Driving to Hana is not a commute, or even the means to an end – the drive is an adventure in and of itself (www.mauiguidebook.com).
I could not have put this better myself. During our stay in Lahaina, we decided to venture out further with a drive to Hana, an extremely isolated town on the eastern end of Maui island. It’s said to be roughly a two and a half hour drive one way, however that is completely inaccurate, due to road conditions, and of course the million and one stops you’ll want to make along the way. You’d be better off aiming for four hours one way as a minimum.
Starting our journey, we passed through Paia, a chilled-out town full of surfers, and a few sweet little restaurants. We didn’t stop here on this day trip, however made a note to come back and spend a bit of time here the following day. I’m so glad we did, as it is a beautiful town, with a gorgeous beachfront and some good spots for happy hour. If you are going to stop here, or plan to grab a bite to eat at the beginning of your drive – be sure to check out Paia Bowls for a great (huge!) acai bowl or smoothie.
From there, we drove out along the beautiful Hana Highway coastline, and tucked slightly inland through valleys and mountains. The roads are narrow along the entire stretch, and have countless one-way stops, which is why your trip time will more than likely double. The drive itself is absolutely breathtaking – views high out over the ocean, crossing bridges that drop down to running creeks, and under rainforest trees that are lush and green. It was raining on and off during our trip, so we had to be mindful of landslides and the road conditions.
Our first stop along Hana Highway was just past mile marker 6, where we parked alongside a bamboo forest on the right-hand side of the road. You will find two entrances that drop down, tucked away amongst the trees. Don’t be thrown off by the dodgy looking entrances! Get your adventure face on, and get walking. We managed the trek in thongs (flip flops for the non-Australians), through the bamboo walkways, along the rickety “bridge” and down towards a flowing river. As I mentioned, it was raining and had been quite heavily, so the conditions were rather wild.
We had a bit of a look around here for about 15 minutes, then ventured back up the muddy pathway to the car. It was a gorgeous spot, and had it not been raining, we probably would have gone a little further or relaxed here for a bit longer! It was definitely worth a stop though.
The next break was around mile marker 10 – with an obvious area to park your vehicle, you’ll find a short walk down to a waterfall and swimming area. Even on the rainy day that we went adventuring, this spot was quite busy… so we decided to walk up a little further. There is a bit of a pathway if you stick to the right-hand side, and commit. Trust me when I tell you, it’s EXTREMELY worth it. At the top of this ten minute walk/scramble across rocks, we stumbled across the most incredible waterfall. She stood tall and strong, with a beautiful swimming area surrounding the base, and a rock cave that creeped underneath.
We braved the cool water, dived in further and swam towards the cave. The water was falling extremely hard and strong due to the rain but it was an incredible experience all the same. Before getting ahead of myself, and not to turn you off from the rest of the blog, I must just say, this waterfall was the highlight, and a great discovery. Sometimes it pays off to go just a little further than the usual.
Carrying on after this quick dip, and drying off a little on the way, we pulled in between mile markers 19 and 20, at Waikani Falls (or Three Bears Falls).
There were a couple more brief stops that we made along the way from here, firstly at the Kaumahina State Wayside Park for a toilet break. There was nothing too noteworthy at this place, other than a man feeding about 50 cats, and a pretty view out into the ocean. Our second stop was at Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside Park, which had some park benches, an average waterfall view, but plenty of fenced areas, tourists… and more cats.
We were extremely hungry, and our snacks weren’t keeping us satisfied enough, so from here we journeyed on another half an hour or so, all the way through to Hana. Within minutes, we found ourselves sat at a table at the Hana Ranch Restaurant and devouring burgers and fries.
Being well-fed and rested from the drive, we began our journey back to Paia, but not without stopping at Waianapanapa State Park to check out the Black Sand Beach. Next to the overflowing waterfall stop, this was one of my favourite places I’d seen all day, and a memorable experience. Waianapanapa in Hawaiian means “glistening water”. I wasn’t aware of that at the time, but knowing this now – it makes perfect sense. Even on an overcast day like we had, the water glistened, and was simply something I couldn’t take my eyes off.
Be sure to take a good walk around here, as there’s plenty of hidden gems. The blowhole, the beautifully formed volcanic rock ledges, the crystal-clear Anchialine (fresh/salt water) pools, and the mysterious caves made this a beautiful last stop for us on our Road to Hana adventure. We enjoyed the scenic drive back through to Kaanapali from there, and made it to our apartment just after sunset.
For more photos and videos from our Hawaiian adventure, follow me on Instagram – @aussiearoundtheworld