Winding along Maui’s coastline, across bridges, over waterfalls, around hairpin turns, to lookout points over lush greenery and waterfalls is the Road to Hana. Over 50 miles of road that winds from Kahului on one side of the island to Hana on the other side. You could opt to go with a big touristy group or you can opt to rent a red convertible and make the drive on your own. Guess which option my travel companion and I chose.
The drive is certainly not easy, but it can be made in a couple of hours if you’re not the type to want to stop and marvel at the overwhelming beauty at every turn. But…we’re not that type. Armed with cameras (yes…plural), snacks (there’s VERY little to eat on that 5o+ mile stretch), bathing suits, iPhone playlists, Frommer’s guides, TripAdvisor advice, and an inner voice that is always saying “GO”, we took the short, sunrise flight from Oahu to Maui, hopped in a rented convertible and got moving.
The first few looks at the natural landscape of Maui, well Hawaii in general, brings the theme song from “Jurassic Park” to mind. That makes perfect sense considering the movie was shot completely on the Hawaiian islands. It was one of my favorite movies growing up and there remains a special place in my heart for it. Seeing the lush green cliffs and pounding blue surf with my own eyes is simply breathtaking. We hadn’t even started driving yet and I was completely overwhelmed.
The road trip begins in Paia, a former sugar-plantation town where you can make sure your tank is topped up with expensive gas. There are a few little shops and cafes, but there’s no need to stop for long if you’re just starting your drive. As soon as you exit the tiny town, the mighty blue Pacific is your view on the left, and lush mountainous greenery keeps company on your right. We chose to take a short stop at a point that looked out over the ocean, and of course a mini photo-shoot required that we climb atop a rock that left no barrier between the climber and a perilous drop-off to the crashing waves below.
Danger always makes for a great photo!
The drive continued and we started to notice the mile markers that Frommer’s guide speaks of along the road. The mile markers point out stops, lookout spots and general points of interest along the highway, but there are also tons of little roads with no markers that lead to plenty of hidden joys. We saw one such road that looked like it lead to nowhere and ended up leading to a tiny black sand beach. Perfection!
More driving, more lookout spots over the ocean, waterfalls, and lush green cliffs. There was an opportunity to visit a few colorful parrots and their owner who charged for pics with his lovely creatures. He shared a story about how President Obama (then Senator Obama) happened upon his parrot show and was very generous with his payment; and another story about how Mr. Romney came through and was very…NOT generous (do what you want with that). Having very little cash on us, we decided not to take the picture so as not to carry forward the legacy of Mr. Romney, but he took pity on us, piled the birds on top of our heads and gave us pictures. I guess we were cuter and nicer than Romney.
The long drive continued, we stopped at a roadside stand and had the most amazing pineapple banana bread EVER and the sweetest and most refreshing juice made with ginger and sugarcane. We finally made it to the town called Hana and went in search of a red sand beach that, because of the danger involved in getting to it, no one wanted to speak of. And because it involved danger and a slight breaking of the law, we HAD to get there!
Here’s a sample of a real conversation regarding the beach:
Me to a Hotel Concierge: Hi! We’re looking for the red sand beach. Could you tell us how to get there?
Him: Well, it’s around here somewhere.
Me: Well, could you point us the general direction.
Him: You’re really close. But it’s dangerous to get there so I can’t really tell you. But you’re close. And if anyone asks, I didn’t say that.
Hmmm…a little more driving to a dead end and lo and behold, there’s a group of damp, bikini clad law-breakers who tell us exactly how to get there.
A short hike through high grass past several signs that tell us we are trespassing and are responsible for ourselves in case of injury or death brings us to a steep hill overlooking an underwhelming, kinda but not really “red” sand beach. We give each other a side eye and go back the way we came, to the car, back across the the highway to the other end of the island and our hotel.
The next morning, with little time to spare before the flight back to Oahu, it was necessary to be very specific about where to go and what to see. I was determined to see the Garden of Eden Arboretum and we wanted to get to the high country and Tedeschi Vineyards. Back on the road, squelching every desire to stop and take pictures of that same waterfall, that same cliff, that same lookout over the ocean, we made our way to the Garden of Eden which boasted some of the most beautiful and lush lookout points, we stopped to get more of that amazing bread and made our way to the winery in the high country. After a short wine tasting, we drove aimlessly for about 45 minutes to just take in the breathtaking views and the overwhelming peace, and made our way back to the airport for our flight back to Honolulu.
Two girls, a red convertible, unimaginable beauty, and an inner voice that says “GO”. That was my Maui adventure. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
If you’re making a trip to Maui and you’re interested in the Road to Hana, here’s some info:
The Road to Hana: http://www.frommers.com/destinations/maui/662935#sthash.x1H4JZWk.dpbs
Tedeschi Vineyards: http://www.mauiwine.com
Garden of Eden Botanical Gardens and Arboretum: http://www.mauigardenofeden.com
**Always check TripAdvisor and do searches for more up to date information.