Puu Laina
Puu Mahanalua Nui
Puu Hipa
Puu Nene

Dec 11, 2016
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 5 Profiles: 1 2 3 4 5


With more rain in the forecast, I decided to put off my visit to Haleakala another day and spend today doing some short hikes on West Maui around the Lahaina area. For the most part the rain held off, though it did come down in some strong showers during some of the driving portions between hikes. Good luck, that. All of these "summits" are small volcanic cones and vents on the flanks of West Maui, none of them particularly hard, though I did find several rather overgrown trails that were almost a bushwhack. There was a good deal of mud in places from the previous day's hard rain, but that is part and parcel of hiking in Hawaii.

Puu Laina

This summit lies off the north end of Lahaina, amidst what once used to be extensive sugar cane fields. The sugar mill closed some time ago here and the fields are mostly fallow, though there is a slow effort to develop parcels as demand for homes and more resorts allows. I started at the Safeway in the Cannery Mall in Lahaina, but there is a shorter way to access it from the end of Wahikuli Rd. The east end of the town roads butt up against the old cane fields and a somewhat paved sugar cane road. The residents have extended their properties a bit onto the sugar cane lands, adding extra garden, patio or storage areas adjacent to their properties. One needs to be careful about parking in the neighborhood lots here, according to one source. I didn't see any real issues as I walked through the neighborhood (other than the usual poor condition of the local habitations), but it's a short walk from the main businesses along the highway. Though undoubtedly private lands, the road and area seems to be freely used for walking and jogging as I saw sveral parties on my way up to Puu Laina. A white van came driving by, exchanging a friendly wave with me without concern. Later I saw the van parked at a residence to the east behind Puu Laina, in an area that looks like it was once the plantation buildings. Whether it is an old grandfathered residence or squatter wasn't clear, but it was pretty off from the main part of town.

On the northwest side of Puu Laina is the shell of an old power station that once supplied electricity to the sugar mill. Ditches were dug to catch rainfall runoff along the slopes of Puu Laina and then funneled to a main channel that ran downhill to the electric generator in the building. Without battery storage and regular rains (this is the drier side of Maui) the power would have been intermittent and they were probably glad to get on the electric grid when the utility company came to the area. I climbed steeply up the slope behind the power station but that turned out to be unnecessary. There's a road going to the top from the northeast and if I'd stayed on the paved road I would have soon come to the junction on that side. The road is blocked to vehicles by a shipping container that was planted here, but there's no issue for someone on foot. There is a benchmark at the summit, of the elaborate variety found on the Hawaiian Islands, with a concrete structure built around it in 1928, the original installed a decade earlier. Four metal fins atop a pole complete the picture. With overcast skies the views were limited, but they stretch up and down the west side of West Maui, across to Lanai and overlooking the town of Lahaina.


This was the hardest hike of the day, about 5mi roundtrip and climbing to over 2,500ft. The trail starts on the right side of Lahainaluna Rd just below the high school. Doing this on a Sunday seemed a good choice to avoid school in session. The hike goes up to the large "L" on the slopes of Paupau, built and maintained by the boarding students of Lahaina HS. There are various reports of it being open ONLY to alumni and their guests, but that's pretty much BS as far as I can tell. The trail passes through old cane fields and then the West Maui Natural Area. One does not need to go on the high school property to access the trail (really a route, not a single trail), though the school access route is slightly less complicated. Below the school is a water tank and power substation. Park in the large turnout with a road going to the substation. Follow the road, taking the first fork that heads uphill. Eventually the road/trail will cross a wooden platform where it joins the easier access from the school. There is more than one way to get there and I'm not sure any specific route is best, but you are generally following old cane roads until you reach the top of the cane fields. An old rocky trail marked by old flagging starts up from here, climbing to the "L". Shortcuts have developed to make steeper work of the trail switchbacks, but I found the switchbacks were better trail anyway and not at all inconvenient. The lower section of the "L" is reached around 2,100ft while the trail continues to the top of the "L" and higher to David Malo's gravesite and the school memorial site where the Paupau benchmark is located. It is this site that makes the locals insist it's not open to the public. Proper respect of the site should suffice. David Malo was a teacher at the school back in the days before statehood and he was buried here. Since then, each senior boarding class has placed a memorial for their own class nearby where more than 60yrs of history can be seen in one place.

