Taking a dip at Upper Wailakea Falls (Three Bears Falls)
While in Maui, we got so much great insight from you guys (via these IG + FB posts) about the Road to Hana. I know the Road is very touristy and a number of you got bored or carsick along the way, but I personally enjoyed it and wanted to share our experience! As they say, the Road to Hana is not about the destination but about the journey. We didn’t find any of the stops individually to be amazing, but the variety of all the different stops along one drive made it unique and worth doing once.
This popular excursion begins in the Kahului region (by Maui’s main airport) and goes beyond the quiet, remote town of Hana on the other side of the island. Along the way are various hikes, waterfalls, and parks amongst dozens of scenic overlooks. The drive itself is only about 60 miles, but due to over 600 winding curves and 46 one-lane bridges along the way (get ready for lots of yielding!), it can take over 2 hours one way not including any stops.
A few thoughts before we begin:
– Start early and take two days if possible. I think the main reason we enjoyed it was because we took our time, and didn’t have to worry about rushing home before sundown. What makes staying overnight tough is there’s a grand total of about 1 main hotel in Hana, so if anyone has alternate suggestions on where to stay along the way, please share!
– Get a GPS-based travel guide to listen to, since there’s no cell service along the way. We bought the popular Gypsy app ($5 on your phone), which was informative and easy to listen to.
– Narrow down and prioritize the stops. Don’t try to do too much!
– Bring lots of bug spray, water, snacks, and motion sickness pills if you get carsick. Also bring secured footwear, whether it’s sneakers or hiking-friendly sandals.
– Rent a Jeep to go all the way around the island instead of backtracking home. Although, do this at your own risk (read more below)!
Paia is actually listed as the first stop along the Road, but we were already staying there. This is a small surfing town so not an eventful stop, but you can fill up your gas tank, and grab some food at Paia Bowls or the well-stocked Mana Foods grocery store.
Ho’okipa Beach (mile marker 9) and lookout point – popular with windsurfers for the very strong current, and also known for large sunbathing sea turtles in the afternoon. We visited here but later in the day, not as part of our Road to Hana trip. If you’re passing by en route home before sundown, do stop here for the surfer and turtle-watching!
Huelo Lookout Fruit Stand (between mile markers 4 and 5) – Not a scenic stop, but a tiny shack where you can hydrate with one of their smoothies or fresh coconuts. The “lookout” is just where a short path ends in a forest, so that in itself is not worth stopping for.
Kaumahina State Wayside Park (mile marker 12) – public bathrooms! These can be few and far between, so we stopped at nearly every opportunity.
Ke’anae Peninsula (mile marker 16)- a short detour drive along the peninsula. There were huge waves here crashing on black volcanic rock, and a little horse grazing on a farm. We regret passing by the line at Aunt Sandys to get banana bread and pork sandwiches, which you can then enjoy overlooking the waves or stash for later. PS – there’s public bathrooms at the tip of the peninsula!
Upper Wailakea Falls or “Three Bears Falls” (mile marker 19) – This was my favorite stop and where we spent the longest time. You can view the falls from the road, or climb down and get right up and in them. If we had packed a picnic lunch, I could’ve spent an afternoon there sunbathing on the rocks and dipping into the refreshing water. I expected it to be jam-packed with hollering spring break visitors, but it was so serene with just a few people climbing down every so often.
crouching tiger-ing my way down to Three Bear Falls – Nick has a knack for capturing me in compromising positions!
If you drive past the waterfall about 100 yards, there’s a small parking area on the left side of the road. You can park there then walk carefully along the road shoulder back to the falls. There’s two openings to climb down on opposite sides of the road – we made the mistake of going down the one closest to the falls (see above). The one closer to the ocean is much less steep! The rocks are slippery when wet both during the climb down and in the water, so be careful and wear your sneakers or water shoes when going down.
Pua’a Kaa State Wayside Park (mile marker 22) – public bathrooms! There’s a small waterfall here with a pond, right on the side of the road. We drove by and thought it was perfect for kids to go splashing in without having to hike or climb down any slippery rocks.
Nahiku Marketplace (mile marker 29) – Mr. Gypsy Guide made this seem like a fun marketplace of local vendors and eats, but I don’t think it was worth stopping at. The food and coffee we had was pretty subpar and overpriced.
