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The Best Hikes on Maui: Black Sand Beach and King’s Trail

Description: Unique black sand beach with stunning views of the sea.

Downside: Can get crowded with the tour buses.

How to Get There: Take Hana Highway (Highway 360) to mile marker 32. Just past the mile marker is the road leading to Wai’anapanapa Park. Free parking is to the right of the main beach. Walk to the shoreline and head left along the water to Black Sand Beach. On the far end of Black Sand Beach is the trailhead for the King’s trail, or, ‘Kipapa O Kihapiilani Trail’. Once on the trail, go right at the fork and you will reach the Kaupakalua Burial Site. Go left and you will continue on the King’s Trail towards its end at Hana Airport. Bring appropriate hiking gear, swimwear, sun protection, food, water, and maybe some band-aids in case you get scraped up!

Black Sand Beach, Maui

Black Sand Beach, Maui

Adventure Details:
When I read about a gem on the east side of Maui, Black Sand Beach, I knew right away that I had to go. Paiola Beach as it’s called is located within Wai’anapanapa State Park. The black sand comes with a rich history, as Paiola Beach was most likely created in only a few days time when lava flowed into the ocean and the pieces collided, eventually breaking down to form the black sand. Black sand beaches have a very short lifespan, and I knew I had to see it before it all would get eroded away.

In addition to the black sand, don’t miss out on one of the best lava hikes in the state here. The hike near Paiola beach is called the King’s Trail, the name deriving from a path that the King once took to survey his land before there were other forms of communication. Although the trail is short now, it was once believed to have stretched around the entire perimeter of the island of Maui.

Close up of the sand at Black Sand Beach, Maui

Close up of the sand at Black Sand Beach, Maui

The first thing I did when I reached the black sand on the beach was run on it barefoot. I thought it would be cool to say I ran in black sand. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the best idea. After all, the sand was once lava, and the sharp pebbles (not grains of sand), killed my feet. Nonetheless, I was delighted that I was here. The pebbles were glistening brightly in the sunlight, and although they were black, the sun allowed for a trace of color to break through them.

I thought for a moment about jumping into the water, but like many of the shores of Maui, the currents can be dangerous. I decided it was best not to tempt my fate and take a dive, unlike some of the men that were jumping in to impress their lady friends. I smiled to myself, happy with my decision to admire the water from a distance.

King's Trail Trail Head

King’s Trail Trail Head

Eventually, I headed towards the King’s Trail. Reaching the entrance, I looked back at the black sand beach one more time and realized that suddenly a tourist bus had arrived. I was relieved that I was able to enjoy the beach without too many people around.

Amazing lava rocks along King's Trail Hike, Maui

Amazing lava rocks along King’s Trail Hike, Maui

At the trailhead, I noticed that the entrance was surrounded by tropical trees, giving it the appearance of the jungle on an Indiana Jones’ movie set. I entered, walking right next to the dramatic, black lava coastline which separated me from the dangerous ocean waves. I must have been completely entranced because all of a sudden my shoelace got caught in a bush and I tripped against the jagged lava formation. I got a cut on my shin. I wasn’t too upset; how many people get to say they cut themselves on lava? After applying a band-aid (yes you should bring them!), I carried on with the hike and felt the mist from the ocean waves falling upon my skin. It felt great since it was quite hot out.

Dramatic ocean edge along King's Trail, Maui

Dramatic ocean edge along King’s Trail, Maui

Finally, I took a break at Pukaulua Point. Here, I was able to take in all the scenery, as well as the smell of the salt water. Everything looked amazing. If I were a painter, this scene would have given me a masterpiece. As I watched the sea, I wondered what it would have been like for the King to scan the horizon in anticipation for his ships to return home.

What other hikes on Maui have you done? Comment below and let us know so we can Go! See! Learn!

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Michelle Rae

Michelle Rae

Michelle Rae is the creator of The Traveling Vixen, which captures her adventures around the world. Her passion is to inspire others to grow by experiencing and learning new things in the world.