Wednesday - December, 23
Wow. Wow. Wow, wow. Wow. The Road to Hana.
Hands down my favorite activity that I've done in Hawaii. (Yes, I know I only visited Kauai and Maui, and I know I missed the Kalalau Trail.)Hana ---> thatta way!
To plan what activities to do on the RTH, I suggest (as others have as well) to read through the RTH section in Maui Revealed as well as TRs here and write down each activity that seems interesting to you. I also wrote down what page they were on in the book, what mile marker they were at (so I could list them in travel order), and a 2-3 word description to jog my memory later. (e.g. "Waterfall to see" or "Waterfall to go in"). My total list had about 23 stops on it. I didn't think there was any chance we'd get close to doing that many, but it was crucial to know as we made each stop what was coming up next to decide whether to go for it or skip it. We ended up getting to 12 of the stops on my list, which actually surprised me.
Shall we begin?
We left the hotel a bit later than we had hoped to at around 7:45AM, but still made it to the beginning of the RTH by 9AM, which was our real goal. We didn't get back to the hotel till after 7PM. Boy, was it a long, but awesome, day. Unfortunately, the weather was ominous as we faced cloudy skies for most of the day, but thank G-d, the rain never made it too difficult to drive nor did it hamper our activities or fun.
Per the book's recommendation we drove right past the PACKED parking lot of Twin Falls
, a stop that most people make, despite it supposedly being not nearly as impressive as many of the other falls on the road. Our first stop was one that I didn't notice in Maui Revealed, but made sure to do after seeing SomethingFishy's TR. The Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees
sit just at the side of the highway and are easy to speed past. They are around mile marker 7.
Taking a page out of SF's book, I just ordered a canvas to be made out of this picture:
As we continued on our drive, I quickly realized that I wasn't sure why I thought we would be snaking our way down the curvy road alongside the ocean, as we were actually driving just a drop inland and were covered entirely by greenery on both sides. It felt like what I imagine driving through a rainforest must feel like. The greens were so
green and lush, often overhanging the road to entirely surround our car. I had hoped to pull over to see the Lower Puohokamoa Falls
but was so distracted by the scenery that I totally overshot it. Nu nu, there would be many more falls to see. I also had Wahinepe'e
on my list of stops to hike through the bamboo forest, but decided we would just do the bamboo forest hike on the Pipiwai Trail towards the end of the day. So, our next actual stop was Haipua'ena Falls
. Just like in West Maui, there were convenient, small pullouts by the side of the road wherever Maui Revealed suggested to stop. Definitely seeing people return from the falls right before we headed out of the car gave us the confidence for our first hike through the woods (jungle, if you will). After a 3 minute walk/slight hike through the wet forest, we came to the falls, completely secluded.
Wow, our first waterfall/pool. We just stood there admiring its quaint beauty. As you can see, the water wasn't too clear, and it was actually quite freezing - which makes sense as it's fresh water tucked away in the forest with literally zero sunshine. We didn't get more than our toes into the water before deciding to wait for the next pool to go swimming in, heh. Within a few minutes, a group of people arrived, and we decided to head out anyway.
Back in the car, we decided to skip our next stop, Punalau Falls
, due to it requiring a hike on boulders (per the book), and went for the next stop, Ching's Pond
. This one required a 2-3 moderate climb down to the water. Unfortunately, there were a few people there, and it started raining. Before the rain
While getting ready to go in, we suddenly noticed 2 guys climbing over the bridge. I was about to call out to them that there's a path just down the road, but then I realized what they were about to do...
Interestingly and fortunately, the jumpers and the other people around us spent MAYBE 5 minutes in the freezing water, and then ran out - leaving this haven to ourselves. The rain didn't get too wild, so we stayed in the water. The water was once again freezing, but my wife mustered up the courage and swam all the way out to the waterfall. We made sure not too get too close to the back end of the pond, because this is how it drained out:
We probably spent 20-30 minutes there and then headed back up to the car while it was still raining. We got to spend the first little while of the RTH with the roof down, but for the rest of the day we kept it closed since the rain was steady for most of the day and it just wasn't worth opening and closing the roof every time we stopped since we were driving for no more than 10 minutes at a time before our next destination. After not being in love with a convertible in Kauai, the only reason we got one here was for the Road to Hana, and having done part of it with the roof open and closed, I really don't think you miss much by having a roof. I'm not a big sports car guy (and my wife doesn't care for it either), but yeah, I wouldn't recommend paying extra for a convertible - not in Kauai or Maui. Which leads me to believe, I probably wouldn't rather have a convertible on any trip we go on. I know people swear by a Mustang on their trips to Hawaii, Key West, Great Ocean Road, etc., but it just didn't do it for us. Anyway, to each their own.
Soon into our next drive, we passed by the Halfway to Hana
stand. Not needing anything, we continued on right past it. The book claims it's really 2/3 of the way to Hana, but either way, it sure felt like we hadn't yet done 1/2 or 2/3 of the road and activities yet. I'm very glad there was still much more to come.
