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The Road to Hana is one of the world’s most scenic drives, and while it’s more about the journey then the destination itself, there are plenty of things to do along the way. Enjoy the aroma of ginger and guava that fills the air, and the lush, tropical landscape that boasts spectacular waterfalls, basalt-lined, emerald pools and postcard-perfect beaches. Start out in Paia, a quirky surfing town, and get ready to enjoy an unforgettable adventure.
Twin Falls is the first of an easily accessible string of waterfalls and pools you’ll encounter along the Road to Hana at Mile Marker No. 2. While some guide books say it’s nothing special, that may be because they’re trying to keep others away. Not only can you swim under the falls, but you can pick up some fresh-squeezed sugarcane juice, coconut candy and locally grown fruit at the Twin Falls Farm Stand. Even better, you can leave the tourists behind and take the residential road the travels alongside Ho’olawa stream, leading to a foot path and a popular waterfall with the locals known as “Caveman,” an oasis with a swimming hole and a perfectly positioned swinging rope.
The Waikamoi Ridge Trail is often unnoticed, located as the legendary road climbs towards the sky just past Mile Marker No. 9 between Twin Falls and the Garden of Eden Arboretum. At less than a mile, this hike is an easy loop, filled with ferns, towering trees and scenic overlooks, making it a nice stop for stretching your legs.
Wailua Valley State Wayside at Mile Marker No. 18 is often overlooked too. All you have to do is blink and you’ll miss it, but if you stop, be sure to take the stairs to the right and you’ll be treated to a view of Ke‘anae Valley, the sprawling taro fields of Wailua Village and Ko‘olau Gap. There is also a private road you can walk down to the left.
You won’t be back in the car long, because just past Mile Marker No. 19 on the mountain side of the highway is Upper Waikani Falls, also known as Three Bear Falls as it’s made up of three separate but parallel falls of differing lengths. The third and smallest is “baby bear” falls on the right. While most that visit choose to view the falls from their vehicle, if you’re up for an adventure, about a tenth of a mile ahead, you’ll find more parking and the chance to walk down a trail that leads to the magnificent falls.
This 294-acre National Tropical Botanical Garden is located just past Mile Marker No. 31. Kahanu Garden showcases some of the most rare and beautiful plants from the Pacific Islands, including plants brought from Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia centuries ago in ancient voyaging canoes. It boasts the most diverse collection of ‘ulu, or breadfruit, varieties on Earth, as well as the largest ancient place of worship in all of Polynesia, Pi’ilanihale Heiau, which is made entirely of lava rock and registered as a National Historic Landmark. Incredibly impressive, it’s been estimated to have taken several centuries to complete and is considered a sacred, cultural gift from the ancestors of the Hawaiian people.
Waianapanapa State Park is renowned for its picturesque black sand beach, sea caves and a rock arch. Waianapanapa, which translates to “Water flashing rainbow hues,” or “glistening water,” quite aptly describes what you’ll see: a dramatic contrast between the brilliant blue-green Pacific and the black, pebbly lava field. By hiking to the sea cave, following the labyrinth that was cut through a grove of native hau trees, you may even get to watch the water turn blood red. While the spectacle has sparked tales of a tragic legend, it occurs due to the presence of millions of tiny, red shrimp that cover the cave floors. You can also take a dip in the refreshing freshwater cave, stand inside the lava tube and watch the locals cliff dive from jagged islets.
Hana Bay is a popular hangout spot for locals and visitors alike, with its wide black sand beach is ideal for swimming and relaxing as it’s sheltered from strong winds. Visit in late afternoon and you might be able to watch the outrigger canoe clubs that practice here too. By following the trail that leads to a small red sand beach, you’ll discover the plaque that marks the nearby cave where Queen Ka’ahumanu, favorite wife of King Kamehameha I, was born.
The Hana Lava Tube formed nearly 1,000 years ago as a result of the molten lava that spewed from underground, and is one of the most fascinating stops on the Road to Hana. It can be explored via a self-guided tour that takes about 40 minutes to complete and includes a high powered flashlight. You’ll get to see incredible formations like the moray eel, the chocolate corridor of stalactites and lava stalagmites, as well as a fallout shelter, which contains supplies that can feed 15 people for six weeks. Be sure to watch for the blind cave insects like the flatworms and millipedes too.
The 80-foot-tall Wailua Falls is located just off the side of the road before ‘Ohe’o Gulch. One of Maui’s most photographed and most beautiful waterfalls, if you’ve got sturdy shoes, you can hike the short, slipper trail to the base for the most impressive view, standing in the mist while marveling at its beauty.
Located in the Kipahulu District of Haleakala National Park, the Seven Sacred Pools are cascading freshwater pools that flow directly into the ocean and provide the ideal spot to swim when the weather is right. Just be aware that heavy rainfall on the mountain can result in dangerous flash foods, so be sure to watch for rising water levels. If you have time, you can also take the adjacent Pipiwai Trail. The two-mile trek leads to giant banyan trees, through bamboo forest, and culminates at 400-foot Waimoku Falls, another wonderful spot for a refreshing dip and a picnic.