Road to Hana Must Do's!
Paia Town: Is the last town before you make your journey clockwise to Hana. Paia town will be the last place to pick up food at an actual restaurant and/or fully stocked grocery store until you reach the town of Hana. It is also the last place to fill up on gas before you reach the town of Hana (2.5hrs away). There will be shack snack huts along the way but not any large grocery store retailers until you reach Hana town.
Ho’okipa Beach: Ho’okipa is Mecca to the windsurfing world and on just about any day with wind (most) you can watch pros doing their thing. Ho’okipa also provides sightseers a stunning backdrop to watch the best effortlessly play with the ocean. It is also a great place to go and see turtles. An exposed reef runs along most of the shorebreak, and frequently Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles (Honu) can be seen bobbing just on the other side. If that’s not close enough for you, at least a couple of turtles can be found lazing on shore at the far end of the beach most days (hint: look close to the lookout cliff.) At first most folks don’t even realize they’re there because they look just like the scattered boulders in the same area (presumably one reason they have claimed this area en force.) Typically as sunset approaches, many Honu (and their admirers) will begin popping up in the shorebreak to beach themselves for community sunset rest/admiration. Typically as sunset approaches, many Honu (and their admirers) will begin popping up in the shorebreak to beach themselves for community sunset rest/admiration.
Twin Falls (Hike): Twin Falls is the first easily accessible string of waterfalls and pools on the Road to Hana. Located on the right side of the Road you will notice a fruit stand on the side of the road with a sign that says Twin Falls. Access to them is by parking at and crossing through Wailele Farm. Sometimes there is person there who charges a fee to get in, while other times there is no one there charging the fee, so it’s kind of a hit or miss depending on the day whether getting into Twin Falls will be free or not. I want to say most of the time it is Free though and no one is there. Take a short (possibly muddy) walk through the beautiful foliage to the waterfall, see native plants, get some sugar cane juice from the stand, and enjoy this first 25 minutes or so crowd-free (if you leave early enough).
Keanae Peninsula (Look Out Point): A short drive to Keanae Peninsula is definitely worth the diversion off the Road to Hana. The paved drive down to this peninsula leads you to the ocean’s edge for amazing views of the Hana coast. The coastline is rocky and exposed to the elements, so you won’t find any swimming opportunities here. Don’t get too close to the edge while standing on the rocks – the water shoots pretty high against the rocks! You’ll find the turn to Keanae Peninsula on the ocean (makai) side of the Road to Hana between mile markers 16 and 17. The turn is at the bend of a hair pin curve, so drive slowly so you don’t miss it.
Wainapanapa State Park (Black Sand Beach): Look for the Wainapanapa sign to turn off the main road at. As this beach is not visible from the road, after you turn at the Wainapanapa sign you will be driving down a small road that takes you down to the beach park with public parking. This park, comprised of 122 acres, features dramatic black-sand beaches, large sea caves, volcanic tubes, a blowhole, and a coastal hiking trail. Plan to be here around an hour or so if you want to check out everything and hang by the beach for a few. Although the beach is quite small, it is beautiful and definitely worth checking out. The black pebbles make for an astonishing sight. The translation for Wai’anapanapa is “glistening water” or “water flashing rainbow hues”. Aunty Sandy’s Banana bread is located right on the peninsula and is considered to be one of best place to buy banana bread, but they are all pretty good. Everyone tends to have a different Banana Bread stop they consider their favorite.
Kaihalulu Beach (Red Sand Beach): The crimson cove of crunchy red cinders is a squirreled away sanctuary of scenic bliss located smack in the center of town. Tucked at the base of a cinder cone that separates the beach from the town, Kaihalulu has a protected cove and whitecaps that thunderously crash onto the rocks that form the barrier to the cove. Great for picture taking but tricky to get to at times to go and see depending on the water conditions and the trail walking over to get to the beach can be sketchy at times. As reaching the Red Sand Beach, isn’t exactly easy, and is part of the reason the beach is so empty despite its proximity to town. The thin trail that leads to the beach is at the end of Uakea Road, and is found by walking across the grass where the pavement comes to an end. There’s minimal parking on this part of the road, so it’s easiest to park by the Hana Ballpark and just stroll down the street from there. As visiting this beach has become very controversial over the years, as scores of visitors have ended up hurting themselves on the trail. So it’s imperative to know and understand the dangers of visiting the beach, and that the trail to reach it is steep, narrow, slippery, and legitimately dangerous. The reward for navigating the cliffs, of course, is the chance to soak in spectacular surroundings and watch whitecaps swirl on red rocks, but it requires confidence in your athletic abilities and caution to avoid an emergency rescue. And, since there are no facilities at Red Sand Beach such as showers, trash cans, or restrooms, it’s imperative to pack out everything with you.