The summit of Pauapau is another 0.4mi further, and at first the nice trail continues in a fashion to make you think it'll be easy. The good trail shortly forks with the rather overgrown trail continuing to the left. Because the brush held much of the previous day's rain, I got pretty soaked from the waist down and my feet were soon swimming in my (not so) waterproof boots. The summit is found to the left of the trail which may continue on or peter out, I didn't ascertain. The ridge rises rather steeply into the clouds and eventually to Puu Kukui, the West Maui highpoint with 5,000ft of prominence - now THAT would be an adventure. Wading through waist-high grass and brush gets you to the coordinate marked as the highpoint, but there's no obvious point to find, really. Returning to the trail junction, I followed the good trail where it forks to the south, descending it to see where it goes. The trail is marked by serveral signs for the West Maui Reserve but is grossly overgrown and sees little traffic. There's no way to recommend this route unless you haven't had enough adventure already. The trail eventually reconnects with the old cane roads which I then followed back to the original route. In all I spent 2hrs on this one at a fairly good clip.

Puu Mahanalua Nui / Puu Hipa

A pair of easy but interesting bumps that can be accessed from an upscale development along Kai Hele Ku Street south of Lahaina. Find your way to the end of Wailau Place and park at the wide turnout between the two summits before driving up the road to the last three homes found there. If you hike the road west, just before the last home (which is QUITE luxurious) is a dirt road forking right that goes to the summit area. T his is an undeveloped lot (currently for sale) with a No Trespassing sign. I didn't see this until my exit, but I don't think it would have deterred me. I hiked directly up from the saddle where I parked, cross-country, discovering the road near the summit. The rock here is an interesting volcanic type with holes, pockets and odd shapes (both summits have this type of rock), some brittle, most fairly solid. There is another VABM atop the rocky summit and nice views overlooking the coast here.

After returning to the saddle I started up the east side, a convenient use trail running up at a diagonal to the right. It is periodically marked with small flags on wires and sometimes crude lava rock cairns. The trail can be followed to the summit of Puu Hipa which has no defining features to note the highpoint. What caught my interest was the possibility of the trail continuing further, up to Lihau, a P1K, less than 2mi further east at over 4,000ft. The summit was buried in the clouds and it wasn't certain by any means that this would work, but it begged further investigation. I followed the trail over the other side of Puu Hipa where it seemed to end at two cairns on some lava cap rock. I found no sign of a trail continuing along the ridgeline through the waist high brush. The vegetation isn't too thick, but it would be some tough work. The bigger deterrent is what I couldn't see higher up due to the clouds. From past experience, I know the cross-country can get MUCH tougher as one climbs higher on these ridges because the seemingly ever-present clouds are very conducive to flora growth. Perhaps some other time...


A short and easy summit in Olowalu, south of Lahaina. The easiest access is via paved Luawai St, but somehow I missed that on the way in and used some rough dirt road instead. There is a dirt road off Luawai St on the east side of the summit that goes to the top. Not realizing this, I parked at a clearing to the southwest and went cross-country up and down. There is a small concrete structure at the top, possibly used for surveying. Not particularly interesting views. To the north rises another steep ridgeline that eventually connects to Lihau up the south side.

Puu Nene

The only one not on West Maui. Found south of the Hana Hwy between Kahului and Paia, Puu Nene is the remnant of a small volcanic plug lying in the middle of a huge cane field. I'm told by my friend who lives in Wailuku that the last sugar mill is scheduled to close soon. The cane fields have been harvested for the last time and are starting to be reclaimed by invasive cane grass. What will become of the immense acreage that has been devoted to sugar cane farming isn't clear. More development, most likely, though there is many decades-worth of demand here and it will be a slow process. I walked across the fallow cane fields from the Hana Hwy (parking in the community of Sprecklesville on the north side of the highway) about 3/4mi to reach Puu Nene. A short, easy class 3 scramble gets one up about 20ft to the top where a more traditional benchmark is found. Views are so-so as it has very little prominence.

Back in Kahului, it wouldn't be long before the rain would start up again for the evening version. They need to find a way to export some of this back to the mainland Southwest. LA would probably pay good money for it...

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