August 10, 2016
Top 10 Road to Hana Stops!
I am writing this post as I sit on the plane from Kahului Airport, Maui back to LAX. There is a bit of sadness in my heart as I leave the beautiful island…but luckily reality for me is not something that I avoid or despise, so don’t worry about me, I’ll be okay. *Cries quietly inside*
This is my second time on Maui. Sam and I were out here for a friend’s wedding and decided to make a vacay out of the trip…so there were A LOT of things I wanted to see and accomplish. One thing that we didn’t get to do last time was the Road to Hana – everyone scared us out of it, saying it would be too treacherous, that our car may break down in the pouring rain and that we’d be lucky to make it back.
I am happy to say that after renting a Ford Fusion, we (I mean Sam) calmly drove the road there and back and we were TOTALLY OK. You really don’t need a four wheel drive car or Jeep but a convertible would be nice!
So I want to share with you our amazing adventure. I feel a little troubled and apologize in advance to any locals reading my blog post as I don’t want to further populate your special spots. But I feel it is my duty to share these gorgeous experiences with those who may never get to see it.
THINGS TO PACK:
- Snorkel gear
- Tennis shoes
- Bug repellant
- Food & Snacks
- Car charger and/or external charger for phone(s)
- The Gypsy Guide App
TOP PLACES TO VISIT:
- Keanae Arboretum
- Pauwalu Point
- Three Bears Falls (Upper Waikani Falls)
- Nahiku Marketplace
- Wainapanapa Caves + Black Sand Beach
- Red Sand Beach *TOP SPOT*
- Koki Beach
- Wailua Falls
- Oheo Pools (Seven Sacred Pools)
- Pipiwai Trail + The Bamboo Forest
Sam and I decided to do an overnight stay in Hana since we didn’t want to be rushed, but I will tell you right now that it is not really necessary. You can totally do Road to Hana in one day if you start early (leave Kihei or Lahaina around 6:45am). The only problem is that EVERYONE does this, so the spots get crowded at the same times (which makes it tough for cool pics). Perhaps it would be smart to start early and drive all the way to the end and then slowly work your way back to go against the traffic?
We left Kihei around 9am and got gas for the last time in Paia. Such a cute town with so many cute bikini shops. Did not have time to go inside. Wish I did.
Then we were off. I turned on my Gypsy App which I downloaded because another blogger recommended it. I bought the “Road to Hana Tour” (about $5) which basically guides you along the way based on your GPS coordinates. So, you don’t even need service for it to work! I thought I was so cool and underground for knowing about this until I met another traveller who boasted about the app too. Hana, I guess everyone knows about it. Either way, if you’re going to Hana, I 100% recommend downloading it as you get to learn factoids along the way AND the app preps you for upcoming stops! Just know that it EATS YOUR BATTERY ALIVE. So you need to have your phone charging constantly!
1. KEANAE ARBORETUM
We drove over an hour before we stopped at our first location, the Keanae Arboretum. You get a close look at the Rainbow Eucalyptus trees which look like they have painter’s brush strokes on their thick trunks. Other than that…I don’t really see another reason for stopping here. The app said this is a highlight, but honestly, the Rainbow Eucalyptus trees you see near the beginning of your journey (on the left) are WAYYY cooler. They have blue stripes!
2. THREE BEARS FALLS (Upper Waikani Falls)
These falls were so cool and right by the highway! They look like big bear, middle child bear, and baby bear. Apparently when it’s raining really hard, the water flow gets so intense that all 3 falls blend into one big kahuna fall, and the three bears lose their uniqueness. We were lucky to see the three!
3. PAUWALU POINT
I really loved this spot because it was the first spot on the Road to Hana where we got to get up close and personal with the ocean. Oh and boy was she TURBULENT! The water is deep blue and the waves crashing against the dark black rock formations make for a stunning visual experience.
