The road to Hana is the most beautiful drive I've ever made - better than driving the California coast or down the Florida Keys. You certainly see more diverse environments, especially toward the end of the drive, on the "other" side of the Haleakala volcano.
I started by filling up the gas tank (at $4.34/gal) at the Shell Station on Dairy Road (which continues on to the airport) about 8:30 am. I also bought breakfast stuff and the Hana CD Guide. I had read through Maui Revealed and made notes of sights I wanted to see and the mile markers/locations. The CD was helpful and did provide some information I had not already gotten from other sources.
I got a late start. I wanted to start at 8 am and be ahead of the crowd but got stuck right in the midst of it and missed a lot of sights on the way out. Parking is a huge problem. There is usually only space for two to four cars. If a stupid tour van stops no one else can. I ended up going only part of the way (not even to Hana) on the first day and doubled back and picked up some stops I couldn't make on the way out. Then I started again the same direction the next morning, skipping what I had already seen. I really could have used a third day to see and do everything I would have liked. For the purposes of this journal I have presented everything sequentially by mile marker, not as I actually experienced it.
Traditionally the drive begins at out of Kahului on SR 36, which is signed as the Hana Highway. You proceed through the town of Pa'ia passing the world famous surfing spot, Ho'okipa Beach (I will post pictures of that later). The surf is regularly pounding right now. In the summer it becomes placid enough for children to play there.
The drive proceeds clockwise around Haleakala. Fifteen miles past Kahului (the Shell station) the road becomes a county road and the mile markers reset to 0. The fun begins at the 3 mile marker at the "Narrow Winding Road: Next 3 Miles" sign. This is no exaggeration. The scenery is stunning the entire way. I understand people wanting to go in a tour van. It is difficult to drive, navigate and see the sights but I've done it in a van and now by myself and I was able to see better even alone than I did in a van. But I'm not afraid of driving. This drive reminds me of Dave Ley's stories of driving the Italian roads along the Mediterranean. Except the opposing drivers to me were local Hawaiians. Dave had to deal with Italians. That I couldn't do.
At about the 8 mile marker you pass one of East Maui Irrigation Company's (EMI) weirs. This structure (and many like it along the way) collects water coming down the streams and directs it into EMI's ditches. These ditches (I'll post a picture of a ditch later) carries the water out to Central Maui (the flat area between the two volcanos) mainly for sugar cane. There is a place to park right in front of a gate but you can't park there for any length of time.
The first thing I wanted to do but couldn't was the Waikamoi Ridge Trail. This is a State Park between the 8 and 9 mile marker with facilities and two separate nature trails - one 10 minutes, the other 30 minutes. Would have been perfect for stretching the legs after about an hour in the car at this point. I never did come back around and do this so no pictures or comments.
I particular liked driving under the bamboo canopy at mile marker 10 (see photo). Coming up on it was beautiful. I did keep thinking of the poor superintendent that would have to send his highway workers out to cut the bamboo. It is a very rapid grower and would have to be continually pruned back. The canopy, of course, would shelter the pavement so it would never completely dry out.
I have a picture of a falls near the 10 mile marker. There is a little trail leading to the pool it creates. I couldn't tell how easily accessible it would be. Apparently it flows only during a rainy period and could be completely dry in the summer.
The Kaumahina State Wayside is a State Park at about the 12 mile marker. It has a large parking lot and decent rest rooms. It has a very short trail that provides a view of the ocean but not much else. It also has picnic tables. All the tour vans stopped here so it was congested when I stopped.
The Keanae Arboretum is past the 16.5 mile marker (past the Keanae YMCA Camp and the Hawaii State Patrol and Highway Yard) and before the turn off down to the Keanae Arboretum. I stopped there to see the Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees. You can see several of them along the Hana Drive but this is the only place to get to them up close without snarling traffic and trespassing. You have to walk about 1/4 mile along a deep stream before you get to the Arboretum. There is a gate across that walkway but the Arboretum is always open. I was only interested in these particular trees so I did not go completely through the Arboretum. I had already been exposed to most of Hawaii's interesting plants on the Road Scholar Tour and in the various gardens I visited previously so I was not that impressed but it would be a good way to see some exotic plants and trees if there is no other way. There is a stream trickling through the property and lots of bird song so it could have been very relaxing.
I use "could" for a reason. Now that I am back to the condo safely I can tell the story (as long as no one feels the need to tell Dad!) ... three women have disappeared right in that area of Maui over the past two months. The police have seemed to link two of the disappearance to the boyfriends of the missing but neither have been arrested (one fled the area). The locals seem to think there is a serial killer or at least a kidnapper out there (no bodies have been found). All along the way I made sure not to be alone - there was almost always plenty of people around except there at the Arboretum so I was definitely on my guard when I was there.
Continuing on, I came to the turn off to go down to the Keanae Peninsula. The area from here to Hana has been inhabited since people originally came from Polynesia. At the time of Western contact it is estimated over 100,000 people lived here. This area was always controlled by the kings from the Big Island not the Maui kings until the unification of the islands. Now there are only a handful of houses in this valley. As it has forever, the valley is used to grow taro and other food crops. There are rest room facilities in the valley (and a working phone booth!). There is no real beach but the waves hitting the lava rock look and sound wonderful. There were vendor stalls selling macadamia nut brittle and handmade jewelry.
I liked this peninsula when I was here with Road Scholar so I was anxious to see it again at my own pace. I particularly liked the church there and this time got to go explore its cemetery and actually go inside the building. It is still in use.
The two pictures of the peninsula from a distance overhead were taken from the overlook at mile marker 17.