My husband, Lance, and I decided on a Wednesday that we wanted to go to Maui for the weekend. One of the benefits of living on Oahu is that you can usually grab a $100 or less flight to one of the neighboring islands.On Day 1 of our trip we wanted to make the most of the time we had. Our 6am flight from Oahu was only about 45 mins, (I still went to sleep) so we were pretty rested once we arrived to Kahului, Maui.
When we got to Maui we rented a car and headed straight on the “Road to Hana”. We lucked up (Lance’s words, not mine) and got a Mustang, even though we paid for a compact car, and I insisted on leaving with one. I lost that small battle, and reluctantly climbed into the passenger seat, anticipating a Nascar-like experience.
If you’re not familiar with the Road to Hana, it’s a must see when visiting Maui. Hana Highway is the stretch of road that connects Kahului, where the airport is, with the town of Hana. For my fellow east-coasters, just think of that painful stretch of I-95 leading to South of the Border in South Carolina. Now picture every billboard was actually a cool shop or a scenic lookout where you can take photos,or spend that well-saved vacation money. Now scratch that….because this is no easy ride. It’s actually listed as the 5th most dangerous road in the world. Admittedly, the roads are a little frightening, so it’s important that you have a confident and safe driver (not me).
Hana Highway includes about 65 miles of winding roads, sharp turns, along with over 50 one-lane bridges. Driving one-way with no stops, it will take you about 2.5 hours to get to the town of Hana from the airport. We made this an all day trip by taking about 8 stops before turning around.
Important Note: Your phone/GPS signal will be terrible the whole drive. Make sure you have a good map, phone charger, and music you can listen to offline. Plan your route and stops before you pull off. If you have any sense, you’ll leave with a full tank of gas, too! We didn’t see a fill station the whole way.
Ok, so I should also mention that we got lost at the beginning…driving on what we thought was Hana Highway, but was really Airplane Road. It wasn’t the worst mistake though, because we ended up in a town called Makawao and stopped at a welcoming coffee shop called Sip Me. They sell fresh juices and even had a live performer at 9am. When we finally got on Hana highway (For reals this time!), we made the following stops; all denoted by mile markers (MMs).
(MM2)Twin Falls Hike/Overlook- This is a small hike that leads to a gorgeous waterfall. Don’t be intimidated by the word hike. It’s only about a half mile straight walk through bamboo trees to get to the site. There is a swim opportunity here, but be careful. If you can’t swim, this isn’t the time to learn. There’s also a farm stand, but don’t spend all your money here on souvenirs. There are plenty of other food stands along the highway. If you have to go to the bathroom or get water though, do it here! You have a long trip ahead of you.
(MM4.5) Huelo Lookout/Fruit Stand- Spend your money here! This is a great place to get a banana bread or cane juice. It’s all fresh, and even though our local friends claim it’s the same fruit we buy at Safeway, we would still return. The owner is extremely sweet and cordial. Walk past the stand to the picnic table for a great view.
(MM9.5) Waikamoi Ridge Forest Trail/Overlook-By this time we were already sick of “overlooks”. The blog we were using as a guide had a bout 20 listed but we decided this was our last one. That being said, this stop is beautiful. We met a young couple here with an infant and they took an OK picture of us. We would awkwardly see them a few more times on the trip and Lance would make small talk with them. I occasionally offered a smile and sincere laugh, but being an introvert, I primarily just avoided contact. Social butterfly carried on full-blown conversations with them every single time.
At this point there was some construction on the road and I fell asleep. I woke up to Lance saying “Babe, We’re half-way”, which would imply we made a lot of progress. This turned out to be extremely false, as we would continue driving for hours.
(MM10) Garden of Eden Arboretum- People are going to hate me for this, but this stop was OK at best. When we told the host we lived on Oahu she gave us a discount, so it only cost us $20 total to drive through. They were charging everyone else $15 per head. The cool part is that you can see a 100-year-old mango tree, and walk the well-kept grounds full of flowers and plants found only in Hawaii. There are plenty of photo opportunities. The disappointment was that we were supposed to be able to see the Upper Puohokamoa Waterfall and Keopuka Rock, that was featured in Jurassic park. Technically we sawwww them….but from outer space basically. If you stop here, bring a lunch. It would be a great place to picnic.
(MM17)Halfway to Hana- Spend your money here….but know that it is cash only. Don’t worry. There is an ATM if you need it. We both got some good a** ice cream and Lance got a Kailua pork sandwich. It’s all handmade by a mother and daughter. Super friendly. Pork is sus to me–so I passed, but the banana bread was the best we had the whole trip.
(MM24)Hanawi Falls- This was by far the best stop on our trip. Be careful when you’re driving or you could miss it. It’s on the side of a bridge. Swimsuit optional. We jumped right in with our clothes on. Parking is scarce, but there is some on the side of the road. The water is refreshingly cold…and by that, I mean that it’s an NBA personal trainer style ice bath. You will shiver like a chihuahua in the snow. It’s great.
(MM29)Nahiku Marketplace- At first I couldn’t even remember which mile marker this was, because it wasn’t a planned stop. We smelled the food and had to turn around. We shared a seafood platter from Island Chef that put the shrimp on North Shore, Oahu to shame. I know we’re supposed to be vegetarians….but sue me. Plus, you already read about Lance eating the pork sandwich. There are some other food stands here, but they looked less appealing. I should mention we were there when a lot of the stands were closed. This was a great stop for social butterfly. He talked to two couples here about their running shoes and also about how good Ginger Ale is.
(MM32)Wai’napanapa State Park- This is another must see! We were pretty much over the drive by now but I’m so glad we kept going. Here you will see the “black sand” beach, mermaid caves, and enjoy a short hike to a breathtaking ocean view. I should mention that the phrase “black sand” is a little deceptive. It’s actually more like soft black gravel. Bring flip-flops/shoes or you’ll be mad at yourself!
After this we headed back to the hotel before it got dark. You’ll want to start your trek home a few hours before the sun sets. These roads are not safe at night…especially for first timers. It took us about 2.5 hours to get to Lahaina…and then before we made it back to the hotel, something beautiful happened.The HOT NOW sign was on at the only Krispy Kreme in all of Hawaii. (Again, sue me).