Above photo: Aerial view of the road to Hana and Honomanu Bay
Story by Maria Russo; photos by Anthony Russo
Maria and Anthony publish The Culture-ist, an online magazine that covers conscious travel, social good and holistic wellness.
Scenic drive leads to beautiful vistas and delicious food.
Few roads in the world offer the beauty and excitement found on the road to Hana in Maui. This is one narrow highway where the destination should be the least of one’s concerns; here, it is all about the journey.
Drive to Your End Destination First
I set out for a full day’s drive to Hana from my hotel in Lahaina with a car full of family members. Our journey began just before sunrise, which we quickly learned was a wise choice. The roads are quiet at this hour, and the majestic landscapes of Maui are just beginning to stir as the sun bathes the mountains and sea with its stunning golden light. After making a quick stop at the breezy Paia Bay Coffee for a smooth cup of joe and to fill up on gas (this is the last point to get gas before the town of Hana), we set out for the long drive. Paia is a hip town that marks the beginning of the road to Hana, a winding 42-mile long drive that has some 54 bridges (many of which are one lane) and 600 hairpin turns. The journey can be a bit harrowing at times, but the vistas you will experience without even having to step out of your car are worth the small bouts of anxiety.
While planning for this trip, I spoke to several locals who advised that we head straight to our destination and work our way back to beat the crowds that would inevitably increase throughout the day. Our goal was to spend the most time at Waiʻanapanapa State Park, located at mile marker 32.
Pick One Spot and Stay Awhile
The road to Hana has many lookout points, waterfalls and short hikes that are easily accessible from the road. Many of the popular attractions only require a quick stop, and others can be appreciated from the comfort of your car if parking is limited. We chose to spend a couple of hours at our end destination Waiʻanapanapa State Park. There is much to explore at this strikingly beautiful park. During the summer months, you can swim at a black sand beach, which we saved for after our hike up the craggy volcanic coastline. Waiʻanapanapa State Park stretches over 122 acres, so it was easy to spend two hours seeking out the various caves, blowholes and forest trails within it.
Experience the Food Stands
Although we were awed by verdant cliffs, vast seascapes, gushing waterfalls and seemingly endless forests, we made most of our stops at food stands during the long three-hour drive back from Hana. Hana Farms (mile marker 31) offers homemade organic ginger soda and banana bread, and Ka Haku’s (mile marker 10) is a smoke shack that serves juicy bites of chicken and pork in hollowed-out bamboo poles. The choices to indulge in some simple, delicious food are plentiful.
After an incredible first experience driving the road to Hana, it became apparent that it is a journey of journeys. It’s one that would require several more trips to truly appreciate its many hidden gems tucked far beyond the road.