In which we go on our Graduation-moon, Part III: Road to Hana

The Road to Hana is one of the most popular things to do in Maui that doesn’t involve a beach or volcano. Hana is a tiny hamlet on the very eastern edge of the island, and like most things in life this journey wasn’t about the destination.

We started off early, myself driving the curvy roads to stave off the motion sickness and Jeff with our handy Maui Revealed counting mile posts to look out for sites. Over breakfast in the Kihei Caffe (food was meh) we had marked out places we definitely wanted to stop at while leaving plenty of room for chance.

There’s plenty to do on the road to Hana, in Hana and the surrounding areas and we couldn’t come close to seeing it all, but I thought we got a pretty good sampling. Here’s what we saw:

The Four Falls of Na’ili’ili-Haele

After researching this hike when we returned to Seattle I found out it is probably the hike that requires the most helicopter rescues in all of Maui. The Road to Hana is famous for it’s waterfalls and we had skipped the first pull out for Twin Falls for this one.

We started off hiking through a bamboo forest thicker than anything I'd ever seen.

We started off hiking through a bamboo forest thicker than anything I’d ever seen.

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We emerged from the thicket to the first waterfall:

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The trail past it, to the second waterfall was up a steep, muddy hill that fortunately had a rope to help you climb. We thought we were adventurous getting to the second falls because there were only two other people there. We were planning on stopping at this point since the guidebook described the rest of the trail as “difficult” and swimming was involved. The couple insisted that we could do it and that it would b completely worth it to keep going – and I’m glad we did!

Sketchy ladder plus rope to get up past the second falls.

Sketchy ladder plus rope to get up past the second falls.

On top of the second falls: We made it up! And didn't void my disability insurance!

On top of the second falls: We made it up! And didn’t void my disability insurance!

The rest of the “trail” was boulder hopping up the stream.

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Until we got to a place where the valley walls closed in on us and we couldn’t boulder hop anymore – it was time to swim:

Boots overhead (turns out we didn't need these).

Boots overhead (turns out we didn’t need these).

It wasn't far, but we couldn't touch. Third waterfall we needed to climb up in the distance.

It wasn’t far, but we couldn’t touch. Third waterfall we needed to climb up in the distance.

I risk taking my camera to take a picture of the fourth falls (carrying my boots over my head was tough enough and it's okay if they fell). This is a picture of the fourth falls from the guidebook.

I did not risk taking my camera to take a picture of the fourth falls (carrying my boots over my head was tough enough and it’s okay if they fell). This is a picture of the fourth falls from the guidebook – which can’t do it justice. 

I am so glad we went – it was gorgeous! About 100 ft high falling into a sparkling pool that we had all to ourselves. It was perfect – the quintessential Maui waterfall. We stayed for a while and then headed back down the stream.

Hibiscus flowers littered the river.

Hibiscus flowers littered the river.

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After emerging from the bamboo forest we continued on – stopping occasionally for hidden waterfalls and gorgeous outlooks:

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We shared a sandwich at Halfway to Hana Snack Shop where we met a gentleman from Missouri. He informed us that here at the midpoint, he “had got the gist” and was turning around. We decided to continue on and I’m so glad we did. Next stop:

Pi’ilanihale Heiau

The Pi-ilanihale Heiau (or Hale O Pi’ Ilani Heiau) is the largest heiau (hey-ow) in all Polynesia and one of the best preserved. Heiaus were places of worship and where chiefs lived. It sits among a garden representing plants that ancient Polynesians brought with them in canoes across the Pacific and it was stunning. We explored the grounds, having them to ourselves and being careful not to get too close to a coconut tree. My pictures don’t do it justice.

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The heiau is the black structure in the back. The thatched roof sheltered canoes. The volcano looms over it all.

Each one of these lava stones were passed in a human chain from a quarry seven miles away. If you dropped a stone, it had to stay where it fell. I can only imagine how long it took to build.

Each one of these lava stones were passed in a human chain from a quarry seven miles away. If you dropped a stone, it had to stay where it fell. I can only imagine how long it took to build. The wall you can see here is only the first side of it and doesn’t show you how massive the structure really is.

