In October 2016 we made the 13,500 mile round trip from Scotland to the US state of Hawaii, one of the furthest away points you can go to from our country. We didn’t know anybody else that had been there before so did all of our own research to establish what we wanted to do, and The Road To Hana quickly made its way onto our itinerary, and our bucket list in general. Here’s the story of our journey and the stops we made, and why we recommend that you add it to your bucket list as well!
We set off from Kihei, Maui in our red Jeep Wrangler (pretty sure this is the #1 sign you’re a tourist in Hawaii if you’re driving one of these) leaving at 7am with a quick fuel stop at Paia Town. The road to Hana is just 52 miles, yet this is an all day trip at the very least! This is due to the road itself, with over 600 turns and 59 bridges, and also the amount of stops there is on the way there. Here’s the stops we made:
1. Our first sightseeing stop was the Ho’okipa Lookout. This beach is known for its amazing waves and even better surfing, but we stopped here in the hope of seeing some Sea Turtles up close and personal and struck gold! There was about half a dozen that had docked themselves on the beach and were just sitting chilling. We strolled down to get some photos of these creatures in the flesh, and couldn’t believe how HUGE they were, but we made sure not to get too close so as not to bother them too much. Content with seeing the sea turtles we watched the surfers out riding the early morning waves before getting back on the road.
2. Twin Falls is one of the more well known stops early on on the Road to Hana. We got parked no problem, but by the time we got back to the car the small car park was completely full with more people waiting to jump straight into the next free space. We recommend leaving early to hit the hotspots before it gets really busy. You don’t wanna waste time sitting in your car longer than you need to on this road trip.. More time = more fun!
There is a short hike before you get to the falls but it’s fairly easy. You have to take a towel and your swimming gear so you can go in here. Seriously it is amazing! There is a stall where we picked up some Coconut Candy to snack on during the rest of the day ahead before setting off again.
3. Our next stop was the Garden of Eden Arboretum; A truly stunning array of plants, trees and falls. We paid the small entrance fee to park the car and strolled round here for about an hour and thoroughly recommend it. The main highlights included the numerous Rainbow Eucalyptus trees, 100 year old mango tree and Keopuka Rock Overlook, made famous from the film Jurassic Park.
4. Halfway to Hana check point. After being delayed by a road block for about 15 minutes due to falling rocks (yes, really!) we made it Halfway to Hana, passing some stunning scenery, bridges and waterfalls en route. There is a small cafe here where they lay claim to have the best banana bread in the world! A bold statement maybe, but it’s definitely worth stopping for a coffee and a mini loaf of this local delicacy.
5. We stopped for an ice cream at Coconut Glen’s, a dairy free ice cream shack at the side of the road that was so good! There was such a wide variety of flavours to choose from, and we opted for Coconut and Rum n’ Raisin. You will see dozens of stops for you to choose from selling various refreshments ranging from fresh fruit to hot snacks and beverages so you will be spoilt for choice, but we would definitely recommend stopping off for an ice cream to cool down. As well as good ice cream, it’s a unique shack run solely by Glen and his two dogs, where you can pinpoint your hometown on the map (we were the first from Inverness!)
6. At around the 31 mile marker we took a left turn and drove on for another half a mile to the Hana Lava Tubes. A huge subterranean tunnel formed by molten lava almost 1000 years ago, which is the largest of it’s kind on the island of Maui. You’ll be given a torch and descent down underground to explore the caves where you will see the walls and ceilings that look like Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses and may even spot the remains of cows from the old Hana Slaughterhouse, that were dumped here between the 1950’s to 1970’s. The cave’s owner cleared most of these out, removing nearly 17,000 lbs of bones over a 9 month period, and was presented with an award by the State of Hawaii for Environmental Preservation!
I wouldn’t really say the lava tubes are an essential stop on the route, but we found it quite interesting and something we’re not likely so see in many other places in the world.
7. Getting closer to Hana the weather started to turn, this is normal and something you are virtually guaranteed to experience when you reach the other side of the mountain. Our next stop was the Wai’anapanapa State Park. Experiencing the Black Sand Beach here was something that was on our bucket list to do and so we had to stop off and see it despite the gloomier weather. It was like nothing we had ever seen before, and although the sand was coarser than that of a normal white sand beach, it’s still definitely worth going to see this alone! As well as the beach though, there are ancient caves, temples and burial sites that you can explore. You can also stop off here and camp if you are looking to stay overnight, but need to book in advance to obtain a permit for this.
8. We survived the Road to Hana! While in Hana we attempted to find the Red Sand Beach that is situated here, however we couldn’t find it and got lost trying. As we were doing the whole road trip from Kihei and back in one day, we wanted to get something to eat and then head back downhill before the sunset.. This road ain’t gonna be as fun to do in the dark!
We stopped off at Braddah Hutt BBQ and Grill for some freshly grilled chicken, rice and mac salad before setting off on our journey back. Despite being from a little truck at the side of the road, this was one of the nicest meals we had during our stay in Hawaii and you should definitely go there to try it!
While you can stay in Hana and it is meant to be a really nice place to spend a night or two we were trying to cram as much in during our week on the island of Maui so only had a day to do this. It is possible to cram as much in and do this road trip in a day, you just have to research and prioritise what you want to see and spend your time wisely. We would have liked to have seen the Seven Sacred Pools if we had more time, but the hire car company we were with don’t permit you to drive back down the other side of the mountain.. Next time!