Maui is one of the most beautiful islands in the world, with lush tropical fauna and vegetation, beautiful pristine beaches, perfect surfing conditions and an amazing coastline. But don’t take my word for it, it’s been voted the Best Island in the World for 20 consecutive years! There is a list of reasons why, but the one that comes at the top of the list has to be the Road to Hana.
The Road to Hana is a 55 mile winding coastal highway that starts in Kahului and ends in the tiny town of Hana. The road is the part of the attraction, consisting of 617 hairpin curves, 56 one lane bridges, spectacular cliffs, waterfalls, streams, bamboo jungles and rain forest vegetation. It’s one of the most breathtaking roads you’ll ever drive. Plan a day whole day for this trip, pack a lunch, fill up in Paia, tune into the local traditional Hawaiian music radio station and make your way to Hana stopping at these scenic stops along the way.
At mile marker 2, stop at the food stand for some fresh banana bread or sugar cane juice and then venture down the path that leads to the Twin Falls. You’ll need to prepare for this trip with adequate hiking shoes (preferably water shoes), water and a bathing suit – if you want to immerse yourself in the rainforest experience. About 2 miles in, you’ll come to a pool and twin waterfalls. Refresh yourself after your hike and go for a swim in the pool and cool off.
Waikamoi Nature Trail
Between mile marker 9 and 10, is an opportunity to stretch your legs some more. This short trail will take you through eucalyptus trees and lead you up to a spectacular vantage point. You can smell Awaphui or Hawaiian ginger along the trail.
Look for mile marker 19 on the mountain side to get an amazing view of the Wailua Canyon. You’ll wonder if this isn’t the backdrop to the “Jurrasic Park” movie! Climb up the steps and you’ll get a view of Wailua Village, where a church built in 1860 made of white coral can be seen.
Tip: By now you’ll notice that there are plenty more scenic ocean and valley views you’ll spontaneously pull over for on the side of the road to see. Watch for the hairpin turns and make sure you don’t stop in anyone’s blind spots. This road is full of tourists, however locals tend to drive much faster down it.
At mile marker 21, another waterfall to put on your list. This one is one of the best on the drive and in East Maui. Perfect for photos but not good access for swimming
Okay, not a scenic stop, but if you want to try some dairy-free local Hawaiian flavoured ice creams, stop at this “hippy” like stand off the road. Served in a coconut shell, flavours include Original Coconut, Chili Chocolate (this one has a kick to it), Honey Macadamia and Lilikoi (a Hawaiian fruit). This is the perfect treat after a long hike on a sunny day!
Hana Lava Tube
Explore Maui’s largest underground lava tube by turning left on Ulaino Road just after mile marker 31. The tours are self-guided and will run you $11.95 per adult.
Waianapanapa State Park
Mile marker 32 is home to Maui’s only volcanic black sand beach and freshwater caves to explore. This is a great place to rest or have your packed lunch, as there are many picnic tables, restrooms and showers available in this park. If you take the path to the right, you’ll find your way to the black sand beach or an ancient trail along the ocean that leads you to blowholes and sea arches.
To the left you’ll find a path to the caves where you can take a very refreshing dip and explore. Be careful jumping as certain parts can be shallow, however once in, the adventurous swimmers can swim through to several other caverns in this maze (at your own risk of course).
So you made it to Hana! In this case, the journey is the destination. Hana is a tiny town where life is relaxed and easy. There is little more than a grocery store, gas station and a post office here. But don’t stop yet, there are few more sites to go.
Perhaps one of the best scenic attractions on this road trip is this park at mile marker 42. Here you can see a mountain stream that cascades down from one pool to another into the ocean. You can swim in the bottom pool, however stay away from the ocean, as it is rough and dangerous, and if that doesn’t deter you, then consider it’s well-known for grey shark spottings.
Another attraction is the 2 mile hike to Waimoku Falls, that takes you over a spectacular gorge and through a bamboo forest.
Parking is $10 here and you can consider camping here in the grassy area overlooking the ocean.
The way back
There are several more stops not mentioned on the road to Hana that you can find here. Most people end their journey at Oheo Gulch and turn back the way they came. However, if you dare, you can continue around the rest of the island through Kaupo on a road that partly unpaved and many call ” risky”. For the adventurous types, this drive is worth seeing the desert-like topography that you don’t see anywhere else in Maui. Just be sure to do the drive before sunset, as there are many potholes, narrow roads as well as cattle crossing the road! All in all, if you’re an experienced driver this drive is not as bad as locals or travel books lead you to believe. However be warned that rental agencies will not cover you should anything happen here, nor will anyone come get you or tow your car.