The opportunity to go hiking in a tropical rainforest one day and an arid desert the next does not come around too often. There are few places in the world where you can experience a multitude of climate variations along with elevation changes from sea level to 10,000+ feet; all within the confines of less than 730 square miles. Fortunately, you don’t even need a passport to witness such a natural splendor; the Hawaiian island of Maui can provide you with an experience of a lifetime.
Hawaii boasts that it contains 11 of the 13 climate zones found in the world; basically this means you could have this experience on several of the larger islands that make up this chain. I recently spent two weeks on the islands, the majority of which was on Maui, where I was able to hike what felt like several different worlds within a short period of time. This particular island is made up of two giant volcanoes, the largest being Haleakala on the east side.
The road to Hana is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Maui. Located on the northeast part of the island, this 50-mile or so stretch of road winds along the windward side of Haleakala through lush rainforest. There are dozens of hiking destinations to be found throughout this region, all with opportunities to discover gushing waterfalls and magnificent rainbows. With the help of a guidebook, you can locate a multitude of hiking trails – ranging from less than one mile to over a dozen, all with spectacular sights to take in.
While there, I had the opportunity to hike a few of the different trails, but my favorite had to be ‘Ohe’o Gulch. While it is one of the more popular destinations for hikers, the two mile Pipiwai Trail climbs approximately 650 feet and provides some of the most breathtaking views imaginable. The terrain on most of the trails in this region is quite rocky and very wet, so caution should be exercised no matter which route you take. No matter what your choice, you will be rewarded with a spectacular experience that only Mother Nature can provide.
The leeward side of Haleakala is a vast contrast to the green rainforest to its north. Here you will find dry land littered with black lava rock and brush. While there are hiking spots throughout this area, the place that offers the experience of a lifetime is the barren crater of Haleakala. Just below the summit, which rests 10,023 feet above sea level, lies the magnificent 19-square-mile crater. More than 41 miles of hiking trails crisscross their way throughout the patchwork of colorful cold, dry terrain. Although you are located under a dozen miles from the aforementioned rainforest, this location couldn’t be more of a polar opposite. The average temperature is around 30 degrees and the dry desert area contains limited plant life.
Most people envision stretches of sandy beaches and crystal clear ocean when thinking about Hawaii, and trust me those are glorious! But if lying around soaking up sun is not your thing, and you are looking for something more adventurous, these islands can provide you with some of the world’s most outstanding hiking exploits throughout an array of climate choices. This is not just a beach-goers paradise; it’s also an explorer’s playground.
GOOD JOB, JENN!! This should be front page on any Hawaiian Travel Guide. I never realized Hawaii was so varied in terrain and climate. Makes me want to go there.