Vacation time does not necessarily mean leaving exercise behind. In fact, while enjoying leisure time it is often possible to change a normal routine and adapt to the opportunities offered in a new place. When visiting West Maui, with its beautiful scenery and good weather, it is especially delightful to be able to combine exercise and the breathtaking views available.
Accessing the Kapalua Coastal Trail
There are several entry points to the1.76 mile trail; one is the parking lot at Kapalua Bay near the Napili Kai hotel. Rest rooms are provided here and a trail map shows the route. There is a stairway leading to the beach which does make it difficult for the handicapped to enjoy this portion of the path. The initial section is pavement following the shoreline of Kapalua Bay. Swimmers, snorkelers, and body surfers can be found in the water and sun worshippers fill the sandy beach. The Merriman restaurant is also located here which serves snacks and full meals if desired.
Further along, the trail passes another entry point at the Kapalua Vacation Residences where its lush lawn, island flowers, and tropical greenery provide enjoyable surroundings. While the trail climbs a slight incline here, it is still paved and thus provides easy walking. This section is frequented by those who enjoy a beachfront stroll at a leisurely pace but also includes joggers and brisk walkers.
Challenging Terrain above Pailolo Channel
Leaving the paved area, the trail gives two options. One is to follow a loop portion out to a rocky point which traverses the nesting area of sea birds. The ground here is lava rock and uneven but fairly level. At the outermost point the breaking waves provide a dramatic display.
The second option, which is also where the loop trail will connect, is a straighter path across the lava but with a change in elevation involving steps carved into the rock and switchbacks to ease the descent. This part of the trail is not for the casual walker but is not especially difficult for anyone who walks often and is up to the challenge. Coming from Kapalua Bay, the trail goes down the steps; from the opposite end, it involves climbing up.
Beyond the lava area, the trail becomes a boardwalk which hugs the water’s edge until reaching another stairway leading up to the main road. Here it is possible to again enter or exit the trail or just enjoy the beach below.
Gazing over the Pacific Ocean and Molokai
Since the trail, as its name implies, follows the coast, there are continual views of the Pailolo channel, separating Maui and Molokai, and the more distant island of Lanai. In the winter season, humpback whales can be seen cavorting in the water providing a fantastic display of their majesty. Surfers can be found on some of the beaches and infrequent water craft sightings include cargo ships, cruise ships, sailboats and even sea kayaks. The breaking waves provide a rhythmic background and ever-changing scenery. The ocean colors of deep blue and turquoise with white foam charm the walker while moving along.
From the mid-entry point, the trail continues to the grounds of the Ritz Carlton Kapalua Hotel and crosses over a portion of the golf course, winds past sacred Hawaiian burial grounds, and eventually ends at D.T. Fleming Beach Park. This is the western terminus of the trail and provides rest rooms, picnic tables, and a life-guarded beach. Noted for its snorkeling, this popular park provides an excellent beginning or ending for the exercise route.
Hiking, Jogging, and Walking Along the Kapalua Coast
The terrain is at times smooth pavement, at times rugged lava rock, and sometimes there are stairways to maneuver – both to get onto the trail and to navigate it. While the trail is never crowded, there are several categories of users including joggers, strollers, serious hikers, family groups with small children, and those who just want to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine with awesome views.
At Kapalua, there may be golf carts crossing the path, but they can be easily avoided. The trail users are friendly and greet each other pleasantly in passing. Dogs are not allowed on the portion of the trail which traverses the bird nesting area.
For those who enjoy the outdoors, spectacular Hawaiian scenery, and want to continue exercising while on vacation, the Kapalua Coastal Trail is a great option.