Puʻu Kukui

Puʻu Kukui

Puʻu Kukui

Puʻu Kukui is one of the most noteworthy landmarks located on the Hawaiian island of Maui. As the highest peak of Mauna Kahalawai, Puʻu Kukui stands majestically at a height of 5,788 feet. The name Puʻu Kukui translates to ‘candlenut hill’ in English, an indication of its rich ecological and cultural significance.

The Mauna Kahalawai range, particularly the area encompassing Puʻu Kukui, is considered one of the wettest places on Earth. This high amount of rainfall contributes to the lush biodiversity that thrives in this region. The Puʻu Kukui Watershed Preserve, which is situated on the leeward side of the mountain, is a sanctuary for many native Hawaiian species, some of which are rare and endangered.

Puʻu Kukui’s importance extends beyond its ecological significance. For ancient Hawaiians, it was a place of spiritual significance. They believed that high peaks such as Puʻu Kukui were the dwelling places of their gods and thus held sacred. Today, it remains a place of reverence and respect for locals and visitors alike.

Its geographical positioning also plays a crucial role in Maui’s water system. Many streams and rivers in Maui are fed by the rainwater caught by Puʻu Kukui’s summit and slopes. Consequently, it plays an integral part in supplying water to the residents and agricultural areas of Maui.

Puʻu Kukui is more than just a geographical feature on Maui, Hawaii. Its ecological diversity, cultural significance, and contribution to Maui’s water supply make it an invaluable asset to the island and its inhabitants.

Fast Facts

Country: United States

State/Province: Hawaii

County/Region: Maui

Mountain Range: Mauna Kahalawai, Hawaiian–Emperor seamount chain, Hawaiian Islands

Parents: Hawaiian Islands

Elevation: 5,788 feet / 1,764 meters

Prominence: 5,668 feet / 1,728 meters

Isolation: 21.63 miles / 34.8 kilometers

Nearest Higher Neighbor (NHN): Puu Nianiau

Fun Fact: Puʻu Kukui is the third wettest spot on earth, after the wettest spot which is on Maui, Big Bog, and the second wettest spot, Mount Waiʻaleʻale.

Flora and Fauna

Puʻu Kukui, located in Maui, Hawaii, is a significant biological hotspot that houses an array of unique flora and fauna. This area is renowned for its rich biodiversity, and serves as a natural habitat for many endemic plants and animals, which are exclusive to this region. The richness of Puʻu Kukui’s flora and fauna is a testament to its unique ecological significance and importance in preserving the natural heritage of Maui, Hawaii.

The flora of Puʻu Kukui is characterized by a high degree of endemism. It is home to several plant species that are not found anywhere else in the world. The high rainfall and the diverse range of altitudes in Puʻu Kukui enable these unique plant species to thrive. The forest is dominated by ‘ōhi’a lehua trees and hapu’u tree ferns, both native to Hawaii. Other notable plant species include the Maui hibiscus and the Haha Campanula, which are found exclusively in this region.

The fauna at Puʻu Kukui also boasts a high level of endemism. The forest provides habitat for numerous endemic bird species, such as the Hawaiʻi creeper and the ‘I’iwi bird. These birds play a vital role in the ecosystem by facilitating seed dispersal, thus contributing to the forest’s regeneration. Moreover, Puʻu Kukui is home to several endemic insects and mollusks, highlighting the broad range of biodiversity present in this area.

Puʻu Kukui’s flora and fauna represent a unique ecological system that contributes significantly to the biodiversity of Maui, Hawaii. The conservation of this area is paramount for the preservation of this unique biodiversity. The efforts taken to protect and conserve Puʻu Kukui not only benefits the local ecosystem but also contributes towards global biodiversity conservation efforts. Each species in Puʻu Kukui plays a critical role in maintaining the balance of this complex ecosystem—underscoring the interconnectedness of all life forms within this unique habitat.


Puʻu Kukui, located in the Mauna Kahalawai (West Maui Mountain) range, is a revered destination for trail enthusiasts visiting Maui, Hawaii. The trails near Puʻu Kukui offer some of the most breathtaking vistas and immersive nature experiences that this tropical paradise has to offer. Many of these trails are known not only for their natural beauty but also for their cultural significance, as they traverse areas that were once important to ancient Hawaiian civilizations.

One of the most notable trails is the Pu’u Kukui Trail itself. This challenging and rewarding hike takes you through the heart of the Pu’u Kukui Watershed Preserve, one of the wettest regions on earth. With its diverse flora and fauna, including many rare and endangered species found nowhere else in the world, this trail offers more than just stunning views—it provides a unique and meaningful connection to Maui’s rich biodiversity.

Another worthy trail is the Waihee Ridge Trail. It’s a moderately difficult trail that rewards hikers with panoramic views of central Maui, Haleakala, Molokai, and Lanai. The trail winds its way up through lush forest and offers scenic views of Makamakaole Falls and Waihee Valley, which are sure to leave you spellbound.

Lastly, the Kapalua Coastal Trail is perfect for those seeking a less strenuous hike. This trail hugs the coastline, offering sweeping views of Maui’s pristine beaches and striking cliffs. It’s perfect for bird watching or whale spotting during migration season.

In all, the trails near Puʻu Kukui in Maui, Hawaii offer an engaging blend of natural beauty, cultural history, and environmental education. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just someone looking to take in the sights at a leisurely pace, these trails promise an unforgettable outdoor experience.

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