One of the more popular excursions in Maui is to drive the Road to Hana, but, quite honestly, unless you’re comfortable driving on very windy, hilly, narrow, and potentially dangerous roads, it’s much more stress free to let someone else do the driving for you by joining a tour. We chose to go with Valley Isle Excursions after reading such good things about them on the Hawaiian Ecotourism Association site, and they did not disappoint!
We were picked up promptly at 7am where we were staying in Lahaina. Our guide Barry, introduced himself and the other eight people on the tour. He then gave us a brief history of Maui en route to a quick continental breakfast at The Dunes at Maui Lani Golf Course. You MUST have a croissant with their passionfruit jam — it’s delicious!
We then drove through Pa’ia Town, a Hawaiian plantation village that was established in 1896, on our way to the Road to Hana; it is the longest rainforest you can drive through in the United States. Full of rainbow eucalyptus, bamboo of various colors, and sites to be remembered, it was instantly clear why the Road to Hana is such a popular excursion.
The amount of history we were given during the course of this full-day tour is, clearly, too much to include in this article; I would like to share, however, some of the most memorable facts, before delving into incredible landscape of which we covered.
- There are 132 islands in the Hawaiian Archipelago
- The Road to Hana was established in 1820 because district kings and chiefs were ordered to build a road that connects with neighboring districts; it was originally named the King’s Path
- About 400 people live alongside the Road to Hana
- The road is scattered with mom and pop cattle ranches, and they own hundreds of acres each
- There are 690 curves and 59 bridges along the Road to Hana.
- The Road to Hana was first paved in 1966, and functioned as a one-way road. Unfortunately, by the 1970s, it was riddled with potholes. It wasn’t until the early 1990’s that the side of the mountain was blasted and the Road to Hana became a two-lane road (albeit, still very narrow!).
- There are many quick, small stops along the way, which allowed us to quickly photograph waterfalls and pretty viewpoints, but these were the main sites to see:
Upon approaching Ke’anae Peninsula, we got an up close look at Maui’s jagged, rugged coastline. We had about 20 minutes to walk around and explore this peninsula that was formed from a huge lava flow originating from the Haleakala Crater. Ke’anae means “inherited land,” as it was believed that the land was inherited from the gods.
Wai’anapanapa State Park
Next up, we were taken to one of Maui’s iconic black sand beaches, located in Wai’anapanapa State Park. 5 FT Fun Fact: Wai’anapanapa means “shimmering or glistening water.”
The vibrant green palm trees, juxtaposed with the dark sand and bright blue water, made for a beautiful sight! If you walk across the small beach, there is a path that goes up along the cliff, which provides stunning panoramic views of Wai’anapanapa.
For lunch, we were taken to a flower farm where we were served a hot Hawaiian BBQ lunch. Valley Isle Excursions were happily able to accommodate those with a variety of dietary needs; they graciously provided us with a vegetarian coconut curry (which was way too much food for two people!). To top it off, Barry passed around delicious chocolate covered macadamia nuts for desert.
‘Ohe’o Gulch aka the Seven Sacred Pools
Going into the second half of our day, we approached the Seven Sacred Pools. It is located in Haleakala National Park and is considered the most popular attraction in East Maui. People used to be able to swim in the pools, but they are closed indefinitely (as of the time of this writing) due to safety concerns with landslides.
There are still two trails within the park that remain open, which we decided to explore. The trails offered beautiful views of the cascading waterfalls and plunge pools, which then merge with the ocean below.
Palapala Ho’Omau Church
Palapala Church was founded in 1864. We made this stop because it’s famed as the burial spot of Charles Lindbergh, the man who made the first non-stop solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927. The area is extremely tranquil and one of the most remote spots in Maui — which is one of the reasons why Charles Lindbergh moved there!
He loved Maui so much that he asked to be buried on the land. He wanted to be buried barefoot, facing the ocean, in a straw hat, on a 12×12 plot, and buried 20 feet deep; nearby, his five monkeys and favorite dog were also buried, and he called them his five kids.
After completing the typical route of the Road to Hana, we continued driving along the southern coast to an area that only about 20% of people get to access. 5 FT Tip: Rental cars are NOT allowed on this portion of the road due to its poor conditions and possibility of damaging the car (on most maps, it is identified as a dotted line).
Beware that this can be dangerous, as we passed an area of the road that was washed out the day before due to a mudslide. Rest assured, the tours will not take you if it is not safe! The mountain road, as a whole, consists of 7-8 miles of bumpy, dirt roads that offer spectacular views of the coastlines and valleys.
The mountain road concluded our tour of the Road to Hana. We were dropped off around 6pm after a full day of picturesque landscapes. Not only did Valley Isle Excursions give us a day of beautiful sites, but of interesting information and fun facts about the islands history too.