Road to Hana

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April 4th 2010
Published: April 19th 2010
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If highway 340 around the West Maui mountains is the narrowest and most scary road on Maui, then the road to Hana is the prettiest. Some guide books warn that this road is also narrow and twisty, but it actually is two lanes all the way to Hana, and not scary to drive at all. The road does get narrow for a little ways if you go past Hana and around the back of Haleakela, with a section of it unpaved, and this is another place that the car rental companies don't want you to go. So, since we didn't know that the road was so good, and we wanted to go all the way around, I thought that we should take a tour so that Steve could be a passenger for once and be able to see the scenery without having to worry about keeping his eyes on the road.

As it turned out, we were disappointed with the tour and we ended going back and driving it ourselves, taking more time for photo stops where we wanted to, and taking some of the side roads and trails that we didn’t have time for on the tour. It was a much nicer experience that way, even though it rained for us that second day. Because of the rain, the waterfalls were much bigger, and there were more of them. There were so many, that we lost track of their names!

We also stopped at a small botanical garden along the way called “Garden of Eden”, which offered very pretty views of waterfalls and ocean besides all the varied plants and flowers they had in their gardens. They have resident peacocks and various kinds of ducks and geese that we were able to see and feed, and trails through different gardens and giving views of the ocean and of waterfalls. It was a really pretty place to walk around, and to see different scenery and from different views than from along the highway. One of the views of a pointy rock out in the ocean apparently was in the movie Jurassic Park. Here we saw rainbow eucalyptus trees, where the bark has bright rainbow colors in it, and giant bamboo along with too many other plants to name. It was a very pretty place and a worthwhile stop along the road to Hana.

The ocean waves on this side of Maui are dangerous, and swimming is not advised. Just have a look at some of our pictures. The Keanae Peninsula is a place like this. Very beautiful with lots of black volcanic rock and crashing waves. Some dumb guy climbed out to sit on one of the rocks so his wife could take a picture. The waves crashed so high, they got him wet. People have been swept off rocks and out to sea from beaches along here, and there are signs warning of this. He was lucky that day though. We were also lucky, because we pulled off at another little piece of black sand on the peninsula, and were just in time to see a Hawaiian monk seal hauling himself up onto the beach to rest! How cool is that!

The town of Hana itself is very small. The road to Hana is what you come to see here - not the town. In this case, it truly is the journey that matters, not the destination. We did stop for lunch here though, and had one of the best burgers we have ever had! Who knew? We also bought some Hawaiian stamps for Irene at the little one-man post office here.

Although it is not safe to swim in the ocean along here, some of the pools at the bottom of waterfalls can be safe to swim at. One popular place is Oheo Gulch, just past the town of Hana. This place was named the Seven Sacred Pools way back when they were trying to promote tourism along this road to get people interested to go and see. The pools are not sacred, and there are more than seven along this river, but the renaming worked and it is one of the most popular place for people to take a dip - as long as it hasn’t been raining. As soon as it rains, the water rushes down the mountain turning streams into rivers and making even these pools dangerous. It doesn’t stop people from swimming though. Darwin’s law in action. Trails also become muddy and slippery, so we had to be careful on the day we went back on our own. But we had a great time anyway. The rain came and went most of the day and didn’t spoil it for us at all. We got to use our rain ponchos again that we bought in Hilo on the big island.

I would highly recommend driving the road to Hana yourself, unless you are a very nervous driver. You really see so much more that way. You can pick up a self-guided CD tour in the town of Paia which helps you to know what you are looking at if you like. We were able to borrow one from our B&B hosts. Without it, we wouldn’t have known which road to turn down to go out onto the Keanae peninsula (and we would have missed seeing the monk seal). As in much of Hawaii, few roads are marked with road signs, so you never know if you are heading into someone’s property or are on a road that goes into a town. But however you do it, be sure to do this at least once in your life time!

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