If you’re planning a trip to Maui, you’ve likely heard of the Road to Hana. The Hana Highway is an approximately 50-mile long road that winds and stretches along the coast from Kahului to Hana in eastern Maui. While Google Maps suggests that the drive can be completed in two hours, plan on spending all day on this stretch of land, as you will be immersed by the tremendous beauty that surrounds you. While you will want to get out and take pictures, you don’t have to leave the comfort of your vehicle to get a top notch window show as you weave in and out of the meandering two lane “highway” (and sometimes barely two lanes, at that). While some websites may recommend that you take a tour with a group, we found that having our own vehicle allowed us to enjoy the trail at our own pace. We were able to stop when we wanted to, take photographs when we wanted to, and take side roads when we wanted to.
Our B&B was located in Haiku, which is a few miles into the Road. So we decided to start at the official “beginning” of the trail (going from Kahului to Hana). Here are some things to see:
- Paia – This small town provides an opportunity to grab some food before you set off on your journey. We highly recommend the Paia Fish Market, where you can get a massive (and delicious) fish burger for ten bucks. You really get your money’s worth, and the fish is outstanding. If the Obama Burger is available (it was a special when we were there), give it a shot…grilled ahi tuna with wasabi. Delicious.
- Ho’okipa Beach – This beautiful beach is enjoyable from the overhead viewpoint or on sea level. If you’re short on time, just check out the view. If the waves are good, make a note to bring a surfboard back and join the crowd. It’s also a renowned windsurfing location. If you head back to Ho’okipa around sunset, you can also see the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles come ashore.
- Twin Falls – Right after mile marker 2 is the Ho’olawa Valley, home of several waterfalls just a short hike away. The first waterfall is just a short walk into the trail. Continue on to the second, larger waterfall, about 3/4 of a mile walk into the woods. It is very important to go early in the morning if you want to see the waterfalls here. Parking is limited, and crowds make the park noisy and unappealing.
- Painted Forest – At about mile marker 7, there is a small collection of painted eucalyptus trees just off the road. They are easy to miss, as there is no signage – it’s just a cluster of trees. The color of the trees is beautiful and unique, and should not be missed.
- Kaumahina State Park – At mile marker 12, you will reach your first big state park. It’s a great place to get out and enjoy the view. If you feel like it, take a walk up the park’s trail to enjoy a variety of Hawaiian foliage. If you don’t feel like staying too long, just take in the view and stretch your legs for a bit.
- Honomanu Bay – On the Road to Hana, most of your views of the water are from above. Between mile markers 13 and 14, you can pull off to go down to Honomanu Bay. While a 4×4 can make it down the muddy dirt road, we recommend you don’t bring your Prius down there, unless you want to have to get it towed or helicoptered back out. Park your car at one of the pull-offs right on the Hana Highway, and take a five-minute walk down to the picturesque and peaceful bay.
- Ke’anae Peninsula – Just past mile marker 16, you will notice a road on your left. Take that road to go down to the village of Ke’anae. The village consists of some houses, a church, and a food stand. In fact, the church is the only remaining building from before 1946, when a tsunami devastated the community and killed 24 villagers. (Additionally, the traditional name of the Ke’anae Congregation Church uses God’s name – Lanakila Ihiihi O Iehova Ona Kaua.) For many years, the region has subsisted on the growing and cultivating of taro. Ke’anae is so small that it doesn’t even have a TripAdvisor entry, so it won’t take you too long to see the sights. But while you’re there, take a minute to appreciate this remote, unspoiled corner of Hawaiian beauty. While the shoreline is rocky and not ideal for swimming, you can enjoy the power of the sea from the rocks.
- Nahiku Marketplace – At Mile Marker 29, you can grab some refreshments and souvenirs. Most likely, you’ve already been on the road for a few hours, so it is a good idea to charge back up here before your next stop. You will find that there are few places along the Hana Highway to stop for food, so take advantage when you can. I recommend the pork tacos and a smoothie. We also did a little BYOB with a cooler of samplings from Hawaii’s own Kona Brewing Company.
- Wai’anapanapa State Park – Even if you can’t pronounce it, do not drive the Road to Hana without stopping at the breathtaking Wai’anapanapa. The area boasts a large amount of volcanic rock, which creates wild and rugged coastlines, including a black sand beach that is great for swimming. Further up the trail are acres and acres of volcanic rock with trees and plants growing in and around the rocks. The juxtaposition of the black rock and the green plants is truly remarkable. It’s pretty amazing to see lush green trees emerging from these pitch black rocks. If you keep walking, you can find swimming holes, freshwater caves, and a blowhole that shoots water in the air under the right tidal conditions. While many stop at Wai’anapanapa simply to take a photo of the black rocks and leave, we recommend lingering a while and walking around the grounds.
- Hana – Hana is located at mile marker 34, and is a quaint little town. Soak up the coastal views and step out onto the beach. (We loved Hamoa Beach, just past the town of Hana.) This is where many people’s journeys end – after all, this is the road to Hana!
However, we highly recommend letting this not be the end of your journey – after all, there is a back road to Hana as well. We’ll talk about that another time.