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The Road to Hana...and Beyond

July 28, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

The weather forecast looked like any rain for the east end of the island was going to hold off until later in the afternoon, so we might be able to get the drive to Hana in if we left early in the morning. The Hana Highway is a 64-mile-long stretch of Hawaii Routes 36 and 360 that connects Kahului with the town of Hana in east Maui. Beyond Hana town, the highway continues to Kīpahulu as Hawaii Route 31 (the Piilani Highway). Although Hana is only about 52 miles from Kahului, it takes about two and a half hours to drive when no stops are made as the highway is very winding and narrow and passes over 59 bridges, 46 of which are only one lane wide. There are approximately 620 curves along Route 360 from just east of Kahului to Hana, almost all of it through lush, tropical rainforest. Many of the concrete and steel bridges date back to 1910.

There are lots of waterfalls along the way, especially if there has been recent rain. This year, there had been lots of rain. The bad part was the road doesn’t have many places to park along the side and many of the waterfalls are where the road crosses a stream, and the bridges are only one lane wide. Even though there didn’t seem to be much traffic on the day we drove it, there was usually someone not too far behind, making it impossible to stop, get out of the car, take a picture, and hop back in.


Twin FallsTwin Falls Wailua Nui FallsWailua Nui Falls


One of the feature stops along the road that was not a waterfall was Waianapanapa State Park. Here, the blue water of the Pacific came ashore, and as it left the water passed through pebbles on the beach that made a trickling sound, similar to the noise you hear when you turn over a rainstick. Surrounding the beach area was lots of black lava covered in lush green foliage. We hiked around for a while and then went back to the car and continued on toward Hana town.


Waianapanapa State ParkWaianapanapa State Park


Beyond the town of Hana, the Hana Highway becomes Hawaii State Road 360 and leads to the Ohe’o Gulch where the Seven Sacred Pools are located within the Kipahulu Area of the Haleakala National Park. The road beyond Hana was in pretty bad shape, with broken pavement and some potholes. It also seemed even narrower than Route 30, if that was possible. It was “only” 12 miles from Hana to the park, but it seemed much longer than that.

As we got close to the National Park, we came upon one of the nicest waterfalls of the day–Wailua Falls. It wasn’t one of those waterfalls with a lot of water coming over the top, but enough to break up into a number of separate runs after hitting a rock ledge on the way down. Fortunately, there was a parking area large enough for five or six cars just past the falls.


Wailua FallsWailua Falls


The next stop was the Kipahulu Area of the Haleakala National Park. Unlike the arid summit area of Haleakala, the Kipahulu area is lush with vegetation. The things we wanted to see here were the Seven Sacred Pools, a couple of tall waterfalls, and a bamboo forest. We weren’t sure we were going to be able to get all of the sights in because the clouds were thickening and getting darker and it was a two-mile, uphill hike to the second waterfall.

The Pīpīwai Trail started out OK but soon became wet and muddy. Fortunately, we had on our hiking sandals so the mud could be washed off later. A half-mile up the trail we came to the Falls of Makahiku. 


Falls of MakahikuFalls of Makahiku


A ways past the waterfall, the trail entered the bamboo forest, which was dense and dark. The trail sometimes consisted of stone and in other places it was a boardwalk. We were surrounded by the bamboo for about a half-mile.


Bamboo ForestBamboo Forest


Once we got out of the bamboo, we could hear the faint sound of a waterfall. Before long, we were in front of the 646-foot Waimoku Falls.


Waimoku FallsWaimoku Falls


The Pools of the Ohe’o are at the end of the same stream that flows over the two waterfalls we saw on the trail. We may have seen some of the same water twice. Some of the pools can be seen in the photo below as the water goes over small waterfalls and then collects in pools before going down to the next fall. People used to be able to swim in the pools until recently when some of the surrounding rocks collapsed and people got injured. You are no longer allowed to get very close to the pools even for photography.


Some of the Sacred Pools of the Ohe'oSome of the Sacred Pools of the Ohe'o


We got in the car just as the rain was picking up. Highway 31 continues around the south side of the island, but it is very dicey and has little, if any, cell  service. Driving on that part of the road will violate the rental car agreement. Even though it is a much shorter route back to the west side of Maui, we decided not to risk it and drove the Road to Hana in the other direction. What a day!


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