Wednesday, February 16, 2022

The Road to Hana

As you might know, I used to be a travel agent.  More importantly, I am a self-proclaimed Hawaii expert.  The Road to Hana is probably the most reviewed Maui adventure on the web. There are countless schools of thought and everybody has an opinion. Drive it in a day? Stay the night in Hana? Stop everywhere? Stop in only select spots? Drive past Hana? Will it void my rental agreement? Is it safe? Grab a cup of coffee, because this is going to be a long post.
The Road to Hana

Start with breakfast on your lanai. Make sure you eat a lot today because you don't want to pay for food on the road. You are going to wear you bathing suits, water shoes, and hiking boots. This ensemble will make sense later. Make sure you pack clothes to change into later and a big lunch with a lot of water and snacks. You need to leave Kihei by 7am! I know it's early but it's a must to get the most out of your Hana experience. If you are staying anywhere else, (like West Maui), you will need to leave earlier!

Let's start with a few ground rules:

Fill up the gas tank before you leave.

Drive with “Aloha”. Don't honk your horn except around blind corners for safety. Don't speed. Don't stop in the middle of the road. In general, don't drive the way you do back home. Maui doesn't work like that. If you have a line of cars behind you, please be courteous and pull over to allow them to pass.

Do not go on private property. The road to Hana is a tourist stop for you, not the people that live there. How would you feel if people hiked through your backyard to see what was behind your house?

Use common sense. If it seems too dangerous, it probably is. If it seems illegal, it probably is. If it seems like something you can't do, you probably can't. In short, don't be an idiot. You are responsible for your own safety out here.

Don't leave valuables in your car. Just like anywhere else in the world, there are some unsavory characters here.

Switch off driving duties so one person doesn't have to do it all.

Now I'm going to suggest something that no other book or website that I know of has suggested. I'm going to suggest you drive the road backwards, in a counter-clockwise direction. This brings up the question about rental car contracts. Will it void your rental car contract? The short answer is no. The detailed answer is that your rental contract likely says not to drive on unimproved roads and makes no mention of this specific highway. The fact is, the backside is quite improved and though it is not a fully paved freeway like you have at home, it isn't the rocky, half-falling-off the mountain, 4wd road that you have been led to believe it is. Sure, it has a gravel section that is quite bumpy for under 10 miles and yes, there are some narrow bridges and blind corners, but use your common sense and you should be fine. If you run into car trouble out here, your rental car company will not come to the rescue, so it's important that you check the car out when you rent it and make sure it's suitable for the journey.

Now why do I suggest you drive it backwards? Traffic. Everyone else is going clockwise and stopping at every stop that they ever read about. It is enough to drive you insane. Going counter-clockwise means you are going against the traffic the whole way and you will have most stops to yourself.

So let's get started, shall we? I remind you that you should leave Kihei by 7am SHARP to make the most of this itinerary.

Driving around East Maui in a counter-clockwise direction, you should hit your first stop around 8:30am. That 5 minute stop is just a great photo of Pokowai Sea Arch. Past the 28 mile marker, pull over before the road ascends from the shoreline. From there you can get out and get a closer look at the arch and shoreline. You might even see a fisherman or two fighting the ocean for their daily catch.

After 15 minutes of driving, you come to Kaupo Store. Don't spend more than 10 minutes shopping here and please check dates on anything you buy. Before the 35 mile marker. This is the spot to chat with a local while sipping a cold drink!

5 minutes up the road, you come to Mokulau, a beautiful 5 minute photo opportunity after the 35 mile marker. There’s a road on your right that angles down toward the ocean and leads to a church and cemetery. The church at Mokulau has restrooms. Enjoy the quiet serenity of this secret spot on the windswept side of the island.

10 more minutes up the road, you'll find Alelele Falls where you can spend 45 minutes on some short hikes, waterfall swims, and amazing photos. About 1/3 mile before the 39 mile marker is a white bridge with the word ALELELE on it. There are several trails, all leading 5–10 minutes inland.

