One of the iconic Maui activities is a trip down (and back) the Road to Hana. But first things first – this trip really is all about the journey, not the destination. Hana is a tiny little town, on the unpopulated windward side of Maui. You’re probably not going to see or do anything in Hana that will change your life forever – but if you play your cards right, you’ll have a spectacular journey to and from this remote town.
Now – on to the adventure!
My first bit of “You Absolutely Must Do This” advice is to get yourself a travel guide – we chose the GyPSy Guide to Maui.
We rented a Guide for the day for $40 bucks or so – it’s a smartphone that’s been repurposed as a GPS-enabled tour guide. Just plug it in and start driving, and you’ll hear stories about where you’re going and where you’ve been – and you’ll get advice on where to go and what to see next. I’ve spent a lot more on a living, breathing tour guide, and wound up with much less interesting information. One of the best parts of this little gizmo is that if Tracie and I wanted to talk or comment on something, we could just turn it off for awhile. Although I will say, it did give us plenty of down time for our own conversations. I really liked the stories we got about the history of Hawaii, as well as the detailed history about certain parts of Maui we were driving through.
Tour books advise you to leave early – this is wise advice, as the road starts to get crowded if you don’t. We were lucky enough to leave on SuperBowl Sunday at about 7:30, which was both a blessing and a curse. We found out later that traffic was so light that some of the shops along the way had decided to take the day off.
The first part of the journey past the airport will take you past some of the popular north shore surfing spots – if the surf is up, plan to pull into one of the beaches and watch as people try to catch some waves.
One of the places a lot of the guide books point out is the Ke’anae Peninsula, and they’re right to do so; we really enjoyed the view of the surf and the shore from the point, and had some fantastic food there as well. The shave ice we enjoyed here was the best we had on the trip, though I guess it is just snow and flavoring…
Without the GyPSy Guide, we would have totally missed some locations on the trip, such as one just before Ke’anae: the Ke’anae Arboretum, tucked up on the mountain side of the road just a quarter mile before the road to Ke’anae. The Arboretum is a self-guided walk of less than a mile through some pretty lush rainforest, with a myriad of plant species to gawk at along the way. Most are labeled with handy little tags, which is really handy if you’re traveling without any sort of horticultural field guide.
One of the “optional” stops on the trip was the little town of Nahiku, which GyPSy warned us wasn’t tremendously interesting, but worth it if we had the time. I’m with GyPSy on this one: if you don’t have something in particular you’re looking for down there, I’d skip it.
Just short of Hana is Waianapanapa State Park, with its black sand beach. This fit one of my “must experience that” items on the trip – I’d highly advise that you reserve some time on your trip to experience this, as well.
Before you know it, you’re pulling into Hana, and you’re probably really, really hungry! Fortunately, there are some options. You could pop into Hasegawa’s General
Store and pick up some snack food or lunch meat (or fireworks, or gardening supplies… they literally sell one of everything there) or try one of Hana’s several restaurants.
Up the hill at the end of town you’ll find Hana Ranch, serving comfortable American bar food with a view, or you could try some Thai at the aptly named “Thai Food by Pranee” in a little shack west of the baseball field – we enjoyed our experience there immensely.
And… there’s really not much more to get out of Hana. It’s a town. It has a hotel, and a few restaurants. Someday, I’d like to spend some time there, and see what happens between the times that tourists are visiting, but I can’t imagine it’s anything earth-shattering. I would imagine that it’s very, very relaxing in Hana all day with the exception of 11 am through 4 pm. Someday, I’ll book a room there and check it out to be sure.
The road to Hana is narrow, and it is windy. There are about 25 million bridges, and all of them are one-lane. When you get a bridge, take turns with oncoming traffic, when you get to a narrow corner, take turns. Basically, the entire trip, just take your time. And if you are prone to suffering from motion sickness, take Dramamine. This road will test your fortitude. Remember, when you’re done in Hana, you have to drive all the way back, the same way you came. It’s a long drive, taking it all in on one shot. We left Hana after 5:00, and weren’t off the the Highway until after 8:00 near the airport. It’s a long, long trip home if you’re trying to beat the sunset.
In short, take your time, enjoy the sights, get a guide, and grab some good food in Hana. It’s a good trip, if you just remember it’s all about the journey, not the destination.