Road to Hana Day arrived. I had been mentally preparing my family for a few days that it was an all-day excursion on curvy, winding roads with lots of stops along the way. Hana is really not so much a destination – it’s the experience of getting there that’s fun. You can book a tour that will take you there, but we wanted to do this on our own. We had the person most prone to motion sickness ride in the front seat, armed with Dramamine. Riding in the front seat really helps if you suffer from this. Our first stop was back in Paia, this time at Island Fresh for to-go coffee and tea. It’s a cute open-air café attached to a yoga studio. It’s the kind of place you could just hang out at all morning, sipping coffee. The other nice thing is it is located a little further down the road, away from all of the traffic on Baldwin with plenty of parking. The staff were very kind are quickly pulled together our order so we could hit the road. Madelyn also ordered their breakfast sandwich, which she said was very good.
On the way, as we were driving past Ho’okipa where we tried to view turtles the previous day, we decided to pull over and look again, and THEY WERE OUT ON THE BEACH! We left our car parked up above at the lookout and walked down the road towards the beach until we found a spot just above where we could see the turtles. They are magnificent! I used the long lens on my camera to zoom in and get some photos of them. Such cool animals! I loved that someone had put up a rock barrier separating the “turtle side” of the beach from the humans, to discourage folks from invading their space.
After satisfying our sea turtle curiosity, we hit the road. I plotted out some stops ahead of time, based on some research I did in advance. I suggest you do this, too if you are doing a self-guided tour. There are plenty of posts on the Internet listing out the best stops along the way. I took suggestions from this writer to help plan our itinerary. Our first stop was at Twin Falls. You won’t miss it, as there will be cars parked all up and down the road. Plan to spend around 20-30 minutes here, and wear shoes that can get dirty, as the hiking paths can be a bit muddy. We did not jump in and swim, but there were a handful of folks enjoying the water beneath the falls. We just hiked around and took pictures. The falls are beautiful but it’s difficult to get a picture without anyone in it because it’s fairly crowded. With some careful cropping I was able to get a few nice shots.
We took an unplanned stop when we saw a man with several birds on the side of the road. For $20 he’ll pose his birds on you and take pictures for you with your phone. He’s quite the character and the $20 was worth the entertainment alone. If you don’t like people getting in your personal space or putting you on the spot, drive on by! He is a bit strange…
We had planned on stopping at Garden of Eden, but at that point it was fairly rainy, so we decided to press on. We wished we had stopped, as they had food and drinks and at that point we were ready for a snack. And, it looked like a fun spot.
Next stop for us was at Ke’anae Peninsula. We took a rather rough road off to the left and ended up stopping at a small inlet where the water came in and crashed on large black lava rocks. It was absolutely beautiful here, but very buggy.
*Tip – bring bug spray!
This is a small community and there are several private residences around, so we were careful to not be intrusive on anyone’s personal property. I didn’t realize at the time, but evidently Ke’anae was wiped out in the 40’s after a tsunami that killed 24 people!
I planned on stopping at MM 27-28 for Nahiku Ti Gallery and Coffee Shop, but we actually stopped just before that at a little place that served wood fired pizzas, smoothies, banana bread, and coffee called Hana Harvest. They also had vegan chili that day, but we did not try it. It takes awhile to get the pizza (by the slice or a whole pie), but it was worth it. We tried the Hawaiian and the Island Veggie. A little too cheesy for my taste, but the crust was nice and crisp. They have porta-johns with handwashing stations and tables, however it was also very buggy here. We ended up purchasing some all-natural citronella balm while we were there, that actually helped quite a bit. After our break here, as we drove down the road, I realized that we had stopped too soon, so we didn’t get to check out the pork tacos at Nahiku, but that’s OK. Part of the adventure is finding the stops along the way – planned or unplanned.
Waianapanapa State Park was the final stop before hitting Hana. This is where you’ll find the famous black sand beach. By the time we landed here, we were out of the rain forest and back into sunshine. There is ample parking, but it is a bit of a hike down to the beach. Wear your hiking shoes, as you will want to hike up on top of the rocks to watch the waves crash – it’s truly spectacular. If you are brave and stand close enough, you’ll get sprayed when a big one hits. This place is gorgeous and full of many photo ops. The black sand beach is definitely black, but it’s rather small and personally not a place I’d want to hang out to sunbathe or swim. There are lots of folks there to hike and the waves are pretty rough, but it is definitely cool to see. We also went into a cave that opened out into the water, which was apparently a volcano tube. Definitely stop here, hike, stretch your legs, breathe in the salt air, and take in the beautiful sites. If you’re in to camping, there are camping places in the park as well (I don’t camp).
Hana itself was pretty meh, to be honest. We drove around for a bit, bought some local organic fruit from a roadside stand, and then decided to head back to Lahaina, as we knew it would be a long drive back. I wanted to visit the Seven Sacred Pools, but we were all tired at this point, so we made a family decision to skip it, as it was further down the road past Hana. What we failed to do was fill up with gas before we left Hana. By the time we made it back to Paia (I think 1 ½ to 2 hours) later, we were coasting on fumes.
*Tip: fill your tank before you go, then check it again before you head back!
For dinner that evening, we were all hungry and very tired by the time we returned to the house, but didn’t know what we wanted, so we wandered aimlessly down Front Street back in Lahaina until a guy standing outside of Captain Jack’s Island Grill caught my husband’s attention. He showed us the menu, told us about their specials, and was super nice, so we went upstairs and had a late dinner. This place is your basic touristy/vacation town restaurant. The food was definitely good, but nothing spectacular. We started with the appetizer trio that consisted of calamari, onion rings and shrimp that came with three sauces: tarter, barbecue, and sweet chili. The calamari is in thick strips, not the little rings and tentacles that we were accustomed to, but it had a nice consistency and flavor, not at all rubbery. My husband ordered the fish ‘n chips. It was good, in a traditional beer batter coating, but not as good as what he had at Maui Fish Market a few days earlier. I was about to order fish tacos, when I realized I had them twice already that week, so I ordered the grilled fresh fish with rice and veggies. The fish was good, but it had this weird sauce on it that I wasn’t crazy about. It would have been much better plain. One daughter ordered the veggie burger, which was a Beyond Beef brand veggie burger. At first she was worried that it had meat in it, it looked and tasted so “real,” but the server confirmed it was indeed vegetarian. The other daughter ordered a wrap sandwich that was pretty basic. All in all, a good experience, but didn’t stand up to the other meals we had that week.