4. NAHIKU MARKETPLACE
At this point, more than halfway to Hana, we were getting hungry. There had been mini stands run by locals along the way selling fresh banana bread, fruits, and fish tacos. We decided to wait for the Nahiku Marketplace, which is a row of stands, for more food options. Be prepared to have cash, as most of these stands ONLY accept cash and I did not see an ATM machine! The fish taco I had was OK. The beef taco was better, but still, I much prefer the tacos from Coconuts! That was probs my fave fish taco of the entire trip…and I had A LOT of fish tacos! The only place that took credit card was the smoothie place to the left.
That is also where we bought some banana bread, and I must say…that was indeed buttery and memorable!
5. WAINAPANAPA CAVES + BLACK SAND BEACH
The app told a scary legend about a Hawaiian princess who was murdered here by her cruel chief husband. So, once a year there is a phenomenon in this very cave where the water turns red like blood as a reminder of the incident…but really…it’s just shrimp being born! It was a short 5 min hike down to the cave.
In the same place you also get to see the Black Sand Beach! This was one of the top things I wanted to see FOR SURE. When we got down, we saw a cool mini tube cave thing on the right. You have to duck your head low to get in, but once you do, you’ll see the light and it makes for a cool silhouette pic!
The sand is indeed black and it’s AWESOME.
Except that the rocks hurt. So I ended up wearing my sandals into the water and they floated away from me a couple times! This is not a beach for snorkeling or easy wading. The waves are quite big. Well, I’m scared of waves, so anything above my knees is big. But no really, I think most would consider them large as they will go up to your neck.
Black Sand Beach was very crowded around 2pm.
6. RED SAND BEACH
We finally made it to Hana and were rewarded with the BEST thing in the ENTIRE Road to Hana adventure. The app does not tell you about this place on the way there, so don’t forget to make a note and GO HERE. It is the most visually stimulating thing I have EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. I mean, LOOK:
We did this on the way back to the Kahului airport on our final day so I did not get a chance to go in the water, but oh man, I would have gladly traded a couple Hana stops just to spend a good half day here.
Do you see how there’s a natural swimming pool with calmer waters because of the natural rock gate that barricades the crashing waves from the shore? YEAH. That will allow for peace swimming, and from what I hear, snorkeling too.
The hike here is tough to find and I almost slipped a few times. I was wearing full on tennis shoes and lost my balance more times than my life would like.
How to find it?
Park on the street in front of the Hana Community Center. Then look to the left of the Community Center beyond a green grassy field and you will see a tiny dirt trail not too far from the gate for the hotel guest parking gate. It’s a little hard to find. We missed it at first. You will walk through a bunch of tall grass. The whole time I kept telling myself – please no praying mantises please no grasshoppers please no snakes. I am happy to report that none of those touched me to my knowledge.
You will continue on the trail to walk left…and KEEP GOING for 10 min or so. And then you will see it. YOU WILL SEE THE HEAVEN THAT IS THE RED SAND BEACH.
If you go here, please be safe. It is EASY to fall off the cliff and tumble into the ocean. Please wear good shoes with grip, and hold on to the roots of the trees as you climb. If you can, get here EARLY like 7am-8am (makes sense for those staying the night in Hana and leaving the next day) and you won’t see any tourists. Seeing this place without people really adds to it’s glory.
7. KOKI BEACH
We stopped here because the app told us to and I really loved the scenery. We didn’t get in the water because we thought we forgot to lock the car, but I did get a chance to snap this shot. Once again, lots of waves at this beach. Not too many people around 3:30pm.
8. WAILUA FALLS
Another waterfall by the road that we needed to see! You can totally swim in the pool here but we decided we’d rather save pool swimming for the Oheo pools at the end. Awesome pic opportunity PLUS the rock walls also have water trickling down them which adds to the whole rainforest experience.
9. OHEO POOLS (Seven Sacred Pools)
I read EVERYWHERE that we needed to go 45 min past Hana to see the Oheo Pools which were dubbed the “Seven Sacred Pools” by some marketing people to keep people driving after they reached Hana. Apparently there are more than a dozen pools here so “seven” is just a word that sounded nice with “sacred”, and according to the app, these pools are not sacred at all. LOL.
