To catch you up to speed:
Post 1: The Hilton Waikoloa
Post 2: Waikoloa to Hilo
Post 3: Hilo to Volcano Village
Post 4: Volcano Village to Kona
Post 5: Kona to Maui
Post 6: Lahaina + Trilogy Boating Excursion
Post 7: Ziplining + Maui Brewing Company
Great apologies for this post taking FOREVER, but if the map below is any indication, “The Road to Hana” covers a LOT of territory.
We got on the road as early as possible because we had a giant day ahead of us. If you tell anyone you went to Maui, they all ask “Did you do the road to Hana?!” so we knew this was something we needed to do. It’s like a Maui right of passage. And just a warning, spray yourself with bug spray before you leave on this trip. That was a giant regret I had, and that advice alone is like gold.
There is a Shell gas station on route 380 (right near the airport) where they have a roadside stand selling cds that guide you along the road to Hana. The ABC stores (that you’ll find everywhere) also sell Hana cds. You play these along our journey and they give you a history of what your seeing. It was worth it, especially splitting the cost among the three of us.
Then we drove to Paia (point “H” on the map) where we enjoyed a lovely breakfast at the adorable, Anthony’s Coffee Co. This is a great stop before making the road to Hana. They even have picnic baskets you can take and enjoy on the road. We even got to meet the sweet Keri Stewart (one of the owners) who was working behind the counter.
At point “C” on the map, you’ll see cars parked along the road because this is the start of the twin falls “hike” as well as the Twin Falls Maui Farmstand. It’s worth stopping to experience this fruit stand. I ordered the sugar cane juice, which I watched her juice actual sugarcane and then hand me the cup. No preservatives, no frozen anything, it’s all fresh and made in front of you. This is a nice refresher if you just walked down to the waterfalls.
The colors of the plants and flowers make this “hike” (more like an unpaved walking path) such a beautiful journey. The waterfalls were of course stunning (see the images below) but I enjoyed getting the falls more than the actual falls. That idea is what’s most special about the road to Hana, it’s all about the journey. Hana itself is nothing special, but it’s the stops you make along the way that make this trek famous.
I drove this leg of the trip and I can tell you, it’s terrifying. The roads, at their widest, are barely wide enough for two cars. All the bridges (there are 100’s) are single lanes. This is a very windy, scary cliff drive but it’s worth the fear. Be careful on your drive, and keep your windows down to listen for oncoming cars (especially around bends). Also the locals drive giant vehicles and don’t bat an eye at running tourists off the road. If your trip is anything like mine, this will happen a lot. We stopped along the road to visit an arboretum (where this tree picture was taken) and saw two cars that had plummeted down off the cliff. We have no idea how long ago this happened, but it’s definitely a warning.
We took a detour to try the world famous banana bread at point “D” on the map. This is Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread and it’s the place to go for banana bread. It’s so off the road and unassuming, but so many people told us to stop here and it was worth the wait. After you finish, keep going down the road a quarter-mile until the road ends. Here you get a great view of giant crashing waves and the cliffside ahead of you (see pictures below).
You’ll keep trucking along (praying at every bend in the road for survival) and stopping off at so many overlooks and waterfalls.
After breakfast in Paia, smoothes at the farmstand, and banana bread you’re probably wondering how we have room for anything else, but we made room. We stopped just after mile marker #29 for the best shrimp taco I’ve ever had. This little shack-strip mall was charming but also a little creepy. It was worth the creepiness to indulge in this awesome giant shrimp taco.
The below pictures are taken from Waianapanapa State Park. It was getting cloudy and windy, so this wasn’t a place where we spent a ton of time, but it was on our list to stop into.
At this point we’d reached Hana. As we anticipated, there wasn’t much to see in Hana. We took a bathroom break at the old Hana Hotel. This is a great place to stay if you have the luxury of time and money to spend a night in Hana. We had neither of those things on this leg of the trip, so we just walked around and then hit the road.
You can see my photos are getting cloudier and cloudier as it got later in the day and closer to sunset. As I said above, we weren’t spending the night in Hana which meant we needed to somehow get back to Paia before dark because there are zero street lamps until you get to Paia. We made a stop in at Hamoa because their beaches are award worthy. These photos don’t express the craziness of the waves.
I just want to point out how the landscape is always changing (as it has the entire trip). The photos below were taken minutes apart, and don’t they look like two completely different worlds?
We decided to do something that only 1% of the people who drive to Hana do. Instead of looping back and retracing our steps, we decided to take the road less traveled. In fact it’s a super dangerous unpaved road. We took the southern road back to Paia.
This road is very difficult to drive, which means nothing is out here. No tourists… barely even locals because there’s nothing to be local to. We passed maybe 5 houses (run-down shacks) through the whole ride back to town.
See the house in the photo above.. right on the water, without half a roof. That’s what we saw. We also were fighting for daylight. We had to pass the 7 pools without stopping in, which was painful to skip, but we HAD to get through the driving with sunlight or we were totally screwed.
Along the way we stopped at point “G” to visit a churchyard. The church itself is closed, but with the sun setting, it made for great photos.
And then the scary drive continued. At least here the road became paved, but it also was still one lane, for a two laned road.
It was frightening, but beautiful. It’s scariness is what keeps people away, which is what made the second half of the day so special. Eventually it becomes two lanes, and then your only worry is all the cattle that love to hangout on the road. It was quiet a sight! We survived and I’ll never forget that drive.
We finished our day stopping in Paia for a celebratory dinner at the famous Fish Market, which many locals recommended to us. They had a huge menu and it’s the type of place where you order at a counter and eat at indoor picnic tables. Not classy by any means but we all loved our meals.
Next up is my final post from Hawai: Crossing Food Off The List.