Maui - The Road to Hana

Introduction:

Whare? : The north East side of Maui

Google Map Link










My thoughts: The Road to Hana is a must do daytrip when visiting Maui!

Drive as far as you want and visit the attraction along the road. You can’t do all attractions/activities this road has to offer in one day so try to plan prior your trip what you want to see and where you want to spend time at.

We planned to do only one day trip but after the first day we came back again, even when having two days we did not manage to see and experience everything this section of the island has to offer.

 

 

The visit:


 

The Road to Hana is a "famous" road, it starts from the central valley of Maui and travels along the northeast coastline all the way to the town of Hana. Many people consider the Hana Highway to continue 12 miles beyond Hana, all the way to the Oheo Gulch.

Officially the road is named the “Hana Highway” and on maps will be listed as hwy 36 and hwy 360.

This blog will cover the road all the way to Oheo Gulch, the and Kīpahulu park itself is covered by another blog post.

 

The Road to Hana is famous of:

It is short but long:

It is only 35 miles long from mile mark zero to Hana but in order to discover and visit all attractions along road it will take more than a day. Most people will set a full daytrip to this road and cover only some of the attractions along the road.



 

Short but narrow:

The road is very narrow and winding, at some places one lane wide. It has about 620 sharp bends and curves, 59 old one-lane bridges and almost no places to stop on the roadside.

On top of the above, there is quite a lot of tourist traffic that stop near road attractions. Even if you plan to drive without stopping you should plan for at least an hour and a half drive.



 

“it's the journey, not the destination”:

A phrase that appears a lot in the context of this road, even though the small town of Hana has its charm as well as beautiful beaches the town of Hannah is not a special destination. Your trip memories will probably be from the “The road to Hana” itself and less from Hana.

Along the way there are many waterfalls and swimming pools, some of the waterfalls can be seen from the car. There are rocky beaches, few options of hiking in the lash jungle as well as state parks.



 

Our Road to Hana Trip Itinerary:

We dedicated a whole day to this trip, we left relatively early in the morning but still did not manage to see or do everything we wanted to.

 

As a reference this is what we manage to do at one day:

·         Start the drive at around 9am

·         Short stop at Ho'okipa beach lookout, big-wave and surfers

·         We stopped at several waterfalls just to take pictures

·         Visit Garden of Eden Arboretum (~1.5 hr)

·         Hike the Btanical gardens trail (less than 1hr)

·         Short visit at Ke'anae Peninsula

·         Visit Waianapanapa Black Beach Nature Reserve (1 hr)

·         Short stop at Wailua Falls

·         A short visit at Oheo Gulch, due to the late afternoon hour we did only the Kuloa loop trail and the Pools of Oheo section.

·         A short visit at Koki Beach.

·         From Oheo Gulch we drove back to our hotel without any stop, it was already starting to be dark when we drove the winding road back to our hotel.

·         If you are planning to swim in the waterfall’s pools or at the beaches (Black Beach is recommended) you probably won’t have time to drive past Hana. We decided to skip the swimming activities.


 

Because we did not manage to see and do what we planned in one day, we decide to come back the following day, this is what we did the second day:

·         Tween falls hike (1 hr)

·         Jungle hike at Waikamoi Nature Trail (1 hr)

·         Short visit at the town of Hana and the bay

·         The main activity of the day was Pipiwai Trail hike at Oheo Gulch (3  hr)

·         Driving the “Backside of Haleakala” (hwy 31) (~2 hr)

·         In order to avoid the crowd at Pipiwai Trail at Oheo Gulch we you need to be early. We started the second day much earlier (7am at mile mark 0), we came back to the central island section at 5pm.

 

Probably the best tip I can give you:

Use the Gypsy guide app that is dedicated to “Road to Hana, Maui” (https://gypsyguide.com/tour/road-to-hana-maui/).

Download it to your phone prior starting the drive (no cell connection at the road), it totally worth the 7 $.

