An incredible road trip that holds a very special place in my heart is the Road to Hana. My first time in Maui was with my mom and dad when I was a teenager, and my dad was so excited to take us on this wild adventure. It was so thrilling to drive along the winding road through a lush tropical forest appreciating the scenic beauty that Maui is well-known for.
The exhilarating experience stayed with me, which is why I knew I needed to come back here solo to relive the experience. There is no other place like Maui that can really draw you in and make you feel like you are driving around in a dream paradise. If you are coming to Maui, you must, must do the road to Hana.
I only had a day, and I felt like it was important for me to take this trip on my own. Solo road trips are so therapeutic in so many ways. It was an enlightening experience, and I started the trip curious about what I was going to see and feel again, and ended the trip with an experience of discovery. A discovery that I was finally able to let a lot of things go that I needed to let go from my past.
Whatever inspires you to come here, these are the main spots that I was recommended to see in a day. It took me about 8 hours total from Wailuku going along the coast, and ending the trip with a beautiful sunset back in Pa’ia. If you only have a short time going to Hana, here are some of the cool spots I got to check out along the way!
Wai’anapanapa State Park-
One of my favorite things about traveling around Hawai’i was getting the chance to see black sand beaches on Big Island. Here on Maui, this black sand beach called Pa’iloa, was one of the first stops I made just past the 32 mile marker that you drive in to park, explore, and camp at. I drove through with the windows down, ocean breeze in my hair, sunkissed island warmth on my skin, relying solely on the radio to play my island jam soundtrack for the day. Just breathing in and soaking in the scenery, a sultry green forest that surrounds the sparkling black pebble lava along the deep blue-green ocean. Wai’anapanapa translates to “glistening water.” Being here was such a peaceful and aesthetic experience that anyone can truly appreciate. I loved walking around this fresh and clean beach, excited to experience such a unique beautiful paradise. Pronounced like, “WHY-A-NAH-PAH NAH-PAH.”
Hana doesn’t hit you, it seeps into you. A saying that I read in Maui Revealed, that is totally spot on with how you feel when you are in Hana. I can only imagine the deeper connection you feel if you get a chance to experience more time here. One beach I was recommended to check out while driving through Hana was Koki Beach. This beach was unlike anything I have ever seen before, an alluring and mysterious red sand beach surrounded by a cliff covered in a forest of dark green trees. You definitely are more in the country when you are here in Hana, so not a beach for swimming, but popular for surfing. I definitely appreciated the calmness that this beach seeps into you. Forcing you to stop and embrace the ambience that this quiet secluded beach offers you.
Legend has it, that the dark red sand was produced by the cliff here, Ka lwi o Pele, which means, “bones of Pele.” Pele is the goddess of fire, lightening, wind, volcanoes, and the creator of the Hawaiian islands. Here Pele fought her final battle with her older sister, Namakaokaha’i, the goddess of the ocean. Pele’s bones were stacked along the Koki shoreline and her spirit traveled to Kilauea of Big Island.
And apparently Oprah Winfrey owns this hill and the adjacent land.
Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls-
A wonderful delight I enjoyed while driving through Hana was the small refreshing waterfalls you can check out right off the highway. Hana offers an array of waterfalls and lagoons to explore more inland, and the one I was recommended to check out was Waimoku Falls on the Pipiwai Trail. The trail is about 2 miles each way, and can take you about 2-5 hours to explore in total, depending on how much you want to see. Be cautious of your time before you decide to take this trail, you do not want to end the road to Hana when it is dark out.
So, I decided to just stick to the trail due to time, and walk through Makahiku Falls, the Bamboo Forest, and then end with the beautiful 400ft waterfall, Waimoku Falls. This magnificent waterfall is best appreciated from a distance since it is very strong and powerful. If you get a chance to explore more, there are more pools and lagoons to check out for a quick dip elsewhere.
This trail is very moderate, but you are walking through a tropical forest that can be muddy as well as humid. I felt like I was hiking through an exotic jungle anticipating the beautiful rewarding waterfall at the end of my journey. Ironically what made me a little emotional, was the banyan tree that you see at the beginning of this trail. I had my dad take a picture of me in front of this same banyan tree when he took us here 18 years ago!
I remembered how mesmerized I was by this tree, and I felt like I was walking around in some sort of a fantasy world that you would imagine from a movie, like Lord of the Rings. It was a pretty crazy moment that took me back for a second since I didn’t even remember that he took us on this same trail. It was definitely fate that brought me back to this special banyan tree!
This trail is perfect if you have time to take a couple hour break from the road, and an easy trail that will take you straight to the waterfall if you follow accordingly!
Zen’s Coconut Shack-
The very last stop you can make on the road to Hana, which was also an unexpected stop I made, when I saw this colorful and loud coconut shack owned by my friend here who calls himself, “Zen.” Yes his name is Zen! I was slightly famished from the trail, and I haven’t stopped at a snack shop yet, and before I realized it, I was already parking the car to stop and check it out.
