Regardless of whether you choose to drive the Road to Hana yourself, or let someone else do the driving such as the tour that I took with Valley Isle Exursions so you can enjoy the amazing scenery along the way, just do it. Having done it both ways, I must say I enjoyed the day I spent with Valley Isle Excursions much more, I was able to relax and just take in the scenery that I missed before driving and trying to keep up with mile markers and landmarks.
The beautiful Maui town of Hana is isolated from the rest of Maui by geography and can only be accessed by a short flight into the small airport or most often by driving the “Road to Hana”, the destination is lovely, but the journey along the Road to Hana is such an experience one should not miss when you visit Maui. Few drives throughout the Hawaiian islands are as beautiful as the Road to Hana, complete with black sand beach,waterfalls,cliffs,rainforest and incredible ocean views.
To get to Hana, one must travel Highway 36/ which turns into Highway 360(Hana Highway) which is a 52-mile two-lane road with over 200 hairpin turns and cross over about 50 bridges-expect the trip to take about three hours from Kahului so allow a full day for this adventure. One of the first stops along the Road to Hana is Paia, a former mill town that is today a surfer spot with several restaurants,galleries and shops
At Mile Marker 2, a great stop is Twin Falls (Twin Falls Fruit Stand is your landmark)
I suggest you take a picnic lunch if you are driving the Road to Hana and stop at Mile Marker 32 at Waianapanapa State Park and Beach -A beautiful black lava-sand beach, a great contrast to the surrounding ocean and lush rainforest. Here visitors will find picnic pavillions, restrooms, walking trails and a fruit stand. Careful-this beach is more for photo opportunities than swimming, the surf on the east side is rough and can be unforgiving. Spend some extra time after lunch and walk down to the Waianapanape Caves and learn about the tragic end of Princess Popoalaea’s life as she hid in the cave. Just past the town of Hana you will find Hamoa Beach, one of the best beaches on Maui.
Continue on for about 10 miles further to Kipahulu area where you will find Oheo Gulch, home to the Seven Sacred Pools a series of cascading waterfalls that make for an incredible swimming hole( the water temperature is normally a little chilly). Please be advised that the pools can change with the weather as they are filled by rainwater from the mountain above. Sometimes placid fed by graceful waterfalls, but with heavy rains on the mountain the gorge can turn into a dangerous muddy torrent and should be avoided. If you have allowed enough time (about 2-2.5 hours) before you leave the park, a beautiful hike along the Pipiwai Trail through a bamboo forest up to the Waimoku Waterfall is so worth the effort.
Although Kipahulu is actually part of the Haleakala National Park and may not look like that big of a distance on the map, the summit of Haleakala and Kipahula area are not near each other and it is not a good idea to try to visit both on the same day.
** Just beyond this point you will find the grave site of Charles Lindbergh at the Kipahulu Point Light Station.
Some pointers for driving the Road to Hana :
* Be sure and take something if you get car sick
* Remember if you want to swim in the Seven Sacred Pools or visit any of the beaches to bring your swimsuit, a change of clothes and beach towels.
* I suggest maybe taking an old pair of sneakers that you do not mind getting dirty so you can hike to the waterfalls and other sites along the way
* Don’t forget sunscreen, mosquito repellent and I normally take a small cooler of bottled water
* Very few options for getting gasoline in your car so make sure you start out with a full tank of gas-Fill up in Hana before heading on to Oheo Gulch – the gas station closes early
* Get an early start, you won’t be as rushed, I always leave my resort by around 6:00am or so to try to beat the traffic as much as possible
* There are some road side stands to purchase fresh fruits and local crafts but vendors rarely have change for large bills or operate on the honor system so I try to take one dollar bills for this reason
* Start your trip back to your resort before dark, I really would not suggest you drive the Road to Hana at night
With a little pre planning your trip on the Road to Hana will be something you remember forever. The Road to Hana is all about what lies just beyond the next curve in the road!