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A Not So Plan for Road to Hana

An Unplanned Rough Road to Hana (Maui, Hawaii)

North America / By JohnE

If you’re Googling things about “what to do in Maui,” the Road to Hana will be the most popular attraction that pops up. This 52-mile highway, known as “The Divorce Highway,” is exhausting with 617 hairpin curves and 59 butt-cheek-clinching narrow lane bridges. 

Also, several blindspots with an overwhelming (yes, overwhelming) speed of 25 miles per hour. Plan to spend nearly 2.5 hours driving (that’s with no traffic or stopping for attractions). This is not for the “car-sick” kids. Stretching your trip to 6-7 hours is actually more ideal because mesmerizing waterfalls, fresh fruit stands, banana bread, and handmade jewelry will captivate your attention anyways. You’ll see lush rainforest, ocean views and large ‘Grammable pools.

Don’t be big dummies like us, plan ahead. We spent most of our day saying, “well, what do you wanna do? What do you wanna see?”  Don’t get us wrong, we had a good time, but the twists and turns create irritability (especially with no plan).

Packing: Oh, Did I mention we didn’t really plan this too well? Josh suggested we wear our matching Hawaii outfits so we can get a cute picture. We did. It was a terrible idea. I should have listened to my inner “he’s not going to propose, stop having expectations.” However, I didn’t. Look how yucky we look.

What should you actually bring? 

  • Water & Snacks
  • Sunscreen
  • Towel
  • Swimming suit
  • Change of clothes
  • Hiking gear (if you’d like to hike)
  • Shoes with good traction
  • Wet wipes (you’ll get sweaty)

PRO-TIPS: 

  • COME WITH A PLAYLIST: Download music to your phone, bring CDs, or find a way to fit a band in your backseat. This trip was ROUGH not having any music due to no reception along the way. Don’t be like us and drive mindlessly listening to static.
  • Gas up in Pa’ia: There’s no other place to fill up until Hana. You might want to pack some snacks as well.
  • Check the weather in advanced: No brainer. The rainy season is December and January, the best time to visit is May through September. Don’t get caught in the rain!
  • GyPSy Guide: Download the GyPSy Guide for a professional tour guide commentary along your scenic drive. They highlight the very best regions with entertaining tories, geology, legends, and local advice. Just sit back, listen, and enjoy. LINK: https://gypsyguide.com/tour/road-to-hana-maui/
  • Book Overnight or come early: Look into staying overnight to enjoy more spots. Come out as soon as the dawn, drive past Hana to the Seven Sacred Pools and then take a “reverse” approach back on the Highway. You’ll avoid traffic and get to those “cool spots” earlier, with fewer people.
  • Pick a few key stops: It’s literally impossible to see everything, but if you pick a few key spots that you’d like to know, it’ll be worth your time. Come prepared. It’s essential to study those key spots and mile-markers before you go. It’s really not a good idea to wing it because you have literally no time to concentrate when the road goes wonky, and your cell service is spotty.
  • No Dark: Confident drivers, like Josh, are a big ball of nerves while driving on the Road to Hana. Understand that driving in the dark is just a bad idea.
  • Guided Tour: You can’t really enjoy the scenery if you are driving because you can’t look off the road with the hairpin turns coming at you every 2-3 seconds. Consider a guided tour if you’d like someone else to take the wheel.

Experience the Road to Hana

Basically, right?

Okay, so we started in Kihei and left the house around 5:30 AM. Local said to go ahead and drive all the way to Hana, then experience everything that you want to do on your way back. Good advice. 

Pipiwai Trail – Mile Marker 42: Pools of ‘Ohe’o Gulch share the same parking lot to get to the bamboo forest (and that was of top priority for my little Japanese lover). In matching Hawaiian outfits, we go!

It’s a 4-mile hike round trip to the Makahiku falls, but we just got to the bamboo forest and dipped. We did see the incredible banyan tree.

‘Ohe’O Gulch – Mile Marker 42: Closed, but still beautiful. Enjoyed from the lookout point, these “Seven Sacred Pools” did not disappoint.

It’s a 4-mile hike round trip to the Makahiku falls, but we just got to the bamboo forest and dipped. We did see the incredible banyan tree.

