Day 4: The Hana Highway
IT'S AN INFAMOUS 64.4 miles of winding, twisty road with one-lane bridge crossings. Drive fast at your peril: huge tour buses can swoop around the bend with no warning, and there are hairpin turns galore. The Hana Highway stretches from Kahalui to the small town of Hana on the far eastern rim of Maui, and then circles about the southeast end of Haleakalā National Park, where one large gravel section still remains. Once you exit Paia and head east toward Hana, it’s time to wake up and stay alert. You will want to have your eyes prepped for any oncoming vehicles, as well as enjoy the stunning jungle and the large number of waterfalls you’re apt to see.
The Hana Highway is almost completely paved. However, when we visited, the foliage was intent on taking back the road. Many ferns and trees overhung in the way ahead, making it difficult to spot oncoming vehicles. The locals who live out this way will whip around the road so fast that it’ll make your head spin. Pull over to let them pass. Also, be mindful of bicyclists. We followed a cyclist for nearly a mile, unable to pass because the road was too narrow to pass safely, and we couldn’t see far enough ahead to see if anyone was coming. We had to wait for the cyclist to signal that it was okay for us to pass him.
The bamboo forests that surround you are utterly magical. I’d never seen so much bamboo in my life. Also, if you’re in the passenger seat, then prepare to be dazzled by the sheer number of waterfalls at every bridge and along pull-outs. It may be possible to get tired of waterfalls, you’ll see so many (unless it’s been dry lately). There are rest spots along the way where you can buy fresh fruit and pastries from local stands, as well as use the restroom. It usually takes around 2.5 hours to navigate the entire highway to Hana.
We, in our wisdom, decided to spend the second half of our trip in Wai'anapanapa State Park, a wondrous black sand beach and volcanic field a mere ten minutes from Hana. That meant that we got to drive the Hana Highway. A lot. While we gradually acclimated to craning our heads around turns to see who was coming, and endured the stops at the bridges to let oncoming traffic pass, it was very tiring. The scariest part was driving the Hana Highway at night. There weren’t many cars, but there was a man walking down the middle of the street who could have been easily hit, and around one blind turn, we slammed on the breaks to keep from hitting a dog. Because of the poor visibility along the Hana Highway, if at all possible, avoid driving it at night. During the day, drive slowly and courteously, but don’t be too hesitant. Let others know you’re present and embrace the beauty of the legendary Hana Highway.
Upcoming Day 5: Wai'anapanapa State Park
Read more in the Hawaiian Travel Series:
(0) Intro: Welcome to Maui
(1) Day 1: Northwest Maui: Lahaina
Disclaimer: The above is presented as fiction, not fact.