Twists and Turns
With a total of 620 turns and 59 bridges, some sections of this 65-mile tract of asphalt are so narrow that only one vehicle can pass at a time. In other parts, the hairpin turns force drivers to slow to a crawl. Even though I was warned that the Road to Hana could take anywhere from 2.5 to 5 hours to navigate, I secretly wish I had taken the whole day to do it. There’s just too much to see along the way.
Waterfalls and Roadsides
My first stop was Twin Falls, just past Paia Town, and that’s when I first get the sneaking suspicion that I should’ve done some more thorough research -- I could’ve spent hours hiking the various trails, cooling off in the waterfalls, and just plain lazing about in the pools, but the road beckoned, and I aimed to cram in as much as I could before nightfall. Further along I realized you don’t have to go far off the road to see waterfalls, in fact, you don’t have to leave your car. Thankfully, there are plenty of roadside turnouts for those craving closer inspection.
Sand and Sea
Although the black sand beach at Wai’anapanapa State Park is small by Hawaii standards, it still remains relatively uncrowded -– and it’s one of only a handful of black sand beaches on Maui. But it’s the scenery, not the sand that is the real draw here. Craggy rock formations jut from the ocean floor, lending a surreal feeling to the landscape.
I was told to keep an eye out for the blowhole -- when the waves are timed right, a gush of water shoots up to the heavens from an innocuous opening in the rocks. It turned out to be pretty easy to spot – I just looked for the people gathered around the hole in the ground, just beyond the signs telling people not to go near the hole in the ground. People are funny that way. There are even more nifty rock formations further down the road at Keanae Peninsula, compliments of recent lava activity.
My day ended with a massage at the Spa at Travaasa Hana, which was just what my body needed after a day of rubbernecking along the highway. Lying there, I almost kicked myself for not planning the trip better so I’d have time to visit the sites I missed, like Ohe’o Gulch and the Seven Sacred Pools. Then it dawned on me that I did actually have to drive back the way I came, and I couldn’t help but smile knowing I got to do the trip all over again, only in reverse.
About this Hawaiian Holidayer
Hailing from Newfoundland, Canada, Raymond Walsh is a cubicle-escapee who’s on the hunt for unique experiences and offbeat activities to share on his travel blog Man On The Lam -- A Curious Gentleman’s Guide to Escapes & Escapism.
Hawaii natives are fortunate to live close to a variety of tropical islands, such as Kauai and Maui. Ever since moving to the Pacific Northwest, I have fallen in love with mountains. Normally, my weekends consist of exploring the outdoors and being on the move to stretch my legs after sitting behind a computer all week. My travel style doesn’t vary much from my weekend goals of being adventurous and active. I use my vacation days to head to remote areas without cell service and WiFi, and I carry my hotel in my backpack. Could I enjoy a trip without lacing up Gore-Tex hiking boots?
Leaving Familiar Mountains Behind
It was time to pack for a tropical vacation: Sandals, check. Bathing suit, check. Sunglasses, check. Camera, check. Once we arrived, Kauai filled my need to be on the move.. As I explored, Hawaii felt different yet familiar with its volcanic landscape covered in lush rainforests.
On our first day, we woke up early to catch a sunrise and started our day with fresh, tropical fruits, which couldn’t have been a better escape from the rainy winter. Then it was time to try some hiking--in sandals! We were soon squishing and squashing through muddy trails along a ridge that overlooked the Nā Pali coast and Waimea Canyon.
While hiking the not-so-tropical Waimea Canyon, I was reminded of my first backpacking trip to the Grand Canyon. The trail was dry and the red rock canyon walls vibrant as the morning sun shined. I didn’t want to leave Kauai; I was just getting used to island hiking. We ended the day watching the sunset and sipping beer on Polihale State Park’s beach. The stars twinkled above us as we crawled into our accommodation for the night--our tent, which felt like home. Maybe a tropical trip isn’t so bad.
On to Maui
Covered in the dust of Waimea Canyon, it was time to hop on a flight to Maui. Flying in, I was again surprised to see the volcanic features of the island. With no time to relax, the vacation was turning into our normal travel style, which includes hiking and exploring as much as possible.
At the crack of dawn we drove up to Haleakalā National Park to see the sun rise above the mountains as the wind chilled everyone to the bones. Ah, good thing I wore socks with my sandals, leggings under my shorts and a rain jacket to break the wind. It felt normal to be awake on the top of a mountain watching shadows form; it made me enjoy the Hawaiian tropics even more.
Retreating from the wind, we decided to continue our road trip and get our bearings in Maui. We drove the Road to Hāna while twisting, turning and holding our breaths around every corner, hoping we wouldn’t run into oncoming traffic. We passed trees and waterfalls as aqua blue waves crashed against the rocky coastline in the distance. We were really enjoying our road trip around Maui. Two quick walks led us to a black-sand beach and a red-sand beach. Man, what a place! After seeing these beaches, we wished we spent the night on the westward side of the island instead of setting up a basecamp in Kihei.
I had been in Hawaii for three days and had yet to swim in the Pacific Ocean. Another early morning start, we woke up for our Molokini snorkeling adventure. I like swimming, but I don’t like the sun beating down on me while lying on the beach. The ocean wind blowing while cruising on a catamaran was just what I needed. Spending the morning in aqua blue water swimming through coral reefs and Turtle Town was a great break from the mainland. It was so much fun, we scoured other places to snorkel throughout our drive around the eastern side of Maui.
Just because we were island hopping, didn’t mean we had to sit on the beach and lounge like movie stars. I found myself enjoying tropical travel as long as it jived with my normal adventure-seeking. After my trip, I learned to be open-minded and do my research before making assumptions of places I have seen on TV or the movies.
I learned to enjoy a new kind of tropical travel. It was fun customizing my trip to my personal preferences, sprinkling in my normal hiking and outdoor routine.. Travel is what you make of it and can exceed expectations.
About this Hawaiian Holidayer
Angela Anderson balances a full time job and maxes out her vacation days on global travel and outdoor adventures. While she isn't traveling, she is exploring the Pacific Northwest. Follow Angela on her blog Angela’s Travels.