Testing Our Driving Skills on the Road to Hana, Maui
Updated: Dec 18, 2019
Road to Hana
Day 2, November 21st 2019
While this trip may be meant as a way for me to rest and relax, anybody who knows me knows it’s nearly impossible (actually completely impossible) for me to ever JUST sit back and chill.
I’m a 3 and 8 Enneagram, meaning I have high energy, am always striving for the best and am most happy when I’m productive.
So, on day two of our trip, I made sure Kaitlyn and I were active and we climbed into our Jeep to head down the Road to Hana.
Road to Hana is one of the main attractions in Maui. It’s a 64.4-mile-long stretch of highway that takes travelers from one end of the island, to the other. For us, we’d be taking it from Paia to well, of course, Hana (hence the name).
We decided it’d be best to head out at the crack of dawn in order to avoid being stuck in ridiculous traffic behind unprepared tourists and to also get the chance to soak in all the sights and stops along the highway without zillions of Midwestern moms and their family’s blocking our view.
Along Road to Hana, there are 17 stops total that travelers can marvel at. From waterfalls to lava caves, the island spanning road offers tons of nature, beauty and awe.
We grabbed some coffee at the only shop that was open before 7 am, Baked On Maui, along with a really strange breakfast sandwich featuring an unknown sauce, and then began the trek. Luckily for me, Kaitlyn drove the entire time, because strangely enough, steep hills.... specifically driving along them, is my greatest fear. Very random, I know - I think it stems from growing up in the flattest part of Michigan possible. So my anxiety was a bit more at ease with her driving along the insanely curvy and very steep road.
Being the pros that we are, we skipped right past the first major stop on the Road to Hana, called Twin Falls. Apparently, that specific waterfall was not worth chasing, according to locals and other bloggers.
Continuing on our way, we first pulled over to go to the Keanae Arboretum. This was the second botanical garden along the way, but unlike the first, called the Garden of Eden, this one was free. The arboretum featured a short walk through a row of massive, multi colored eucalyptus trees, immense foliage and intriguing plants and flowers.
We then drove past numerous outlooks and waterfalls and before we knew it, were at the halfway to Hana marker sign. Along with the sign showing us our progress, there was also a cute little food stand that sold refreshments, snacks and naturally, banana bread (a staple on the islands).
We loaded up on the carbs then proceeded to make our way to Pua'a Ka'a State Wayside - a more developed stop that showed off two waterfalls and offered a restroom. Here, I made friends with a duck, then got bored and hopped back in the Jeep.
Although it wasn’t marked as one of the stops, we pulled over on the side of the highway to check out a row of shops and food trucks. From a cafe to an open stove barbeque, the stop was cute, quaint and a great spot to grab lunch.... had it not started down pouring like crazy the moment we stepped outside.
Drying off, we paused next at the Hana Lava Tube, which is down a secluded road off the freeway. Created by underground lava rivers, the rocky tube cost $12 to enter and took us deep underground through a cave that seemed as though it was straight out of Indiana Jones. It was also pitch black, so the nice kid working the ticket booth passed out flashlights to everyone brave enough to explore the confining space.
Quick side note: the boy, who was probably in his twenties, had an accent unlike anything I had ever heard. It was so all over the place that I confusedly labeled him as an elf, saying his dialect simply wasn’t of this world. But, my curiosity piqued, I asked him where he was from and to my surprise, he replied matter of factly with: Colorado. More unexpected though was that he moved to Maui a few years ago to take care of his mom who had been attacked by a shark. That little story made for an exciting start to our lava tube adventure.
We climbed through the cave stepping carefully over jagged rocks and looking at the shining gold and rose colored gems lining the ceiling. It was the highlight of the road thus far, but little did I know, the best was yet to come.
And the best, to me, were the black and red sand beaches. But before running our toes through the sand, we made a pit stop at Hana Farms, an adorable canopied restaurant and shop area a bit down the road from the lava cube. I ate some jam filled banana bread and grabbed a coffee, slowly losing steam from the long drive.