And I am so glad that I did! It was such a warm and inviting place, filled with so much tranquility and an eclectic mix of art perfectly expressing all the different things that Zen loves that brings him peace. Not only did he build this shack himself, but he also made most of the art you can see, and designed this relaxing hut perfectly fitting for his cool namaste lifestyle.
This place is so cool and unique, it is hard to drive by it and not want to check it out or see what it is all about. You can stop and have a coconut to drink, buy some dried bananas to snack on, or crack a macadamia nut!
Being in his presence and taking the time to talk stories with him was also an unforgettable moment in my life that stayed with me. Zen definitely lives up to his name! Being in his presence almost made me feel more anxious and uneasy at first, and I was confused and wondering what this guy was all about.
He is so calm and relaxed, it made me realize how anxious and emotionally heightened I felt just being around him. I have always battled with emotional anxiety my whole life, and he actually taught me how to properly breathe to help me relax, like breathing for mediation. And to just get out of my head, and let everything that haunts me go and frivolous worries.
As silly as I felt at first, I chose to be in the moment and go along with his zen teachings. Sitting there with him, surrounded by a circle of rocks in his place of peace. This is where he sat and embraced the warmth of the sun, closed his eyes, and would just let go and breathe. Very, Very, slowly, breathe, in and out.
I think he could sense how anxious and emotional I was from the trip, he basically took the lead and had me sit with him to help me relax. So, I followed his lead, and just got out of my head, breathed, and just let my emotions flow out of me. Next thing I know I was crying a little bit!
I was also laughing! We talked a lot about my past, and my dad, so experiencing that quiet moment with him of letting things go was actually very cathartic and surreal for me. He helped open my eyes to see how possible it was to cure my anxiety and actually bring that kind of peace to my life.
Just taking the time to stop, breathe, get out of my head, and to just have a quiet moment. A quiet moment to release all the unnecessary thoughts or emotions that can plague us and wear us down. I don’t think I will ever meet someone with such a peaceful grace as his. I was very thankful to him for taking the time to bring some unexpected zen to my hyper emotional state of mind! And I promised him I would write about him 🙂
I highly encourage to stop and check out this place! Even if it is just for the treats, no matter what you will leave relaxed and refreshed, it was a great gift of peace to end my exhilarating road trip!
Now at the End, Head Back to Catch a Sunset in Pa’ia-
You are driving along an unpaved dirt road at this point, which is why it is important to make it to the end before dark. The scenic view along the coast is still so incredible to take in, watching the navy blue ocean waves crashing along the cliffs, was like a scene from a movie ending. The wind was blowing strong in my hair, and I was feeling so alive and free. I didn’t expect to have such an enlightening solo mission on this road trip yet so thankful that I did. This was an impromptu trip when I had 3 days off of work, so I took the plunge and went for a mini Maui trip to celebrate my 6 month anniversary of living the island life on O’ahu.
If I had more time, I would definitely have explored A LOT MORE! But if you are looking for a mellow and quick road trip for a day, these are definitely popular and easy places to get to along the way. You will eventually get on the Pi’ilani Highway, and head back through Maui to end up back in Pa’ia where you drive through at the beginning.
The timing was perfect for me to catch a stunning pink sunset in Pa’ia. I left at 9:30am from Wailuku and got to Pa’ia at 6:30pm. There was barely anyone at the beach, and I just sat back under the tallest palm trees I have ever seen, and ended the day on a really nice note with a genuine smile on my face.
Pa’ia is such a cute mellow beach town that I definitely recommend to walk around! Cute hippie shops, and the delicious Pa’ia Fish Market Restaurant with some killer fish and chips!
This was also a nice experience being here because I ran into a very good old friend of mine from high school! We literally ran into each other when I was parking and he was coming out of a general store. It was so unexpected and literally perfect timing on running into each other. A second later, and we would have missed each other. We also talked stories about how far we have come from Orange County, California. He has the most beautiful and happy vegan family here in Maui. FOLLOW HIM @mauiryan-They are so cool and I strongly mean that. Definitely awesome people to follow on Instagram and Youtube. They take amazing photos and fun videos sharing their epic time living in Maui. If you want to really know more about Maui, follow them.
Maui really touches everyone’s heart that comes here to visit, so many incredible places to see, you always leave wanting to go back and explore more. Both times I came to Maui, I had such a strong spiritual connection to this place in a very humbling way that stays with me. Maui is seriously the perfect island to come to, to really escape the stresses in an everyday life. I actually wanted to move to Maui originally before I moved to O’ahu! I am so glad I came back here to remind myself how special this island really is.
Maui no ka oi
Maui is the best
Recommended Book To Bring-Maui Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook by Andrew Doughty & Harriett Friedman. I would read the insight on the Road to Hana before your road trip, to make sure you stop at all the cool spots you would like to see.
Recommended Hostel to Stay for Budget Travelers-The Northshore Hostel Maui in Wailuku. Nice clean hostel, with friendly and helpful staff that know everything about Maui and all the cool spots to see.