Use it as you drive the road for best recommendations, explanations and to know where you are, on your way back at the afternoon, usually without stopping, learn about the interesting Hawaiian history.

 

Other Tips (not sorted):

·         Mileage marking: most of the attractions along the road has their mileage marker but the numbers can be confusing because the “road” is using mixture of roads and mile markers. Highways 36, 360 and 31 are the official roads but they flow into each other and each has its own mile markers. After Hana Highway 360 changes to Highway 31, mile marker sequence continues to go up until mile marker 50, as you continue, they begin to go back down in numbers.

·         If possible, I will recommend sleeping one night at Hana. This will allow you to spend more time at attractions along the road and really enjoy the special atmosphere and less on driving.

·         Usually most people visiting attractions on their way driving in the morning and at the afternoon on their way back drive without any attraction stops.

·         If you are planning to drive back the same day: decide if you want to drive the winding road section after dark, if not, plan your day and leave your last destination at list one hour before sunset.

·         Start as early as you can, if you start later in the day, expect a lot of traffic and a more crowded experience due to tourist congestion. I did the road twice, two days in a row, and when I started driving at 7am it was a much better experience, a lot less cars and people.

·         There is no need for 4x4 or anything special, even if you plan to drive the road beyond the Oheo Gulch. Any regular car will do. There are some side roads that do need 4x4, most people will not do them.

·         Driving the highway in a convertible (or Jeep and remove the top): remember that it may rain along the drive in short but intense bursts.

·         When driving I will advise to stick to the highlights places you planned to stop at. If you are swimming at waterfall pools, try to time your stop. Just to find parking, getting out the car, going down to the waterfall pool, draying and getting back into the care is at list 45-minute stop.

·         For most activities along the way sandals or flip-flops are fine, you may want to bring hiking shoes if you are planning jungle hike.

·         Bring cash with you: some attractions entries as also the fruit and smoothie stands, may only take cash.

·         There is a gas station at Hana, but I will recommend getting out to this drive with full fuel tank.

·         Bring the food for the day with you. There are food stands and places along the way to eat (mainly near the town of Hana) but it is better to have lunch/sandwiches/fruits for the day with you so you will stop only for “refreshments”.

 



Below list is things we did on our trips and a short description for each one of them.

At the end I will also list other Road to Hana places and attractions that we did not had time to do.

 

Ho'okipa beach lookout (just before the official starting point of the road)

After passing the town of Paia you will see on your left an entrance to Ho'okipa beach and lookout.

From the bluff viewing point, you can watch the surfers in the bay below. In the winter, the waves can get massive here. Do not surf here unless you know what you are doing.





Sea Turtles: At the afternoon/evening you may spot many sea turtles that use Hookipa sandy beach as their place for the night. I do not know if you can see them every day but when we were there 20 turtles were resting on the east side of the beach, just when you get into the lower beach parking.






 

Road To Hana Mile Marker Zero

This is the spot where the road to Hana officially begin.

 

Twin Falls (Mile marker 2)

Just after mile marker 2 on the Hana Highway you can find Twin Falls (large parking place is on the right side of the road). You can find here several waterfalls one after the other connected by well-maintained easy short trails. To reach the bottom of the first waterfall turn left into one of the narrow trails that will take you the pool below the waterfall.


Twin Falls park is a recommended stop if you want to view several falls with easy trails that is good for small kids. The waterfalls are not as big or in the jungle as many other falls along the road. At any other location Twin Falls will be top must-do attraction but on the road to Hana they have competition. If you are not coming early, this park can be very crowded.

From the end of twin fall, Wailele Farm park section there is a ¾ mile trail that will take you to the tall Caveman Falls. I did not hike this route but looks like this is a more difficult path due to uneven, rocky and slippery terrain. If you will go all the way to Caveman Falls plan for a much longer visit at this location.