While the coffee didn’t necessarily give me any newfound energy, the black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park certainly did. The park is free and there’s a good amount of parking. You then climb down some stairs to a stunning beach filled with black sand - or, stones.... the sand was very coarse. However, it was also completely black.
We played around in the waves for a while, mesmerized by the colors of the gravel material beneath us. I was certain the stunning beach was going to be the best I’d get, but how wrong I was. Instead, by far the best part of Road to Hana, was the red sand beach, or Kaihalulu Beach.
The beach is located right in Hana at the end of the trip. We parked on a small road along a cliff overlooking the ocean, which the GPS dropped us off at, and then wandered around aimlessly trying to figure out how to get down from the high altitudes to find the beach. Thankfully, a local walked by and pointed us down a foliage lined trail that lead to the secluded, hidden beach.
Along the trail were numerous warning signs, with one literally saying “People die here, beware.” Sick. With high alert, we walked down the trail (stupidly wearing flip flops) and climbed over to where the beach was to the left on the other side of the narrow path.
Now to anyone reading this, I need to make sure you understand that this beach is truly jaw dropping. You walk out from the tiny path to a huge opening with the beach about 100 feet below, surrounded by a rock ridge.
The water is bright blue, aqua. It looks as if it’s been hand painted or Photoshopped to enhance the hue. But no, that’s its’ natural coloring. And to add to the beauty, the sand lining the beach is bright red. We were awe-struck, standing there staring at the incredible work God created, hardly able to even say anything other than “wow.”
After soaking in the views and Facetiming everyone I know so they could do the same, we climbed back up the rocky trail and went into actual Hana town. Hana is a very small area with a sweet little school, tennis courts, a church and a parking lot where food trucks perch to feed worn down travelers.
We ordered from a pad thai truck and re-energized a bit then went on our very merry and very full ways to finish up the Road to Hana.... all that was left was the The Pools at 'Ohe'o or more easily pronounced, the Seven Sacred Pools. I was anxiously awaiting this stop as it sounded magical. What could be more intriguing than 7 swimming holes connected by waterfalls & hidden in the dense bamboo forest of Ohe'o Gulch? Sadly, I may never know, as the pools ended up being closed as a result of a fire further down the road that caused us to have to turn back.
Normally, to complete Road to Hana, you’d go through the town then shoot through the rest of Maui to end up back where you started. However, thanks to the salt I spilled the other day or the ladder I walked under last week, our luck ran out and we had to do a 180 and go back the same way we had just came. It was only slightly unfortunate, really, the disappointment faded fast once the exhaustion set in. Again, thank goodness Kaitlyn was driving, because I was all out of sorts.
After dozens of twists and turns, we touched down back in Paia and went to grab dinner at a modern looking sushi restaurant called Bap. - sushi of course! Fighting back sleep, I agreed to then explore a local bar next to the sushi restaurant, Rock N’ Brews, which was on every front, exactly what you’d expect a bar in Maui to be like. We walked in to a huge crowd in the bar, after it being completely dead the night before.
To our bewilderment, every single person in the bar was staring up at a row of TV’s, watching a fishing/surfing show that was playing. Now, I’m used to sports bars, where overzealous men throw their fists down on the table whenever Tom Brady makes a bad play, but even in those atmospheres, not everyone is transfixed as the people in Rock N Brews were on this show. They did not take their eyes off the screen once and they cheered whenever a fish was caught.
We shoved through the crowd to buy some beers and asked a couple of girls what on earth was so captivating. Our answer came later on when a local, named Anthony, came up to talk to us - my red dress catching his eye. Anthony told us everyone was there to celebrate the release of a movie his friend, Matt, had just created. Things made much more sense.
Forming a friendship, we chatted with Anthony for a while. He asked me if I was planning on surfing, to which I gave a very hesitant yes, which prompted him to ask me whether I live, or simply exist. Challenge accepted. By the end of the conversation, we had invited Anthony to island hop on over to Oahu with us and show us around for the remainder of our trip.
Apparently, Hawaiins go between islands regularly, especially people living on Maui, as Oahu is where all the hustle and bustle (and tequila) can be found. With a tour guide in tact, we headed off to *attempt* to sleep in our 6 person hostel dorm.