Truth be told, I didn’t really know anything about the Road to Hana before I booked my flights to Hawaii. But now having done it, all I want to do is tell the world how fantastic it is. The road that spans over approximately 54 miles, has over 600 curves and 59 bridges show cases all of Maui’s beautiful landscapes, from the lush green mountains to the azure coloured ocean, to the rushing waterfalls and even the harsh desolate volcanic hills. It has everything a nature lover could possibly want.
First of all before we delve into the wonder of the Road to Hana I’m going to give y’all a big, fat, monumental piece of advice. Don’t do this drive in one day. Just don’t. Too many people get in the car, race around to all the stops like madmen and turn around in Hana without even getting out of the car. Not only is it a massive day but you miss out on so, so much. My advice, be like the Hawaiians and go a few paces slower. Enjoy the drive, stop at your leisure and heck, make it a two day journey! Also rent a soft top Jeep, because if there is one car built for the Road to Hana, its the Jeep Wrangler.
The road – known as the Hana Highway – is marked out with mile markers that guide you where to stop and what there is to see. I tried my hardest to keep an eye out for mile markers but I have to admit I was too busy staring out the window admiring the scenery. When we saw something we liked, we stopped. Having no expectations of what we were going to find was way better than having a rigid route to follow anyway.
We left Pai’a early, in hopes of beating the hordes of tourists that drive the Hana Highway everyday. Passing the small town of Haiku we waved at the famous surf break Jaws as we passed. Our first stop on our journey was the tiny fruit stand of Huelo selling fresh coconuts, pineapples and a delicious looking selection of breakfast options, making us regret eating breakfast at the hostel.
Getting back in the Jeep, we drove on. The scenery was never short of beautiful. One side of the road was the ocean; sparkling under the morning sun and to our other side was the mountainous ranges, alive with greenery. The road was narrow and at times only a single lane. Sometimes if I waved my arm out the window I would touch the bushes growing on the mountain edges that paralleled us. We pulled in at the bamboo forest, one of the first popular tourist hotspots. There were only a few cars parked on the side of the road so we joined them and went to explore.
It was somewhat spooky to walk through the dark bamboo forest. There were several different tracks through the forest and within steps you could lose where you are. The three of us stuck together and climbed down the muddy track, over a wooden plank until we came to a large opening with many rock pools. It would have been less than 100 metres from the road but the silence was deafening, like our own little quiet haven away from the busy tourist trail.
After playing in the bamboo and by the rock pools we continued on our journey. Our next stop at the Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees wasn’t far at all, only a few minutes drive. Spotting the trees, we pulled over on the side of the road and went to look at this amazing case of Mother Nature’s beauty. The Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees are only found in a few places around the world so it was really special to see them in real life.
We drove on, enjoying the scenery and the still semi-quiet roads. Definitely an advantage to leaving early! Our next stop was the Waikamoi Ridge Track. This short hike takes about 30 minutes and takes you high along the ridge with views out to the ocean. It was a nice break to driving (because we had been driving for SO long – not) but it gave us an excuse to eat bulk food, which we would be doing shortly.
Making a quick stop at Honomanu Bay, which was accessible by a dirt track. I’d advise to only go down this track if you have a 4-wheel drive, it was a pretty hairy looking road – luckily our Jeep handled it easily. The bay itself is one of the few black sand beaches in Maui. It wasn’t the prettiest of the beaches, but the phenomenon of the black sand beach was enough to make us thrilled. We paddled in the cool water before moving on to find some food.
Not much further down the road was a stop that we had been advised to go to. Keanae was a small community off the Hana Highway, which was famous for their homemade banana bread. While you can get banana bread all around Maui, Aunty Sandy’s in Keanae is supposed to be the best, and I tell you after almost demolishing a loaf to myself – it is! I’m a self-proclaimed banana bread expert and this warm and delectable cake was the best I’ve had. I needed to find Aunty Sandy and get her recipe – she is a genius! We sat by the water and ate our banana bread under the hot sun, watching the waves smash into the black volcanic rocks.
We got back into the Jeep and continued on our way until we reached the famous Halfway to Hana stop. Really it is just a small road stand with toilets and some food options but it was one of those stops you just have to do. I wouldn’t recommend making this a huge stop on your journey, there are much better places for food and drink along the way.
We were keen to see some waterfalls, as there hadn’t been too many so far. There hadn’t been rain in a couple of weeks, so most of the roadside waterfalls were dry but we were determined to find ones we could swim in.
Alas, we didn’t have to go too much further! Driving around the windy roads, we came across this huge bridge and waterfall. This is what we were looking for! I’m not too sure which waterfall we were at, I still sucked at finding mile markers, but it was under a huge bridge. We parked the Jeep up the road where there was some space and raced down the rocky path by the bridge until we were at the rock pools and waterfall. Plunging into the icy cold water, we swam quickly to the waterfall and let the fresh water cascade over us. It was such a surreal and wonderful feeling. Within seconds, my body was numb from the cold but it felt amazing to be swimming in freshwater. We floated about for a while, playing under the waterfall and screaming like little girls at how cold it was.