Not sure this is a must stop on your way but if you start your drive early in the morning you can walk to the nearby falls and come back to your car in 30 min or less.




 

Waikamoi Nature Trail (mile marker 9.5)

Half-mile past mile 9 on the Road to Hana keep your eyes open for the small parking lot on your right side (parking may be full so you will need to skip this hike).

This is a nice hike in the jungle going up the ridge. It has 30-minutes hiking loops that can be extended by additional 30 minutes’ walk up the ridge, all the way to a picnic table. At the end of the trail you will find opening in the jungle and a picnic table, from this place you can find unmaintained trail that is going down into the dense bamboo forest, I started to walk down this trail, it was fun walking down this path, squeezing among the bamboos trees but after 10 min of going down not knowing where this trail is leading to I had to turn around and go back (also because of lack of time).

After rain the Waikamoi Trail can be muddy, but it's a nice hike through the jungle trees and good opportunity to stretch your legs.

This was the most rewording nature hike I did along this section of the road to Hana, so it is on my recommendation list, plan to be here for 1 hr.



 

Garden of Eden Arboretum (mile marker 10)

Half-mile past mile marker 10, you'll find The Garden of Eden Arboretum & Botanical Garden entrance on your right.

This is private nature garden (15$ per adult) that has many local trees and flowers. It is nice and well-maintained botanical garden, friendly for small kids.

This is not a jungle experience, a well maintained “sterile” and a clean garden with everything “in place”, I’m not sure it’s worth the time (and the money). If you decided to visit here, plan for at least one hr visit.




 

Ching's Pond (mile marker 11.5)

This large pool is right below the bridge, need to find a place to park your car and go down to the poll below.

 

Ke'anae Arboretum Trail (mile marker 16.5)

Around half-mile beyond mile marker 16 on the Hana Highway you'll see a sign on the right side of the road marking the entrance to Ke'anae Arboretum.

The road-side parking is right after the sharp turn on the left (other) side of the road, be careful when driving in/out the parking because this section of the road has no visibility for incoming cars.

The Ke'anae Arboretum trail is and easy leveled 0.6-mile hike that will take you to the terraces that were built hundreds of years ago by Hawaiians for growing Taro. You will walk through an open Jungle section following the stream.

I do not consider this as a must-stop (especially if you visit Garden of Eden Arboretum) but rather a place to do some hiking and enjoy the tropical plants flowers and the view of the large “painted eucalyptus” trees.





 

Ke'anae Peninsula (mile marker 16.5)

Immediately after leaving Ke'anae Arboretum parking look for an exit road on the left side of the road, take it.

The peninsula is surrounded by dark lava rocks where the ocean wave crashing on. Down the road you can find parking lot, park here and explore the nearby church and the rocky waterfront. As we saw in our hike to Ke'anae Arboretum Trail, also here they are growing the Taro plant.

Swimming is not recommended on the Ke’anae Peninsula, as the rocky shoreline is very dangerous.

The tragic history of this village is that 1946 tsunami hit the place and 24 school students and teachers were lost in that event.  The only remaining building of the village was the old stone church that was built in 1856, you can still see church building today.

After the visit drive out the same way you entered this peninsula and turn left on the main road to Hana, as you continue to drive east on the main road there is a viewing point on the left side of the road. From here you can get a good view of the village below, the fields of Taro and the peninsula.



 

Halfway to Hana Stand (mile marked 17)

You have many other options for fresh baked banana bread and smoothies along the Road to Hana but, this stop is probably the nicest and largest among all.

 

Upper Waikani Falls (mile marker 19)

This fall also known as the 3 Bears, near the bridge you can find enough room only for 2-3 cars, but it's a no parking zone, you need to park up the road and walk down to the bridge and from there down to the falls.

The 3 falls are nice, and you have a swimming pool at the bottom of the waterfall.