I can't escape dentistry even here!

I found some dentistry in paradise!

We had to be careful!

We had to be careful so these coconuts didn’t fall on our coconuts.

After re-filling our water bladder we continued on to Hana and:

Wai’anapanapa State Park

This state park whose name means “glistening fresh water” is one of the last ones before you reach Hana and is home to a small, black sand beach. Jeff found another hike in the guidebook, one that went in the opposite direction of everyone admiring the black sand.

We missed this sign and bushwhacked for a while. It got really hairy and for a minute we almost gave up before we found the trail again - I'm glad we stuck with it!

We missed this sign and bushwhacked for a while. It got really hairy and for a minute we almost gave up before we found the trail again – I’m glad we stuck with it!

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There wasn’t so much a path as a scramble over black lava.

The coolest part of this was watching how violent the ocean was against the lava. We found multiple blow holes and tiny coves that were fascinating to watch.

The coolest part of this was watching how violent the ocean was against the lava. We found multiple blow holes and tiny coves that were fascinating to watch.

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This day trip is all about dangerous ground – we weren’t scared!

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We found a smaller heiau in ruins out on our hike.

We found a smaller heiau in ruins out on our hike.

Stones have been laid so that we didn't trod on sacred ground.

Stones have been laid so that we didn’t trod on sacred ground.

Overlooking the Pacific.

Overlooking the Pacific.

After this little sojourn it was almost dinner time. We continued into Hana and ate a much needed dinner. I didn’t take any pictures, probably because I was beat after our adventures, but Hana is small and peaceful and definitely warrants further exploration. Most everyone around us was there for the night, but we had to head back, so we couldn’t linger.

The road to Hana is lush, two-laned and winds through the rainforest. The road away, on the leeward side of the island, is drier and one lane for both cars – it’s a completely different world:

The Road From Hana

I tried to take this picture of the road to show how it was cut into the cliff.

I tried to take this picture of the road to show how it was cut into the cliff.

This one taken from the steering wheel gives you some better perceptive of how narrow we're talking.

This one taken from the steering wheel gives you some better perceptive of how narrow we’re talking.

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We were in a race against dark, so we didn’t linger.

Following other cars made me less nervous about a a head-on collision around a blind curve.

Following other cars made me less nervous about a a head-on collision around a blind curve.

Sunset against the volcano

Sunset against the volcano

Lava arch

Lava arch

Dusk setting in

Dusk setting in

Bridge over a gorge

Bridge over a gorge – this doesn’t look like a tropical island.

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We rounded the last of the curves and the road widened just as we lost our light.

What a fun trip!

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In which we go on our Graduation-moon, Part II: West Maui

The day before we left I picked up a couple of books for Jeff to read on the beach at our local used book store. On a whim I threw an old copy of Maui Revealed into my basket as well. We had never used a guidebook before, but I’m so glad we did. It took us off the beaten path to see some remote, breathtaking sites – we will definitely be using guidebooks for our future trips! One caveat – try to pick up an up to date book. Our morning trip to go snorkeling off of La Perouse Bay in an area called the Aquarium and Fish Bowl that were described in our 2008 text were thwarted because the area was now off limits. Oh well. We headed back to the car and decided to explore West Maui instead.

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Exploring the lava fields

After lunch at Aloha Mixed Plate in Lahaina, we headed north on Hwy 30 to just before it became the one-lane 340. Following the directions to look for the yellow fence (now painted green) through a pineapple field (now grown over) – we found one of our favorite sites in Maui: The two-tiered pools at Honoloa and we had them all to ourselves.

Hiking down

Hiking down

Overhead shot of the pools - the lower one connects to the ocean, the upper one is filled by crashing waves.

Overhead shot of the pools – the lower one connects to the ocean, the upper one is filled by crashing waves.

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Exploring the pools

Exploring the pools

We found cool fish!

We found cool fish!

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Loving my Hawaiian themed sunglasses from Target.

These tiny fish liked to jump from pool to pool.

These tiny fish liked to jump from pool to pool.

