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The Road to Hana

Emma Tekstra > Adventures in Nature  > The Road to Hana

The turn of the new year 2023 saw my husband and I jet off to Maui for a few days to escape the heavy rain in Southern California and rest from a hectic 2022. The prerequisite for our last-minute escape was to avoid LAX airport and limit one plane ride in either direction. Maui is a mere 5 hour flight from Long Beach airport and you are in a completely different world.


The highlight of our short trip was a day devoted to driving around the island. This is known as the Road to Hana and there are various websites and tour companies dedicated to this famous excursion.

There is nothing quite like it anywhere else on earth. In one day you drive through multiple climate zones and witness incredible beauty and variety of scenery that only a human could appreciate.

We chose to drive ourselves in the little Chevy Spark we had rented for our time in Maui. My husband was slightly apprehensive if the Spark could make it on the off-road sections on the far side of the island. I’d catch him gazing at those 4×4 jeeps longingly but the Spark performed admirably even if our backs were a little sore at the end of the day!


We set off from our condo north of Lahaina at 7am and headed for our first stop about an hour away at Twin Falls. A food truck provided banana bread and cold brew coffee at the trail head and we headed up to the two waterfalls. Pretty easy gravel road most of the way. Mosquitos were hanging out in the forest so we broke out the all-natural mozzie-spray which worked a treat. We hiked for less than an hour out and back which was a perfect interlude to continue our drive.


We had a bit of a schedule to keep to as the main highlight on the Road to Hana is the Black Sands Beach area at Wai’anapanapa State Park just before you get to Hana but advanced reservations are required. We booked just a few days before our trip so the only timeslot we could get was 10am-12pm. That means we had to arrive and leave during this timeslot. So we continued our drive for another hour or two foregoing some of the other featured stopping points but snapping photos the whole way. We made it to a great little café at Nahiku (mile marker #29 for the curious) with lots of local delicacies like sweet potato salad, pono pies (sweet potato mixed with bread fruit, macadamia nuts and honey) and fresh sweet potato chips cooked in coconut oil. Fresh coconut water and guava juice were very welcome.

A few miles later and we arrived at Wai’anapanapa. If we hadn’t been expecting it at mile marker #32
we might have missed the sign to turn down an even narrower road. Even with all the online research we were blown away by what we found at the end of that rough little road. It opened into a small parking lot where our ticket was checked and then we were left to explore. The first bay that we could see from the bluffs was an incredible contrast of jet black lava rocks and sand, lime green vegetation and jungle, and the deep aquamarine blues of the ocean. We were blessed with a wonderful sunny day which was unexpected for January in this part of the island. Check out the photos above and the panorama I’ve put on the About page.

It got more spectacular from there as we went down to the beach and then hiked beyond the crowds eventually finding ourselves completely alone on a remote bluff with the ocean crashing and throwing up spray all around creating rainbows in the mist. I could have stayed there all day but we had to tear ourselves away to comply with our timeslot. Back at the car we drove through Hana and found a little marketplace with several food trucks offering coffee to full meals. We settled on homemade popsicles, one with guava and passion fruit and another with coconut milk and lime. Super yummy!

Another 40mins or so and we came to Ohe’o Gulch which is part of the Haleakala (Volcano) National Park. We headed up the Pipiwai trail which was about 2 miles up. Fairly crowded at the lower portions but some people turned back at the first overlook to the Makahiku waterfalls as it was a strenuous hike. It got more peaceful as we went and the crowds fell away. Lush forest with multiple water crossings and bridges, a massive banyan tree half-way up and then suddenly the scenery changed to a dense bamboo forest. Here there are smooth walkways that have been added to make the going a little easier. Eventually we saw the spectacular Waimoku waterfall peeking through the bamboo. We were able to clamber over rocks to get right underneath this 400ft waterfall.

By now it was late afternoon and we knew we had the toughest part of the drive ahead of us which would not be fun in the dark so we hightailed it back down the 2 miles at a brisk pace. We set off around the southernmost tip of Maui which is sometimes forbidden in a rental car as the road gets extremely narrow and rough. We were basically off-roading in our Chevy Spark but the views were incredible as the sun was getting low in the sky. We navigated a few hairy moments meeting a car going in the other direction. This required some backing up to find a passing spot as the road was often on the cliff-edge. We successfully made it the few miles on the non-road and were once again on a smooth but still stunningly scenic drive. The sun getting lower we were able to pull over and walk out to a secluded beach to watch the beginnings of the sunset, and then a little later as a vibrant red pierced the sky we watched the sun completely disappear behind Kaho’olawe island off the coast.

Another hour or two driving through constantly changing scenery and we were at Kula which is a curious little town up at 4,000ft with an awesome Bistro serving local comfort food. Well nourished we were happy to climb back into our Spark for the final hour’s drive back to our condo. Quite an incredible day of adventure!

Emma Tekstra
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