$20 entrance fee (really parking fee) to get into Haleakala National Park. This ticket lasts for 3 days FYI so don’t pay again if you’re going to the top! The hike down to the pools took a mere several minutes (0.5 mile loop) and when we got there, we were a little disappointed to see a ton of people.
It was about 4:15pm. For sure, it was beautiful, but having so many tourists there took away from the experience. We decided not to swim and instead got ready for the Pipiwai trail.
Look, I’m not trying to say I don’t like tourists (because I am one) but I think the internet has really populated a bunch of places that once used to be cool and hidden hang out spots for the locals. I feel responsible now contributing to the tourism. But then again, I would feel selfish if I didn’t share this beauty with you. Hmm, how do you feel about this? Is it bad to share local spots with the internet? Will it lead to the over-visitation (and maybe destruction!??) of these sites?
10. PIPIWAI TRAIL & THE BAMBOO FOREST
After reading Unreal Hawaii’s blog post on the Pipiwai Trail, I knew I wanted to go here to see the Bamboo Forest up close and personal! We started the trail around 5pm and DID NOT want to walk back in the dark, so we made it a goal to get the Bamboo Forest but to not go all the way to the end, which I heard was a 4 hr – 4 mile loop!
Be prepared for SWEATINESS!!! Heart rate was UP UP UP. But it felt nice (in an OMG I’m dying kinda way) to be active after sitting in a car so much of the trip. Lots of roots, mud, and rocks. WEAR TENNIS SHOES OR HIKING SHOES.
Halfway to the Bamboo forest, you will see the Makihiku Falls from a distance. Keep going and you will pass a huge Banyan Tree too!
Then after more heart thumping hiking, you will reach this bridge…
which leads to the Bamboo Forest!
When we got to the forest, I was halfway expecting Pandas to pop out. Or like a ton of centipedes camouflaged as bamboo. I did not see either. HOWEVER, I do hear that centipedes are a thing. Just make sure you’re bug sprayed up. The forest was beautiful and quite majestic. Tried to take a pic here but lighting was bad for a human, so you get just the bamboo by itself!
After hiking back to the parking lot, we left for our VRBO house rental around 6:30ish. It was still light, so we were happy about that. I wish I could say that after getting to our place, we relaxed, ate, and slept peacefully into dreamland…but…THAT WAS SOOOOO NOT THE CASE.
The house was indeed lovely, and the owners left fresh Hawaiian flowers on the towels and the beds and even fresh fruit (bananas, avocados, star fruit, papaya) in the fridge for us. All was grand until…
I saw it.
I was reaching for a window to close it and as soon as the window slammed, I saw a dark grey mass skitter to the right of my hand.
…the biggest spider I had ever seen in my life.
It was the size of a crab.
I died. I died so many times. I just could not live.
I called the owner and left voicemails for help. I told them I was dying. I’m sorry if I sound like a whiny baby but I have arachnophobia TO THE MAX. And when you see a spider the size of a crab in your bathroom when you’re about to take a shower in your most vulnerable state and you have extreme arachnophobia, you feel like death is near.
All I can say is that eventually (like in a 30 min battle) between spider crab and 3 humans, humans won, but only kind of, because I slept in fear that night, waking up several times thinking there was a spider on me.
I hope you enjoyed this Road to Hana recap! If you ever go, just remember that this trip is more about the adventure than it is about actually getting to Hana. Enjoy the journey. Have a good playlist prepared. If you’re on Spotify, download the songs first. You will not have any service. Don’t forget the Gypsy Guide app, and don’t miss the Red Sand Beach. TAKE LOTS OF PICS. But boomerangs are better. And video is a plus if you want to be an overachiever.
Alrighty, just a couple more hours to LAX. Time to catch a few zzz’s since I’m a little sleep deprived…