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What, exactly, is ‘hiking?’

To many, this may seem a silly thing to ask. But if you’ve never been hiking, you might not know what to expect.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a hike as “a long walk, especially for pleasure or exercise.”  The opportunity to get out in nature, walk around, and enjoy Earth’s incredible beauty, while also getting some exercise, is a very pleasurable experience for most people.  It can also provide you with a serene, mental clarity that’s not always easily attained in our plugged-in, constantly connected world.

Individuals from across all fitness levels can easily participate in hiking activities. Physical benefits gained from hiking include improved cardiovascular health, muscle tone, and balance improvements.  The American Hiking Society advises that this type of exercise protects against heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, anxiety, osteoporosis and arthritis. Another benefit to hiking is it provides a chance to experience natural beauty found outdoors. Observe bugs and critters, breathe some fresh air, and immerse yourself in nature’s glory.  Recent studies have shown that hiking can literally change your brain. Collective Evolution has a great article about these studies found here.

So, is hiking just a walk then? Well, yes and no. You have to walk to hike, but not vice versa. From our perspective, the main differences are terrain, difficulty level, and location. A hike generally takes place in a remote locale, like a forest, on natural dirt or sand trails. A walk can be as simple as an evening stroll through your neighborhood, and the path would more likely be paved with concrete or asphalt. There’s also an implied increase in the level of difficulty when using the term hike vs. walk. There might be some degree of elevation change on a hike, like scaling a hill or mountain, or traversing rocky terrain.

One of our favorite walks on Maui is the Wailea Beach Path, where drop-dead views of the neighbor islands of Molokini, Kaho’olawe, and Lana’i punctuate the sparkling Pacific Ocean. Click here to read what Hawai’i Magazine wrote about this picturesque seaside stroll. On the west side, the Kapalua Coastal Trail meanders amongst that area’s world-class crescent beaches and breathtaking landscapes.  Read more about it from this blog post presented by En Route Traveler.

If taking a hike during your Maui vacation is on your to-do list, Hike Maui offers a very popular tour through a spectacular rainforest to several stunning waterfalls. It definitely qualifies as a hike. There are areas where you’ll scramble over rocks that can be wet and slippery. Some parts of the trail take you through giant bamboo stands, and past oodles of banana trees and lush fern clusters. One of our favorite parts passes alongside a long row of brilliant hibiscus flowers. On rainy days, the freshwater streams on the property often rise so high that our guides put up ropes so our hikers can safely cross. On most days though, the highlight of this tour comes when the guides present the opportunity for the hikers to swim in the freshwater pools below the waterfalls and jump from rock ledges at the tops of the waterfalls into the pools below. It makes for a very exciting experience! Many of our guests report their day spent with Hike Maui was the best day of their vacation!

Whatever level of activity you’re looking for on your vacation, Maui can deliver it in spades. (If you can drag yourself away from that lounge chair and Mai Tai, that is.)