The Road to Hana

falls

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.

cliff

  • 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.

falls me

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The Road to Hana

Big Sur

Our northernmost destination on our roadtrip was Big Sur. It’s long been on my list of places to see, and it was definitely worth the drive. The best and only way to see Big Sur coming from the south is to drive along the 1 north of San Simeon and stop whenever you like to enjoy the view or go on a hike. It’s a very windy road that largely hugs the coast, so it’s not for the faint of heart. But take your time and enjoy it—there are plenty of turn-offs, viewpoints, and trails to enjoy.

Our first stop was Ragged Point, which is where Big Sur begins at it’s southernmost point. It consists of a hotel, viewpoint, cafe, and expensive gas station (pro tip: fill up in Morro Bay or San Luis Obispo if you’re driving north. The gas is stupid expensive is Big Sur and few and far between). We parked and walked along the viewpoint, spotting a whale or two from the coast and watching for some time. It’s a great introduction to Big Sur and a chance to stretch your legs.

Big Sur

Another great stop is McWay Falls, which is in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Park near the entrance of the park (there’s a big state park sign) and walk across the 1 towards the coast. There is a very short and easy trail leading to viewpoints all around the falls, which drops directly into the ocean. There is also a trail or two that start across the street in the park, and afford great views and lots of redwoods.

Big Sur

We camped in Big Sur, and this was our tent plot. We were in a circle of beautiful redwood trees! Camping is a great way to experience the region, and fancier accommodations can get pretty expensive. Do your research and book early when it’s high season.

Big Sur

On our second day before starting the drive back down, we drove up a few miles to Bixby Bridge. Next trip I’d like to keep going north a bit and check out the Monterey area.

Big Sur

On our drive back down through Big Sur, we stopped at an unmarked trail that led us down to the coast, past a stream, through a tunnel, and to a couple of coves. Basically, you can’t go wrong stopping at any official trail. They all lead to something beautiful.

Big Sur

Redwoods! This is the view looking up from our tent site.

Big Sur One last view. Every view is beautiful in this part of the state, including inland, since there’s lovely forest, streams, and big beautiful trees. We saw whales a few times while just staring out at the ocean, and sometimes you can spot happy seals. We’ll be back, and you should check it out, too.

Big Sur

Temescal Canyon

temescal canyon

I’ve been in the mood to try some new hikes, and I was lucky enough to have a couple of friends to volunteer to go with me. We ended up at Temescal Canyon in the Pacific Palisades, a popular spot that was on my list of to-do’s. We took the loop, which inclines for a lot longer than you think it will, but there are lots of places to rest and a surprising amount of shade. Plus, once you reach a certain point, you have amazing views of the Pacific Ocean that only get better and better. We turned and walked along the ridge before crossing down towards the waterfall (dried up that day, unfortunately) and eventually making it back to the entrance. It was a good couple of hours and the perfect intensity for me, with a well-maintained trail and beautiful scenery. Plus, we went to Bay Cities after!

Note: it’s impossible to capture the view in photo form. Just go see for yourself.

temescal canyon

temescal canyon
dogs aren’t allowed on most of the trails– check all signs and watch for rangers!

temescal canyon

Temescal Canyon