By Chris Wieland
Take a Maui vacation and everyone will say that you must –- MUST! –- drive the Road to Hana. Hana is a small town on the island’s edge, only accessible by a road with more hairpin turns than you can imagine.
I believe the journey is always more important than the destination. This was some journey.
We started early because, though the road is only 25 to 30 miles long, it can take five hours one way.
Why so long?
It ain’t the twists. This is the real Hawaii, so you’re getting out of the car every mile or two to hike and see the landscape.
Like the twin waterfalls, our first stop. You’ll hear they’re “just off the road,” meaning a hike and minor climbing. You can only reach the second waterfall by crossing a pond with a rocky bottom. If you’ve worn sneakers or boots, you have two options: get them wet or cross barefoot.
I chose barefoot.
First quote of the day: “Probably I should have gotten some of those underwater shoes.” (Me, after crossing the pond.)
Can’t say I don’t have an adventurous spirit.
Second quote of the day: “Where’s the waterfall on this trail?” (Tourist, next to a sign reading "No Waterfalls on Trail.")
When you get to Hana, you’ll find a small, remote town. You might wonder if this is all there is. It’s not. My wife and I heard rumors of a red rock beach, just a small “hike” from the main drag.
Third quote of the day: “I don’t mean to suggest your life’s in imminent danger, but there are a couple of places that are treacherous.” (Serious Hiker Guy, dispensing advice.)
We went for it. It took a climb through brush, a steep, rocky trail, then a shorter, twistier ledge on the side of a cliff. And then . . .
So was the next stop: a black sand beach on the way back, full of natural caves and blow holes. And to sweeten the deal, it had a shaved ice stand.
Cooling ourselves with tri-colored, obscurely-flavored treats, we strolled the beach, only to discover that it was not covered with sand at all. The black “sand” consisted of tiny, smooth pebbles, cool to the touch.
The drive back took less time (two hours). As the sun set, the tourists scattered and the locals manned the twisty road. That didn’t make the trip obstacle-free. Locals drive the Road to Hana every day.
They know every hairpin turn. They drive fast – so fast that my wife began praising the ones who were careful.
Fourth quote of the day: “Thank you, orange car! I appreciate you!” (My wife, to a slow-driving saint.)
We returned to our hotel very tired. What a journey.
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Chris Wieland is a writer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. For his day job, he travels often to locales as varied as Jerusalem and Stockholm, Chicago and Philadelphia, North Wales, PA and Black Mountain, NC. He longs to return to Hawaii.