Road to Hana: Paved With Magic on Maui

It’s really no wonder that Hawaii is known as the land of paradise. And on this particular day, on this particular drive, I discovered for myself a little slice of Maui magic.

Thought you could easily spend a few days driving the epic “Road to Hana,” we decided to make it a long day trip instead since we only had 5 days in Maui. From Kihei, it’s about 2 hours and 15 minutes to Hana town, but we knew we’d be spending much more time than that on the legendary Hana Highway (HI-360).

Following Maui’s north coast toward the rugged eastern coastline, The Hana Highway features 620 curves (highly UN-recommended for the car-sick-prone traveler!) and 59 bridges, some only one lane. Beyond the fun of driving this tricky road (going only 10 miles an hour in some areas), it’s surrounded with fantastic island and ocean views, magnificent rainforests, waterfalls and other fun scenic (and delicious!) stops along the way.

The contrasting and varying shades of green along this highway should have their own dedicated color wheel. It was amazing to watch the landscape and forests morph into their own unique biospheres; forests of Acacia tress (am I in Serengeti??) flowed into thick bamboo forests, giving way to Rainbow Eucalyptus trees and fern-covered grounds. We were met with thick yet gentle rains along the journey—adding even further to the allure (and a better understanding of why everything is such a brilliant shade of green).

As with many adventures, there’s always more than one way to accomplish the goal. We tend toward self-guided tours, but there are also great Road to Hana guided tours as well if you prefer to keep your eyes glued to the scenery vs the road.

Our main goal was to reach Wai’anapanapa State Park, located just off the highway on the outskirts of Hana. Comprised of 120 tropical acres, there is no lack of beauty to explore. From here you may camp, hike, fish, swim, nature watch, discover the natural stone arches and relax on the black sand beach—just to name a few activities. Wai’anapanapa means “glistening water” and though the weather was overcast, the water still sparkled—and the black sand reminded us of all the awesome Maui coffee we’d drunk as we drove to the Park; the sand looked like someone had scatted coffee grounds all over the beach (in a good, coffee-loving way).

Well, perhaps before I regaled you with the fairytale ending, I should have teased you with a few of our other stops along the way. We made a couple stops to experience various waterfalls, had to grab some fresh-sliced pineapple, and made a special detour for banana bread with chocolate chunks from Hana Harvest (duh), a flourishing, sustainable farm with a fully-stocked fruit stand. (They also offer smoothies, hot drinks, and wood-fired pizzas.) There are about a dozen or so local stands and food-truck style “eateries” along the way, so you certainly won’t go hungry. Did we mention we stopped for fresh-sliced pineapple (again!)??

And when we weren’t letting our bellies lead the way, we also spied some pretty awesome wildlife—from free-range cows to wild cats and our favorite little discovery, the Gold-Dust Day Geckos. They all seemed to co-exist swimmingly and were altogether unconcerned with humans—much to our photographic delight. I was surprised to see a cow on the road atop a steep hill—how it moo’d itself up there was a mystery to me.

Whether you have 1 day or 4 to spend exploring The Road To Hana, I assure you that you haven’t done a drive like this before. While we just brushed the surface of what there is to see and do, we spent enough time on this magic highway to know that we will most certainly be coming back.

For more info on The Road to Hana and recommended stops along the way, click here.