I’d heard about the road to Hana plenty of times before I actually drove it. “It’s magical.” “It’s the best part of Maui.” “You’ll love it.”
It was odd, since it’s rare to hear so much about a road to a place and so little about the place itself. Now that I’ve actually done the complete loop around the island, I’ve got a better idea about what they’re talking about.
First off, what is it. Maui basically consists of two mountains: a big one (with a volcano at the top) and a smaller one (that I assume also had a volcano at some point, but what do I know?) Most of the people in Maui live in between those two mountains, and along the southern and western sides of the island. There isn’t really much in the way of houses on the interior of the island, because it’s too steep.
Hana is a small town on the far edge of the island that is made from the volcano. There aren’t many people there, and there aren’t many people anywhere on the road to it or from it. There’s not much in the way of a road, either. It’s more a thought than an actual thing. Really narrow in many places (so much so that you’ve got to really work at it to get two cars past each other, and if one were to veer too far off the road, one would be falling down the mountain . . .), and not always even paved. (Word on the street is rental car companies don’t like you to drive the whole loop. I didn’t read that until I’d already done it, and the rental people didn’t seem to care, so . . . win?)
You don’t really go to Hana to see anything there. It’s just the town at the halfway point of the loop. You go on the road to Hana to see all the cool things that are on the road. Waterfalls. Secluded red sand beaches. Gorgeous vistas. You also go to check out some of the touristy things that have developed on that road. (Lots of banana bread, for some reason. Really good, fresh from the oven banana bread . . . ) There are no signs telling you where to stop or what to do. My sister just had experience from doing the drive multiple times, so she’d tell us to pull over at this one random spot that had almost no place to pull over, and then she’d lead us on a trek 800 yards into the jungle, along a very rocky stream bed that seems to go nowhere. Not another soul in sight. Just when I was about to start thinking she might have done this because it’s easier to hide the bodies that way, a waterfall appeared. A huge, hundred foot plus waterfall falling into a picturesque pool. We spent an hour just swimming by ourselves and playing around in the waterfall. (That thing was cold!) At the end of it, another couple of people showed up, so we took off so they could have the spot to themselves.
If you didn’t know it was there, you never would have found it.
The same is true for a red sand beach. (More of a red rock beach, really.) You pull over to the side of a road and walk down a random path that goes along the edge of the shoreline, and just when you wonder why you’re doing it, you come to this cove nestled into the mountain, with shielded waters that offer perfect swimming. (Just watch out for those rocks. I’m not kidding. They’re almost as bad as legos.)
None of it costs anything (except the banana bread). It’s just driving around and seeing cool stuff, but you’d better have a book or a guide, or all you’re going to do is see windy roads. (Seriously windy roads. Switchbacks all over the place, along steep jungle walls. I was surprised Indiana Jones didn’t come swinging by at some point. Or Tarzan.)
Doing the whole loop takes the whole day, and you’re very tired by the end of it. (It’s not easy driving. Did I mention that?) You’re usually not going faster than 15 mph the whole time, and often slower than that. But it was very much worth it.
So. Road to Hana? It really is about the road and not Hana. Talk about an example of journey before destination. Very glad we went.