Top 5 Sites on the Famous Road to Hana
The day spent on the Road to Hana was a highlight of our time in Maui and should be considered a ‘must-do’ for anyone there for a week.
Hot Take: The Road to Hana exposes you to ‘classic’ Maui with all the waterfalls, beaches, lava tubes, and wonders that you hoped for when you booked your trip! (4.5 stars).
Pro Tips: Download a GPS based guide app (we LOVED the Shaka Guide), but make sure to only stop at the biggest highlights as there is too much to do and too little time (this is especially true of most of the waterfall hikes, which can be a big time drain).
Like many a first time visitor to Maui, we were excited but a bit apprehensive about our journey along the famed Road to Hana. Kelly’s parents were gung-ho to join us having visited the island a couple of times but never were able to do the road to Hana. The excitement is easy to understand from the numerous waterfalls and beaches that awaited us; however, the apprehension stemmed from the 8 hours on a 64 mile road featuring 620 curves and 59 (mostly one-lane) bridges (which has led every t-shirt shop in Maui to carry “I Survived the Road to Hana” shirts).
The day started early as we were on the road by 7:00a. Fortunately, Kelly’s parents had rented a mid-size SUV so we would be traveling in comfort and style. Getting to Paia (the unofficial starting point of the Road to Hana) was uneventful, but once we turned onto the start of the coast road we knew we had reached a paradise within the paradise that is Hawaii. Armed with the affordably priced “Classic Road to Hana Tour” app by Shaka Guides (which works on GPS signal, so no worries if you lose LTE coverage), we were never lost and saw far more than if we had just buzzed along the road unaware. Kelly found this app and it was probably the best $5.99 we spent the entire time we were in Hawaii.
There are many, many things to do on the Road to Hana, but we choose to give you just the best. Please note that one day is way too short to do even all the big highlights, so choose carefully. DON’T stop just because some other cars have, especially early in the trip when you are liable to stop at just about anything, because the best stuff is later in the journey. Also, remember that the journey itself is the experience, so don’t get too caught up in fighting the traffic, the clock, or anything else…just let being in paradise and the aloha spirit wash over you.
#1: Bamboo Forest
Numerous groves of bamboo grow along the Road to Hana and the Shaka Guide led us to one between mile marker 6 and 7 that gave us a great hike to start our morning (which was wonderful after 2 hours in the car). Numerous reviews call this hike a ‘bit of Old Maui’ and we could see why as the muddy path through mature bamboo groves was winding and wild before jumping a ravine and extending up a hill to a series of waterfalls.
#2: Secret Lava Tube
Along the route there are numerous lava tubes that are large enough to crawl/walk in. We would recommend you skip the paid ones and go to the secret one mentioned in the Shaka Guide. A small gap in the jungle (but right on the side of the road) leads to a 300ish ft long lava tube with a jungle opening at the end. The best part (especially for Matt) was that this lava tube was free (note: it is also unmarked and dark – so you will need a flashlight/light on your phone).
#3: Seven Sacred Pools at Haleakala National Park
Though a government shutdown prevented us from fully enjoying Haleakala National Park, some good-hearted park rangers opened the gates and let people see the wonder that is Ohe’o Gulch (aka the Seven Sacred Pools). A short loop trail from the parking lot took us past one of Hana’s original tourist draws. While swimming in the pools is no longer allowed, the natural beauty was stunning (despite how tired we were at this point in the journey).
Ok, so we’re cheating here, but we couldn’t choose a favorite waterfall – so we chose them all. One note, all the waterfalls below can all be seen from the road itself (usually there is a little pullout to park and take pictures) so you don’t really need to take a lot of time with the waterfall hikes (unless you are on a quest to document every single waterfall). The one exception to this would probably be Waimoku Falls (in Haleakala National Park) which is a 400 ft stunner that we didn’t see because we ran out of time (and energy).
#5: Wai’napanapa State Park
Easily a top destination in Maui in its own right, Wai'napanapa State Park was one of the best state parks we have ever been to anywhere! Featuring a black sand beach, lava tube, blowhole, and stunning views of paradise, the only bad part about Wai'napanapa State Park is that you won’t have time to spend the whole day here. It is almost cheating to call this one site, because there are 3 top activities in this place alone.
Let’s start with Pai’iloa Beach (which Matt swam in for 15 minutes despite the strong currents and massive swells…note: he was the only one in the water and caused a bit of a scene). There is also a lava tube explorable right to the side of the beach.
That same strong wave action flows through the old lava field and powers a natural blowhole that is perfect for cooling off on a hot day.