There is so much to see on both sides of the Road to Hana that you could well spend a week or even longer exploring all its wonders: Waterfalls and hiking trails, natural pools and rainforests, lovely botanic gardens and a rough coastline with beautiful black sand beaches. If you decide to stay for just one day like most tourists do and don’t spend the night in Hana you simply won’t be able to see it all. Instead of hurrying from one waterfall to the next to take them all in you should choose carefully. Make a list of the places you really want to see on the trip along the Road to Hana before you leave. To make this easier for you, I have written down my very own Hana Top 5 for you: Five places you need to see when driving the road to Hana.
1. Ke’anae Arboretum
This botanical garden is situated half a mile past mile marker 16 on the right side of the street. Other than most of the botanical gardens along the route entrance to Ke’anae Arboretum is free. Also, it is a bit smaller than the others. Still, a walk amidst huge colorful eucalyptus trees, numerous palm trees, golden bamboo and shimmering bushes is worth your time. The parking lot is in a sharp left bend right after the entrance which is on the right side of the street. Look out for a small, yellow gate and a path leading to the arboretum.
2. Three Bears Falls
Believe it or not, three bears falls, half a mile past mile marker 19, is one of the three most beautiful waterfalls on the entire east coast. They aren’t very high but mighty – especially if it has been raining recently. There are no more than a handful of parking lots on the street. If none is empty, prepare to walk a few yards. We left the car in an inlet a bit further up the street and walked back to the falls. Oh, talking about walking: Don’t just stay by the roadside and stare at the falls! Facing the falls, there is a small wooden ladder leading down on the left side of the bridge. It’s a bit slippery so bring good shoes. Also bring your bathing suit – you might want to take a dip in those wonderful clear and cool pools!
3. Wai’anapanapa State Park
There are restrooms and vending machines, a camping lot and astonishingly beautiful hiking trails along the cliffs. In between there are black sand beaches, caves and lava tubes that are illuminated by a red glow in some nights. The red hue is caused by a certain kind of shrimp that lives under the sandy surface and comes out from time to time. Wai’anapanapa State Park is good both for a short rest at the beach or for a long walks along the coast. Turn left into Honokalani Road shortly after mile marker 32 and follow the road down to the shore. And keep your eyes open for fruit stands! Buy some Lilikoi! Even if they look shriveled and brownish. If you like passion fruit, you’ll find yourself in fruit heaven!
4. Pranee’s & Nutcharee’s Thai Food
It’s out of the question that Pranee and Nutcharee are by far the two best Thai cooks on the entire island of Maui. Their restaurant originally is a take away but there are some tables in the lush tropical garden and under a pavilion next to the kitchen. Their signature dish is Panang Curry with Ahi – fresh tuna steak, medium cooked. The restaurant is in Uakea Road 5050, right opposite of the football stadium and next to the school. Their home made ice tea tastes just like in South East Asia.
5. Ohe’o Gulch
So once you have arrived in Hana you’ll find yourself wondering if it is better to return or drive on. The southern way back leads around the Haleakala in the South and is a few miles longer than the Road to Hana. But if you don’t follow highway 31 for at least some miles you’ll definitely miss out on the best part of the Hana experience. Ohe’o Gulch, also known as Kipahulu region, sports the most beautiful and spectacular waterfalls and a row of crystal clear natural pools. And the Pipiwai trail that starts there, only a short drive away from Hana, is the most beautiful hiking trail of the entire east coast. Ohe’o Gulch is the southernmost entrance to Haleakala National Park and the entrance fee is 10 dollars per car (well spent!). The entry to the 4 mile round trip hiking trail is just behind the visitor center. After crossing the highway the path leads up the hill past the mighty Makahiku waterfall to the 400 foot high Waimoku fall. Its highlight is the last part that leads through a thick, dark bamboo forest where daylight fades hours before sundown. Put on your hiking boots – or else shoes you don’t care about: Occasionally, you’ll have to wade through streams of mud and water crossing the trail.