– Maui, Hawaii –
Man, I can’t believe it’s already day six. This trip is really flying by. Tomorrow we have to get back on an airplane and fly over to the Big Island. I have to say, it is the island I’ve been most excited about, and I’ve heard it has the most to see.
I guess I’m getting ahead of myself, though. There’s still today to talk about first. As is our custom for this trip, we got out of bed at 5am, went for our run, came back to the room and had our breakfast, then went for a swim. After that, we showered and did our blog upkeep before hopping in the car around 8am to start our day.
Already today the skies did not look promising. We ran into rain not long after leaving our hotel area. Of course, since our hotel is way down here on the coast with roads that only connect it with Kahului, we had to drive back up there to get over to our destination for today, which was the loop around the eastern side of the island. According to Google Maps, the drive takes about 5.5 hours to get all of the way around, but it took much longer than that in the rain.
Mark and I have talked about it, and we’ve decided that while our hotel is out of the way, it is kind of nice to be over here away from the city and in a more relaxed area. The extra 25 minute drive isn’t ideal, but we like to drive, as you might’ve noticed, so that doesn’t really detract from the appeal of the quieter town. Still, that means fewer options for dinner, which has bitten us once already on this trip.
After a quick stop in the city for a McDonald’s iced tea, we took Highway 36 out of town to begin our loop around the outer edge of the island. We made our first stop just outside Spreckelsville at Ho’okipa Lookout, which was a cute little point that apparently belongs to the Kingdom of Hawaii. The sign there proudly proclaimed such.
The lookout had a whole horde of surfers hanging out just off to the left of the point, waiting for big waves. I always wonder how they can all be so close together without constantly running one another over with their surfboards. I guess I don’t know enough about it to say, but I see surfers in big groups often enough that I have to assume that it isn’t that big of a problem. The weather was still mostly pleasant while we were there, but things were about to take a turn.
It was about the Twin Falls area when we realized that the highway that we were on was actually a “thing,” if you will. It’s apparently part of a lot of people’s Maui trips to complete the “Highway to Hana” and it’s one of those things where people get shirts at the end that say, “I survived the Road to Hana!” It was also at about this point that the road turned from a reasonably nice two-lane road into a slightly more concerning single lane. It wasn’t too bad, but much worse was to come on the other side of Hana, once the touristy parts ended.
We stopped at Twin Falls to look around. It had a farm stand and a waterfall that was back on private property. Because of the rain, the upper area was closed due to flooding, but we were able to walk back to the lower area. It wasn’t that impressive, despite the huge quantities of what was obviously flood water. Most of the time the water here is clear, but when it is runoff, it’s almost as dark as the Red River back home.
It is also worth noting that the areas around the Road to Hana are apparently rife with crime. We saw busted window glass at many of the places we parked our car. We didn’t have much of value with us to begin with, but we did hide our bags (which had things like sunscreen and bugspray in them) in the trunk to keep people from breaking into our car. I wonder if it happened to someone today. At least it wasn’t us, I guess.
The rain continued to fall steadily, and frequently heavily, as we made our way towards Hana. The roads became progressively narrower, with tighter switchbacks and more cars. I can see why they make such a point about surviving the road. It’s definitely a nail-biter if you’ve never been on a road like that before. I was fine, even though cliff-driving like that usually has me a little concerned. I was on the side against the mountain, you know, so I couldn’t see down off the cliff. Don’t show me the edge and I’m perfectly fine.
The rain hampered out photography efforts to some degree, since it was hard to get out of the car knowing you might get soaked. We didn’t end up getting that wet, in the end, but it was a legitimate concern. When we stopped at Pua’a Ka’a Falls, for instance, it started pouring just as we were walking back to the car. We hustled the rest of the way down the hill, glad we’d gotten our photos before the rain really set in. We also used the restrooms there, since they were the first bathrooms we’d seen since we started the road some distance back. It seems touristy, but most of the stuff out there is pretty remote, and we didn’t see many places to stop along the way that weren’t simply photo opportunities or farm stands.
Finally, around noon, we came to the outskirts of Hana where we stopped at Waianapanapa State Park, which has a black sand beach, a blowhole, and sheer black cliffs and lots of volcanic rock. It was a gorgeous area, and the rain had let up to just a light mist, so we enjoyed walking around.
The park is actually quite large, and has several trails leading around the coast. We walked down to the black sand beach, which I would say is a bit more grey compared to Iceland’s true black. The signs leading down to the beach warned of dangerous surf, and I was surprised to actually see the surf in action. Several people that were too close too the water along the beach were knocked down into the water when a wave came up the beach quite a bit further than they had been previously. A little boy was totally soaked and dragged forward a few feet, and even a grown man was knocked back on his butt. The warning signs clearly mean business.
There was also a little lava tube on the beach, and we walked back through what looked like a tiny cave entrance to another tiny section of beach and surf. The little cave, though it looked difficult to enter because you had to duck very low to make it in, was actually quite tall on the other side, and we were able to stand up and take some photos. They didn’t turn out perfectly since the light was strange, but it was fun to see.
