5 Days In Maui itinerary

Day 5: Kahekili Highway Scenic Drive

We’ll embark on a memorable road trip to wrap up this Maui itinerary. West Maui’s spectacular northern coast offers the chance to get off the beaten track on busy Maui.

The Kahekili Highway

The day I spent driving the scenic Kahekili Highway was the day I enjoyed the most in my week-long visit to Maui. The scenic drive along a rugged coastline and frequent short stops reminded me of another memorable drive – California’s Pacific Coast Highway. This side of Maui is sparsely populated, perhaps due to the battering trade winds throughout the year. These strong winds shape this unique landscape that few Maui visitors explore. While the Hana Highway gets all the fame and glory, check out this gem that is no less impressive (minus the waterfalls).

Kahekili Highway Scenic Drive - Maui - Hawaii - Panoramic View

Logistics for the Day

Here are a few tips that will make or break your day. Do not be alarmed; this scenic drive from Kahului to Kapalua is rewarding and feels like a world away from the Maui you’ve seen over the past four days!

  • I recommend starting from Kahului and finishing up in Kapalua for three reasons: (1) you’ll finish off at the beach rather than start there, (2) most people start the drive from the Kaanapali resort area heading north, so this way, you’ll avoid most of the traffic (3) the drive will end on the sunset/rainbow side of Maui.
  • Fill your gas tank in the major town centers, as there are few options along the scenic drive.
  • Drive with extra care, even more than you did on the scenic road to Hana on day 1. This rural “highway” is blessed with many blind turns, one-lane bridges, and 5-10 mph sections. Moreover, it is reduced to a narrow one-lane heading in and out of Kahakuloa.
  • Be careful where you park your vehicle, especially at unofficial stops. Car break-ins are common here (see “Maui driving tips” for more details).
  • Avoid swimming in unofficial beaches, no matter how inviting they may look. Many locals and tourists have perished on this rugged coastline.
  • Be prepared for very windy conditions. Bring food, snacks, plenty of water, and sun protection. Pack for hiking, swimming, and snorkeling, and bring a change of clothes just in case.
  • There is little to no cell phone reception on this side of the island, and few signs marking the points of interest. Equip yourself with a physical map or download an offline Google Map with all the planned stops pre-starred.

Kahului to Kahakuloa

As soon as you leave the town behind, the scenery dramatically changes, but also the vibe. The four-lane roads and the shopping plazas give way to cattle ranches, open spaces, deep ravines, and a few million-dollar homes clinging to the hilltops. It’s hard to believe this is still poshy West Maui!

On this stretch of “highway”, every bend unveils another lush valley or hidden cove, the wind kicks into fifth gear, and the drive becomes slow going. How do locals living here do their Costco run? Pick up the Waihee Ridge Trail around mile marker seven if you want to start the day with a hike to beat the cloud cover.

Valley in West Maui mountains
View to East Maui - Kahekili Highway Scenic Drive - Maui - Hawaii
Deep Valley - Kahekili Highway Scenic Drive - Maui - Hawaii
Homes in Kahekili Highway Scenic Drive - Maui - Hawaii

As you near the village Kahakuloa, you can’t help but notice a massive cliff extending proudly into the ocean. The Kahakuloa Head protects the scenic bay where the small village sprung to life.

Kahakuloa Head Maui Hawaii
Kahakuloa Head Maui Hawaii 2

The views from here are sensational, the prettiest it’ll get on this road trip. But nothing in life can be 100% perfect, right? The road to the village and beyond is dangerously slow, a one-lane “highway” with blind curve after blind curve. Take it extra slow, treat yourself to a fruit smoothie in Kahakuloa, and check out its dilapidated picturesque church if it’s still around.    

Old Church in Kahakuloa - Maui - Hawaii
Remote beach in Kahakuloa - Maui - Hawaii

Olivine Pools

Around mile marker 16, pull over and pick up the trail that heads down to the ocean. You’ll immediately see this rocky swimming hole fed by incoming waves. Olivine magnesium in the lava gives this natural swimming pool its unique look, but it is highly advised to enjoy it with your eyes and NOT with your feet if you value your life. You’ll see a memorial erected by the family of a local resident who was swept out to the open ocean without warning, never to be seen alive again.

