Over a century ago, it was an ancient path reserved for royalty. Today it’s a rugged trail that’s unadvisable for the faint of heart or those with weak ankles. But don’t let that deter you from embarking on a trek across Maui’s most recent lava flow. It serves up fabulous views of kiawe groves and Ahihi-Kina'u Natural Reserve and earns you access to sights that no sandy resort beach-sitter will ever hope to see.
Park at the La Pérouse parking lot and take the trail that parallels shore for just over a half-mile, then turn up to meander inland. Notice the lava rock structure at this junction; it marks one of the most popular surf spots on the island for locals, referred to as "Laps," short for La Pérouse. After a short 10 minutes of climbing you’ll approach a sign that asks visitors to be respectful of ancient sites of historic significance. Here, keep an eye out for pygmy deer and black feral goats that have a tendency to frequent the area.
Be advised that during this section of the hike, clunky lava rock and sun and wind exposure can make it a bit of a slog. Be sure to bring plenty of food and water, and note that this trail is not ideal for young children. Part of the allure of the trail is imagining ancient Hawaiians trekking over this sharp, unpredictable lava rock barefoot. Even more mind-blowing is imagining them sprinting along the uneven terrain during battle when there was no trail of which to speak.
After continuing along for several miles, you’ll reach a short spur trail that leads down to Cape Hanamanioa, the site of an old lighthouse. Though there isn’t much to see of the ruins, you’ll likely find yourself a fair bit of solitude and snorkeling for those willing to comb the shore for a sandy beach. If you can drum up a fishing rod, the coastal fishing here is excellent, and between the two activities a leisurely afternoon can be spent simply enjoying a bit of a reprieve from the hordes of people crowding the beaches back in Wailea and Kihei.