Day 5 - Road to Hana

We ended up choosing to do the Road to Hana on Christmas day in the hopes of having less traffic to deal with. Since we obviously haven't done it before I don't have anything to compare it to, but it did seem like we got pretty lucky as we never got stuck behind anyone and we always found parking spots along the way.

All of the guidebooks say to leave early so you can miss traffic too, and we ended up leaving the Kaanapali area a little after 7am.  We tried to stop by Safeway to get some sandwiches to bring along and they were closed until 9 for Christmas. So then we thought we'd just stop at a deli shop in Paia since it'd be later by the time we got over there. Well, everything except the gas station was closed. So going on Christmas was good for traffic, bad for food.

If you do the Road to Hana and plan to walk around at all, I highly recommend wearing stable footwear. One of the things that irks me the most is seeing people hiking in flip flops. It's dumb, dangerous, and dirty. Ok, rant over.

I think we got to Paia around 8:45 or so, and you start the actual Road to Hana pretty soon after that. I had bought the Mile by Mile Road to Hana book by John Derrick and we went through it on the plane and picked out which stops we wanted to stop at. We ended up pretty much going for the 5 star stops since there are enough of those to fill your day anyway.

Pretty much as soon as you get going you get the taste of the winding road and beautiful lush surroundings that will be accompanied the entire way. It's truly beautiful.

Our first stop was the Waikamoi Ridge Trail at mile marker 9.  It was an easy but pretty 1.5 mile hike if you do the extension off the loop. We got to the first bench from the main trail and then took that extension to the right, and turned around when the trail hit more open area. I'm not sure if we actually made it to the end, and we never found the other part of the loop, but it was a nice stop and had some great views.

Our next stop was at the Garden of Eden Botanical Arboretum near mile marker 10. It's $10 per person, and it's not a very big park, but I thought it was worth the stop and money. It did start to get crowded here, so I think if you can make it here as early as possible it would be better.  They have a really great collection of trees and plants that are all labeled. If you're into that kind of thing, you could spend hours here looking at every different species.  We did a pretty quick tour of the area though. We looked at the waterfall, and walked on all of the trails, but didn't really stop to inspect anything. You also get a nice view of the rock used in the opening scenes of Jurassic Park.

We next stopped at Kaumahina State Wayside Park at mile marker 12.  We just parked in the parking lot and walked over to the edge of the park toward the ocean and gazed upon the beautiful sight of the Ke'anae Peninsula. There are hiking trails here, but we chose to just stop for the view and keep going.

After that there were various lookouts between miles 14 and 16 that we stopped at to get more views of the ocean. They're fun and pretty and don't take much time.

I think the next stop we stopped at was the Ke'anae Peninsula. The Hana Hwy turns right but if you keep going in the straight direction you can a road down to the peninsula. You can park right by the ocean and just stand in awe as the waves come crashing into the rocks. It was really amazing and I highly recommend taking this detour.

Our next stop was at Upper Waikani Falls at mile marker 19. The falls is right off the road, so this is an easy one to just stand there and enjoy. Of course we couldn't leave it as simple as that, so in recommendation from our guidebook, we decided to try to hike down and see it closer. Now, the guidebook says "if you'd like to get a bit closer, there is a path at the Hana end of the bridge which leads you right to the falls. The trail is accessible from mauka (center of island) and makai (ocean side) sides of the bridge, but makai is easier. Simply climb down and under the bridge and follow the jungle like path towards the falls and then rock-skip a few feet up to the best vantage point." Sounds easy enough, right? Yeaaaa. We went to the Hana side and looked for the trails. It's pretty much just a very steep rock slope that you have to somehow figure out how to get down. The makai side looked like more loose rock, which I was too scared to try. The mauka side seemed steeper, but it had huge sturdy rocks, which I found more appealing. We found another couple with their guidebook also trying to figure it out. Tyler just decided to go for it and successfully made it down the mauka side. I followed. It really isn't hard, you just need to go slowly and make sure you foot and hand holds are stable. Then you take a little dirt path for a short while. If you do this, keep going on the dirt path as far as you can. There was a part where it seemed like you had to go down to the stream, but you can actually keep going on the dirt for a while longer. Of course I didn't realize this and led everyone to the stream, so we ended up boulder hopping for a lot longer. Be VERY careful while rock hopping. Any rock that is wet is probably also covered in algae and is very slippery. The girl from the other couple stepped on one and slipped and got her foot stuck under a rock. She got it out ok and didn't seem hurt, but it could have been serious. We could have gotten even closer to the falls, but got close enough to satisfy us and then turned around. If you choose to go down here, your feet will get wet. So just be prepared for that.