Waianapanapa also has a blowhole, which you’ll remember is a hole in the cliff over the water where water shoots out like a geyser when the waves hit it just right. This one was mostly unimpressive, although the surf was such today that we did get to see a bit more water than the blowhole usually spouts, from what the internet tells me about it.
After the state park, we stopped briefly in Hana for lunch. We had to hunt a little bit for vegetarian food, and unfortunately once again we were forced to have Mexican food here. There was a tiny burrito stand called The Surfin’ Burro that had a vegetarian option. I can’t say I’ve ever had a burrito with broccoli and carrots on it before, so that was weird, but it wasn’t bad. It needed more salsa.
It seems that most people turn around after Hana and go back the way they came, but we elected to continue down the Hana Highway, which eventually turns into Piilani Highway a bit further down the road. The last visitor center for Haleakalā National Park, Kīpahulu, is down that way, anyway.
After Hana, the road really deteriorates. It also started raining really hard, and this time it didn’t stop. We saw a few pretty sights along the way, but the roads were so narrow (one lane) and the rain was so heavy that we didn’t get to stop much. We did pull off at a particularly tall waterfall and run out onto a one lane bridge to catch a few photos, despite the danger and the rain. I could almost hear both of our mothers squawking about it.
When we finally reached the visitor center, the line to pay the fee was so long that we were hanging out in the road for a few minutes before we were able to pull in to get in line. The rain had not let up, so while we did make it into the visitor center, we didn’t go any further.
Kipahulu Visitor Center is most famous for the Seven Sacred Pools at Ohe’o, which is a little swimming area at the base of a waterfall, from what I can tell. The pools are actually closed, as they had some sort of rockslide back in January of this year and they are afraid more will be coming down.
You can still walk back to see the pools, but with it raining like cats and dogs, we elected not to bother. It was a half mile hike through the mud just to look at some standing water, and it would probably be a lot like some of the other pools we had seen earlier in the trip. A lot of other people were still making the journey. I hope they had a change of clothes, because they were coming back looking like drowned rats.
After the national park, the road degraded into what I would call about “county road” level of acceptable. It was pitted and worn, even narrower than before, and with fewer signs warning drivers to yield and watch for oncoming traffic. It even turned completely to rock occasionally, though it was thankfully never muddy or we wouldn’t have made it out.
Calling this road the Piilani Highway seems like a bit of a joke. Thankfully, most of the other tourists had either turned around after Hana or Haleakalā, and we were mostly fine. We had a few hair-raising moments, but we survived, though we did see a burned out car at the bottom of a massive gully off the side of the road. That was a sobering sight.
As we rounded the corner of the island, the rain stopped entirely and the terrain turned to dry, flat, craggy coastline, and the temperature went up 15 degrees. The road improved marginally, and we were able to finally go the blisteringly fast speed of 30mph. It’s fast when you’ve been doing 10 or 15 for most of the day.
We stopped a few times for some pictures along the way, though the road was still made in such a way there there weren’t a lot of places to pull off. We did end up stopping at Pokowai Sea Arch, which was a very pretty sight in the emerging sunshine. Mark was a little braver than I on the walk out, as you might expect, since he’s not afraid of heights. I actually wouldn’t even walk down there to see it until he came back and got me. I made it to about 30 feet from the edge and decided to go no further in the furiously blowing winds.
With our drive finally completed not long after that, we slowly made our way back up to Kahalui, which I’m getting a little sick of seeing. I guess we will only have to see it one more time when we leave tomorrow.
While we were there, we drove over to find the old courthouse for Mark to get some pictures. It’s a little confusing what exactly counts as a county courthouse here. When we google it, we get conflicting answers or no answers at all. With that in mind, we’ve been taking pictures of what our best guess tells us is the right one. It counts if we say it does, right?
Unfortunately, we weren’t quite hungry yet while we were in town, and our experiences yesterday told us that there really wasn’t anything for us to eat down by our hotel. In the end, after some serious googling and discussion, we finally surrendered to the inevitable and bought rice and tofu bowls from Whole Foods to take back for our dinner. It was after 5, but we hadn’t had lunch until 1, so it was too early to go over to the Vietnamese restaurant we wanted to try, and we couldn’t find any sandwich shops so we could take that back instead.
We were back at the hotel by 6, and this evening we’ve had our dinner and done our laundry. It’s always frustrating doing laundry at hotels, because people are always leaving their clothes in the washing machine or dryer long after they are done. Luckily it is finally over, and we have clean clothes once again.
Tomorrow we fly over to the Big Island. We’ll have a little more time in the morning, since our flight isn’t until 9:30, so I think we’re going to go for a run. When we finish up at the airport, I think we might go ahead and see Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, since it is right next to our hotel. I’m looking forward to it.
– Trip Total : 728 miles –