A short 5 minute drive brings you to Palapala Ho‘omau Church for a wonderful photo opportunity. About 1/10 mile before the 41 mile marker is an easy-to-miss paved road. The world’s greatest aviator, Charles Lindbergh, is buried here. Lindbergh’s grave is through the cement post openings, and straight past the older graves on the corner. Spend about 10 minutes taking in this history.

Another short 5 minute drive and you have arrived at the golden goose. Most of the tourists won't arrive here for 4 more hours and they will make this their last stop. Pipiwai Trail is one of the best island hikes with multiple trail stops. You'll pay a $30 fee here per vehicle but save the receipt because it will get you up to Haleakala Crater too! Plan on spending about 3 hours here and enjoy your picnic lunch. The trailhead is down the highway toward the ‘Ohe‘o Bridge near the 42 mile marker. The trail basically follows the stream. Around 2/3 mile into the hike you come to the Makahiku Falls overlook. Shortly past this you have an opportunity to deviate onto a side path to the right of the main trail. This Infinity Pool has a row of thick rocks to the right that keeps you from going over during normal flows. This is a must see! Back on the trail, you’ll go through a gate, and in a few minutes there’s an intersection. A hundred yards after a banyan tree, you can take a side trail to one of the louder waterfalls you’ll find. What's Next? Why, a beautiful, thick, vigorous bamboo forest, of course. Eventually you come to the end, slicing 400 feet down the back of a three-way sheer wall of lava, Waimoku Falls marks the instantaneous beginning of this canyon. Once back down, we take a different trail to 'Ohe'o Gulch. The loop trail from the lot to the pools and back is just over 1/2 mile. This is the trail most tourists will take because it's shorter and leads to the “seven sacred pools”.

You are probably tired from hiking but drive 15 minutes more and come to Waioka Pond for 30 minutes of swimming in the “Venus” Pool. To get there, park on the side of the highway just before the 48 mile marker. Near the Hana side of the bridge is a trail toward the ocean near a sign.

If you can pull yourself away, travel 5 minutes to Koki Beach, just past mile marker 50 for a quick photo of 'Alau Island.

You're pretty much in Hana now and should check out Hasegawa General Store before heading down to take a quick photo of Kaihalulu Beach. It's an awesome red sand beach but it's a royal pain to get to so better to just snap a photo and save your energy for what's to come.

10 minutes up the road is Wai‘anapanapa Park, just before mile marker 32. This black sand beach offers great snorkeling as well as swimming in some sea caves. Spend 30 minutes basking in this beauty.  Note that since covid, the state has implemented a reservation and fee system.  Visit the website for more info!

Just 5 minutes down the road, hit up the Maui Caves for 45 minutes of spelunking. It's located just before Mile Marker 31 and will cost about $12 for the each of you. This is a must see stop.

You're going to be in the car for nearly 30 minutes before you hit Nahiku Road just before Mile Marker 25. Drive all the way to the end and plan on spending 20 minutes looking at some of the most beautiful nature you'll ever see! Please remember, this is somebody's neighborhood, street, and home. Be respectful. Know what is Kapu. Act as you would want people driving down your street to act.

30 more minutes of gorgeous driving will bring you to Ching's Pond for some chilly swimming. It's getting dark so don't spend more than 20 minutes. On the highway, just after the 17 mile marker, is a bridge and pullout. The path about 75 feet to the left leads down to a marvelous pool, known locally as Ching’s Pond. The swimming is particularly good, and most drivers never even see this pond.

That's it! That's your perfect Hana Romance Tour. At the last stop, you're about an hour and 15 minutes away from dinner at Paia Fish Market. Two people can get an amazing and fresh meal for under $50!

Remember, there is a lot more to do on the island.  If you want me to plan the perfect itinerary for you, drop me an email.  A small fee will apply.