Wai’anapanapa State Park (mile marker 32) – large park with a strip of black sand beach, caves, and camping grounds. After checking in at our hotel, we headed here and spent the rest of our afternoon at this park.
Travaasa Hana Hotel – I’ll talk briefly about our hotel since it’s one of the only options in town. It’s not my type of resort, but some might enjoy it for peace and relaxation (the crowd was mostly older couples with a sprinkling of families). Rooms are on the pricier side (starting at $500/night) without AC or TVs, and the resort is more spread out in style, with a walking path as well as golf carts to take you around to tennis courts or pools. The property is situated near the ocean, but it’s over a rocky shoreline and not a swimmable beach.
room and pool at the Travaasa Hana
Hana Town – We kept reading that Hana is a small sleepy town. Therefore we weren’t expecting to do much, but were still completely unprepared for just how limited the food options were! Don’t rely on the operating days and hours listed online, since places close when they sell out. I had been eagerly awaiting some Thai food from one of the two popular trucks there, so was crushed to find out both had closed early. By 6PM, the only place open in town was our hotel restaurant (with dishes starting at $50 and very mediocre reviews) … such despair!
Troy’s plate lunch // BBQ pork + shrimp-stuffed parrotfish (which Troy catches himself!)
A lack of good food options puts a damper on my day, so imagine waking up the next morning and still not being able to find anywhere open to eat at! Poor Nick had to deal with my “hangriness” (or more accurately, cheapness, because I refused to eat again at our hotel). After driving around, we stumbled upon Troy’s Plate Lunch setting up early. This husband and wife team cook everything in the morning off-site, so I’d stick to items that keep well in hotplates like BBQ or Korean chicken, and avoid fried items which wouldn’t be crispy anymore. We got the first serving of the day so everything was at its prime, and pumped new life into me!
There are even fewer food options past Hana, so if you’re continuing on that way and didn’t pack enough snacks, be sure to grab something first.
Haleakala National Park (mile marker 42) – home of the Pipiwai trail and the Seven Sacred Pools. The parking lot was packed by late morning, however we didn’t see many people on the trail after the initial stretch. The parking fee is now $20 per car, but it also includes access to the Haleakala crater summit (except at sunrise, for which you need to get a permit in advance) so save your receipt.
Waimoku falls at the end of the Pipiwai trail
The Pipiwai trail is about 2 miles each way, and took us about 2 hours round trip. It goes by a big banyan tree, streams, overlooks, and then a long stretch of bamboo forest. At the end of the trail is the tall and trickling Waimoku falls, which we honestly didn’t find impressive on that day, but we also didn’t venture off-trail to get closer. Overall I thought the hike was pretty easy for the non-athletic like myself (just remember to bring plenty of water!), and the bamboo stalks whispering in the wind were relaxing along the way.
Sadly, the Seven Sacred Pools were closed for swimming so I had no use for a swimsuit. Not being one to pass up a photo op, I pulled my leggings down by my ankles for a picture and may have scared off some passerby hikers who thought I was popping a squat ; )
The Road Home (along the backside of Haleakala)
From here you’ll have to either backtrack home along Hana Highway, or continue going around the island, which we opted to do. We were told: 1. You need a Jeep to drive around the back roads, and 2. rental car agreements are void if you go that way. So a Jeep definitely helps, and what the rental clause usually means is you’re on your own out there in the case of car troubles.
Our cameras couldn’t come close to capturing how vast and serene it was. The landscape changes significantly from oceanside cliffs, to dusty unpaved roads, to rocky terrain and cattle farms. We didn’t have cell service and there were long stretches without another soul in sight, so any car issues would be a nightmare. At one point I misunderstood Nick muttering and thought he said we were “breaking down,” to which I had a mini panic attack, envisioning ourselves being stranded out there for days before becoming food for mongoose (vicious little things that look like squirrels)!
Surfing Goat Dairy – As you’re approaching the main part of the island again, there are a few attractions off the back roads including a goat farm, winery, vodka distillery, and lavender farm. I was curious about all of these, but when forced to prioritize, it wasn’t hard to choose the baby goats! I read the “farm tours” were not worth it, so we just watched and pet the adorable babies, then ordered a cheese plate and some chocolate truffles. I actually am not a goat cheese fan at all, but the ones on the platter were mostly mild and admittedly very good – a yummy end to our two-day drive!
I hope you guys enjoyed this post! Let me know what stops we missed along the Road to Hana that you would highly recommend to visitors!