(I’ll pretend to be a Hawaii expert with this opening salvo.)
There are two different Mauis: the beach version and the rain forest version. After spending a couple days enjoying the beach version, we went to see rain forest Maui today. More specifically, we drove the road to Hana.
Driving the Road to Hana
Hana is a tiny little town on the far eastern edge of the island, only about 30 miles east of the main airport. But it takes hours to drive there. Why? Well, the road is exceptionally narrow and there are reportedly 600+ turns, not to mention countless one-lane bridges and tons of blind curves around mountains, trees and everything else. It looks like this — see how the road is carved into the side of the mountain?
The attraction is that it’s a gorgeous drive through thick rain forest, with innumerable opportunities to stop and see stunning waterfalls and/or amazing views of the coastline and ocean. This is my kind of trip and I was looking forward to it much more than Cari, but she smilingly went along after I made a list of all the places we should stop the car and go see something amazing.
I think my final list had about 8-10 stops, but weather wasn’t our friend. It poured rain on us 4-5 times, which kept us from seeing a couple things. On the other hand, we were also blessed to have clear weather right when we got to other spots that were beyond amazing. Here are a few favorites:
As you can see, it was pouring rain. Grabbed a couple quick photos and went back to the car.
One of the my favorite places of all. Really amazing scenery with the water and lava rocks everywhere.
You drive down this tiny little road through super-thick green vegetation and — if you don’t give up too soon, which we almost did — you make it to a small little cove/park-like area with room for about 5-6 cars and some stunning views back along the coast.
Black Sand Beach
(also known as Waianapanapa Beach)
Red Sand Beach
(There were nudists on this beach, so my video doesn’t actually show the beach itself — but the photos do. And watch the video in HD to see how blue the water is!)
Between all the stops and diversions for sightseeing, plus one stop for lunch at a roadside foodstand/BBQ-type place, we didn’t finish my list until about 2:00 pm. That red sand beach was the last stop, and then it was time to head back. We didn’t make any stops on the way home and still it took the better part of two hours just to drive the 30 +/- miles from where we began back to the airport.
We got back to the hotel at about 4:30 pm and relaxed for a bit. Since we missed it a night earlier, we decided tonight would be perfect to eat dinner and watch the torch lighting ceremony. We grabbed some seats at the Cliff Dive Bar & Grill right on the Sheraton property, ate our food and enjoyed the lighting. They turn it into a little bit of a production with a hula dancer, some music playing and a narrator talking about the torch lighting/cliff dive ceremony and what Black Rock meant/means to the Hawaiian natives.
We were both pretty exhausted by this point, so it was another early night tonight. Tomorrow is our rest day — no big plans other than spending time at the beach and doing some more snorkeling. Me? I’m still on the hunt to see a sea turtle up close and personal. We’re not leaving Hawaii until I see one.
That Road to Hana certainly takes a lot out of you, but is always well worth it. We did two guided tours before we decided to take the wheel ourselves. That third visit was great because we could skip things we’ve seen in the past as part of larger groups and could stop where/when we wanted to.
The best part about that third trip was that we stayed in Hana at the Hotel Hana-Maui overnight. While the sea cottages weren’t cheap, it was awesome way to break up the drive into two days and really take our time to explore around Hana the following morning (sans crowds).
Something we definitely plan to do again someday.
We gave serious thought to staying in Hana overnight, in large part because I wanted to try the powered hang glider activity with the guy that’s based over there. But, the Hana hotel was too spendy since we already were paying in full for the Sheraton. If we could’ve broken it up and done a couple days at the Sheraton, then one night in Hana, then back to the Sheraton — that would’ve been perfect! Maybe next time.