I wish we had a change of clothing after the hike. We were s-w-e-a-t-y.

‘Ohe’O Gulch – Mile Marker 42: Closed, but still beautiful. Enjoyed from the look out point, these “Seven Sacred Pools” did not disappoint.

Wailua Falls – Mile Marker 45: Pull of the road to see one of the most majestic (and accessible) waterfalls in Maui. Pictured above as we how off those matching outfits. With 80 ft of cascading water, you’ll enjoy a plunge in the pools to get more active.

Pro-tip: There’s plenty of other spots to take your Christmas card, try choosing somewhere less-busy. People get aggressive on the roads. You don’t want be like Grandma this Holiday Season.

It’s a “grandma got ran over a reindeer” joke. Get with the program!

Hamoa Beach – Mile Marker 52: Near Hana, we wish we’d stop at this 1,000-foot crescent-shaped beach. With ‘Grammable cliffs and tropical vegetation, it’s an active spot for surfers and boogie boarding.

Koki Beach – Mile Marker 51: Peaceful, yet dangerous. Skipped. You could check out Google for more recommendations.

Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach – Hana: Another priority, we did not skip. Thank Goodness, too. This is a dramatic, hidden cove made of red lava cinder, which boasts against the deep blue ocean water. Gorgeous.  Bunch of hippies smokin’ the devil lettuce, couple ‘Grammers, and a homeless man later. We snorted and loved it. Wear your hiking boots, buddy!

DISCLAIMER: Part of the trail was lost due to a landslide, and it’s not safe for anyone who is wearing matching Hawaiian outfits, or anyone not accustomed to navigating cliff-edges with slippery rocks.

Black Sand Beach in Waiapanapa State Park – Mile Marker 32.2: Many say this is their #1 stop on the Road to Hana. Bloggers say there’s a little hike, then you’ll be dazzled with turquoise waters and flawless foliage which contrasts against the deep, soul-soothing black sands. I highly regret not going. 

Nahiku Ti Gallery and Coffee Shop – Mile Marker 27: Grab a quick bite for some kale pork tacos!

Upper Waikani Falls, known as Three Bears Falls – Mile Marker 19.5: Enjoyed this by driving by.

Wailua Valley State Wayside – Mile Marker 18.9: Aerial views of Wailea Village, just after climbing a few stairs.

Halfway to Hana Shop – Mile Marker 17.3, It’s a “thing” to pick up Banana Bread at Halfway to Hana Shop, like a tradition. And we highly recommend you follow tradition! It’s a refreshing snack for your twisted up tummy. You might also want to grab some “Hana tonic” if your belly is disagreeing with your travel plans.

Ching’s Pond – Mile Marker 16.8: Local hotspot, swimming for the adrenaline junkies.

Keanae Peninsula – Mile Marker 16.8: This Traditional Hawaiian village of Ke’anae, located upon a rugged peninsula, can be found after a sharp, hairpin turn. Enjoy views of rough waves crashing against black lava rocks in this small, tranquil town.

Keanae Arboretum – Mile Marker 16.7 About a 1/2 mile through a paved walkway, you’ll find picturesque rainbows glowing amongst eucalyptus trees.

Garden of Eden – Mile Marker 10.5: With over 700 botanically labeled specimens and waterfall lookout galore, you’ll love this family-owned arboretum. Only $15/per person, enjoy views from Keopuka Rock, which is the opening scene in Jurassic Park. Most people pass this up because ‘ain’t nobody got time’ for $15 entrance fee.

Ka Haku Smoke Shake – Mile Marker 10.2: Enjoy famous grilled chicken plates, any time.

Twin Falls – Mile Marker 2: Biggest regret? Not going to see the Twin Falls. Located on a family-owned farm, park, and get to walking. It’s recommended online to take the “Upper trail,” which is about 1-mile round-rip but has a better vantage point.

Pa’ia – Mile Marker 0: Ah, we made it back to Pa’ia! This charming, quaint town is full of good vibes, restaurants with bomb happy hours, and art galleries. Down load the “Maui Happy Hour App” and get to celebrating!

Okay, there’s your briefing on the Road to Hana. When are you making your trip out there?

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