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Yes, Training in Maui is as Dreamy as it Sounds

Think Hawaii is all about maxing and relaxing? On Maui, there are plenty of ways to get a workout in before hitting the beach with fruity drinks.

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Maui is Hawaii’s second-largest island, and it sits poised as the best of all worlds. That might be why the birthplace of off-road triathlon has also become a triathlon go-to training spot – in addition to hosting the XTERRA World Championships since 1996, Maui is a triathlete’s traincation paradise. From mountains that stretch from the sea to the sky, to seemingly endless coves fringed in perfect sandy beaches, there’s plenty to do on the valley isle. Although some of the best swimming, running, and riding isn’t all concentrated in one place, if you happen to rent a quintessential Maui convertible, getting to the beach or trailhead is half the fun.


Most people think of Maui in three zones when it comes to lodging—West Maui, South Maui, and the North Shore. It’s impossible to go wrong on the “valley isle,” where beaches and shaved ice stands abound. If swimming is your priority, then look for a place in Kihei or Wailea in the south. You’ll be joined by tropical fish during every stroke. If you’re most stoked on cycling, funky Pa’ia is the best homebase. And you can’t go wrong in West Maui; Lahaina has something for everyone, from beaches to charming neighborhoods, and a lively nightlife and restaurant scene.

No lane lines here—Maui's crystal clear waters make for some idyllic swimming. Photo: Ivan Nanita / Getty Images
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Big Beach, also known as Oneloa or Makena Beach, is a favorite of swimmers and beachcombers alike. South of the condos and resorts of Kihei and Wailea, Big Beach is aptly named. It’s easy to knock off a solid out-and-back one mile swim here, but with one caveat: Currents can be strong. When there’s a south swell—usually in the summer—read the surf report before heading out.

North of Big Beach, nestled between Wailea and Kihei, are three stereotypical Hawaiian beach parks, Kamaole I, II, and III. Each of the “Kam” parks are fringed with palm trees, grassy areas, and boast bathrooms and picnic facilities. They’re great for the entire family. A point-to-point swim from Kam I to Kam III is 1.5 miles, or if you have a favorite, go out-and-back for as long as you please.

The stark views from the winding roads on Haleakala let you see Maunakea and Maunaloa peeking through the clouds. Photo: Getty Images
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While the entire island of Maui is much more bike-friendly than its neighbors, riding in its “upcountry” is especially sublime. The key is to base yourself in the beach village of Pa’ia on Maui’s north shore, and then go high. Once you crest away from the coast, the roads that spider up toward the Haleakala crater become quiet, smooth sinews of tarmac, carpeted with purple petals of jacaranda trees. Make the tiny towns of Haiku, Kula, and Makawao your destinations, and it’s possible to stitch together up to a four-hour ride. For fuel, stop at the farm stands and contribute generously to their honesty jars.

The jewel on top of the crown of upcountry riding is the summit of Haleakala, Maui’s 10,000-foot volcano. The voyage from the sea in Pa’ia to the summit of the mountain spans a disproportionate 37 miles and 10,000 feet of elevation gain. It includes all of the pastoral scenery of upcountry rides around Kula and Makawao and then takes you above the treeline into an otherworldly landscape and climate. Be prepared for cold toes and wintry weather at the top, but hope for sunny skies and views for miles.

There are miles and miles of coastline trails, which are perfect for run workouts. Photo: Getty Images
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It’s easy to get vert on Maui, where the mountains stretch from sea level up to the sky. Just 15 minutes south of Lahaina and the beaches of Ka’anapali, the Lahaina Pali trail climbs from the sand at Ukumehame Beach Park up to 1,600 feet. Run up to the windmills on Kealaloloa Ridge for a five-mile out-and-back, or leave a second car at the trail’s southern terminus at Ma’alaea for a 10-mile trip. The views of nearby islands Lanai and Kaho’olawe will make you want to hop in the water and swim across.

Spectacular views also extend in all directions from the trails of the Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area near Kula. A state park sitting at 6,200 feet, Polipoli is a naturalist’s dream, with its landscape of rough cinders, native scrub brush, grassy swales, and planted forests of pines, eucalyptus, and other tree species. Link up the Plum, Redwood, Haleakala Ridge, and Polipoli Trails for a 3.5-mile loop, or for an even bigger adventure, take the Skyline Trail to the top of the Haleakala crater. The six-mile ascent takes in nearly 3,000 feet of climbing and delivers you to the summit of the volcano, far above the treeline.

Photo: Heather Goodman / Hawaii Tourism Authority
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After a run at Lahaina Pali, quench your thirst with a fresh lilikoi and mango juice or smoothie from the Olowalu Juice Stand. While enjoying your juice, hop in line (because there’s likely to be a line) to get a table at Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop next door. Leoda’s serves up “glorified grandma comfort food,” best experienced through one of their coconutty key lime pies. In Pa’ia, locals and tourists alike all love the Pa’ia Fish Market, where ample portions of fresh fish, rice, and fries are made to order quickly while you people-watch the busy street corner outside. If you like a little spice, ask for the “Obama Fish Burger.” It’s not on the menu, but its namesake will ensure that it’s cooked with that much more aloha.

Photo: Dana Edmunds / Hawaii Tourism Authority
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The Maui to Lāna‘i passenger ferry is the only remaining inter-island ferry in Hawaii. Pack a picnic and hop on board! The hour-long ride from Lahaina to Manele Harbor offers spectacular views of Lāna‘i’s rugged southern coast; in the winter the trip doubles as a whale-watching ride. Once on Lāna‘i, you spend the day lounging at Hulopo’e Beach Park near the harbor, or rent a Jeep and go exploring. Lāna‘i City—a town developed by Hawaii’s pineapple baron James Dole in the early 1920s—is the place to go for a plate lunch and a walk through time.