The Hana Highway

Posted by Arlo on Aug 9, 2005 under Postcard Valet, Travel

OksanaOksana and I both enjoy sleeping in, but this time, we vowed to make the most of our vacation. Instead of taking each day slowly, we resolved to strike out early to see and do as much as we could in Hawaii. So, when seven o’clock rolled around, even though Oksana was still sick, she gamely rolled right out of bed. After we left our room, there stills wasn’t anyone from the B&B in sight. Before we went off for the day, we needed to check in the hostess so that we could change rooms. We killed a half an hour of waiting by exploring the black lava rocks that were liberally scattered around the small sandy beach in front of our room. Then, still alone, we drove into Paia for some critical supplies: Tissues for Oksana and Diet Cokes for myself. We spent a few more minutes walking the entire town, checking out insane real estate prices, and being drawn into bakeries by our olfactory senses. A pastry breakfast behind us, we returned to the B&B and moved our bags over to another room. I mentioned to a local guy who happened to by hanging around the property that we were thinking about driving the Road to Hana, and he assured us that today (sunny and, more importantly, DRY) would be perfect. We read up on the points of interest in our guidebook and he gave us a few tips on how to get home.

Early Morning View.

The Road to Hana turned out to be, in every sense, a once in a lifetime experience. It was amazing, beautiful, and I’ll never do it again. There’s only 37 or so miles separating Paia from Hana – road miles, even less “as the crow flies” – but it took us FOUR HOURS to get there and another three hours to get back via another route.

So much concentration required.

The Road to Hana is known for its twisting roads, dozens if not hundreds of single-lane bridges, blind hairpin turns, and hours upon hours of 10mph speed limits. (Oksana and I thought it would be fun to time-lapse the drive with our video camera. Turns out it was SO twisty, that the resulting video was simply a crazed blur of pavement and vegetation – your eye can’t even track the direction changes!) To keep you from going insane, it’s also balanced by beautiful waterfalls, scenic overlooks, lush vegetation, bamboo, and hiking trails.

The Timelapse Rig

Oksana and I stopped at a bridge and hiked a very short distance to a trickle of a waterfall spilling into an inviting swimming hole. There were maybe a dozen people around, so we decided to continue on over the smooth, black lava stones, hiking further upstream. In just five minutes time, we discovered a smaller swimming hole surrounded by steep cliffs and shallow caves… and we had it all to ourselves.

Ready to document the experience.

Half an hour later, when we came back down, everyone else had vacated the lower swimming hole. Oksana grabbed the video camera and videotaped me jumping off one of the cliffs surrounding the water hole. I tried, too, to take advantage of the rope swing, but I couldn’t haul it all the way up the cliff by myself.


A quick change of clothes later and we were back on the road again. We drove and drove and drove and stopped for snacks. Banana bread, coconut candy (Yummy and Spendy!), and tortillas stuffed with pork, coleslaw, and salsa were our lunch. When we reached Hana, I thought that the worst of the driving would be over. It so wasn’t.

Mmmm, bananabread.

The east side of Maui is dry and, consequently, unpopulated. For about 10 miles, the road is potholed dirt, and even once you get past that, it’s many more hours of twisting turns and sluggish speeds. Even the paved sections of the road were horribly buckled and when we finally reached the maintained portion of the highway again, the silence in the car was pure bliss.

One Hardy Tree.

The landscape From Hana down along the southeast edge of the island is completely barren. The shores of the incredibly blue waters of the pacific are lined with black volcanic rock and the slopes of Heleakala are broken, jagged, and dead. Looking up the hillside, you could see sheer valley walls that had been carved by, presumably, flash floods. Besides low shrubs and the occasional cow, there was nothing to see. I worried that if our little compact Chevy died, it would cost us hundreds of dollars in towing fees.

See? Blue.

We eventually did get back to Kauhului, but it took us about seven hours, total. Seven hours for a 100-mile trip; it was exhausting. While still in the big city, we stopped at Wendy’s for dinner and picked up some refridgerables at Safeway. Back at the B&B we had enough energy for sitting on the porch and not much else.

Hana Highway after not much rain.

Which was okay by us, though, because our first day had been successfully full. Also, we struck up a conversation with some fellow tourists who shared some valuable intel about the Big Island, night diving with Manta Rays, and swimming with dolphins! More for us to look forward to!