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How to Drive the West Maui Loop Drive: An Incredible Hawaiian Day Trip

Circumnavigating the northwest part of Maui, the west Maui Loop drive (known as the Kaheliki Highway or the West Maui circle drive) is one of the best day trips on the Island. Spend the day hiking, snorkeling, swimming, surfing, and more all along an incredible scenic drive along the northwest coast. While this loop is not as popular at the Road to Hana, the driving is easier and there are far fewer people making this an incredibly enjoyable drive. The rugged lava coastline is truly stunning!

In this article, you can find complete directions on where to stop on the west Maui loop drive as well as general information about this day trip. In addition to the amazing scenery, parts of this road are also very narrow, windy with drop offs. If you aren’t an adventurous driver, you may want to consider doing this drive as an out and back up the west coast (avoiding the more remote north shore). If you are feeling adventurous, this is a fun and beautiful drive.

*** Due to the recent fires on Maui, we strongly recommend that you reschedule travel to the area to give the island time to recover. The northerwest coast was the most impacted.
West Maui Loop Drive
West Maui Loop Drive

Quick Look at the West Maui Loop Drive

The drive can be done in either direction, but the best beaches and things to see are on the west coast. This is just a quick snapshot of what to expect on this drive – scroll down for complete details. We recommend driving this is a clockwise direction. Start your drive on route 30 and drive up the coast to Lahaina. This stretch of the drive has many beautiful beaches.

Lahaina is a fun town with shops, tours, and surfing. Continue north from here to visit Kapalua and stop at one of the beaches, walk the Kapalua Coastal Trail and take the short hike to the Dragon’s Teeth.

Drive north from Kapalua for some incredible views. Stop at the Nakalele Blowhole then drive the short distance and hike the Ohai Trail. Make sure to stop at one of the stands to grab some fruit of goodies (such as the banana bread).

Finish the day by driving along the narrow, but beautiful and winding road as it makes its way around the northside of the point and back town towards Kahului.

Map of the West Maui Loop Drive

Details of the West Maui Loop Drive (Clockwise)

Below you can find a step by step itinerary of the best stops on the Kaheliki Highway (or the West Maui Scenic Drive). This includes a list of some of the best things to do in west Maui. It’s important to note that this is a very full day and you will likely not be able to do everything on this itinerary – you will see some of the stops listed as optional and you can pick and choose what interests you the most. You can also do this drive as an out an back and you will suggestions on where to turn around.

Start your drive by heading north on route 30. This first stretch of road follows directly along the coast and you will see stretches of a beautiful but narrow beach. There are opportunities along this stretch to stop, surf, or snorkel and you will see some car pulled over although there were very few people on these beaches. You will pass Ukumehame Beach Park, Olowalu Beach, and Launiupoko Beach Park.

After about 20 minutes you will arrive in the small town of Lahaina. This is a busy town with many boats leaving for tours. You can find lots of information on different tour options. Lahaina also has a good surf break and you can rent boards in many places in town, or simply walk around and visit some of the shops. Don’t miss the large Banyan Tree right in the heart of Lahaina. There are plenty of places to grab a snack or a coffee in town.

West Maui Loop Drive: Visiting the Banyan Tree in Lahaina
West Maui Loop Drive: Visiting the Banyan Tree in Lahaina

Leave Lahaina and continue to head north on route 30. The next beach you will come to is Kaanapali Beach. This is a long beach directly alongside a series of resorts. You can surf and snorkel at this beach. We stopped here briefly and the kids saw a turtle while snorkeling.

Swimming at Kaanapali Beach: West Maui Loop Drive

From here drive a short distance north to Kapalua Bay Beach. Kapalua is a gorgeous high end resort area with beautiful beaches and a few good walks. Spend some time at Kapalua Bay Beach and walk the Kapalua Coastal Walk. This path takes you about 1.5 miles (each way) along the coastline with beautiful views of the lush and rich coastline.

Kapalua Bay Beach is a lovely beach that has a nice area to snorkel.

See more about hiking the Kapalua Coastal Trail.

Kapalua Coastal Trail

While you are in Kapalua, you should also explore the Dragon’s Teeth. This impressive rock formation looks like the jaw bone of of a Dragon. The short walk takes you to Makaluapuna Point where you can see the Dragon’s Teeth as well as the Labyrinth. The trail borders private property, so make sure to stay on the path and respect all signs.

Driving the West Maui Loop Drive
Driving the West Maui Loop Drive
Driving the West Maui Loop Drive
Driving the West Maui Loop Drive

Leave Kapalua and drive north. You will pass several lovely beaches and a few scenic overlooks. Consider optional stops at Slaughterhouse Beach, Pipoa Point and Punalau Beach. This part of the drive starts to feel more remote although the roads are still easy to drive.

Make your next stop at Nakalele Blowhole. This is a short hike to the impressive blowhole right on the coast. The waves along the coast shoot into an underwater cavern and up through a hole in the rocks making it appear as if there is a whale’s blowhole. Use caution here as the walk is steep and the footing difficult and people have been swept out to sea here. If you don’t want to walk all the way down to the blowhole, you can also see the blowhole from a viewpoint not far from the parking lot.

West Maui Loop Drive: Nakalele Blowhole

Continue just a few minutes further along route 30 to the Ohai Trail. This 1.2 mile hike and offer tremendous views of the rolling hills and dramatic coastline. This is a short hike and worth exploring if you still have time in the day.

See more about hiking the Ohai Trail.

West Maui Loop Drive: Ohai Trail

At this point of the drive you can make the decision to continue around the top of the loop or turn around and retrace your steps. The next part of the drive is the most difficult with narrow and windy roads. It is still slightly longer to turn around, but would be easier if you don’t love driving dangerous roads.

If you do decide to continue on, take your time. In many places the road is a single lane road with passing areas. Be ready to slow down or back up as needed. There is also a steep drop off on the side of the road. As you drive further south, the road does get better and you get a unique perspective on this part of Maui. Despite the road, we enjoyed this part of the drive – make sure to stop at Waihee point lookout for the views or check out the Olivine Pools.

West Maui Loop Drive

Things to Know about Driving the West Maui Loop Drive

Below are a few things to know to help you plan you drive along the coast.

Length: The drive is approximately 65 miles long and can be done in 2 hour or you can easily spend the entire day exploring the West Maui Drive.

Road conditions: The road is narrow, winding, and often steep, with hairpin turns and blind corners. It is not recommended for nervous drivers or those prone to motion sickness.

Scenic views: The drive offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, lush green valleys, waterfalls, and rugged volcanic cliffs.

Best time to go: The best time to drive the West Maui Loop is in the morning when the weather is usually clear and the road is less crowded. If you plan to do the entire drive you should start by at least 9 in the morning.

Weather: Be prepared for changing weather conditions, as the drive takes you through different microclimates. The drive starts on the dry leeward side of the island and makes it’s way around to the windier and wetter windward side of Maui.

Safety: Drive carefully and follow the posted speed limits. Use pullouts to let faster traffic pass and be cautious of oncoming traffic, especially around blind curves.

Wildlife: Keep an eye out for wildlife, such as goats and chickens, which can often be found along the roadside. Be cautious when driving through areas with wildlife and do not approach or feed them.

Is the West Maui Loop Drive Dangerous? Assuming you use caution the drive is not dangerous however there are several areas where to road is dangerous and the waves along this part of the coast have been known to wash people into the ocean.

West Maui Drive: Kapalua

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Drive the West Maui Loop Drive

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