The Road to Hana

Lahaina, HI

We actually got up early as planned and after a quick breakfast of shredded wheat, bananas and coffee, we head for the car and out for adventure.

Jeff did some research on the Road to Hana and discovered “there’s app for that.” Unbelievable! The app is an audio tour, tied to the GPS location of your car along the route. We splurge, spend the $4.99, download the app to my phone and we’re off.
Let me preface this post by saying it was a great day and I hope never to do the Road to Hana again!!

The Road to Hana is famous not only for the incredible scenery, specifically waterfalls, but for the fact that it is a dramatically serpentine road (the book says “600 twists and turns) with 54 one-lane bridges. What you don’t know starting out is that most of the road is slightly wider than a normal sized sedan or maybe a little wider than normal driveway. There isn’t a centerline because the road is not wide enough to divide in half. Of course we didn’t realize this starting out.

It took us about an hour to get to Lahaina and to begin our drive. We switched on the the audio tour and off we went. The audio tour was wonderful and specific to the point that the narrator pointed out the cows in the field we were passing. We couldn’t believe it.

There is is a LOT to see on this 60 mile trek and I’m going to describe some of our stops in no particular order.

Our first stop was at the Huelo Lookout Fruit Stand (it was mentioned in our book). I had crepes with fresh coconut, almonds and Nutella. Jeff had a hunk of freshly baked banana/pineapple bread.

Huelo Lookout Fruit Stand
Huelo Lookout Fruit Stand

Both were delicious. Here is a photo of the young woman who was at the stand which, by the way, is in the middle of nowhere.

Because we were driving up into the rain forest we weren’t surprise that it started to sprinkle. One of the most famous things about the Road to Hana is the number of waterfalls. Unfortunately it began to rain in earnest and though our cheery narrator told us to look here and there to see spectacular cascading waterfalls, all we could see through our steamy windows was dense foliage and the narrow winding road.

After a bit, and just in time, the weather cleared as we were approaching 3 Bears Falls. So pretty!

3 Bears Falls
3- Bears Falls

But soon we were driving in the Ko’olau Forest Preserve where the jungle seemed to take over and the road seems, is it possible? even more narrow. This area gets 200-300 inches of rain a year! Our narrator pointed out and we saw a stand of painted eucalyptus that have brilliant rainbow colored bark.

After what seems like hours of white knuckled driving, (how are you to yield to oncoming traffic on a one-lane bridge if you can’t see through the jungle to the other side of the bridge??), we get to the Ke’anae Peninsula. This peninsula was created by a late eruption of Haleakala and is oddly perfectly flat. Unfortunately its topography, or lack thereof, was the reason for a terrible tragedy. I forget the date but think it was in the ’40s  that a tsunami swept Hawaii and completely washed over the Ke’anae

Pennisula. Of course this was before the tsunami warning systems were in place

Many, many people died and the peninsula was wiped cleaexcept fo

The Ke’anae Congregational Church was built in 1860 of lava rock and coral mortar. It is a pretty little church in a beautiful setting, and that it survived the tsunami is amazing.

Opposite the church is the Ke’anae Beach Park. The coastline is jagged black lava rock and the waves pound into the shoreline. It does make for some nice photos.

Ke’anae is one-half way to Hana and it seems we have been driving forever!

We are getting hungry and though we packed a lunch and healthy snacks we want to try a restaurant listed in our book. Actually, it isn’t a restaurant but a series of three roadside stands in Nahiku that comprises that village’s commercial district. We drive a bit and then realize the little shacks we passed a few minutes ago were where we wanted to stop. We make our way back to discover that 2 of the 3 stands are closed and the third is heavy into meat. Happily there is a little coffee shack serving nice 100% Maui coffee. I get a cup, buy a yummy (and huge) shortbread cookie and chat with the young barista. She is from Montana and next week will have lived in Nahiku for 2 years.

We visit the tiny gift shop which had some nice glass work – no way to get that home in one piece – and we were on the road again.
We take a short diversions to ‘Ula’ino Road to visit the Hana lava tube but when we realize it will cost $12 each and takes around an hour to tour we decide to go back to the Road to Hana.