Olivine Pool - Maui Hawaii
Olivine Pools - Maui - Hawaii - Rugged windward coast

Ohai Trail Loop

For an enjoyable leg-stretching session, hike the 1.2-mile Ohai Trail Loop. It’s located around mile marker 40 (30 mins max) and offers fantastic coastline views. En route, informative signs explain Maui’s geology and point out unique birds, turtles, and even whales you might see.

Ohai Trail - 2- Maui - Hawaii
Ohai Trail - Maui - Hawaii
You may also like

Nakalele Blowhole

The Nakalele Blowhole is the star attraction on the scenic drive. There’s a parking lot around mile marker 38 where you can view the blowhole from atop or walk down some seriously sharp lava rocks for a closer inspection. You’ll undoubtedly come across a few millennial “Instagrammers” who ultimately get too close to the blowhole, but it is strongly advised to admire from a safe distance.

Nakalele Blowhole - Maui Hawaii

If you’ve already scrambled down, you can follow the coastline heading west on foot for five minutes to the next stop or drive there.

Nakalele Lighthouse

The lighthouse itself is not that interesting, but the landscape sure is. Years of ferocious waves and trade winds have eroded the lava rocks into sharp statues, sea arches, and bizarre formations. Hang around for a while, and you’ll make out a shape or two.

Nakalele Lighthouse - Maui - Hawaii
Walk to Nakalele Lighthouse from Blowhole - Maui - Hawaii

Honolua Bay Scenic Lookout

You’ll now begin to make the return “back to civilization”. Stop at the scenic lookout before the road plunges back to sea level, and see one of the more scenic bays in Maui – a favorite spot for surfers, snorkelers, and even dolphins.

Honolua Bay - Maui - Hawaii

Honolua Bay

It’s finally time to get wet on this day. Honolua Bay is the best snorkeling spot in West Maui, and when the water is calm, you’ll see schools of fish and a myriad of hard coral. It’s not as impressive as Molokini, but it’s much more accessible. Park on the coastal road and follow the path down to the rocky beach. The best snorkeling is along the eastern cliff wall.


Beach Time

End the sightseeing portion of this last day at either Oneloa Beach or Kapalua Beach – two of this area’s best beaches with entirely different personalities. If you skipped the snorkeling at Honolua Bay, consider beach hopping on the Kapalua Coastal Trail, which runs for 1.76 miles from D.T. Fleming Beach to Kapalua Beach.

Oneloa Beach

The more “down to earth” of the two, Oneloa Beach (not to be confused with the Hawaiian name of Big Beach) is a long and narrow sliver of white sand. Parking is a bit tricky – like in Kaanapali Beach – with just a few spots designated for non-resort guests. I really liked this beach as it seemed slightly wilder and more local than others on this coast. It won’t blow you away, but it’s nonetheless pretty.

Oneloa Beach - Maui - Hawaii

Kapalua Beach

Kapalua’s location is perfect, but the surrounding resorts strip away so much of its natural beauty, like other beaches further down the coast. It is regarded as one of the prettier beaches on this side of Maui, with calm waters, decent snorkeling (by Hawaiian standards), and all the amenities you might need at just a stone’s throw away. These are precisely why families with small children prefer Kapalua Beach, so keep this in mind if you’re looking for “getting lost”.

Kapalua Beach - Maui - Hawaii

Dinner in Lahaina

You don’t want to drive back the same way you came from, so head back home via the Lahaina coastal road. Stop somewhere to grab dinner, catch a final Maui sunset, and celebrate what I hope was a holiday for the ages.

What’s Next?

I hope you’ve found this Maui itinerary useful for planning your holiday! Visiting other Hawaiian islands? Sample itineraries, guides to the best beaches, and must-see highlights await you in the Hawaii Travel Guide collection. Aloha!

Pin These Images To Your Favorite Boards!