Driving the Road to Hana

amanda in bamboo

Explore a lush bamboo forest, soak up the sun on a black sand beach, and swim in the pools of cascading waterfalls…all in one day. 

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A few months ago, I was invited to take a trip to Maui with a group of friends. I wanted to go but was reluctant to miss too many days of work after my two week trip to Europe this summer. 

I’d never been to this island state before but had always wanted to go. Being from the east coast, it isn't an easy trip to make. Every time I picture Hawaii, one specific image comes to mind. It's my dad, just shy of 23 years old, standing in the pool of a waterfall with a frog cupped in his hand. He's tall and lanky, with a goofy smile and long dark hair. Behind the camera was my mom, a newlywed celebrating her honeymoon on the Road to Hana.

My friends continued to urge me to join, so before making my final decision I did some research.

What did Maui have to offer?

Could I go for just a few nights and still enjoy my time there?

I quickly concluded that the answer was yes. I started to read about the Road to Hana and knew I had to make the trip. It’s a one-day drive along the coast of Maui, just past a little town called Hana. I saw pictures of bamboo forests, a black sand beach, and gorgeous cascading waterfalls. Fall is technically the “off season” in Hawaii, so flights weren’t expensive. I booked an early flight out of Oakland, CA on Saturday morning and a red-eye back Tuesday night. Missing only two days of work, I was able to seamlessly fit in this quick trip to paradise without skipping a beat.

READ THE FULL STORY on We Are Travel Girls. I'm sharing some additional pictures, what to pack, and TBP Insider Tips below. This was the first trip I was able to really put my new camera, the Canon Rebel SL1, to use. Let me know what you think!

xxA

 This sign reads "Last Stop to Hana" outside the Kuau Store in Paia. Pick up lunch and some snacks for the ride. 

This sign reads "Last Stop to Hana" outside the Kuau Store in Paia. Pick up lunch and some snacks for the ride. 

 A fence made of surfboards!

A fence made of surfboards!

 The Kuau Store. Don't forget water!

The Kuau Store. Don't forget water!

 The Waikamoi Ridge Trail

The Waikamoi Ridge Trail

 Friends beginning the short yet muddy hike.

Friends beginning the short yet muddy hike.

Trail
Emily
Leaf
 The Ke'anae Arboretum has over 150 varieties of tropical plants.

The Ke'anae Arboretum has over 150 varieties of tropical plants.

 A patch of golden bamboo.

A patch of golden bamboo.

 Rachel and Matt climbing in.

Rachel and Matt climbing in.

bamboo
 I found a frog! Dad would be proud.

I found a frog! Dad would be proud.

eucalyptus
rainbow eucalyptus
 These rainbow eucalyptus trees are all natural! The bark sheds at different times, starting at a bright green and slowly changing to an array of rainbow colors.

These rainbow eucalyptus trees are all natural! The bark sheds at different times, starting at a bright green and slowly changing to an array of rainbow colors.

 After a few google searches, I discovered that this is a red Torch Ginger plant. It's indigenous to the Philippines but I found it in the Ke'anae Arboretum. 

After a few google searches, I discovered that this is a red Torch Ginger plant. It's indigenous to the Philippines but I found it in the Ke'anae Arboretum. 

 Would you eat orange shrooms? 

Would you eat orange shrooms? 

 Pit stop time!

Pit stop time!

 These barely lasted the trip. 

These barely lasted the trip. 

 Views from the road.

Views from the road.

 Upper Waikani Falls

Upper Waikani Falls

 AKA the Three Bears 

AKA the Three Bears 

 From left: Me (Amanda), Emily, Matt, Max and Rachel. We all squeezed into a rental car to drive the Road to Hana. 

From left: Me (Amanda), Emily, Matt, Max and Rachel. We all squeezed into a rental car to drive the Road to Hana. 

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 Pa'iola Beach (The black Sand Beach) in Wai'anapanapa State Park.

Pa'iola Beach (The black Sand Beach) in Wai'anapanapa State Park.

 Snapped a photo before heading down to the beach. 

Snapped a photo before heading down to the beach. 

 The black sand beach was created by a lava flow hundreds of years ago. 

The black sand beach was created by a lava flow hundreds of years ago. 

 The sand isn't fine like you'd expect on your average beach, but it also doesn't stick to you!

