makawao forest reserve


We recently enjoyed a great hike in Upcountry Maui.  We headed just past Makawao to do a 5.2-mile hike on the Kahakapao loop.  We took our kids (of whom did an amazing job enduring a hike much longer than what they’re used to.)  They loved the smell of Eucalyptus trees, the beautiful surroundings, finding mushrooms on logs, and the sounds of the birds.

Makawao Forest hike

Makawao Forest Reserve is a great place to hike, and even better to mountain bike (see Makawao Forest Reserve).  There are loads of great jumps and berms to hit on the downhill.  We saw at least a 5 bikers cross our path as we made our journey. Not many people were on the hike, which made it feel even more special.  The air had a touch of chill, which felt great as we warmed up climbing along the trails.  Our kids needed a little extra clothing though since they’re born and raised Maui kids (super thin skin.)  The warm-up trail is about 1/2 a mile, then you get to the beginning of the west and east loop.  We’re glad we did the whole thing, and our highlights were a few amazing clearings in the forest as well as the fern forest.  SO beautiful.  (see fern forest photos at the bottom of the post.)

Makawao Forest Reserve Maui

If you’d like to join the mountain bikers on Makawao Forest Reserve’s epic trails, hit up Krank Cycles on the way. Located in Makawao—a 15-minute drive from the reserve or a 45-minute uphill ride—Krank is the only bike rental company on the island to offer full-day rentals. Their inventory of Maui mountain bike rentals is terrific, from Santa Cruz carbon to Transition Sentinel, while their staff can hook you up with inside tips on the best routes for your skill level.


See other great Maui Hiking Trails.


Makawao trail

If you’re interested in what types of trees and plants you’ll find on the Kahakapao Trail in the Makawao Forest Reserve, we’ve listed the more popular ones below:

  • Tropical Ash (fraxinus uhdei) –

    Native to Mexico, one of the most successful trees for reforestation, though not native to Hawaii.

  • Hale-pepe (pleomele auwahiensis) –

    Endemic, Hale-pele was used at the hula altar built for the goddess Laka and medicinally in ancient times.

  • Cook Pine (araucaria Columnaris) –

    Native to New Caledonia (not Hawaii), this wood is suitable for mast, lumber and furniture making.

  • Eucalyptus

    For reforestation, 50 of the 300 species of Eucalyptus have been introduced to Hawaii.

  • Kupukupu (nephrolepis cordifolia) –

    These indigenous ferns play an important part in Polynesian culture by being used for food, medicine, ceremonial plants, and decorations.

  • ‘Le ‘Le (freycinetia arborea) –

    Also indigenous, this plant was formerly considered sacred and dedicated to ceremonial purposes.  Also, it was used to make decorations, calabash coverings, baskets, and mats.

  • Mamaki (pipturus albidus) –

    This endemic leafy plant is used to create tapa and for medicinal purposes.

  • Pilo (coprosma foliosa) –

    Pilo is included in a genus of 90 species of shrubs/small trees and is native to several islands of the Pacific, including 17 endemic Hawaiian species.

Maui is a truly magical place.  If you’re living here or just visiting, hiking should be on your short list of to-dos.


Want to see more hikes?  See Top 10 Maui Hikes

Makawao forest map

Maui Hike