In my opinion the Road to Hana in Maui is one of the top Hawaiian experiences you can have. The first time I traveled this road it was barely one lane on the side of a mountain with dozens of hairpin curves and dramatic elevation changes. The most recent time the road had changed. Now it is mostly two-lanes…all the other stuff is still the same. There are a couple of hairy places that get made worse if you meet something like a school bus (it happened), and there is a portion of the road that is still dirt and gravel but for the most part it is paved. The back half of the road does give you a better feel of how the old road was but the portion from Paia to Hana is still the most beautiful.
The one thing you should take from this is that if you go to Maui and don’t take a day (at least) to drive Hana Road you should not have come to Maui! The number one thing you need to do when planning for this trip is to plan in a clockwise direction. This will keep you with the flow of traffic along the way and you will be starting on the side that has the most to see. This side of the island is sunny in the morning and shady in the afternoon…the waterfalls are best around lunch time. I recommend packing lunch, starting early and taking your time on this trip. If you buy the book that I linked to in the Maui post then you will have plenty of places to stop and see. There are also some great hikes. Don’t be scared away by the “Don’t Go Beyond this Point” signs…use common sense and if you are not comfortable then stop…if you are comfortable with some challenging hikes then you can see some magnificent rain forest.
One thing that we did differently this time was stay a night in Hana. Hana is a small town with just a few places to stay so if you are planning to do this make your reservations early. We stayed in the Bamboo Inn and it is highly recommended. It is a short walk to a great little beach, they serve you a little bit for breakfast and the room was nice. The owner lives next door to the 3 room inn and was a nice guy. Be warned that the shower (at least for our room) was outside so you have to be willing to sacrifice a little modesty…but it had a stall that kept you from being right out in the open. There is not a lot to do in Hana other than take in the charm of this small town. We got lucky and happened to stay the night of the Hana Film Festival…the films were not great but it provided some good entertainment and we felt as if we belonged there even though we had just arrived. Don’t plan on finding a nice place to eat dinner in Hana either. Everything closes early so that ice-chest could come in handy (remember the one I suggested buying in the Maui review).
Some stops definitely worth making along the way are Puohokamoa Falls (short trail just past mile marker 11), Ching’s Pond is a good place for a little swim, Hanawi Falls provide a great photo-op, and Wai’anapanapa Black Sand Beach. The black sand beach offers more than just a beach as there are some fresh water caves that you can take a swim in…well at least one of them is suited for swimming. Once you make it to Hana you should check out the Hana pier which is home to another nice swimming beach. There is also a food stand here that offers some great food. If you are staying in Hana I recommend eating when you arrive and eating a lot as it will probably be your dinner! They will close early so make sure and take advantage of it.
Once you are done in Hana keep on heading down the road as some of the best sights are ahead of you. Hamoa Beach is a great place for bodysurfing and is a great beach (too bad we missed the turn!)…we hear it is a great beach! Just after Hamoa Beach is one of the most spectacular areas…the Venus Pool. This freshwater pool that take a bit of a hike to get to but it is well worth it. This was the nicest swim on the island as far as I am concerned. It is worth jumping in and swimming around but don’t expect a warm tide pool…this thing was cold. This pool is just separated from the ocean by a rock area and offers a great view. Wonderful place to swim and be away from the worries in life. There were only 2 other people there while we were, others must have been scared off by the “No Trespassing Sign”, which has no baring as the pool is not owned by anyone.
The last thing that I am going to talk about on this journey is ‘Ohe’o Gulch or the 7 Sacred Pools. You will easily find this pull out as there is a visitor center (under construction at the time but is going to be very nice), parking and a lot of people. This is actually part of the Haleakala National Park so if you have already done the sunrise you have paid for this already so save your receipt! The pools are fed by a stream and offer you a variety of swimming, diving, and lounging options. Once you are done lounging and have worked up an appetite for a hike lucky you, there is a great one right here at the same park.The Pipiwai Trail will head up the mountain. This trail will offer more amazing views per mile than any other hike in Maui. The hike is about 2 miles each way and climbs about 650 feet. It is not that steep…a fairly easy hike really. You will see some spectacular waterfalls and if you are brave enough to cross a couple more of those “Don’t go Beyond this Point” signs you can experience them in a special way, and I don’t mean by falling! The best one is called Makahiku Falls. These falls drop 200 feet but if you are willing to deviate from the path you can actually make it to the top of them. Once to make it to the top of the falls you will see an amazing Infinity Pool. There is actually a row of thick rocks that will keep you from going right off the edge during normal flows…just stay away from the left side of the pool as that is where the water cascades over the edge creating the falls. I was not brave enough to jump in this pool and as my wife discovered the water was ice cold! Don’t worry she only stuck her foot in. I did climb around the pool to get a view looking down the falls and it was heart-stopping.
As you continue along the trail you will begin to think beautiful waterfalls are getting old…I know, hard to believe but it is true. There are still 2 things on the trail that will peek your interest. At one point you will cross a bridge (with waterfalls on either side of course) that leads into a dense growth of bamboo. Take a minute to listen as the wind blows the 30 foot tall bamboo into each other…very peaceful. The bamboo is so think that it has taken over much of the forest and even blocks out the light at times. Kind of creepy. At the end of the trail through the bamboo forest is Waimoku Falls. This 400 foot spring fed falls give you an opportunity to stand under them and get that very important, “Look, I am Under a Water Fall!” picture. The entire scene is peaceful and beautiful. Well worth the hike.
After you are done at the park the rest of the drive is a bit of a let down. You can take 2 routes from here…you can turn around and head back toward Paia or you can keep on going and make your way completely around Haleakala. The most interesting part of continuing around the volcano is to watch as the vegetation and landscape changes. You will see massive lava flow channels and watch the lush rain forest give way to more barren areas. The road gets worse and the potholes will almost drive you crazy! I think if I were doing it again I would turn around and drive through the rain forest…but I have seen it already. If you haven’t seen it then I think it will be worth it for you.
So that is Hana…STAY a night there if you can…it is worth paying for!