hawaii // pt 2
welcome to part 2 of our week in maui! i had to save almost a whole blog post just to talk about our "road to hana" excursion. if you're not familiar- the road to hana is one of the most popular tourist attractions on the island. it's a windy (i think the number is 600-something hairpin turns) coastal road that takes you to the quiet sleepy town of hana. the trip is famous for dozens of waterfalls, gardens, and stunning ocean and rainforest views along the way. everyone advised us to reserve an entire day just for hana, give ourselves plenty of time to stop and see everything we wanted to see. so we woke up at 5 am and set out for hana by 6am.
the first stop on "hana highway" is a little surfer town called paia. we didn't explore that much aside from observing the town from the our car while we drove right through it, but we did stop on the edge of town at a little parking stop for a popular surfing beach. the sun was just rising, but there were already tons of surfers out on the water. there's something for us about watching a sunrise alone that feels magical - but being out by the water, watching all the surfers waiting for their perfect wave, and seeing the first light of day hit the west mountains in the distance, was one of the highlights of our whole trip. it was such a quiet and serene place. one i'll never forget.
one tip i read from another travel blogger that we were so so glad we did was buying an app called "gypsy guide" that follows you along the route using your phone's gps. it talks to you along the way giving you history lessons, and explaining what each stop along the road to hana has to offer, as well as their personal must-see recommendations. it was tremendously helpful given that there are sooo many opportunities to stop along the way and some stops are more worth the hassle than others.
scenes along the route. thick, lush forests, bursting with color and flowers and waterfalls. impossible to be in a bad mood while on the road to hana.
first stop: "garden of eden" botanical gardens.
ok one of the coolest things we saw- eucalyptus trees with rainbow bark! it was straight out of dr. seuss book.
more gardens and waterfall stops.
the most amazing thing about the journey to hana is alllll of the beautiful food and drink stands right along the highway, seemingly set up in the middle of nowhere. we saw everything from coconuts to fruit smoothies to coconut shrimp to homemade banana bread. and EVERYTHING was bomb. we tried something at almost every stop. the stands are beautifully painted and decorated with exotic plants.
personal highlight of mine from this day was locating THE most clear, beautiful waterfall and swimming hole. i jumped in! bucket list item of mine checked off- but it was freezing so i was in and out!
then we witnessed one brave soul climb to the top and jump off!
more beach stops.
one of the most popular stops along the route that was at the top of my maui list is called wai'anapanapa state park and within that park is the famous black sand beach. it's volcanic-sand so it's actually jet black - it's really something worth seeing in person! and the park is beautiful.
so if you drive the road to hana, most people instruct you to turn around at the seven sacred pools, which is the final attraction on the route. we had only heard of a handful of people continuing through the gulch on through the pi'ilani highway (which wraps around the backside of mt haleakala). most advised against it citing unpaved roads, which could void your rental car agreement or get you stuck in a messy situation if less than ideal weather conditions were to roll in. however, several people recommended it highly- saying it was equally as beautiful as the drive to hana. because we were looking at a fair-weather afternoon and the thought of turning right back around on the road we had just spent 3+ hours navigating to get clear over to the other side of the island was unbearable, we opted to take the advice of the few and continue on the highway to wrap back around the other side of the mountain.
"what's the worst that could happen?" i said as we made the decision to continue onward. as soon as we started on, the "rough road" segment of the highway all of a sudden looked much more sinister and precarious than we remembered anyone mentioning. it's less like an unpaved road and more like a very very patchy, poorly paved road. in short, it's a one lane road (not a highway by any stretch of the imagination) that climbs and dips along sea cliffs and includes super sharp turns, blind corners, and essentially no where to turn around or pull of should you encounter an oncoming car (meaning someone would have to drive backward until both of you find a wide enough portion to pass). the saving grace was there was basically no oncoming traffic. i suppose if you can just drive slow, it's not an inherently dangerous drive. there's lots of risk of falling rock, but you're driving at such a snails pace that it feels manageable. there were many portions where we could not look down for fear of such steep drop offs and no guard rails to stop you from falling into the ocean.
i sadly neglected to take pics of this crazy ride, because we were both caught by such surprise at how freaky the road was, that we just focused on getting through safely. the best reward, however, awaits the brave soul who makes it through this 20-ish mile stretch of damaged road. there seems to be a shift, all at once, where the road turns into freshly paved concrete and no longer hugs the sides of cliffs, and the geography changes completely as you can start to make out the back side of mount haleakala. lush jungles are replaced with expansive views of rolling hills and dry fields.
it's truly something you can't imagine. you just drove through 4 hours of thick rainforest and now you feel as if you hopped across the world and are now navigating country roads in rural ireland or something. there are free-roaming cattle all along this part of the drive, and the ocean still gleams to your left.
crazy looking gulch you pass on the highway.
we were right to reserve the entire day for hana. we got home just as the sun dipped below the horizon.
and that does it! it was by far our favorite vacation to date. we can't wait to see more of hawaii!
thanks for being here! so much love.