The Hana Highway, or “the road to Hana”, runs for 52 miles down the eastern side of Maui from the city of Kahului to the little village of Hana. The scenery contains lush and tropical rainforest with breathtaking ocean views. But here’s the kicker: the road is winding and narrow, with 59 mostly one-lane bridges and 620 curves. That’s just one way. Once you get to Hana you have to turn around and do it all over again unless you have a high-clearance vehicle. The road deteriorates into dirt after Hana.
The road to Hana captured my imagination long ago. It was the main thing I wanted to do on Maui. Other people might come to Maui for its world-famous beaches or sunrise on Haleakala, but for me it was that road. We rented a car on Maui but I was not about to subject Cal to the wicked drive; we both wanted to just enjoy it. I found an Airbnb in Paia, on the road to Hana, nine miles from the Kahului airport where we flew in, thinking that would be a handy place for a tour to pick us up.
I booked the tour through Valley Isle Tours and found out that there was no pick up in Paia. Tours do not generally just pick people up off the street, they pick up at hotels. I realized when we arrived that there are no big resort hotels in Paia and, anyway, our tour started out with breakfast at the Maui Tropical Plantation. We had to drive there, on the other side of Kahului, to meet our group. Almost everyone else had already been picked up at the tourist hotels on the east side of Maui. No matter to us, Paia was a beautiful stay in and of itself.
We had a delicious continental breakfast at the Maui Tropical Plantation.
This is called “The Gear Pond” and contains equipment salvaged from two sugar mills. Back in the day, sugar cane production was an important source of income for Maui.
There were twelve of us in a van with huge windows for our tour. Nothing much bigger than a van would fit on the road. We set off, back past Kahului, past Paia, and we waved hello to our condo.
We made a first quick stop to view some beautiful rainbow bark eucalyptus trees. They were brought to Maui as a wood burning source for the sugar industry, and are now considered invasive. The bark of the tree sheds annually to expose the green inner bark. As it matures, it changes into different colors.
We drove on, with rainforest on one side, ocean on the other.
Our next stop was Aunt Sandy’s for banana bread. Munching on banana bread while enjoying the sights is a don’t-miss thing on the Hana Highway. Our little loaf was still warm from the oven.
Ke’anae Park is just down from Aunt Sandy’s.
Back on the road, we went through a switchback with a beautiful waterfall.
We had some time to wander around more waterfalls at Puaa Koa State Park. On our way back, later in the day, this was a swim stop. People were in the water here and we watched a couple brave souls jump from the top of the falls.
I stopped to admire a red ti leaf, and put myself in the picture to show how tall it was. Residents use the red ti leaf for landscaping.
I guess looking at waterfalls makes you hungry again, because next up was a stop at Coconut Glen’s for ice cream. Of course we had to sample some because they make their own. I had one scoop each of the coconut and pineapple banana. Lots of coconuts were laying around to make more ice cream for the tourists.
There are only a handful of red sand beaches in the world, and we went to one of them. The cinder cone hill above Kaihalulu Beach has iron in it and is constantly eroding.
After our lunch stop we headed to Waianapanapa State Park for its black sand beach. This park was my favorite in the day for its stunning beauty.
We had changed into swim suits because this was supposed to be a beach stop. Upon getting down to the beach, we discovered that the waves were too rough and only the bravest were willing to negotiate them. As usual, we are always ready for a swim but we never end up in the water.
No matter, there was a lava tube here which I wanted to explore.
It was a little scary at first only because I didn’t know where it was going to come out. I was on my own with this one because Cal was more interested in watching the wave action. It was high and wide enough for several people to be in there at once. At first there was only a shaft of light from the entrance, but then the tube curved around and ended at the water. Wow! That was pretty amazing.
The guide had kept up a running patter of conversation all day about what we had been seeing. He was an incredible font of information about every mile on the road that we covered, including names of all the plants and trees, native Hawaiian culture, and family members that lived on the road and that he had spent time with as a child. We drove through Hana, a picturesque little town. It would be fun to stay in a Bed and Breakfast in Hana, but I wouldn’t want to have to drive the road to get there. We passed a taro farm. After all the taro I had seen or eaten to that point, it was interesting to see.
On the ride back, however, our guide largely fell silent and made us listen to his crooning along with the music he played over the loudspeakers. I suppose you have to do what you need to do when you drive the road to Hana every day. We did have one more stop and, ironically, it was not far from our condo. We were able to see sea turtles here.
There were cars and people everywhere, but these turtles had found a quiet and secluded spot. The beach here was popular for windsurfing.
What a spectacular day we had on the road to Hana. Cal was very happy he didn’t have to drive!
Next time – more Maui adventures!