We were up bright and early to leave the resort by five o'clock and even ended up heading out a little before that.  We were excited about our "adventure" day exploring Road to Hana and knew the earlier we got started, the more we'd be able to soak in.  The valet brought us our Jeep, gave us a couple of towels and we were out of there before the sun came up.

Road to Hana is a 52 mile-long stretch of Hawaii Routes 36 and 360 which connects Kahului to the town of Hana in east Maui.  52 miles might not sound like much, but those miles include 617 hairpin curves, 59 unforgiving one-lane bridges, an extreme number of blind spots along the way and an average speed of about 25 miles per hour... if you're lucky.

Knowing all of this, we set aside an entire day to tackle the Road to Hana.  While planning the trip, we read a lot about the Road to Hana and all the stops along the way.  We wanted to have a plan (shocker!), but honestly ended up playing a lot of the day by ear and it worked out really well.  Saying that, we would still highly recommend doing your research and making a list of your "must stops" or "must see" and then allow the day to sort of fill itself in from there.

Leaving so early meant the roads (or I should say road) was not near as crowded as some of the nightmare stories people had warned us about before.  However, with leaving so early there were places along the way we had planned on stopping that weren't open yet.  We were disappointed not to catch them all, but the lack of vehicles on the twisty narrow road made up for it.  It's something we wished we would have known before, but looking back it wouldn't have changed how early we left.  It's important to share though, especially if a stop with operating hours is one you have to see.

Our drive from the Hyatt to the town of Paia where the Road to Hana begins was about an hour.  Our first stop on our Road to Hana tour was Hookipa Lookout around Marker 9 which we hit perfectly with sunrise.  The lookout is on the edge of a cliff overlooking the popular surfing-end of the beach.  

There is lots of surfing in Maui, but this stop was unreal to see all of the surfers out in the water waiting to catch the morning waves.  It was unbelievable.  We stayed for a few minutes, took some photos, watched some surfers catch waves and took the opportunity to take the roof off our Jeep since we knew we'd be driving slower the rest of the way.

We jumped back in the Jeep and kept going.  For reference, there seem to be more must hit stops on the second half of the journey instead of the first.  It was also during this time that we realized some of the places had opening times of 9 or 10 a.m. and we were hitting it an hour or even two before then.  These stops really weren't worth it to us to wait so we kept going and were glad we did.

We were on the lookout for a coffee stop along the way and knew we'd hit one somewhere a little before Marker 30.  Exact markers can be hard to see, so we suggest taking things slow (which won't be hard) and really being on the lookout for things around the twists and turns.

We found a cute little stop with coffee, breakfast and restrooms porta potties.  It was the perfect little one stop shop and was surprisingly frequented by locals while we were there which we found to be pretty cool.  We jumped back in the Jeep, shared a small loaf of banana break, enjoyed our coffee and chugged along to Marker 32 where we planned to stop at Waianapanapa State Park.  

 In researching, we knew this was a stop we definitely wanted to make.  It had a handful of things we wanted to see including a stunning coastline, black sand beach and a sea cave.  The great thing about Road to Hana is that it's really designed for you to go at your own pace. 

You can stop where you want and spend as much (or as little) time.  This was one of those stops where we took our time and explored.  It was also the first stop that made us really excited about the sights along the Road to Hana.  It is filled with unique, stunning views that are so special to Maui.  

Is there really a better view for your morning coffee?  I think not.  Definitely not!

The sea cave was so neat!  It's to the right of the beach, if you're staring at the ocean.  We lucked out with timing since we were there so early the cave was practically empty.  This was the moment that even though we had to pass some stops because they weren't open yet, we were happy we started so early.  There weren't many other people around which made the sights that much better to take in.

Our next big stop on the list was the Seven Sacred Pools at Ohe'o and the bamboo forest.  You actually gain entrance to these through Haleakalā National Park.  It was around this time we knew we were a little over half way through Road to Hana and even though we knew we'd be spending more time on second half, we were still going to have a significant amount of time left in the day.  

 Going into the day we had this crazy thought that we'd finish Road to Hana on the backside and then hit up Haleakalā if we had time.  We were told that doing both in one day would be A LOT if not impossible, but if we did both that day we wouldn't have to drive back to Haleakalā another day meaning that we'd have another day with less driving.  Plus, since we were already paying to enter Haleakalā on the back side of the Road to Hana we might as well take advantage of that too.  It was a win win for us!

