This particular day on Maui was our day to drive the Hana Highway. This is the road that encircles Haleakala, though the true “Road to Hana” is only the drive to the town of Hana, which is roughly halfway around the volcano. Anyone that’s driving usually doesn’t do the complete circle around the back side of the mountain.
The road is a rather mythic, barely two lane road through rain forests, perched on cliff-edge, and with many, many switchbacks that fold into one lane bridges over myriad waterfalls. Our average speed for the trip (despite a good chunk of 45 mph driving at the beginning and end of the day), was 18 mph. True to the rain forest label, it rained for most of our drive through the actual north coast, and only really cleared up for good when we got to Hana.
Haleakala from the road.
A view back of the highway from Ke’anae
The above photos were all taken from the Ke’anae Peninsula, a lovely little diversion from the road.
The above three photos are of Wai’anapanapa State Park. The park is in Hana, and has a great picnic area where we had lunch. (We’d stopped in Pa’ia and picked up a picnic lunch, complete with cooler bag. Definitely a good investment.) There’s a black sand beach, and a really neat lava cave running from that beach to the ocean.
The other place we stopped in Hana was the Kahanu Gardens, an ethnobotanical garden that’s part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden system. This particular garden focuses on the plants that the native Hawaiians used, be they native to the islands, or introduced by the Polynesians. It’s an interesting place to wander through if you’re into that kind of thing.
The other really neat part of this park is the Pi’ilanihale Heiau, a three acre stone compound built in the 14th century. It seems to be a combination of royal palace and temple, due to the reverence the site is held in. You can’t climb the heiau, but it towers over the gardens, and lends a certain special sense of presence to the area.
We also made it down to the ‘O’heo pools, past Hana, but there was high water that day, and they were closed to swimming, so no good pictures there. After that, we actually kept going. Not long past ‘O’heo, the road is unpaved for a while, which is why most people with rentals don’t venture down there. We also had the added adventure of a small traffic tie up when someone managed to flip their car. Needless to say, that’s quite the event on a barely more than one lane unpaved road. Even with that slight annoyance, the back of the mountain may have been my favorite part of the drive. There’s no one else around you, and you pass into the rain shadow of the volcano, and the landscape dramatically changes out of the rain forest into Mediterranean scrub, with dramatic cliff falling into the sea instead of beaches. It’s not an easy road (I doubt my sister enjoyed this part of the trip, since she was driving), but if you can enjoy the scenery because someone else is driving, I highly recommend it.