We quickly stopped at the Spring-Fed Gusher
, which is supposed to be a colorful floral growth coming out of a pipe that drains spring water under the highway, but it was simply more greenery like we saw everywhere else. It's literally right on the road, so it didn't hurt to stop for 30 seconds just to see if it was anything special to look at.
Our next stop was at the Upper Waikani Falls (aka Three Bears Falls)
. Despite the book's warning that cops hand out a lot of parking tickets here, there were plenty of cars parked and since we had decided not to hike to the falls, we were standing right near the car the whole time. (For those interested in hiking to the falls, the people who did it said it wasn't a strenuous hike.)Yet another beautiful view of G-d's glory.
Our next stop was supposed to be Wailua Iki
waterfall and view of the valley, but this gate and sign kept us away:
We continued to our next stop, Pua'a Ka'a State Park
, where we found actual parking spots, restrooms and picnic tables. There are 2 falls here. The first one was only really visible from the road as you pass by, but it was the second one, slightly upstream where people were hanging out. You had to cross a small stream to get there.
There were only 2 people in the water, and they left as soon as we got there. Again, the water was freezing, but we still enjoyed 20 minutes in the dream-like setting.
The book speaks of a hike from here to an even more secluded waterfall, but the only thing that slightly resembled a path through the brush was right next to this sign, so we headed back to the car.
So far, we had only driven a dozen miles, so there was plenty to still see. Next up was Hanawi Falls
. From the road, the falls were not as pumping as they are in the Maui Revealed book. But when you went up closer to the right one, it provided yet another stunning view. I'm not sure if there is a way to hike down to this one, but even just stopping by was worth the stop.Close-up infront of the right falls
Next up was Makapipi Falls
. From the road, you simply walk onto the bridge and look down. The water is just absolutely pumping into a huge drop. Perhaps you could get down there to get a picture of the actual falls, but looking down from the bridge was pretty awesome, too.Nahiku Road
was our next diversion. It's a few mile road off of the RTH that ends with a waterfall and pond and that Maui Revealed describes as, "When plants go to heaven, Nahiku must be their destination." However, we kind of disagreed. While it was still very pretty, we didn't think it was any greener than the rest of the RTH. Anyway, the road is not paved as well as the main highway, and it's mostly just wide enough for 1 lane. We drove slowly, had to squish to the side to let oncoming traffic pass us a few times, and passed by some very shabby dwellings that people somehow live in.
Unfortunately, about 15 minutes into the drive, we hit a dead end.
So, we wouldn't get to see another waterfall, and instead drove back to the highway. When we got back to the RTH, we saw this sign facing - incredibly - not
in the direction of most cars who would care to know (driving towards
Hana), but instead in the direction of people heading away
We were able to catch another car turning onto Nahiku and pointed out the sign to them. They were quite thankful that we saved them the half hour roundtrip. Soon after, we had officially made it to Hana for what it's worth.
Next up was Wai'anapnapa State Park - Black Sand Beach
Here, we found an actual parking lot, but couldn't find a parking spot. It's funny how on the middle of the highway, we had no problem with just pulling off to the side of the road anywhere, yet here, we waited a few minutes until someone pulled out of an official spot. Apparently there was a blowhole here also, but we went with the crowd towards the beach. The view on the 5 minute walk was one of the best on our trip.
We brought our snorkel stuff out of the car with us, but that was a joke once we saw the waves. It was clear that this beach was just for gawking and not sunbathing or swimming. There were a lot of people at the water, but everyone just stood with their feet in the water for a few minutes and then headed out. The black sand was really cool and looked just absolutely gorgeous against the blue water and white foam of the crashing waves.
As it was now after 2PM, we went back to the car and ate some PB&J sandwiches we had brought with us. Continuing on our journey, we decided to skip Hana Bay
, which is known for it's black sand beach and red sand beach, since we had just seen a black one and were starting to get tired and not overly excited about red sand. I believe Hana Bay is also known for snorkeling, but we weren't going to check it out especially due to the surf we had seen at Wai'anapanapa. We then also skipped the Unnamed Red Sand Beach
(not the one at Hana Bay), due to the same reason above plus the fact that in SomethingFishy's TR he sure made it seem a bit dangerous to try to hike to it. The mile markers definitely did not match up with the book in this area of the road (this is in the general area where the markers start counting down), so we overshot Venus Pool
and, with the fatigue of the day kicking in, decided not to turn around to try to find it. I had also researched what would have been our most adventurous stop of the day, Kanahuali'i Falls
, which requires a hike in a stream to get to the secluded falls, but we decided to nix the idea before we even started the RTH. Maybe next time.
Having skipped a few stops on our list (which is totally fine!), we stopped next at Wailua Falls
. This was a quick stop just to get a picture as you can't go into the water.Check out the people who climbed down to get a closer shot of the falls.
Next up was what would be our final stop for the day - Seven Sacred Pools
. Since this is part of Haleakala National Park, you can use your receipt from parking at Haleakala for sunrise within the past 3 days to get free parking here. As I mentioned before, the parking has gone up from $10 to $15. Unfortunately, this sign greeted us as we pulled in.
