The Road to Hana
One of the top things to do in Maui, potentially right below catching the sunrise on Haleakala, is the famous road to Hana. Located right on the eastern end of Maui, the small town of Hana is widely known, not quite for the town itself, but for the journey towards it. Unsurprisingly, it can be overwhelming figuring out where to stop along the way, but to help any future Maui goers, we’ve put our itinerary here which hits some beautiful sights, memorable surprises, and a couple of spots that we would skip if we did it again.
One of the best tips we were given about the Road to Hana (Shout out to Pastor Jamie Dunlop) was to leave early enough to avoid being on the road at night. Our first stop was grabbing breakfast at Cafe Mumbo, in a little beach town called Paia. Jeremy got the Hookipa Classic and I got the Mambo Omelette. The food was fresh and a great first place to stop before hopping back into the Wrangler.
The next stop was at Ho’Okipa Lookout, located right on the coast and boasting a beautiful view of the ocean. We weren’t here very long, but spontaneously bought a wood hand painted sign after also spontaneously deciding that our bathroom would be one big tribute to Hawaii.
This stop was one that Jeremy and I would skip if we had to do this trip again. After walking down a short trail to see the falls, we were disappointed to see that it was pretty congested with people swimming and kids jumping off rocks. Because we weren’t planning on swimming, it definitely wasn’t picturesque enough to warrant the stop (especially because we’ve seen some grade A waterfalls and gorges in Ithaca). If we had more time and wanted to swim, I’m sure the experience may have been different.
Halfway to Hana
The big food item on the road to Hana is its fresh banana bread. As you drive, you see sign after sign encouraging you to stop for banana bread, but in the same way that NYC has multiple Ray’s Pizzas, there’s only one true place to go and that’s Halfway to Hana. Hopping out of the Wrangler, we passed by a couple of llamas and made our way to the counter where got shave ice to share and two fresh and warm loaves of banana bread.
Wailua Valley State Wayside
Our next stop was so close to Halfway to Hana that we barely got a few bites out of our bread before we were already there. After hiking up some steps, we came to a vast lookout over the Wailua Valley. While it was certainly beautiful, I will say that there is something about valleys and canyons that don’t strike me the same way that other things in nature do. When my family went to visit Waimea Canyon in Kauai, for example, I remember feeling a bit underwhelmed. All that to say, I still think it’s worth the stop, especially if you like this sort of thing!
Waianapanapa State Park
When people think of Hawaii’s black sand beaches, more often than not, they’re usually thinking about Big Island. However, we loved that Waianapanapa State Park was a black sand beach and it was, without a doubt, one of my favorite stops. This park had such a beautiful view of the ocean and the beach. As I watched a couple of people floating on the water, I wish I had more time to spend here so that I could do the same.
One stop that was recommended by many as a good lunch spot was Nahiku Marketplace. We were set on stopping here so we bypassed numerous signs directing us to a shack selling huli huli chicken, a barbecued chicken with huli huli sauce. As we drove, Jeremy asked if I wanted to stop, but I insisted that we stick to the plan and make our way towards the marketplace. Sadly to say, not stopping for this roadside lunch plate was my second regret during this day trip. Nahiku Marketplace had a handful of options for lunch with Jeremy getting Thai and me getting a Kalua pork lunch plate, but the food was only okay and I can’t help but wonder what that chicken would have been like…
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the whole road to Hana is 100% for the journey and not the destination. The town itself is quite simple and once they reach the end, most people turn back around and drive back the way they came. Jeremy and I decided that instead of going in reverse, we would continue driving all the way around the island to get back to Lahaina (what many would consider the back road to Hana). This was one of the best decisions we made because the drive back home was one of the prettiest drives I have ever taken. Driving this road was also an adventure because the road was so narrow that it really only fit one car at a time. I was definitely nervous about potential head on collisions, but thankfully, it was smooth. Beyond the roads, the views of the coast were breathtaking and driving so close to the mountains was just incredible. One of my favorite moments was stopping to take photos in the midst of the mountains and seeing so many wandering cows in the area.
We did not plan to stop here on our drive, but it was so jaw dropping as we passed by that we stopped the car. This waterfall was incredibly beautiful and definitely made up for the Twin Falls disappointment. I don’t think I even knew which waterfall it was, but thank goodness for geotags!
Our final stop at Hamoa beach was another really sweet place to check out on our way back. This area doesn’t have many nearby resorts because it’s still pretty far east, so it was incredibly quiet and uncrowded. We spent probably 20-30 minutes here just sitting in the sand, playing the ukulele, and watching the waves before we got back in the Wrangler to get home before dark.
The Road to Hana was one of the most memorable parts of Maui because we got to see so many parts of the island in one day. I loved having the freedom to stop wherever we wanted and having so many things to do and see along the way. On the drive back home, the road pretty empty so it really started to feel like it was just us, the ocean and the mountains. Even though I’ve lived in multiple cities with huge buildings, there is something about driving along uncontrollable oceans and vast mountains that make me feel so incredibly small. I love it because it reminds me of how little control I have in life and how much greater the Lord is, who oversees all of these things and is sovereign in all he does. We loved the road to Hana and certainly recommend it as a must-do for anyone who has a day to spend in Maui.