617 curves, 56 bridges, 52 miles and 3 hours
… of non-stop driving fun. Of course, the whole point of the Road to Hana is the drive, not the destination.
If you ask me, the best part of the Road to Hana, wasn’t even on the road to Hana! It was before the road ever got started, at Ho’okipa Beach (View in Google Earth. What is Google Earth?) a few minutes outside of downtown Paia, Maui.
It is perhaps the most renowned windsurfing site in the world. The waves here are largest during the winter, and break across a system of reefs that extend across the bay. Luckily, December is the beginning of winter so we were seeing some really awesome waves.
After driving up and down the Road to Hana it was raining when we came back, and the ocean looked ferocious. Even though it was raining, that didn’t stop the surfers or wind-surfers, as they were still out there trying to catch a good wave.
When the heavy rain subsided I turned around and spotted a magnificent rainbow arching across the vibrant blue sky and above those fantastic waves. I will say that if I had known more about this beach I’d have planned to spend a couple of hours here. It was awesome to stare at those mighty waves, and the guys brave enough to be out there.
I also managed to catch this guy windsurfing in some really big waves. Not as big as the giant one in my post about 10 sports you never heard of, but bigger than anything else I had seen in Hawaii yet!
Now, shortly after the totally awesome and mesmerizing waves and surfing came a stretch of twisty road bordering a massive bamboo forest. I happened to notice some cars stopped by the side of the road and some people disappearing into the bamboo so I decided to follow them. And wow! Was that a great move!
Of course, I filmed my short trek through the treacherous trails to bring back and share with you guys… The exact location of the entrance to the bamboo forest (+/- 18 feet) is N 20 53.125′ by W’156 12.494′.
These videos, by the way, were taken with my Sanyo Xacti waterproof camera / camcorder.
Now, continuing on…
Here is a short clip of the drive which I filmed to share with you guys. Basically if you multiply this by 100, you’ve got the entire drive covered! Actually, that’s not entirely true… this was the best of about 10 different clips I filmed. Much of the drive has no ocean view whatsoever. (See the attached maps courtesy of Hawaii Drive Guides. Part 1, Part 2. View in Google Earth. What is Google Earth?)
I also took this short video of a freshwater pond fed by a small waterfall just before a bridge near the 14 mile marker.
- Get gas before you go. There are no gas stations along the way.
- Take food and drink with you. There are no restaurants along the way.
- Use the bathroom before you go. Unless you are comfortable with going in the woods.
- Bring a swimsuit, towels, and a jacket. You might want to splash around in a pool or waterfall, and it tends to rain quite often.
- Drive slow. For the sake of your own passengers, and because many of the locals drive like shit and you have to make up for it by being extra careful.
- Take a portable GPS unit like my Garmin Nuvi 660. I take mine on all my travels.
- Pull over and let people pass you whenever they start stacking up behind you.
- Don’t leave valuables in your car when you stop. Break-ins are common.
Here are a few stopping points if you take the drive:
- Just after mile marker 2 pull into the large turnout on your right. Look for a sign that says “Twin Falls” and a roadside stand. You can take a gentle hike and easily get into the water.
- Just after mile marker 10 is Waikamoi, one of the most beautiful 70 foot waterfalls on Maui – if it’s been raining recently. If it’s flowing take a short hike upstream for the best view.
- The Keanae Peninsula will be found around mile 17. You can go right down to the beach (drive if you have a 4×4 or walk if you don’t) and explore the shoreline.
- After mile marker 27 you’ll see Pua’a Ka’a State Park. Park in the turnout and cross the road to the path. It leads to 20 foot waterfalls and two swimming holes. If you’ve got the energy, walk along the water ditch and up stream to see more powerful falls.
- Just before Hana past mile marker 32 is Waianapanapa, a recreational area with a black sand beach a blow hole and trails through the hau forest. Travel + Leisure ranked it #1 of 10 Great American Beaches.
- 9.1 miles past Hana is the Oheo Gulch, or “Seven Sacred Pools”.
- Just above Seven Sacred Pools is one of the best hikes on Maui. It is 4 miles round trip, and reaches an elevation of 650 feet. It will take 2 hours or longer depending on your pace as you walk through a bamboo forest ending at the 400 foot Waimoku Falls.
All in all I thought it was a nice drive, but it did not live up to the massive amount of hype that surrounds it. I’ve driven some other incredible roads like the Pacific Coast Highway, the backroads of Santorini, and others, so it left me a little disappointed. Frankly I think that the drive along the mouth of the bay in San Francisco heading to the old Batteries is even more beautiful – and quite a bit more accessible.
Of course, you can’t go trudging through forests or swimming in freshwater ponds there. So enjoy this drive if you get the chance!