The Road to Hana is definitely a not-to-be-missed attraction in Maui and may be its most famous. Many a tourist shirt says, “I survived the Road to Hana!” Survived? Really? Really. This blog post is only going to get us halfway, because there is so much to see on the road. In fact, I would say there is no way you can stop at all the available attractions and views in one trip and I didn’t include every stop we made in this post. This was my third trip on the Road to Hana and I still haven’t seen it all. I felt like this trip took two days, not because it wasn’t fun and time wasn’t flying, but because I saw so many things, it didn’t seem possible that they fit into a single day. It’s not a trip for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach, as you will ascend and descend winding, winding, winding, narrow roads that sport hairpin curves. And by hairpin, I mean you will see yourself coming and going. You will meet traffic on blind curves and many passages and bridges that are only wide enough for one vehicle at a time. Sometimes the two-lane road has been reduced to one lane due to mudslides. Needless to say, you won’t be setting any land speed records. Supposedly there are 600 curves on this 45-ish mile stretch of highway. (Rental Car Place: “Take the upgrade, they said. It will be great, they said.”) So we ventured out in our giant Ford Expedition rental vehicle to tackle the famous Road to Hana. We learned on our first trip down the road that it is important to leave early in the morning. (We learned the hard way that returning in the dark, in the rain, was a harrowing experience not to be repeated.) This is just the first of several tips that I will boldly imbed in my narrative. You want to have plenty of daylight to see the sights and find your way back home. You will want a Maui guidebook. This is no place to wander unassisted, as viewing locations are often hidden or come up suddenly and cell service is spotty at best. I recommend Maui Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook by Andrew Doughty. He is a native of Maui and provides turn by turn information labeled by mile marker along with all sorts of cultural and historical commentary. We started in Kihei, our Hawaiian “home,” and headed towards Paia, which is a charming artsy town. If you have ever been to Eureka Springs, AR, it’s kind of like that, only with a mermaid-ish flair. The town is adorable and fun. (I would recommend coming to visit this town and nearby Ho`okipa Beach and its overlook on another day to give them the time they deserve. See “With Aloha, Honu” for more details about this area.)
I was really anticipating our first stop, where we were getting out to explore the rainbow eucalyptus trees. I had seen them before, but we didn’t happen to stop in this location and actually experience them on road trips. These trees are incredibly beautiful and look like they have been painted, only that’s the way they are in real life. As we approached the eucalyptus grove drops of water began to collect on the windshield. After we parked, the clouds became more generous, but that didn’t deter us from finding the entrance to the trail near the trees. It was important to note that there was a low barbed wire fence that we had to navigate, but it was worth the experience of wandering through the huge colorful trunks and smelling the heavy rain-scented air with a touch of fresh eucalyptus, all while feeling the rain rolling down my face and splashing on my shoulders.
Reminder, the Road to Hana traverses a rain forest. It’s going to rain. It has rained at some point on every trip to Hana, so instead of wishing it would be sunny the whole time (you’ll get some), prepare for the rain. If you don’t like to get wet, bring an umbrella, but if you’re like me and you think umbrellas are just a hassle, wear clothing made out of wicking material, so it dries quickly and bring a towel. You’ll thank me when you’re not shivering in the car.
Our next major stop was at Ko`olau Forest Reserve. There were restrooms, which are few and far between on the Road to Hana. My advice: use the restroom every time you find one. Even if it’s a portapot. Even if you have to buy something or pay. Yep, paying is a thing some places. But, aside from the necessities, there was a muddy trail into the tropical forest and a nice ocean view.
I think I could spend forever at Kaumahina State Wayside Park watching the water rush into the shore and splash the black lava rock. It is an interesting place to climb around and explore. It’s also a great place to be still and just breathe as the ocean sings its song with the crashing percussion of the rocks. Be careful if you’re sitting on the rocks, as they are sharp and I have one less pair of shorts thanks to this activity.
We rolled along the road marveling at the lushness. At times it almost seemed that a dinosaur could come roaring out of the vegetation. The sun alternated with rain throughout the journey as we approached the halfway point to Hana. It is marked with a roadside food stand, all important restrooms (clean portapots), kitschy wood cutouts if you are inclined to take photos and a somewhat sheltered picnic area, which was important at that time, as the clouds decided to unleash their bounty even though the sun was still shining. You would think the next picture I posted would be a rainbow, but the time of day didn’t create the right angle so you are going to have to wait for an upcoming post with this colorful Maui icon. Until then, aloha!!!!