Although cliché, that overused quote about the journey being more important than the destination describes the Road to Hana perfectly. Truth be told, there isn’t much in Hana, and most people who set out on the Road to Hana don’t even make it that far. In this case, the road and the things to see along it IS the destination.
When we were in the midst of planning our trip to Maui, obviously the Road to Hana was at the top of our list – how could you go to Maui and not see it?! It is a world-famous road, and for good reason. I had been on the road once before, but when I was much younger, which was quite a different experience because we didn’t get out of the car much and actually explore.
Brian and I “cheated” a little and brought along with us a guidebook. We bought Maui Revealed by Andrew Doughty – it proved to be a great purchase, not only for the Road to Hana, but for the rest of our trip as well. The book dedicates an entire section to the Road to Hana, and I read through in advance and picked out some things that sounded interesting. This was difficult because there is SO much to see that you just can’t possibly do everything in one day – you just don’t have time to stop and look at every single waterfall. Although having a guide book is very helpful, it is a double-edged sword because there is the chance that everyone else has the same book, and it kind of takes the magic out of it when a “secret” lagoon is overrun by tourists. Luckily, we were mostly all alone at many of the stops and secluded areas.
We started out very early in the morning from where we were staying in Lahaina. We had rented a convertible for the trip, and it was great to have for the drive. Where the Road to Hana actually starts was a good drive away from Lahaina, and it was a little difficult to discern when we were officially on the road, as there is really no obvious starting point. We simply went by the guidebook as the author uses the mile markers to describe certain sights and where to stop to see them, as they are not marked with a big obvious sign – you have to do a little work to find them!
We finally decided to make our first stop to check out a waterfall – it was a quick mini-hike to get to it, so it was our warm-up waterfall for the day
Somewhere along the way, the road opened up to an amazing view of the coastline and ocean.
Let me address the windiness of the road, because it seems to be a much-talked about attribute of this drive. To me, the windiness and narrowness of the road is not bad at all. We were in a sedan, and there are full on tour vans and buses that make this trip, daily – they are much wider and larger vehicles. As long as the driver is paying attention and going a reasonable speed (why would you want to speed, anyways?), it is completely fine.
We reached a mile marker that I had been on the look-out for – it was for a trek through some brush and rocks through a canyon to reach an amazing waterfall and pool. The trail is completely hidden from the road, so it took some nosing around and poking through the brush right on the side of the highway to make sure we were going the right way at first!
We found it. We were all alone with our own little piece of paradise. We spent some time here, taking in our surroundings and swimming in the pool and under the waterfall. The water was cold! The scenery was especially amazing because there were high canyon walls surrounding us, covered in moss and greenery with water slowly dripping down them – so beautiful. It was completely quiet in there except for the sounds of the water falling. It was a bit unnerving being completely surrounded by canyon walls near a body of water – if there were to be a flash flood, there would be nowhere for us to go…but the chances of that are probably pretty slim.
There are many waterfalls along the way that you don’t even have to leave the car to see. This one had quite a strong water flow!
We decided to make another stop to hike to another waterfall, according to the book. This one was actually described in the book in detail, because the route you need to take in order to get there is actually private property owned by East Maui Irrigation (EMI). So technically, we were actually breaking the law for these falls! There was a gate up from the highway where we left the car, and there was a bit of a walk up a dirt road to get here.
We eventually reached the Honokalani black sand beach, where we stopped to eat our packed lunch and explore for a while. This stop had much more people than some previous ones – it is pretty popular as it is a very unique beach with easy access right off the Hana Highway. There were some picnic tables, as this area is part of the Waianapanapa State Park (there are also restrooms here).
Grave sites overlooking the black sand beach:
The scenery and contrasting colors between the black sand, bright greenery, and crystal blue waters here really were spectacular. The water here is rough, and much colder, so the beach is not really one you would chose to swim our lay out at – it is more for just taking in the unique landscape. The rock formations are equally unique, as they were formed by lava flow hitting the ocean water. This created a bunch of different caves and lava tubes that you can explore. You can walk around on the top of the lava rocks, but there are blowholes where water frequently comes up, where people have been known to get sucked back down and drown in the tumultuous surf below – so caution is warranted here.
After taking in all that Honokalani Beach offered, we hit the road again, as we still had much more to see! Stay tuned for Part Two to see more of the Hana Highway and to see how we actually ended up taking a different approach to making it back to civilization in Lahaina!