Van tours that take folks on The Road to Hana and back typically take twelve hours. We are on our own and already are realizing twelve hours might be possible if we spent very little time at each site. Happily, we are in no big hurry.

We stop at Wai’anapanapa State Park. Very cool! There is a black sand beach, a cave to swim in (hope the video here will work for you) and a nice coastal walk past a burial ground, a natural sea arch and a blow hole that roared out as we watched. This was a nice relaxing spot.

On we go…happily our audio guide told us right from the beginning that taking the Road to Hana is the point – not Hana as a destination! And he was correct. There was a small general store, gas station, restaurant and not much else, though I readily admit that we didn’t explore this area. We stopped in the parking lot of the general store to eat the lunch and snacks we packed and were soon on our way. After Hana the road is okay – at least it is big enough to put a stripe down the center!

We drive out of Hana to the ‘Ohe’o Gulch or Kipahulu area which is actually part of Haleakala National Park – which is a totally different section from the Haleakala Crater part of the park (you can’t get there from here). We are on this side because we want to do some hiking. We go to the Kipahula Visitor Center to get oriented, back to the car to change into hiking boots, get backpacks and water and here we go.
We take the Pipiwau Trail – it is 2 miles to Waimoku Falls. These are the falls you see at the beginning of the old Fantasy Island TV show. You’re supposed to allow a little more than 2 hours round trip. At 1/2 mile we get to Makahiku Falls. They drop about 200 feet into a deep gorge. We pass a ginormous banyan tree (the photo does NOT capture its immensity) and we walk through the most beautiful, seductive bamboo forest. I feel truly transport to someplace mystical. Through the bamboo forest we are on raised boardwalks (it is very muddy here) and making good time.

Finally we see the falls and, honestly, they are breath-taking. Absolutely beautiful. To get a closer look we need to cross a stream – more like a raging stream – with really big rocks in it. Jeff scampers across leaping at the end to the other side. It takes me several minutes to figure out how to cross as I don’t scamper OR leap. Jeff’s extended hand helps me off a big rock and safely onto the other side. A wonderful view! (sorry that the photo is sideways!)

We watch the water pouring over the top..400 feet down a sheer rock face. Even standing back quite a ways we feel the spray. Ahhh… We admire the view for a long time before turning to head back down. I do better crossing the stream, but Jeff’s ankle gets caught between two rocks – that’s gonna leave a bruise.

Hiking back to the car we see guavas that have fallen from their branches and split open on the path, their fruity scent is quite nice. I stop to smell some pretty white flowers, I think they were plumeria. They smell soooo tropical. I pick one and put it behind my ear – the fragrance accompanies me all the way back to the car.

It’s time to head home. Instead of retracing the Road to Hana back down – in which case I guess it would then be the Road to Lahaina – we decide to take the Pi’ilani Highway. As I’ve done all the driving so far, Jeff takes over. It was a darn good thing. Used to be that rental car contracts forbade driving this highway, but we didn’t read ours closely and they didn’t tell us NOT to…

Our book refers to the “untamed Pi’ilani Highway” and describes it as “the road winds like a drunken cowboy.” That is an UNDERSTATEMENT! The damn thing wasn’t even paved for most of the way! By now night has fallen, we are on this rutted dirt road where the signs say “Safe speed 10 mph” and it is like driving a roller coaster track. WHAT have we gotten ourselves into?? Oh, and it is also open range so there is a likelihood that we will turn a corner into a herd of cows. Nothing to do but forge ahead.

You always should focus on a positive aspect and ours was that since it was nighttime we would be able to see the headlights of oncoming cars (as though anyone else was dumb enough to be out here in the dark!) and the stars were really pretty. I told Jeff this as his eyes were glued to the road so we didn’t miss a turn and drive off the cliff into the ocean. I finally just closed my eyes and tried not to whimper.

Our Road to Hana adventure was about 15 hours, and like I mentioned at the start, it was great but I hope to never do THAT again!

You have been such a sport to read this whole post and here is your reward….to the first person who will comment telling me the name of a famous “Road to” movie and the name of one of the male leads who appeared in them…I will bring back some Kona coffee.

See you again soon!


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