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 emerged from the thicket to the first waterfall:
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.
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.
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).
It wasn’t far, but we couldn’t touch. Third waterfall we needed to climb up in the distance.
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.
After emerging from the bamboo forest we continued on – stopping occasionally for hidden waterfalls and gorgeous outlooks:
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:
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.
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. 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 found some dentistry in paradise!
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!
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.
This day trip is all about dangerous ground – we weren’t scared!
We found a smaller heiau in ruins out on our hike.
Stones have been laid so that we didn’t trod on sacred ground.
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.
This one taken from the steering wheel gives you some better perceptive of how narrow we’re talking.
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.
Sunset against the volcano
Dusk setting in
Bridge over a gorge – this doesn’t look like a tropical island.
We rounded the last of the curves and the road widened just as we lost our light.
What a fun trip!