From the pools we headed down the road a little to see the Mushroom Shaped Rock and explore the lava blanketed coastline. thumb_DSC_0366_1024

If you showed me this picture and asked me where in the world it might be, I would say Ireland or somewhere like that - not a tropical paradise. It was amazing to see all the diversity Maui had to offer.

If you showed me this picture and asked me where in the world it might be, I would say Ireland or somewhere like that – not a tropical paradise. It was amazing to see all the diversity Maui had to offer.

Mushroom shaped rock. The red deposits in the lava are from when the island was relatively young.

Mushroom shaped rock. The red deposits in the lava are from when the island was relatively young.

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View to the north and west of the Mushroom Shaped rock

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Lava Arch

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We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring little coves and tide pools in the lava and had the entire hike to ourselves. We almost made it down all the way to the Olivine pools – we could see them and hear people at them, but were cut off by a deep cove.

Since we were so far from Lahaina and on the map it looked closer to take the tiny winding road from Kahaluloa to Kahului, so we kept going in a clock-wise direction around West Maui. The road was very tiny! One lane. For both cars. With a lot of blind turns cut into the cliff side. This would turn out to be a reoccurring theme on the island. {Kahakuloa is marked as large on the map, but in actuality it is a tiny hamlet. A tiny hamlet with delicious banana bread that we bought to support the local church. Bake sale food is the best!}

Our day's wanderings - no wonder we put some miles on the Rogue

Our day’s wanderings – no wonder we put some miles on the Rogue

In which we go on our Graduation-moon, Part I: Haleakala

Jeff and I decided to take a celebratory trip after graduation. Twenty-three grades, four degrees and two certificates now under my belt; we both needed a vacation. Since we are currently “so close” to Hawaii and neither of us had been it was an easy choice. Picking the island was a little harder – but we narrowed it down to Maui or the Big Island in part because they both have national parks. Maui won out and I’m so glad we picked it – we had an incredible time!

Po'olenalena Beach

Po’olenalena Beach

The first day on the island we picked up our 2015 Nissan Rogue (thank you Priceline for letting me bid on an incredible deal – having an SUV was a fun luxury) and drove to our VRBO condo in Kihei. The Rogue was brand new – only 520 miles on it. We would double that amount on our adventures. Most of the rest of the first day was spent sleeping, which was much needed after the hustle that was finishing residency and my final graduation. The second day we explored our nearby beaches (Kama’ole I, Po’olenalena, Makena Landing and Big Beach), snorkeled in among the reefs (and saw sea turtles!) and ate the best lobster of my life at Mama’s Beach House. It was so good we went back for the only other reservation available during our time there and we both ordered it again! My Aunt Teresa and Uncle Larry would be proud of us – we toasted with Cakebread chardonnay – from one of their favorite vineyards.

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Wednesday we woke late and had a lazy brunch at Chez Meme in Kihei after seeing the line for the other popular breakfast spot, Kihei Caffe, was going to be an hour long. It was a great choice – they had delicious mimosas and french toast and a couple of freshly baked pastries ended up coming home with us for later.

After relaxing on our beach, we drove to Pai’a and picked up a picnic lunch and dinner from the Hana Picnic Lunch Company and began the winding, foggy drive up the volcano.Most of the drive was in thick clouds – so much so that the car in front of us just gave up and stopped driving in the middle of the road. They insisted on waving me around by way of the oncoming lane – a scary proposition considering it was so hazy I couldn’t see the front of their car, but we made it. The road snaked through the Maui high country, then into deep coniferous forests and then out into fields that looked like Scottish moors. We finally emerged from the soup into a landscape that looked more like the moon than a tropical island:

Emerging

Emerging

At the top we ate our lunch sitting on beach chairs in the parking lot and took in the visitor’s center. You could see over into Science City where national space observatories and secret Air Force tracking facilities are housed.

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The road into Science City. The pale blue ocean is separated from the sky by a thin line of clouds on the horizon.

At the observatory

At the observatory

After lunch we started on the first of many hikes that we’d take on our visit here: Keonehe’ehe’e,  or as we called it, Sliding Sands Trail down into the crater of the Haleakala volcano.