Waianapanapa State Park (mile mark 32)

Waianapanapa State Park features a black sand beach nested in an area where lava rocks meet the ocean, you can also see a sea arch and lava cave. This is one of the must stop attractions of the Road to Hana.

This is not only black sand beach with turquoise ocean water that is good for swimming but also the area around the beach is nice to hike and explore. There are a few small caves and lava tubes, one is just on the right side of the beach.

This is very popular stop just before reaching Hana, people come here manly to enjoy the black sand beach and explore the surrounding, plan for at least 1hr stop at this location.





 

The town of Hana

Hana is a very small sleepy town, looks like it did not change much for many years, but this is it’s charm.

By many of Hana is considered as the "Real Hawaii" experience. You can’t find many stores or other “tourist attractions” in town. This area is rich in Hawaiian history and culture, nice, not crowded, beaches and many other things to explore nearby.

If you are reaching Hana as part of your day trip is the perfect spot to stop and recharge (gas, food).

The small town is located above the large ocean bay, there is a road leading to the ocean front and the Bay Beach Park, a black sand beach and picnic tables as well as a large boat pier at the end of road.

At the south side of town, you can find the Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach. You need to park your car where it allowed, the short hiking trail is a little difficult to find at the grassy section. A short hike down to the small secluded cove covered with the red send. There is a natural lava barrier that protect the beach from the storming ocean waves.




 

Hamoa and Koki Beach (mile marker 50)

Hamoa Beach is located about 2.2 miles outside of Hana town traveling south. The access road is located just south of a large cinder cone. When coming from Hana turn left into Haneoo road and after short drive you will arrive at Koki Beach (parking is on your left) additional short drive will take you to Hamoa Beach.

Koki Beach:

The dark red sand at this location is a result of the erosion of the nearby cinder cone volcano. Koki Beach is famous Hana surf beach for the local surfer’s community. This beach is not recommended for swimming due to the rip tides and high waves.

Just in front of Koki Beach there is a small island called Alau. This pyramid shaped island has several coconut palms on top.


Hamoa Beach:

This is the best sandy beach near Hana and preferable and safer place to swim. Although it has sand, the beach is not protected by the reef so the waves that do get in there may outlet water current. So make sure you watch the wave condition when you swim.

Hamoa Beach has street parking, but make sure to look for street signs that dictate where you can park.

 

St Peter Church (4 miles after Hana):

Not so much to do here except taking picture of this nice church and nearby graveyard. You can drive up the church from one side and keep going from the other side that connects back to the main road.

 

Wailua Falls (mile marker 45, markers started getting down in this section of the road)

Just after mile 45 on the Hana Highway, after it changes into Highway number 31 you'll reach one of the most gorgeous falls in all of Hawaii, Wailua Falls.

Wailua Falls cascades 80 feet through the jungle just near the road. You can see it from the bridge and there is a small parking lot on the left side right after crossing the bridge. There is a short walking path to the base of the falls, it starts near the bridge.

 

Oheo Gulch (mile marker 41)

The Oheo Gulch, also known as the Kipahulu Area, is the lower ocean side section of Haleakala Volcano National Park.

The Oheo Gulch region is home to lush jungle landscapes, few hiking trails, many waterfalls, river pools, volcanic rocks, ocean coast, and more.

Pipiwai Trail that is in this park section is one of the most rewarding hikes and it is among my best Maui highlights list.

I have dedicated a separate blog to this park.

 


Additional places to explore before Hana (we did not visit):

·         Secret Lagoon off Hana Highway

·         Secret Lava Tube Cave

·         Rainbow Trees

·         Pua'a Ka'a Falls

·         Secret Lava Tube Cave

·         Hanawi Falls

·         Makapipi Falls

·         Hāna Lava Tube

·         Kahanu Garden, National Tropical Botanical Garden

 

Additional places to explore after Hana:

·         Fagan's Cross

·         Waioka pond (Venus Ponds)

 

 

Pictures:
































































Comments