Maui's Road to Hana | Where We Stopped

08 April 2017

Of the 64.4 miles of HI-360 (a.k.a. the Hana highway), there are countless places to stop and explore, from waterfalls to beaches, from hiking trails to overlooks. We didn't know where to start. Thankfully, a group staying at the same VRBO condominiums as us lent us their Maui Revealed guidebook and R2H audio guide for our drive. The night before our road trip to Hana, we mapped out a few sites to put at the top of our list. Aside from those, we were up for whatever sparked our attention along the route. As mentioned in our other Road to Hana post, I strongly suggest picking up a guide to help narrow your stops and outline your route.

Where to Stop Along Maui's Road to Hana | The Brave Little Cheesehead at bravelittlecheesehead.com
Hook'ipa Beach and Overlook | You'll pass this just outside Paia, before you reach mile marker one. You'll know you've reached it because there will be tens of tiny, surfers' heads bobbing along the shoreline and their Jeeps will line the highway. Be sure to make your stop early because, on sunny days, this area crowds quickly. We stopped to watch the surfers on our way back from Hana and the parking lot was overflowing.

Just beyond the east-most shelter of the beach, you'll spot an area roped off for green sea turtles, an endangered species. Look closely because they blend in with the wet, dark rocks.

Where to Stop Along Maui's Road to Hana | The Brave Little Cheesehead at bravelittlecheesehead.com
Upper Waikani Falls | The first waterfall we stopped at for photos was Upper Waikani Falls (also dubbed Three Bears Falls). We pulled off just before the bridge and captured a few photos. Had it been warmer, we would've liked to climb down around the rocks and take a dip in the pool. Note: if the pull-off area before the bridge is full, there's another pull-off spot on the right shoulder just past the bridge.

Where to Stop Along Maui's Road to Hana | The Brave Little Cheesehead at bravelittlecheesehead.com
Honomanu Bay and Ke'Anae Bay | The pull-offs come up quickly, so drive a bit slower between mile markers 12 and 14 and be prepared to pull off! The first pull-off is just around a turn on the right shoulder, but it comes up so quickly that you might miss it. If you do, keep going and another few spots will present themselves along the route. Personally, I really loved this view. Here, the lush hillside, blue skies and water, and tranquil sounds of waves crashing and birds chirping harmonize in the most beautiful way.

Where to Stop Along Maui's Road to Hana | The Brave Little Cheesehead at bravelittlecheesehead.com
Wai'napanapa Beach and State Park | As in the home of the infamous black sand beach. Follow the signs to the state park and continue until you reach a small parking lot at the end of a long road. Take a stroll around the boardwalk that lines the black sand beach and lava rock formations, or head straight down the steps to the beachfront. Rather than sugary soft sand, the sand on this beach has the texture of tiny pebbles and is sometimes a bit gritty beneath your feet. Looking out to the water, small lava caves are on your right and a brief hiking trail to an overlook is on your left.

Troy's Plate Lunch | In Seattle, there's a food truck with the best mac salad I've ever eaten in my life (Not: I'm not usually a mac salad fan, but I could maybe live off of this kind.) So, knowing that Hawaiian plate lunches generally include a side of mac salad, I didn't want to pass up Troy's Plate Lunch outside Hana. For entrees, pick from BBQ pork, teriyaki pork, Katsu chicken, coconut shrimp, or fish served with sides of mac salad and two scoops of rice. So good. Braddah Hutts was another lunch spot we wanted to try, but it wasn't open on Sunday. Next time, Maui. Next time.

Hana's Kaihululu [Red Sand] Beach | Another beach, another colorful sand. If you can't tell from this caption, I was not the one who campaigned for this stop. Sometimes it's nice to compromise, other times it's nice to keep driving. I'll let you decide.

Where to Stop Along Maui's Road to Hana | The Brave Little Cheesehead at bravelittlecheesehead.com
Venus Pools | We were most excited for this spot: a [somewhat] secluded number of pools surrounded by jagged black cliffs and a canopy of trees. Like many of the hot spots, this one is easy to miss. Just before a bridge (in the midst of wide open fields), pull off on the should of the east side of the road next to a small metal gate. Wiggle your way between the stone road barrier and chicken wire fencing, and continue down the well-trafficked dirt path. You'll notice the path continues toward the creek or veers to the left by the metal gate. Go toward the metal gate, step through it, and keep walking in the field, while keeping an eye out for horse poo! Continue through the tree clearing and you'll spot an orange dome with signs about Venus Pools, then another tree clearing ahead of you, which will lead you right down to Venus Pools. If you have water shoes with traction, wear them. The rocks are slick! And even if you don't plan to take the jump yourself, stick around for the cliff divers that frequent the area. Also, if you've never been one to simply float atop water, now's your chance. The salt concentration in this pool is so high that floating here is just effortless.

Where to Stop Along Maui's Road to Hana | The Brave Little Cheesehead at bravelittlecheesehead.com
Stops We Skipped | Twin Falls, the painted eucalyptus trees, Coconut Glen's, and Wailua Falls were all recommended to us by many, many travelers (online and in person), as well as Seven Sacred Pools/Ohe'o Gulch and the Pipiwai trail in Haleakala National Park. We ruled them out for a variety of reasons and while we aren't encouraging that you do the same, it's possible our reasons for passing them up may help you decide how to plan and prioritize your road trip, too.

Twin Falls is immediately after mile marker two, making it the first stop for nearly everyone on the road to Hana. (In other words, plan for people. Lots and lots of people.) We started our drive early for the sake of getting a head start, and we knew that taking time for a two-mile waterfall hike promptly after starting would set us back later than we'd like. That and, if we're being honest, we'd read that it's a bit overhyped considering the other waterfalls and hikes on the route. Though, Twin Falls is easily accessible for nearly all ages and abilities, so it might be a good choice depending on your crew. The row of painted eucalyptus trees are beautiful! However, this isn't the first time we've seen these kinds of trees and it likely won't be our last. That said, we were perfectly content ooh-ing and ahh-ing as we drove alongside them, and from our top-down convertible at that. (More on that here.) Coconut Glen's was recommended as a dairy-free ice cream hot spot. Had it been open when we first passed it, we may have stopped to see what all the rave reviews are about. (In retrospect, even at day three in Maui we'd indulged in no shortage of gelato, ice cream and shave ice on this trip. So, maybe it was best we missed out on Coconut Glen's...) I risk writing this for fear of wanting to retract it later, but I'll take the chance for now: sometimes when you've seen one waterfall, you've seen them all. While Wailua Falls looks absolutely beautiful, we'd witnessed many incredible waterfalls before it, so we felt content carrying on without stopping for Wailua, too.

Seven Sacred Pools/Ohe'o Gulch, however, were closed to the public due to the impact of major flooding in recent months. We were sad to have missed these highlights, but it certainly didn't dampen our trip. Finally, Pipiwai trail (also dubbed the Bamboo Forest) is one stop we regret not pursuing. Looking back, this is one we should have made time for. Though, being one of our only sunny days in Maui, we wanted to get back to Kihei for a little R&R on the beach, which in our opinions, is also not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

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