The Road to Hana

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If you’re visiting Maui for more than a day, the Road to Hana is a must-do. It is literally a road that leads to the town of Hana, which doesn’t sound that exciting when I put it that way. What makes it essential is the road itself and all of the sights along the way—jungle, waterfalls, black sand beaches, and much more.

The road is narrow and curvy, barely fitting two-way traffic, and has roughly 54 bridges, most of them one-lane. It’s not for the faint of heart, but hardly anyone on the road is in a hurry, and if you’re a confident driver, that’s half the experience. There are guided tours for those hesitant to take the wheel, but you lose control over your itinerary. Some sights are right by the road, with beach views opening up before you and waterfalls cascading right by the road. Others are less obvious, requiring a short hike without any signs or markings.

There’s plenty of literature and resources to guide you on your drive, so I’ll just give my quick tips and share a few photos.

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  • Start early. We left our hotel on the south side of the island at dawn and reached the start of the road just as the sun was completely up. We never really hit traffic on the whole road, and didn’t encounter many people until the afternoon. You also want to leave lots of time for lazing on a beach and still being able to drive back in the daylight. Gas up first!
  • Bring lots of water, some snacks, sunscreen, bug spray, hiking sandals, a change of shoes and clothes, towels, and cash.
  • When parking, lock your car and put everything out of sight. Bring any valuables with you.
  • Use an app to help guide you via GPS. I found this so helpful since even when you don’t have a cell signal, GPS knows where you are and the guide tells you when to turn for some hard-to-find locations. Gypsy is pretty good, but there are a few options. Download it before you leave and bring a car charger. That being said, don’t simply rely on the app. They don’t mention every stop and they interject their opinion a lot, which you might not agree with! Do some research first and consider buying a map.
  • Eat the banana bread at a roadside stand, and grab a late lunch in Hana. There’s some great Thai food served out of a trailer near the beach.
  • This is more of an FYI: the Seven Sacred Pools are no longer open to swimming. It makes this stop slightly less worth it, but if you’ve already been to Haleakala Crater or plan to go (and you should), your park entry is good for three days for both ends of the park, so you might as well make a stop and see the pools. There’s also a hike to a couple of waterfalls if they are flowing. Bring bug spray!
  • Drive the backend to Pukalani. Okay, okay, take this with a grain of salt, since some sites and the Gypsy app will practically beg you not to. The reason for this is huge portions of the road past Hana used to be unpaved. If you get stuck on this road it could void your rental car contract and cost thousands of dollars for a tow truck. Now almost the entire road is newly paved—there’s just a relatively small, jungly section that’s unpaved past Haleakala National Park, but just take it slow and even a compact car can make it. You’ll pass some beaches and then the landscape becomes volcanic ranch land that crashes down into the ocean. It’s totally different and beautiful in it’s own way, and ends near a winery and lavender farm. Plus, you don’t have to drive the road to Hana both ways.
    • Extra tip: Check in with the rangers at Haleakala National Park to double check the road condition in case of flooding before venturing further south.

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The Road to Hana

Kauai North Shore

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I just got back from a little vaca in Hawaii, and it was AWESOME. Everyone who’s been to Hawaii already knows that, and if you haven’t been, everyone else has already told you that. I spent part of my time on the North Shore of Kauai and I’d highly recommend it. Below are some photos and quick suggestions of stuff to do.

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Hiking — When driving west on the North Shore, past Hanalei Bay, you’ll eventually get to the end of the road. Literally. There is no road going through Napali Coast State Park, but there’s plenty to do right there at the dead end. The Kalalau trail begins there, and even if you just hike for a couple of miles, it will take you up to a couple of beautiful viewpoints of the beach behind you and the cliffs ahead. Keep going for waterfalls and adventure.

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Beaches — All of the beaches in this area are good, too: Tunnels, Ke’e, and Ha’ena. There’s nice stretches of sand and some tree shade, with typically calm, crystal clear  waters and some great snorkeling. Parking can get crowded but you should be able to find a spot in one of the lots, and there’s a dry cave across the street from Tunnels Beach.

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Kayaking — The popular spot for kayaking in Kauai is Wailua, but if you want a far less crowded and more relaxed paddle, try the Hanalei River. It’s easy going, especially in the morning, and heading one way takes you into a nature reserve, while heading the other takes you to the ocean. No need to book ahead, and a rental is good for 24 hours, so come and go as you please.

This is only a snippet of fun stuff on the North Shore, let alone the rest of Kauai. Note that your chances of rain are higher in this region, but showers tend to be short and the landscape is ultra lush. Aloha!

 

Kauai North Shore

New Orleans

I recently visited New Orleans for the first time (I know I know. What took so long?), and of course had a wonderful time. I ate and drank and saw lots of fantastic stuff. Mostly I ate.

Below are some restaurants I’d recommend trying out, along with a few places we went that are worth specifically mentioning. Above all, I’d recommend wandering. Wander the French Quarter, Bywater, the Garden District. Wander and take in the beautiful, colorful homes, the river, the parks, the sights and sounds.

Food!

  • Oxalis — Chill bar/restaurant with a delicious burger and well-mixed cocktails in the Bywater.
  • Satsuma Cafe — An earthy cafe with fresh juices, vegan and not-so-vegan breakfast and lunch, and coffee in the Bywater.
  • Cafe Du Monde — You already know about this one. Totally worth a trip for beignets and coffee, especially at a random time on a weekday. Seat yourself in the cafe area or grab to-go at the window. Don’t wear black (see photo).
  • Parkway — A classic po’ boy joint with every kind of sandwich. Go for the fried shrimp.
  • Cane & Table — A good balance of high-class food in a jovial setting. Try the whole grilled fish and cocktails.
  • Sylvain — A nice dinner in the French Quarter that won’t totally blow your budget. New spins on Southern and NOLA cuisine. Romantic.
  • Elizabeth’s — A down-home restaurant in the Bywater where everyone will feel at home. Serves NOLA classics and has brunch.
  • Cochon Butcher — Lots of people talk about Cochon, but the sandwich shop next door is pretty great. Delicious lunch fare and a meat and cheese counter to boot. Where the Warehouse/Lower Garden/Central Business District collide.
  • Bacchanal — A homey wine and cheese store + restaurant and venue in Bywater. Pick out your wine (with the help of an expert) and cheese downstairs and they’ll deliver it to you with accompaniments on the patio or upstairs.

Other!

  • Carousel Bar — Located in Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter. It’s historic and fun. Go at an off time for a chance to sit at the rotating bar.
  • Frenchman Street — Wander this street any night of the week and see live jazz of all kinds. Follow your ears.
  • WWII Museum — A huge and engaging museum with lots to see and do. Don’t skip the 4D movie.
  • Jean Laffite National Preserve — It’s a couple of hours drive from New Orleans, but if the weather’s right it’s worth it. Take a supremely peaceful walk through the swamp and see snakes, turtles, gators, and lots of hanging moss.
  • Preservation Hall — Top-notch NOLA history and jazz. Go to an early show on a Sunday or weekday and line up at least 30 minutes beforehand. Be prepared to cram into the tiny, magical venue.
  • Magazine Street/Lower Garden District — Wander in and out of shops and ogle at the beautiful homes.
New Orleans