Hamoa Beach: This beach is often ranked up there with the famous beaches in the resort areas of Maui, and deservingly so. A postcard-perfect 100′ wide by 1000′ long crescent.
Hamoa Beach is surrounded by cliffs, with two points of public access – stairs leading down from the hotel shuttle drop off and a small service road at the other end. (walk, don’t drive on this)
Hamoa Beach is also a popular surf break – in fact this break has been surfed by Hawaiians since ancient times. Boogie boarding and bodysurfing are also popular here. Snorkeling can be good around the left of the cove, however this beach is exposed to open ocean; be aware that powerful currents and surf can often be present – especially toward the ends of the beach
Wailua Falls (Waterfall on the side of the road): Just off the right side of the road. You can either take pictures as you drive by or if you stop be aware that you would just be pulling over to the side of the road where permissible. Between mile markers 45 and 44, past the town of Hana but before you get to the Oheo Gulch on Highway 31. The waterfall is literally on the side of the road and along a bridge, and is, for lack of better words, big (113 feet!!!) and beautiful. There are paths to the bottom of the falls, but it can be muddy, slippery and dangerous.
Oheo Gulch (7 Sacred Pools) and Pipiwai Stream Trail (Hike): The Pipiwai Trail is one of the last places of interest on the Road to Hana, but if you love hiking and you’re a nature lover you may want to plan out your drive to give yourself enough time to get here and hike this trail. Pipiwai Trail is 4 miles roundtrip, gaining 650-feet in elevation. Most Internet sources say it takes 2 1/2 – 5 hours to hike. But it can be done in 2 hours at a leisurely pace, but avid photographers and those who are less active will need more time. You will definitely want to bring water and some bug spray. You may want to have a poncho, umbrella, hat, and/or a backpack to protect your camera if it rains. Pipiwai Trail is part of Haleakala National Park and is located above Oheo Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools). This can be confusing because Haleakala National Park is actually split into two parts. Most people are familiar with the summit section where you can watch the sunrise from above the clouds, but there’s a coastal section of the park in a town called Kipahulu, about 12 miles from Hana town. You park at the Haleakala National Park Visitor Center in Hana (again this is a different Visitor Center than the one on the way to Haleakala Crater). Parking is $10 per vehicle. There are restrooms at the Visitor Center but none along the trail.
Waioka Pond: aka “Venus Pools “ is a made up name used in guidebooks. Access of the pond, shoreline and stream is on State land, but the established access trail is on land belonging to Hana Ranch.Currently, the ability to access via Hana Ranch land can be best described as “ambiguous.”This ambiguity can be seen on the sign at the trailhead -the wording is much less clear than a simple keep out. The sign instead contains a liability disclaimer and statement that use is considered recreational. There is also ever-evolving fencing which always has some method of access immediately added to it by local residents.You will not be able to see the Pond from the road but instead will see an open field on one side of the road and houses on the othe. Parking is along the street. Once you walk down the little trail through the field and reach the pool and shoreline prepare to be impressed. The blue ocean pounding just outside or into the pool, and the rugged scenery surrounding the area is absolutely stunning. At the top of the cliffs surrounding the Waioka Pond, you’ll find several rough trails down – typically, the easiest to navigate is at the top side of the pool. A slip on the wrong spot on any of these trails could potentially result in serious injury, and conditions vary from day to day, so you need to be comfortable assessing the safest entry for your skills and current conditions. Sometimes this area can be dangerous depending with potential for flash flooding. There are plenty of opportunities for rock jumping and swimming at this location. The cliff and stream bed at the top end is deep, with lower and high ledges where daring folks can fly (for a moment.) That said, the rule I recommend is to always find someone knowledgeable, wait for them to get in first before you do, or go for a scouting swim to check for hidden submerged rocks.