It was such a glorious place and we had it all to ourselves, you couldn’t even hear the cars passing by on the bridge up ahead. It was our own little natural oasis.We stayed for a while before climbing back up the muddy track to the road. I think the important thing about doing the Road to Hana is to not be afraid to explore. The best parts usually take some climbing to get to and you need to be prepared to stop a lot.
Driving on further we came across another massive waterfall that started on one side of the bridge and fell down to the other side. Still wet from the first waterfall we pulled over and climbed over the bridge to the small, steep track down to the falls. Unlike the first one, we were at the top of the waterfall now and the sharp drop down onto the rocks loomed before us. K and I were too intrigued to not check it out so we carefully climbed out to the top of the waterfall. Perching on the edge, it was probably a 25 metre drop to the bottom; a slightly precarious place to be sitting but the view was perf!
Slightly scary but such an awesome view!
Crawling back to the safety of the rocks we clambered back up the steep track and into the Jeep. The banana bread we had earlier was now feeling like a distant memory so we drove on in search of lunch. Like everything on the road to Hana, we didn’t have to go very far. Pulling up at a random roadside stand we ordered hotdogs, chilli rice and pulled pork burgers to fix our hunger pains. It was exactly what the doctor ordered. We ate beside another waterfall that seemed to be a popular tourist stop because there were several buses parked up and people milling about everywhere. A group of Hawaiian boys sauntered in as if they owned the joint and broke up the crowd hovering around a bridge that stood over a lagoon of water. Several moments later one of the boys stood up on the railing of the bridge and made the massive leap into the water below. There was a hush over the crowd of people and as the boys took turns jumping off the bridge, the tourists videoed everything on their phones.
We watched in wonder as the boys leapt for their lives. There were a lot of rocks that stood between the bridge and the water and if the boys miscalculated their jump it could have ended nastily. After all the boys had jumped in, the crowd dispersed and it looked like the show was over. We jumped back in the Jeep in haste to beat the buses and drove back into the beautiful scenery. It had been all of 15 minutes before we were stopping again for food. This was definitely turning into the food tour of Maui!
Coconut Glen’s was a kaleidoscope of colours and had a fantastical whim about it. We pulled in after seeing the rainbow coloured sign advertising their natural ice cream. Assuring ourselves we needed a sugar hit to do the last leg of the trip, we ordered the delicious coconut ice cream and learnt the story of Coconut Glen’s.
Originally from Boston, Glen moved to Maui and opened his vegan ice cream stand in 2008. Since then, Conde Naste has voted him the second best ice cream in the world, which is no mean feat! Giving off a Willy Wonka type vibe, Coconut Glen wants to promote natural and healthy ice cream. Cleverly marketed as ‘ice cream that grows on trees’ its easy to see why its so popular with children and adults alike.
We left Coconut Glen’s full of healthy, coconutty goodness which fired us up for our last stop before Hana. The Wai’anapanapa State Park was one of the major highlights of the Road to Hana, with several different things to see. We drove down the road to the parking area which wasn’t so busy much to our delight. It was getting late in the afternoon now and most Road to Hana go-ers would be on their way back now so we were chuffed with ourselves for choosing to stay the night.
We first wandered over to the blowhole which wasn’t blowing because of low tide. The dark volcanic rocks contrasted brilliantly against the sapphire coloured water. Despite the loud thrashing of the waves against the rocks, I had an urge to jump in for a swim. Opting to wait until we reached the black sand beach, we had a quick wander through the sea caves where we learnt about the legend of the Wai’anapanapa Caves.It was too dark in the caves and we weren’t feeling brave enough to plunge into the back waters to find the princesses secret hiding spot so we walked back to the beach for a swim.
Pebble beaches are definitely better than sand beaches. While not necessary as pretty, the pebbles don’t stick around in absolutely every for days after like the way sand does. We dropped our stuff by the water and raced in. The water was cool, refreshing and ridiculously clear. We floated in the water, talking about the day and finally taking a proper break to relax.
It was about 4:30pm by the time we went back to the Jeep. Most of the other tourists had long left the Road to Hana and as we drove into the tiny, quiet town there were hardly any tourists.
Finding our accommodation for the night easily, we parked into Joe’s Rentals and were shown to our room. The old beach house was ours for the night, with only one other person staying there. It was old and decrepit but the space and privacy was exactly what we wanted.
Going out in search of dinner, we drove through the tiny town of Hana and found some roadside food trucks. K got a burrito from the Mexican truck and L and I opted for Thai. Sitting down devouring our food we talked about the trip so far. It was coming to an end so quickly and there was still so much to do and see.
We were in bed early, the long day of exploring finally taking a toll of us. Tomorrow we’re doing the backside of Hana back to Wailuku, a trip that many people skip. I was excited to see what it brings!