa Point out to sea.
The dominating landmark coming into view from the Ohai Trail Loop looms to the southeast: the massive 636-foot pillar of Kahakuloa (“the Tall Lord”) Head. This coastal promontory draws the eye magnetically and summons Native Hawaiian history. It’s said that King Kahakili regularly jumped into the ocean from the flanks of Kahakuloa Head—a spot known as Kahakili’s Leap.
To the northwest, meanwhile, you can sometimes spot the mighty spout of the Nakalele Blowhole cranking. With the right surf, that blowhole sends spray many dozens of feet into the air. It’s definitely worth seeing (carefully) up close, but it’s also fun to get this more distant perspective from the Ohai Trail.
Natural scenery and oceanfront vibes are the main draws of the Ohai Trail Loop, but there’s also the potential for some exciting wildlife-watching, especially in winter. The headland heights give you a great perch from which to scan for humpback whales that time of year. Watch for wispy spouts and flippers or tail flukes raised up above the skyline. It’s not uncommon to see various seabirds from the path, including the dark, lanky, unmistakeable frigates. You might even land a top-down look at a green turtle. Binoculars come in handy, needless to say.
An hour or so spent moseying the Ohai Trail Loop gives you a break from the twists and turns of a Highway 30 drive, and a soothing “bath” in the salt air and scenic splendor of West Maui’s top-end!
-Wear sun protection and bring plenty of water for the Ohai Trail Loop. It’s a sun-blasted hike! Expect some wind, as well.
-While the Ohai Trail Loop is suitable for kids, you’ll want to keep a close eye on them. The oceanfront cliffs make for dangerous drop-offs.