Driving the Back Road to Hāna
What road are you traveling down? This could be a literal or figurative question. Today I want to share with you a road I recently conquered and hope to do again some day. Ready for a road trip? Let’s go on a drive to Hāna…
First off, what and where is Hāna? Hāna is a very, very small town on the eastern end of Maui, Hawaii. Call me naïve, but I didn’t even now it existed until I got TO the island. I ventured down to Maui to visit a college bestie who has lived there for several years, currently in Lāhainā. Being caught up in my own world here in Dallas with life and work, I didn’t pay much attention to my friend’s home down there, but wow, did Maui immediately get my attention, especially on this adventure.
Hāna has maintained an isolated, ‘small town’ feel for basically its entire existence. It’s no wonder it’s not easy to get to. My mom owned a travel agency throughout the 80’s and early 90’s and said that to get clients of hers to Hāna back then, she would schedule a helicopter ride for them from Kahului. She said there was a “winding road that no one wanted to drive or take the time to do.” I can understand that now; in 2016 it’s definitely not a road for everyone: blind corners on every turn, dozens of one-lane bridges all the while you’re driving on the edge of a cliff. Some of it is not even paved. You can see mailboxes on the side of the road and you know that up in the green Amazonian-like hillsides, people are living and existing in this quiet, serene and secluded area. Peaceful is an understatement. Oh, and there’s only one resort in Hāna to choose from.
All this to say: there’s only one back road to Hāna. This is the more adventurous route starting from “upcountry.” If you’ve gone all the way to Maui you might as well get full use out of your rental car and do this. Snag the front seat, make sure you trust your driver, down some Dramamine and have your camera ready. While you’re en route, here are some of the gems my local friend had us stop at along the way…enjoy!
Stop #1: Grandma’s Coffee House – Get the entire loaf of banana chocolate chip bread. Believe me when I say, “It’s not like regular banana bread!” Even though it’s only about 45 more miles to Hāna, it’s going to take you a while and you’ll want a snack!
Stop #2: Ulupalakua Ranch Store – Where a little bit of the Wild West meets Maui. If you’re hungry, get a grass-fed burger (apparently the best on the island according to my friend and other locals) or if you’re a tourist like me, get some of the goat’s milk caramel sauce and homemade hot sauce with locally grown ingredients. Oh, and mini jellies too.
Stop #3: Friends of St. Joseph-Kaupo – This is actually a spontaneous stop. You really can’t miss it – a beautiful, old white church overlooking the ocean that looks nearly deserted. We pulled over and got out to explore. Founded in 1862 it only has several services per year now, but the grounds are maintained. Wow, if this place could talk… lots of history to observe there.
Stop #3: Hiked Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls + 7 Sacred Pools – This is where you pay the parking fee and get to hike through a bamboo forest to an iconic Maui waterfall. Yes, you read that right. Then, if they’ve had rain recently (unfortunately for us, they hadn’t – sad!), you head back down to the 7 Sacred Pools – where you can swim.
Stop #4: Chow Wagon (Hawaiian food truck!) – There are a decent amount of food trucks to choose from – we really wanted Thai (because Hāna is THE place for Thai), but they were already closed when we rolled into town around 3pm. However, Chows did not disappoint! We had the ‘catch of the day’ and delicious veggies!
Stop #5: Hāna Farms– What’s not to love here? On Friday/Saturday nights they have farm-to-table organic wood fired pizza being served. Since we had already chowed at Chows, we didn’t partake but I did end up with some organic cacao nibs and a coconut face serum infused with Maui coffee, vanilla and fruit seed oil! Glowing skin here I come!
Stop #6: Overlook at Wailua Valley State Wayside – You’ll come around a sharp curve at mile marker #18 and this view will knock your socks off. You’ll be looking at the most beautifully green valley stretching to the ocean with mountains behind you. We met a local walking his dog who lived in town. He said about 3-4 families have occupied the town for several generations. They are all fisherman, farmers, etc. It’s gotten a lot smaller with more of the children growing up and moving away for other opportunities. There are two churches you can see in the valley below – legend has it that during a storm in the 1800’s a bunch of white coral was washed ashore to build one of the churches that is still stark white to this day. He considers it “the most Hawaiian part of the island” due to its remoteness, small town and secluded vibe.
Stop #6: Coconut Glen’s Ice Cream – This is a few miles outside of Hāna heading north. Don’t miss it. Best. Ice Cream. Ever. There’s more than coconut and we even met Coconut Glen himself as well as his new puppy.
Stop #7: Sunset at Ho’okipa Beach Park – A beautiful beach with a perfect sunset as we watched storm clouds roll in.
Stop #8: Thai Spice, Paia – If you can’t get Thai in Hāna, wait until you get to this place in Paia – delicious spring rolls, pad thai and curry! It’s small, so be patient or get it to go.
Stop #9: Your bed. Trust me, you’ll be ready for sleep after this long, beautiful, winding road of a day!
Don’t miss this adventure on your next trip to Maui. Start comparing fares to get you there and before you know it, you’ll be hiking to waterfalls, sipping on Maui coffee and basking in the green, lush Amazonian surroundings.