Th Road to Hana portion found in Haleakalā is known as Kīpahulu.  In this area, if you didn't know you were in the park you would have no idea the Summit is so close (relatively speaking).  The Kīpahulu District is about 12 miles past the town of Hana on the famous Hana Highway.  We knew we were going to spend a decent chuck of time here as this stop not only had break taking views, but it also had a couple of hiking trails we wanted to do.

The Kīpahulu Visitor Center greets you with running water restrooms and National Park Service employees who can help answer any questions you might have about the area.  We grabbed the backpack, lathered ourselves in sunscreen and set out for our first little hike.   

Kūloa Point Trail leaves from the visitor center and at only half a mile round trip with and easy 80-foot elevation change each way, this little trail is perfect for anyone in the family.  Plus, the views you get from this short trail are well worth their weight in steps.  You don't want to miss out on this!

This trail leads you straight to Kūloa Point at the mouth of 'Ohe'o Gulch where the Seven Sacred Pools can be found.  Back in the day you used to be able to actually get in the pools and even though you can't do that anymore, they are still well worth seeing.  And the rocky shore, my goodness!  We'll just let the photos speak for themselves...

Ah, can we go back already?  Pretty please!

Up next was the Pīpīwai Trail hike and I was so excited for this one!  To me, this was our first "real hike" of the trip... and I love trails!  Dave, not so much.  This trail is a four mile round trip and is labeled as moderately strenuous with an 800-foot elevation change each way.  HA!  Just a tad different than our previous half mile, 80-foot elevation trail.

The trail winds through a freshwater stream and diverse forest areas with views of waterfalls and other natural features all along the way.  All of these things made the hike so enjoyable and the grand finale found mid-hike before turning back... Waimoku Falls!  This gigantic waterfall is the tallest on Maui dropping 400-feet down a sheer lava rock wall into a boulder-strewn pool.  And if you can do the hike, it is SO worth it!

Some sights along the trail that keep to it feeling shorter than four miles (round trip) include a massive banyan tree AND lush bamboo forests.  

As you can imagine this hike is petty popular and draws quite a crowd, but with getting such an early start the trail wasn't super crowded which also made it much more enjoyable.  

We were able to stop and take photos along the way and really take in all of the crazy views.  Have you ever seen a bamboo forest?  We hadn't and let us just tell ya'... it was so cool!

We finally reached Waimoku Falls and we were both stunned with what we saw.  It was at this time I reminded Dave that sometimes hikes are are well worth the views.  He totally agreed on this one!  And although he doesn't necessarily love or really even enjoy hiking, he definitely enjoyed the view he got to take in because of it which made the hike worth it.  SO worth it, in fact!  

The hikes although not really dangerous can be if you aren't careful.  You are practically hiking through the rainforest and it can be pretty slick.  Always watch your footing, pay close attention and follow signage with important instructions... such as staying on the trail. 

If you do decide to follow all the people in front of you (including the sweet older couple) past the sign that says not to enter, PLEASE be careful and don't go that much further.

After our time taking in the tallest waterfall on Maui, we turned around and made the 2 mile trek back to the starting point.  From there, we took the opportunity to use the restroom again (always take advantage of these when you see them... they are few and far between along the way), wipe the mud off our legs and get back in the Jeep to follow the back side of the Road to Hana and make our way to the official entrance of Haleakalā National Park.

From researching before our trip, we learned there are pretty mixed feelings about accessing the back side of the Road to Hana.  However, once we arrived locals were much more encouraging about the access of the area especially considering the time of year we were visiting.  Apparently this area can get tricky with excessive water and flooding, but we didn't have to worry about that.  

This drive is downright spectacular.  Period.  The lush and greenery on the front end is a vast difference from what you will be see on the back end, if you're lucky enough to make the journey.  The road divides the stunning coastline on your left to grasslands on your right.  The views are extremely different than the front side of the Road to Hana and we would both agree they are even better!  If you're doing the Road to Hana and can experience the back side, DO IT! 

Up next, an afternoon and early evening spent at Haleakalā National Park.

And if you missed the other posts from our Five Moon in Maui, you can find them here:

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