The sand isn't fine like you'd expect on your average beach, but it also doesn't stick to you!

 Surprisingly I did not pile these rocks, they were already there. 

Surprisingly I did not pile these rocks, they were already there. 

 Selfie fail. I propped my phone up on a rock and a wave came. The phone survived :)

Selfie fail. I propped my phone up on a rock and a wave came. The phone survived :)

 A lava tube cave on the ride side of the beach.

A lava tube cave on the ride side of the beach.

 Koki Beach is a quick stop for a photo op!

Koki Beach is a quick stop for a photo op!

 The water is so clear and blue in Maui.

The water is so clear and blue in Maui.

 An island called Alau covered in coconut palm trees.

An island called Alau covered in coconut palm trees.

 It's usually too rough to swim here, but the views are lovely. 

It's usually too rough to swim here, but the views are lovely. 

 These rocks tower over Koki Beach and turn the sand a shade of red. 

These rocks tower over Koki Beach and turn the sand a shade of red. 

 Wailua Falls drops almost 80 feet down. You can feel the impact of the water hitting the pool when you get close. 

Wailua Falls drops almost 80 feet down. You can feel the impact of the water hitting the pool when you get close. 

 Make sure you do both! We started with the Pipiwai Trail and then ended at Kuloa Point to see the 7 sacred pools, aka O'heo Gulch. 

Make sure you do both! We started with the Pipiwai Trail and then ended at Kuloa Point to see the 7 sacred pools, aka O'heo Gulch. 

waterfall
banyan
banyan tree
banyan
climbing trees
pipiwai trail
bamboo forest
bamboo
ohea gulch
Oheo Gulch

What to Pack

Don’t be the tourist wearing flip flops in the mud! Here’s a packing list to ensure you have a successful day.

  1. Food and Water - stop at the Kuau Store to stock up!
  2. Sneakers/hiking shoes and a back-up pair of flip flops or sandals to wear in the car
  3. Bathing suit and towel
  4. Change of clothes (including socks)
  5. Cash for the banana bread and any snack stops you make after Kuau Store.
  6. Bug spray and sunscreen
  7. Camera
  8. Full tank of gas (there are no gas stations that I saw between Paia and Hana)
  9. Good friends that won’t get annoying on a 12 hour day trip
  10. A baseball hat and sunglasses + a raincoat or umbrella

TBP Insider Tips

> Leave early! The Road to Hana is extremely popular and many of the stops have only small parking lots that fit 3-5 cars. If you leave Paia by 7am, you’ll be able to make all of the stops I’ve outlined.

> If you have the time, we recommend staying overnight in Hana. This will allow you a lot more time to explore and you can even make more stops on the way home!

> Make sure you have a full gas tank when you leave. The only gas station along the drive is in Hana.

> Rent a car to make the drive yourself. We recommend driving back the way you came so that you don’t risk the unpaved roads past Oheo Gulch (the last stop we recommend). Most car rental companies don’t insure any damage that may occur if you decide to take that route.

> Even with bug spray, I returned from Hana with mosquito bites covering my arms and legs. Reapply at each stop to avoid this!

> There are a lot of stops in addition to what I chose, so I encourage you to pick and choose to suit what you want most. One of the popular stops I didn’t go to is the Garden of Eden. While I’ve heard good things, it costs extra money to enter the park and it wasn’t at the top of my list. Do your research ahead of time.

> There isn’t service along a lot of the Road to Hana. Check out our Google Maps Hack post to download the area map and pin each stop you want to make.

> While it’s possible to drive the whole trip yourself, I recommend having someone to switch on and off with.

> Stop 6, Wai’anapanapa State Park and Pa’iloa Beach (Black Sand Beach), is a great spot to take a break for lunch. If not, check out Stop 8 and picnic at Koki Beach.

> On the last stop, Kipahulu, you can park for $20 in a lot and there are restrooms and a tourist center. Start by making sure you have a full bottle of water for the Pipwai Trail hike, which will take you about 1.5-2 hours. There is a water filling station right outside the bathrooms. It’s also a good idea to grab a bamboo walking stick to help you through muddy slopes on the trail.

> Make sure to leave the last stop and head back by 4pm so you don’t have to drive all of the windy roads at night.

sunset

Have you driven the road to hana? What was your favorite stop?

Make sure to check out the full list of stops on We Are Travel Girls.

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