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The Road to Hana
Posted On: 01/10/2010 14:50:26

Everyone kept saying, “You have to drive the road to Hana.  It’s an experience you will never forget.”  Well, they were right about that.  But let’s take a step back and talk about the island of Maui for a moment.  In a nutshell… it’s boring.  At least the part of the island I was on (Kapalua side).  It was windy, the beaches were few and far between, there wasn’t a whole lot to excite the kids, and everything costs an arm and a leg.  And I never found a really good restaurant that made me think how lucky I was to have eaten there.  The luaus were staged and cheesy and required an expensive cab ride to Lanai. 

The one hike close enough to my hotel got me yelled at by a “local” because I accidentally went off path and found myself in tribal burial grounds.  One crazy-eyed dude told me that if I didn’t go back and say sorry to the spirits then I would be plagued by bad luck.  He might have been right, since after I returned home Lehman Brothers failed, the capital markets froze, and real estate tanked.  Sorry everyone for walking through the Hawaiian burial ground.  If it is any consolation, I returned there a year later on business and went back and said sorry.  Afterward, the stock market rallied for a few months.  But I digress.

      Maui is a great place for a romantic getaway if money is not an issue – which, these days it usually is.  Overall, though, I recommend more affordable (and exciting) vacation destinations for the family.

      Out of sheer boredom I decided to do the “road to Hana”.  I reserved a convertible and procured some maps from the concierge to plan my adventure.  I decided $360 was too expensive for a one day car rental and borrowed a friend’s car instead.  It was a beater convertible Seabring, was a girly purple color, and smelled like bubble gum.  But hey, it was free…or so I thought.  

      Early next morning I was on my way.  Teenybopper pop music blaring from the only cd in the car.  But I was in good spirits as I embarked on what was promised to be very memorable.

      It took three long, hot hours just to get to where the road started.  At 1:00 pm I finally made it to what appeared to be the “road to Hana”.  The first sharp corner had me pumping the breaks like crazy as the road disappeared into jungle nothingness.  Evidently, I needed to slow down and make that 60 degree corner.  Luckily I ended up in a wide spot where a couple other tourists had pulled over to sample some food from a makeshift vending booth.  I was hungry, so I acted like I meant to pull in there, parked, and walked up to the booth.  Something told me that maybe the other tourists did the same thing and this was just a really good location for a vending booth. 

I tried to stay in the tourist spirit and stop at each waterfall and each scenic byway.  But I was running out of time.  I was determined to hike through a bamboo forest to a huge waterfall.  I also wanted to take a dip in a big natural pool with a waterfall like what was on all those brochures back at the hotel.  So I made one more stop at a great waterfall to take some pictures and then I planned to book it up the road to the trail head I had picked out.  This last stop turned out to be a good one with lot’s of great waterfalls a short hike away.  The names of which were unpronounceable.  I started calling each waterfall by the only Hawaaian word I knew… Iwannahockalougy. 

Upon returning to my car I was greeted by a sleepy-eyed local who asked me for a few dollars which I gladly gave him.  Then he tried to sell me weed.  I think I might have ran over his right foot as I skidaddled out of there, but not too sure.  Like I said, don’t bring the kids to this place.

A few more corners and one-laned bridges and I came up on three more locals covered from head to toe in mud and eating lunch by their old Toyota pickup.  They had killed a giant monster of a wild pig which was loaded in the back of the truck.  Larger than an average cow, red bristly hair covered in mud, its legs hanging over the side of the truck.  All of a sudden I was not too sure about hiking through the jungle to a waterfall.  There be monsters out there!  That thing could root me so hard I’d fly up into a tree.  Its snout was as big around as my thigh!

Another few corners and I got yelled and cussed at by a young man sitting on the side of the road.  He obviously didn’t like me driving up his road to Hana.  Or he really hates teenybopper music.  Again, glad the kids weren’t with me.

Three hours later, I made it to the fabled and legendary Hana.  It was not really what I expected - just a small sleepy bedroom town.  I pulled over to the shoulder to make sure I took the right route to the trailhead and a police cruiser pulled up behind me with the lights flashing.  A young clean cut Hawaaian officer walked up and asked for my license, registration, and proof of insurance.  And of course I frantically searched my friend’s car for a non-existing proof of insurance.  He proceeded to call in on his radio to verify I didn’t steal the car. 

In his local accent he proceeded to tell me the following:

“Bra, you from da mainland, ya?”

“Why yes, officer, I am.  I borrowed this car from a friend to visit your lovely town.”

Ya, well you know I’m supposed to impound your car, if no proof of insurance.  You long way from home, ya?  Here on vacation?”

“No, business… but wanted to take a day off and see the sights.”

“Your friend should take better care to get her safety stickers renewed.  Dey expired, bra.  I give you  ticket for dat, but let you off on the insurance.  Jus drive careful, ya, and probly park this when you get back.”

“Yes, sir.  Thank you for your understanding.”

My free car ended up costing me $75.  Darn Hawaiaan burial grounds.  My luck had already changed for the worse.  So I high-tailed it to the trailhead, determined to fulfill my goal of hiking through the bamboo forest and see the big waterfall.

About an hour before dark, I made it to the trailhead.  It had been raining hard for about a week, so all swimming was banned.  I was not going to get to sit in a pool under a waterfall.  So I headed up the trail.  It took about one hour and rained most of the time.  The trail was very muddy and slippery.  Here is where I was glad I made the right decision to wear my Teva sandals with the upper straps.  These are dead give-away that you are a tourist, as locals will only wear flip-flops (commonly called slippas in the local tongue).  However, the locals don’t frequently hike through the mud to waterfalls.  If you go on these hikes, I highly recommend the Tevas or other open-toed hiking shoe.  Keen makes an excellent shoe for this.    Click here to check them out and compare

By the time I got to the bamboo forest it was nearing dusk.  I have to admit that this truly was an experience.  To walk through this forest with the thick bamboo blocking out almost all of the fading light and the wind causing them to knock together making hollow clunking sounds while the rain fell.  Had there been a monster pig in there, I would not have heard it.




There were many great waterfalls and pools.  I affectionately named them all “Iwannahawkalougie Falls”.  But they were almost worth the hell I went through to get to them.



It was starting to get dark as I reached the waterfall.  I estimated it to be about 10 stories high.  The crashing water was so powerful that the entire area was awash in misty spray.  It was truly awe-inspiring.



The walk back down to the trail head in the dark was equally exciting, with the thought of giant pigs chasing me down the slippery path.  Somehow I managed not to perform a perfect face plant.

The drive down the road to Hana back to the hotel was very long, dark, and boring.  I had trouble staying awake.  Once back at the hotel around 10 PM I realized I had not eaten anything but a piece of chicken cooked by a sweaty half-naked guy, so I ordered a nice healthy pizza and settled in for the night.

Overall, I would rate the island poorly for a family destination.  A little higher for a romantic getaway.  As for the “road to Hana”?  Not worth it no matter who you’re with if you only have one day.  My recommendation is to take a full two days.  Stay in the only hotel in Hana and enjoy the spa.  Make it a romantic event without the kids.  If you do find yourself on Maui with the whole family, fighting the boredom, I recommend a whale watching cruise instead.  Then focus on some quality beach time with the kids.











Tags: Hana Kapalua Hawaii


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