With the pools closed for swimming due to the surf, we knew this stop wouldn't be as fun as it could be, but we decided to park and head out to the water anyway. The lot was completely full, so we parked on a "temporary lot" (aka the grass). We followed the crowd along the easy trail down to the water, passing by a banyan tree, similar to what we've seen in Legoland in Orlando.As you can see, the path was not strenuous at all.
When we got to the water, we were faced with a gate blocking the way down to get anywhere close to the falls/pools, and instead, we had to stand way up high facing the pools from the side. We didn't get the frontal view that the book has a picture of, but it was still pretty nonetheless. Unfortunately, it was impossible to get a picture without someone in the way.
I'm not sure why exactly the water was deemed too dangerous to swim, since the falls didn't look like they were particularly powerful today, nor did the pools seem to be draining our extremely fast, but perhaps the look of the ocean just below is what kept the gate up.
Instead of turning back on the path we came with, we continued to follow the path to circle our way back to the car. That was a mistake as this section was extremely muddy and gross. It did let us get a picture of one of the upper pools, though (again from the side).
I had planned on taking the Pipiwai Trail
here at least until the bamboo forest hike (which from the book seemed to be 1-2 hours each way), but my wife didn't even have to convince me this time - we were simply too tired. Perhaps skipping the Wahinepe'e bamboo hike was a mistake at the start of the day, but I imagine that had we hiked that one, we would have been tired earlier in the day and possibly missed something else. What can ya do?
Leaving Seven Sacred Pools, we turned left - contrary to almost every other car - to take the "backside" of the RTH on our way to the hotel instead of just turning around and going back the way we came. We tried to make what would have been the last stop on my list, Alele Falls
, but we couldn't find the pullover, so we skipped it, which didn't really upset us since we definitely had our fill of gorgeous waterfalls throughout the day. Once past this point, we had no more stops planned and were ready to head back to the hotel. Taking the back road is highly recommended by basically everyone on DDF, but boy, we really didn't enjoy it. I can't say for sure that going back the "normal" way would've been better, but this back road wasn't for us. After a few minutes of regular road, the paving disappears and you're driving on dirt/gravel for probably 20-30 minutes. Other than that stretch, it would alternate for a few minutes of semi-paved road to a few minutes of cracked up road. The road was bumpy and extremely narrow, which led to uncomfortable squeezing-by situations when cars came towards us. Even without too many cars on this road, you can't really drive faster than you would on the busier Road to Hana because you need to watch out for blind curves, 1 lane stretches of road and the generally safety of your car on an unpaved surface. One of the attractions of going this way is that the dry landscape is supposed to be an extremely stark contrast from the lushness of the RTH. However, as you might have seen in some TRs that came out recently, it turns out that in the winter, the backside is not nearly as dry as those who went in the summer experienced. It's mostly just driving with the ocean on one side and fields on the other with mountains in the background. Don't get me wrong, it's beautiful, and we stopped - along with a few other cars - several times to get out and take pictures, but my wife and I didn't think the beauty was worth the road. Sunglasses were crucial
for this road (thankfully I had with me) as we were literally driving towards the sun for almost the entire journey until the sun set. I hadn't been driving with the GPS for most of the day since the book's map and the app were more helpful than a GPS for finding where to pull over, so it wasn't until a decent ways into this return journey that we realized we had no cell service and no idea how long the trip would be. It's all one straight road, so I wasn't concerned about getting lost, but after having driven for over an hour and finally getting reception (see map below for when the GPS reception picked up), it was annoying to find out we still had over 2 hours to go till we'd be back at the hotel. Leaving Seven Sacred Pools at around 4PM kept us in the daylight for most of the journey, and gave us some nice sunset views. It turns out that by the time we got back to Central Maui, it was rush hour, so the last :45 - 1 hour of the trip was sitting in traffic.
Anyway, I am clearly in the minority here about my opinion on this road, but I thought I would share my experience in case anyone else is concerned. So, we're not into super cool cars or bumpy dirt roads - nothing wrong with that.
Here are some pictures from the return trip.Here you can see the quality of the road. It was even worse than it looks, in my opinion.Pokawai Sea Arch in the distance.Sunset over Kaho'olawe (I believe).It wasn't until we hit Highway 37 (bottom left) that we got GPS reception.Finally back on normal road .
Finally, we made it back into Central Maui, where we hit traffic almost until the Lahaina/Ka'anapali area. We got back to the hotel around 7:30PM and heated up our POM
meals. My wife had the BBQ Chicken Nuggets, which again, didn't warm up well. I had ordered General Tso, but received Sesame Chicken. I found out after the trip that they no longer make The General, but either way, the Sesame Chicken was great! It was the best Fleishig dish we had on the trip. Despite all our issues with the meals not warming up well and getting soggy, the Sesame Chicken came out super tasty. After an extremely long and incredible day, we called it a night.