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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
At the tail end of our trip, we stayed at the famous Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. We had been camping for a couple of nights, so a real bed sounded soooo good. I’ve also long wanted to stay in the weird hotel, and this was the perfect opportunity.
I highly recommend you Google Image Search Madonna Inn, since every guest room (there’s over 100) is decorated differently, and I mean decorated. They are all themed and named accordingly, some with rock walls, rainbow carpet, and daisy wallpaper. Basically, they are all picture-perfect. We stayed in the “Indian room.”
The hotel was built and built onto for a few years before being completed in the late 60s. It definitely feels like a trip back in time, except that the bathrooms and facilities are updated nicely. They have a great pool and hot tubs, and there is a steak house with insane decor on premises. There’s also a bar connected to the restaurant, and a cafe called the Copper Kettle. We really enjoyed the pool, had a drink at the old school bar while watching a band play in the restaurant, and ate breakfast at the Copper Kettle.
The dining is all fine here—nothing amazing and a bit over-priced—but we loved staying at the hotel. The atmosphere is fun and the staff is friendly. I’m sure we’ll be back to stay in as many rooms as we can.
I’m sorry for the radio silence as of late. Work got unexpectedly busy and then we had a short but much-needed vacation, but now I’m determined to get back into posting on the reg. I had such a great time on our road trip, I thought I’d share some of my favorite places and fun stuff we did.
Morro Bay is about a 3 1/2 hour drive from Los Angeles or San Francisco, and, as its name implies, it’s a beautiful bay on the Pacific Ocean. It attracts some tourists, but it’s not an overrun resort town. The inns are small, the activities are nature-filled, and the wildlife abundant.
We camped at the state park campground on the south end of the bay, just a block from the water. While there, we rented a tandem kayak and paddled around in the bay, getting great looks at lounging sea otters and rowdy seals. The prices at Kayak Horizons were reasonable, we called ahead for tide info which they happily provided, and their dock is right on the bay for easy in-and-out.
We ate lunch at one of the bay-side seafood restaurants before checking out the giant Morro rock and walking along the beach. It can be pretty windy on the water, so we didn’t stay for long, but lots of people were surfing some good waves that day. The rock is covered in birds, and we saw pelicans skimming the water.
We set up camp and walked up to the nearby Natural History Museum to take in the view. Morro Bay also has boating trips, a tiny aquarium, hiking, and all the amenities you’ll need (groceries, shops, etc). Especially since it’s a relatively easy drive and near San Luis Obispo (more on that later), we’ll definitely be back.