We were starting to get really hungry by this time so we decided to try to hurry up to Hana. We did find a point in our guidebook that made it sound like it was just an alternate route. It was called Nahiku Road and Landing at mile marker 25. It's about a 2.5 mile long one-lane road. We discovered that not only does it not keep going and you have to turn around to get back to Hana, but the end is also restricted private property so we never even got to the landing it was talking about. Maybe if you keep going, but it said only residents allowed and we didn't want to be disrespectful.

So then we got back on Hana Hwy and contined to Hana Town.  We first tried to get lunch from Tutu's Snack Shop, but of course that was closed. So then we found Hana Ranch House and ate there. I got a fish sandwich and Tyler got a burger. I thought my sandwich was pretty good, but average. Tyler thought his burger was just ok (it was from Maui beef, which he didn't think was as good).

After lunch we got back on the Hana Hwy and headed towards Ohe'o Gulch, our final destination. On the way you pass Wailua Falls at mile marker 45. It's a beautiful waterfall that you just park and stand from the road to view. Worth the stop.

So then around 3pm or so, we finally reached our final stop, Ohe'o Gulch. It's part of Haleakala National Park, so if you went to the crater you can re-use your entry ticket for this park (or vice-versa).  There is a beach there that we saw tons of people heading down to, but we wanted to do the Pipiwai Trail there instead and never actually made it down to the beach. The Pipiwai Trail is a 4mile total trail that ended up being one of my highlights of the entire trip. I didn't think it was that hard of a trail. The beginning was the steepest, but after that it level out quite a bit. The first probably 1.2 miles or so is just through the beautiful lush trees, with the Makahiku Falls and it's stream to your right.You get quite a few peeks of the water below, and there is a lookout point to view the Falls. Then you encounter a huge Banyan Tree and start heading away from the water. Then just a bit farther, maybe like 1.4 miles in or so, you encounter the Bamboo Forest. OMG, it was one of the most amazing sights. I didn't realize how magical and eerie but gorgeous walking in a bamboo forest could be. The bamboo was so tall and so thick that it blocked nearly all of the light to produce this weird twilight kind of setting. And then as you walk you hear the bamboo creaking and cracking. So so so cool. Definitely worth it.  Once you leave the bamboo forest, you just have a short while more to reach the base of Waimoku Falls. It is like 400 ft tall, and feels all of that. It was a very rewarding and cool end to this beautiful hike.

Once we got back to our car after that amazing hike, we just turned around and started our return trip to our hotel. I had originally planned the day so that we could leave Ohe'o gulch around 3:30/4 and hope to get back to Paia area before dark, but we took longer on our journey and didn't leave Ohe'o until more like 5 or a little after. We probably made it like an hour before it started getting really dark. For anyone who has done the drive to Hana, you'll know that it's not exactly the kind of road you want to be on when it's pitch black. If you're nervous, just go slow and use the pullouts to let those anxious cars behind you pass. I ended up getting with a group of like 5 cars that were going a decent speed. My reasoning was that if anyone was going to get hit by an oncoming car at one of those turns or one-lane bridges, it would be the first cars that I was following and not me. I followed them for probably another hour or so, and then we got separated. We were almost back though so it wasn't too hard to do the last 5 miles on my own. Once you're back to mile marker 3 it's easy driving from there on (or at least easy in comparison).

We were starving again, but thought our best chance of finding an open restaurant would be to make it back to Front Street. So we got back there probably like 7:30 or 8pm, and ended up eating at Hard Rock Cafe for our Christmas dinner. Not really the best holiday meal, but it worked and we left satisfied.  It ended up being a super long day, but I definitely thought it was worth it. Might not be something I do every time I visit Maui, but it was worth doing at least once.

Road to Hana

Waikamoi Ridge Trail

Garden of Eden

Kaumahina State Wayside Park

Ke'anae Peninsula

Upper Waikani Falls

Wailua Falls

Ohe'o Gulch/Pipiwai Trail