The Road to Hana – Maui, Hawaii
The Road to Hana was finally here! There is quite a bit of planning that is required before embarking on this journey – enough to fill an entire separate post. If you are interested in the details or are planning on doing the Road to Hana, I suggest taking a peak at this post –
Our morning started early – making sure we had all our stuff packed and ready to go for check out of our lovely Kihei home and into our Kia Soul for the adventure to Hana.
Since food can be a scarce item on the Road to Hana, we started our road trip with a stop in Haiku at Wailuku Coffee Company. Kevin ordered a coffee and a muffin and I got bacon, tomato, avocado, and cream cheese bagel and a “Going Bananas” smoothie with bananas, peanut butter, chocolate, soy milk. Kevin loved his muffin and coffee.
The bagel was enormous – the bacon was the perfect crispy – but the bagel itself was disappointing, and the smoothie portions were off – I just could not figure out what was off but it was not as good as the one I got at Piko Cafe. We also had snacks that I packed for the trip and some left overs from the week so I figured we would be good for a while.
There are multiple ways to do the Road to Hana and I think we did a combination of them to create our own. We decided to spend a night in Hana to avoid rushing through everything and selection sites to see on day one on the way down and sites to see on day two on the way back. I also made the last minute decision to download the Gypsy Guide for Road to Hana and by far is the best thing I can recommend if you are completing this trip.
The Road to Hana is known to be a pretty intense driving experience due to the constant twists and turns, one lane bridges, narrow roads, elevation changes, and congestion at popular spots. It did not take long to start experiencing these elements and at times the lush, overgrowth earth made it hard to see.
Our first stop was Ke’anae Peninsula for a Hana snack and some incredibly epic views. We arrived at Aunty Sandy’s Famous Banana Bread shortly before the opening at 8:30AM. This place is usually bopping so I was happy that there was only one other car there before us. The smell of freshly made banana bread was instantly recognized when we got out of the car – even through the face masks. We purchased our personal loaf and could not believe how right out of the oven it was – it was so hot to the touch and even steaming through the plastic wrap! This banana bread was so tasty and incredibly fluffy. I am sure most people eat the loaf immediately but ours became breakfast for the next two days after we each had a slice or two.
We continued down the peninsula to the lookout point and we were amazed! The landscape was so unique – there was the bright crystal blue water, the white foam that crashed into the black lava rock, and then the green from the vegetation. It was so dynamic as the waves continued to aggressively crash into the rock – constantly being pulled and pushed. We could have sat here for hours!
Our journey continued on without stopping as we passed the “Halfway to Hana” sign – whoop! What is nice is a number of waterfalls are not just visible but right alongside the road so you do not need to even get out of the car – just a slow drive by (typically on a one lane bridge) will suffice.
The food truck scene was apparently a destination in it of itself on the drive. As we approached Nahiku Marketplace, we were reminded that in these COVID times, there is no benefit to opening for so few tourists, as the marketplace was completely empty and void of any vendors.
We passed many fruit and food stands as well as other food trucks closer to Hana that were equally bare – like a ghost town. I can only imagine what this must be like in non-covid times.
And before we knew it, we made it to Hana! Amazing, but we were not done and we did not stop. We skipped Hana and Wai’anapanapa State Park and finished off our long stretch of driving 12 miles past Hana at Kipahulu District.
Kipahulu District is the second section of Haleakala National Park (the first second being the top of the volcano). We flashed our American the Beautiful pass and into the park we went. If you visit Haleakala on your trip, that pass is good for 3 days so it would be valid admission here as well if you make it there in the 3 day window.
Read about the Kipahulu District here!
After a great time at Kipahulu District, it was time to start our drive back towards Hana, backtracking to the stops we skipped on the way there.
Wai’anapanapa State Park and those famous black sand beaches were first on the list. I think I have to make a separate post just to show all the incredible photos.
Check them out here!
While we were not starving, we knew dinner would be a bit of a mission so we started making our way back to Hana. The fruit and food stands continued to be empty, but we did recall passing a few food truck pods and restaurants. Our first stop was Hana Farms but their food section closed at 3PM. I asked staff where we could get dinner – chances were that at least one food truck would be open, or Hana Ranch. Hana Ranch was not doing it for us so we sought out the food truck. The first food truck pod was completely closed. The second food pod had two or three trucks open… and it was over run by some grass loving locals.
Most people do not stay overnight in Hana when they do the Road to Hana – they cram it all into one day – which after we completed, it is entirely possible, you just have to be smart with time and where you stop. Because of this, the dining options are super slim – many close at 3PM or earlier so keep that in mind. We chose the busies food truck since there was hope they were moving food fastest (fresher food) – Kevin got fish tacos and I got a hot dog – I know, very Hawaiian. I listed the most well rated places you can eat – at least for lunch if not dinner in post pandemic times in the Roadmap to the Road the Hana.
There are not a ton of options for accommodations in Hana – again, not sure if this is a COVID side effect or normal but I grabbed one of the only Airbnb’s left. While it was a bit more than I would have liked to have spent on one night – it was a really cool Airbnb. It was in the middle of the forest and while the house itself didn’t look it, the interior unit was new construction with one of the nicest bathrooms we have seen. While we only needed it as a place to sleep, it was very comfortable and nice for anyone looking to relax here.
Time for bed and to plan the rest of our journey on the Road to Hana!
Day 2 of Hana / Day 6 of Maui
Day 2 of the Road to Hana! We needed to wait until the sun was on its way up before leaving – driving these roads in the dark is a big no-no as there is no light. With the car packed up from our very short stay and a slice of banana bread for fuel, we left around 6:15AM to make our way back. The drive as the sun was coming up was pretty incredible.
Our first stop was the Ke’anae arboretum which is a very short path that highlights the trees and plants native to Hawaii. It is funny, after seeing all the foliage at Kipahulu District, this was a bit disappointing. Though it was great to see so many rainbow eucalyptus trees up close.
Since no one was on the road, we were able to get more close up views of the waterfalls as well. Not to mention so many great sweeping views on the scenery.
Our next stop was the Waikamoi Nature Trail which again, if you do the Kipahulu District, it is pretty pathetic in comparison to other hikes you will do. Really the best stuff is towards the end of the Road to Hana journey and if you do it like we did and check those off first, everything else is kind of unnecessary. If you do complete this one mile loop, start on the staircase to the left and return down the staircase to the right.
The last stop we added on was a stop at Ho’okpia Beach to see the coast line and the surfers! It was funny to see all the people starting their Road to Hana trip here, and we were already done!
Everyone says the Road to Hana is about the journey and not the destination and while cliche, I have to agree. It is one of the most unique drives in the world navigating the cliffs of a tropical island. The views are breathtaking, the waterfalls are abundant, and the road itself – while scary at times – forces you to slow down and examine each mile. I hope you make time to enjoy the Road to Hana when you visit Maui!
If you are planning a trip, go check out my post Roadmap for the Road to Hana for all the details not covered in this post.