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You can see some of the cinder cones in the right of this picture. Each one marks a different eruption.

While it looks warm the temperatures hovered in the mid-70s since we were 10,000 feet above sea level. Every step you take going down this trail makes you acutely aware that you will have to come back up the other way soon enough. We marked our progress by time – one hour down in order to give ourselves two hours to return. We were pleasantly surprised it only took us an hour and a half to climb out though.

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Clouds rising off the western shores of Maui and cooling as they reached us. It felt so good.

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Like walking on the moon

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I don’t even care if this picture is sappy. We needed this vacation! We’re done! We made it!

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You can take the girl out of the South.. but you can’t keep her from hiking in a skirt.

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Stepping off the trail damages sensitive roots of endangered plants and wrecks the fragile ecosystem

These are 'ahinahina plants - also known as Haleakala silversword. They are found here and no where else on earth.

These are ‘ahinahina plants – also known as Haleakala silversword. They are found here and no where else on Earth.

Their Hawaiian name means

Their Hawaiian name means “grey grey” – the closest word the ancient Polynesians had considering they had never seen silver metal. They are only found at elevations above 6,900 ft on this island and came close to extinction due to cattle grazing and people taking them for ornamental purposes.

They are like salmon - they bloom once in their 15 - 40 year life spans, and then they die.

We were lucky enough to see one in flower – they bloom once in their 15 – 40 year life spans, spread their seeds, and then they die.

Overlooking the crater on the way back up.

Overlooking the crater on the way back up.

After hiking we hung out around the summit waiting for twilight.

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Feeling on top of the world.

Feeling on top of the world. This is looking towards the north – strange to think there is nothing but water until you reach Alaska.

Sunrise and sunset on Haleakala have taken on a mythical event status for Maui tourists. Most people (in the throws of jet lag, I’m convinced) rise at ungodly hours, drive up that windy road in the dark and watch the golden light rise from the ocean. Many then bike down afterwards. Neither rising early on our vacation, nor hurdling down the side of a 10,000 ft mountain, white-knuckled and potentially ruining my newly-earned career that needs fully functioning hands, appealed to us, so sunset it was:

Moon rise over the observatory.

Moon rise over the observatory.

Everyone gathered for the sunset. Bonus for being crepuscular later - less people to share the summit with.

Everyone gathered for the sunset. Bonus for being crepuscular later – less people to share the summit with.

Another spin around done.

Another spin done.

I loved how it bathed the volcano with it's last rays.

I loved how it bathed the volcano with it’s last rays.

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Changed into warmer clothes for the plunging temperatures.

Going, going...

Going, going…

...and gone.

…and gone.

I became mildly obsessed with taking pictures of the tiny people silhouetted by the setting sun on the rim of the crater. It just looked so cool:

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As the last bits of light settled out of view we retreated to the Rogue to rest and eat our picnic dinner while it got really good and dark. I wanted to try to take pictures of the stars since we were in one of the best places on Earth to see them. Unfortunately a brilliant full moon wrecked our plans to see the Milky Way, but it was cool nonetheless:

Too many lights

Too many lights

Kahului from above. While the full moon ruined plans for some spectacular stargazing we did see Jupiter and Venus at their closest point in the sky in 2,000 years. Some think that the last time they were so close together was the inspiration for the Star of Bethlehem.

The town of Kahului from above. While the full moon ruined plans for some spectacular stargazing we did see Jupiter and Venus at their closest point in the sky in 2,000 years (upper left corner – the big dot is Venus, the smaller one to the right, Jupiter). Some think that the last time they were so close together was the inspiration for the Star of Bethlehem.

Despite the full moon, it's easy to see why you would put an observatory up here - it's so far from light and air pollution you feel as if you could reach up and graze the sky with your fingers.

Despite the full moon, it’s easy to see why you would put an observatory up here – it’s so far from light and air pollution you feel as if you could reach up and graze the sky with your fingers.

We ended our full day crawling slowly back down the mountain, listening to the Rolling Stones and Jimmy Buffet and planning our next adventure on the island.