Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Hawaii: Maui - The Road to Hana

One of our absolute, favorite things we've ever done on any vacation is drive the Road to Hana.  Thanks to the book, Island Dreamer by Robin Jones Gunn, which I read when I was around 13, I knew about Hana for about 10 years before we finally made the trip (when I met Robin about a year after this trip, my husband asked if I told her she heavily influenced our time on Maui...I guess he heard me talk about it?  A few times?)

The Road to Hana (it feels like it needs to capitalized) is a ~65 mile route from the north-central coast (Kahului) of Maui, all along the coast, to the east coat (Hana).  While it's not far in distance, it is a very slow drive because there are approximately 800 curves in the road (rough estimate) and the speed limit is pretty low.

There are many waterfalls along the drive, many bridges to cross, and absolutely spectacular scenery.  I would not recommend this drive if you get dizzy easily or have motion sickness problems; there is a lot of winding, curvy roads.  But if you can stomach the drive, it is very worth the day it takes.

We set our fairly early, 7:15, wanting to beat some of the rush.  I would definitely recommend that.  We were staying in a fairly central location and already had a bit of a head start over people on the west coast but still didn't want to be stuck in traffic all day (heard that can happen).  We drove to Kahului and then began our journey.

Besides having to drive slow with the curves and stopping often for pictures, we were also slowed down most times we had to cross a bridge.  The road is one lane each direction but most of the bridges (46 of the 59) were only wide enough for one car.  That meant stopping and backing up often when we came to a bridge.

I'm fairly certain these next pictures were taken on the Keanae Peninsula, where I know we stopped to use the restroom.  

The Road is Hana isn't something to be rushed.  It took us about 10 hours from leaving the condo to getting back, most of that on this road.  You drive, stop, drive, back up at a bridge, drive, stop, etc.  And the driving was so much fun.  The most fun I've ever had driving.

One of our longer stops was at the Waianapanapa State Park which has a famous black sand beach.  That beach is famous for a reason.  It's gorgeous. 

If you drive the Road to Hana, most definitely stop there. 

The Road to Hana obviously ends in Hana which is a very small town.  We basically drove through, maybe stopping once or twice for pictures (none of which made this post).  We were really headed for Ohe'o Gulch: Seven Sacred Pools.  I had been warned at 13 (via Robin Jones Gunn) that the Road to Hana is one thing.  The road past Hana is entirely another.  And in the 10+ years between when she wrote that book and when we visited, it didn't change.  The road past Hana was a little frightening.  It was barely one lane wide (but for two lane traffic) and was along sheer cliffs.  It wasn't far but took about an hour.

BUT then we were to the Seven Sacred Pools and they were A-MAZING.  It is actually a part of Haleakala National Park (which includes a crater at the top of an extinct volcano, which we visited at sunrise a few days later).  There is a bridge made famous (to my sisters and I, at least) in Island Dreamer which is where we are standing here.  After reading and rereading that book so many time through my teens it was surreal to finally be there. 

In the book, and in real life, people jump off that bridge to the water below but there is a very small area you can land without killing yourself on rocks.  You'd land below the bridge and above that highest waterfall seen here. Needless to say, we did not attempt the jump (Jump out of planes, sure.  Jump about 50 feet to dangerous water?  No.)

We walked around this area, from the bridge down to the coast.  We had hoped to swim here but the water was too high and it was closed (by park rangers) for swimming.  But we didn't really see many places we even could have swam between all the rocks and with large waves at the coast. 

When we were there I remarked that this view below looks like what I imagined the Ireland coast looking like.  Then we went to Ireland and yep, it looked like this (in places).

Per the guidebook in my hand above (which I definitely recommend), we wanted to see the infinity pool at the top of the waterfalls.  So we set off hiking, going around multiple "don't go past this sign" signs (totally going against all my rule-follower instincts).  We were climbing to the top of a waterfall, with not much of a trail so it wasn't easy but the view from the top was pretty amazing.

We were only up there about 5 minutes when a park ranger appeared and told us to leave (we weren't the only ones there).  He pointed to the guidebook I was still holding and said that that book was telling all these people to go up there when there was a risk of death.  The other people up there were swimming, right up to the ledge, and had a toddler with them so we certainly didn't feel like we were the most likely to die in the case of a flash flood.  We hiked back down, glad we had at least seen it and gotten pictures.  And it was a good vacation story (maybe the only time I've been yelled at by a park ranger?  Also, not the most dangerous, life-threatening thing we saw on Maui.)  Back at the condo later I was googling about flash floods and that waterfall and found where a whole family of 4 or 5 had been up there, been hit by a flash flood, gone over the falls, and all they ever found of any of them was the swimsuit of the young girl (this is a very paraphrased retelling of a story I read 9 years ago, but the gist is right).  So, I get the park ranger's worry and telling us to leave.  But still glad we did it (if you go, proceed with caution).

After that we loaded up and headed back to the condo.  Matt, somehow, slept part of the ride back but I didn't mind driving because it really was fun and we didn't stop as much since we had gotten pictures on the way out.

This is something I would definitely recommend, especially if you can swim at the end but regardless, it was a beautiful and wonderful day.  Definitely start as early as you can and then just enjoy the drive!

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