Here’s a look at some of the mountain biking offered on Maui, and the trails locals know and love.
Maui does have a few great trails that are satisfying for a morning workout on dirt and roots, but if you’re a hardcore technical rider you might have better luck on Molokai. That’s not to say Maui doesn’t have any downhill trails — it boasts a few — but most companies cater to tourists who want to rent a bike and go on a tour on some mostly paved trails to experience the beauty of Maui in that pampered vacation-y way.
Ride the Haleakala Crater Trail
The Haleakala Crater Trail is probably the main and therefore most popular mountain biking trail on Maui, also known as the Skyline Downhill ride. This is probably as good as it gets on Maui for the mountain biking views.
The Skyline Downhill trail is located in the Kula area of Maui, and it begins at the top of the Haleakala Volcano. As you ride, you’ll be treated to incredible views of the Pacific Ocean and the islands of Molokai and Lanai.
This 30-mile ride (depending on your route) takes you from the top of the 10,000-foot summit of Haleakala, down the slopes of the crater, through the Polipoli forest reserve, and out to Rice Memorial Park. The trail is mostly downhill, and features stunning views of the crater, ocean, and nearby islands. It’s considered to be an intermediate level trail, with some technical sections.
Maui has some of the most beautiful hiking trails anywhere in the world, but Polipoli reserve seems to have the only single-track designed for mountain biking (until you find out about Makawao Forest Reserve, below). The best mountain biking ride option for a few hours of riding seems to be from the summit of Haleakala, down skyline trail, through polipoli springs, then on roads all the way to north Maui.
The trail starts off with a steep descent, with some tight switchbacks and technical terrain. After the descent, riders find themselves in the middle of the crater, surrounded by lush green foliage and wildflowers. The trail then follows the rim of the crater, with views of the Pacific Ocean and the crater walls.
As riders make their way back up the volcano, they will find a number of challenging climbs and technical sections. The trail is suitable for all levels of riders, from beginner to expert. Beginners can enjoy the descent from the summit and the views of the crater, while more experienced riders can take on the more technical sections. The terrain is mostly rock and loose dirt, with some roots and exposed rocks until you go lower. Views for everybody.
What should you know about getting to the top of Skyline Downhill trail?
The Haleakala Skyline Trail is a downhill ride, so the only way to get to the top is to take a shuttle. Most companies offer transportation from the port of Kahului to the summit of Haleakala for the ride. The shuttle will drop you off at the start of the trail, and from there you can begin your ride.
Haleakala biking shuttle companies and cost
There are several shuttle companies that offer transportation to the summit of Haleakala. Prices vary depending on the company and the size of your group. Some of the more popular companies include Skyline Eco Adventures, Maui Downhill, and Bike Maui.
Prices start at around $50 per person and can go up to $150 or more depending on the package.
I don’t recommend biking up the crater yourself with a rental bike for downhill riding, as most rentals are too heavy for that exertion and don’t have lockout.
Biking the Makawao Forest Reserve
The Makawao Forest Reserve is a great destination for intermediate and advanced riders. The reserve has many loops and small trails adding up to miles of fun with some technical features and rocky terrain. The trail is mostly downhill, with some steep sections.
How to get to Makawao Forest Reserve
The Makawao Forest Reserve is located just east of Paia, and can be accessed via the Haleakala Highway. There is no fee to access the reserve, although there is a parking fee of $3 per vehicle.
If you’re looking for an adventurous off-road biking experience, the Makawao Forest Reserve is the perfect spot for you while on Maui. You’ll be surrounded by lush greenery and stunning views of the Maui foothills. The 6,000-acre reserve is home to more than 30 miles of trails for all skill levels, ranging from beginner to expert. Take a look at the trail map here.
You’ll encounter mostly single-track paths with some double-track and jeep roads. Be sure to keep an eye out for the many different wildlife species that inhabit the forest, such as deer, wild boar, and the elusive Hawaiian Hawk.
A fun single-track trail for intermediates is the Kahakapao Loop. It’s a 6.7-mile loop in the West Maui Mountains with some challenging terrain. You’ll start at the Puu Kukui summit, and then make your way around the loop, with some incredible views of the ocean and the island. You’ll climb up some steep grades, and then enjoy some fun, fast descents. You’ll also get to take in some lush rainforest and grassland scenery, and you might even spot some wild goats. The whole ride should take around an hour, and it’s definitely an unforgettable experience. Nothing too crazy since Makawao is at a lower elevation than Haleakala (and on Maui, what isn’t?).
Mountain Biking the West Maui Mountains
The West Maui Mountains is a great place for mountain bikers of all levels. The trails range from easy to expert, and feature stunning views of the ocean and the nearby islands. One of the more popular biking trails in the West Maui Mountains is the Kahakuloa Ridge Trail.
Biking the Kahakuloa Ridge Trail is a great workout. The trail is a steep climb up to the top of the ridge, but the views along the way make the effort worth it. Once at the top, you can take in breathtaking views of the West Maui Mountains and the ocean below. The trail is mostly single track and has a few technical sections, but is mostly smooth with great flow. Along the way, you’ll pass through lush forests and get to enjoy some of the island’s most stunning scenery. It’s a great way to get some exercise and take in some of Maui’s natural beauty.
The Kahakuloa Ridge Trail is located on the northwest side of Maui. To get there, you’ll need to drive a few miles up the Hana Highway from the town of Kahakuloa.
What is the terrain on the Kahakuloa Ridge trail like?
The terrain is mostly uphill, but there are some flat sections. It is a steep and rugged trail that winds through a tropical forest. You’ll have the opportunity to take in some amazing views of the ocean and the surrounding mountains. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of the entire north shore of Maui.
What should riders expect?
The ride is a challenging one in hunting territory, so you should come prepared with bright clothing and enough food and water for the uphill and downhill effort. The trail is mostly dirt and rocks, so you should expect to get a little dirty, as always. You’ll also want to be aware of the wildlife in the area, including wild pigs, goats, and even cattle. There are also some steep sections, so you should be prepared to dismount and push your bike in some places if you haven’t eaten your Wheaties for breakfast. Recommended for expert-level riders.
How long does the trail take to bike?
The entire trail is about 10 miles long, so it should take the average biker around 2-3 hours to complete the ride.
Maui is an amazing destination for mountain bikers, and with its beautiful trails, stunning scenery, and perfect climate, it’s no wonder why. So if you’re looking for an adventure of a lifetime, head to Maui and explore its world-famous mountain biking trails. Probably not worth it to pack up your own bike and risk it getting lost or damaged, so rent a bike for a couple days of fun while you’re here. Take a break from biking and go hiking instead.