Issue 11.3: June/July 2008

Happy Trails

story by Alison Steingold
photo by Chris McDonough


They seem plucked from a Tuscan hillside: pencil-straight Cook pines lining the countryside of Maui’s Kapalua Resort. But decoration they’re not: Honolua Ranch manager and botanical pioneer D.T. Fleming planted them in 1912 as trail markers in Kapalua’s vast and varied terrain.

Almost a century later, Kapalua and Maui Land & Pineapple continue the project Fleming began with a plan to develop 100 miles of user-friendly hiking trails. The first two trails opened to the public in September: the 3.5-mile Village Walking Trail, which skirts a scalloped coastline of beaches, bays and coves; and the 3-mile Maunalei Arboretum Trail, a series of loops along Honolua Ridge, high above the seven-figure homes and through the volcanic terrain of Pu‘u Ka‘eo.

Wending through Fleming’s 80-year-old arboretum, the Maunalei Arboretum Trail offers the only opportunity for the general public to approach the Pu‘u Kukui Watershed Preserve, an 11,000-acre fantasyland of endemic rainforest high in the West Maui mountains. In between “postcard Hawai‘i” mountain-to-ocean views, signs explain Fleming’s experiments with introduced species—much to the chagrin of purists and, perhaps, the native plants that also live along Honolua Ridge. To even glimpse Pu‘u Kukui—a silent spot of pure air and water where only the gods (and a few select conservationists) may tread—is to discover the expansive beauty of this pristine slice of Maui’s Honokahua ahupua‘a (land division).

On Maui, it’s hard to find all-levels trails for the leisure hiker—those who appreciate an arrow pointing the way from time to time. Village and Maunalei are a worthy beginning, the first trails in an ambitious long-term goal of making Kapalua Resort’s 23,000 acres more accessible to nature-lovers and amateur botanists. In all, 100 miles of such winding trails are in
the works.

Simply head to the resort center and look for the free shuttle whisking sight-seekers to the Maunalei trailhead. Just don’t forget to pick up some mac nuts at the Honolua General Store. Who needs granola when you can go gourmet? HH