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One of the gorgeous Hawaiian Islands, Maui is an island with plenty of outdoor activities to offer. I recently went with a good friend on a quick girl’s getaway to Hawaii and got great advice for sites to see from my coach at work. There are so many things to do on Maui, ranging from snorkeling at the beach to hiking a crater. If you are interested in an adventurous trip, there are two phenomenal road trips on Maui that you absolutely have to try: the Road to Hana and the drive up to view the Haleakala Crater.
ROAD TO HANA
The Road to Hana is an incredibly popular day trip for tourists, and can definitely be stretched over two days if you stay the night in Hana. The journey typically starts in Paia and travels along a windy road on the northern edge of the island towards Hana. There are dozens of pit stops along the way, ranging from breathtaking waterfalls to unique beaches. You will also see lava tubes, which are caves left behind from dried lava flow.
BACK ROAD TO HANA
There is also a Back Road to Hana that many people attempt. Many car rental companies say that you will not be covered if you drive this road because it can be dangerous. I spoke to a coworker and my mother who had been on it – and both recommended not doing the back road as it was terrifying and not worth the risk!
RECOMMENDED ROAD TRIP ROUTE
With my friend on this Maui trip, our goal was to do the classic Road to Hana route, ending at the Pools of Ohe’o, also known as the Seven Sacred Pools. From there, we would turn around and go back the route we came.
My friend and I reached Paia around 10:00 am to pick up snacks and lunch for the road, and this was a pretty late start. I would recommend starting from Paia at least at 8:00 am, if not earlier. We only made a few stops, and I had to drive back the Road to Hana in the dark! While the journey was worth it, I would not recommend trying to drive back during the daytime if possible.
Even though we had to drive back in the dark, we were still able to see some marvelous sites. The following are the stops that we made. Before heading on the Road to Hana, you will definitely want to bring a phone charger for the car. Keep in mind that you will lose service at some spots along the way, so you will want to write down the stops that you want to make ahead of time.
We started in Paia Town where we got lunch at the Hana Picnic Lunch Company. This shop sells lunches to go, so you are able to grab a sandwich, chips and a cookie for the road. While there, the store clerk there convinced us to download the Shaka Guide App, and I am so glad that we did! This app told us every spot that we needed to hit along the way, highlighted things we could see from the road and was on honest when we could skip sites to save on time. I highly recommend it!
KAUMAHINA STATE WAYSIDE PARK
We stopped at the Kaumahina State Wayside Park to eat our lunch, and to use one of the last restrooms for a while. It looked like there was some hiking in the park, but we were very short on time. A lot of families were stopping here, and you can also visit a lookout for a view of the Pacific Ocean.
Even though we were short on time, the Shaka Guide we were following said that this detour would be worthwhile if we can squeeze it in. We drove down to the Ke’anae Peninsula and got to see the waves crash up against the shore.
This isn’t a place to go swimming – it looked pretty dangerous, and it was also sprinkling the day that we visited. However, we took a lot of fun photos and enjoyed the views of the ocean.
KA’ELEKU CAVE AND LAVA TUBE
I honestly can’t remember if this one was mentioned in the guide, but we saw a sign for this lava tube and decided to spontaneously follow it. For $12, we got entry to the half-mile lava tube and flashlights. This quick hike was worth it – the lava tube was really neat to see, and was filled with signs explaining what we were looking at. There are many lava tubes on the road to Hana, but I am glad that we stopped at this one.
WAIANAPANAPA BLACK SAND BEACH
The black sand beach is one of the most popular spots on the road to Hana and is located shortly before you reach Hana. The black sand was caused by lava hitting the ocean years and years ago. Many families will plan to spend a beach day here, but on the day that we went it was sprinkling and the waves were quite aggressive.
My friend and I did a short hike up the cliff to get some better views of the ocean, and we also crawled into a small cave that we noticed other families were visiting. We definitely could have hiked for longer, but we were on a mission.
POOLS OF OHE’O
Just past the town of Hana are the Pools of Ohe’o, or the Seven Sacred Pools. My coach told me that he went swimming with his family here years ago, but when we visited the pool we were blocked off for safety reasons. Still beautiful to see, this is a stop to do one of the best hikes on the island.
The Pipiwai Trail and Waimoku Falls hike is one reason why many people go on the road to Hana journey in the first place. Unfortunately, my friend and I arrived too late, so we were unable to complete the full 1.8-mile trail (don’t forget to take into consideration time for the return trip!).
This trail stops by the Falls at Makahiku, past a gigantic banyan tree, and continues through a bamboo forest. As you near the end of the journey, you reach the 400′ Waimoku Falls, which must look phenomenal. Unfortunately, we only made it to the bamboo forest when it started getting dark, but I hope to go back one day to make it to the Waimoku Falls.
Overall, the road to Hana was a perfect day trip and definitely a must-drive while you are on Maui. Make sure to rent a car if you are visiting!
HALEAKALA CRATER DRIVE
We loved the Shaka Guide route from our first road trip so we purchased the tour up to the Crater. This is a half day trip, which has a few stops and short hikes along the way. Because we were flying out of Maui on this day, we made minimal stops. However, this could easily be made into a full day road trip.
Many people will recommend visiting the Haleakala Crater at sunrise so that you can view the sunrise. This requires a reservation, and for you to get up incredibly early as the drive up takes a few hours depending on where you are coming from. My friend and I were not so ambitious, so we started our journey after breakfast.
Also keep in mind that the viewpoints are at the top of the crater, and it is incredibly cold! I wore leggings and a sweatshirt, and it was still too cold for me. Definitely bring your warmer clothes on this drive.
RED HILL SUMMIT
We decided to make our first stop on this road trip at the top of the crater and then work our way down. The first stop we made was the Red Hill Summit. Here, there is a parking lot where you can see the Silversword plants and look out over the island.
You can walk up to an enclosed outlook, which is great because it blocks the wind and helps you warm up. It is possible to see the entire crater from here. You can also see the Haleakala Observatory, but these buildings are not open to the public.
SLIDING SANDS TRAIL
We stopped at the visitor’s center at the start of the Sliding Sand Trail but did not complete this full hike. We used the restrooms, visited the gift shop, and then did a short hike to the top of a hill for better views of the crater. Mid-day the parking lot was completely full, and we had to circle around a few times to get a spot.
This overlook is an incredibly short hike (more like a few steps) up to another viewing post where you can look out at the crater. My favorite part about this overlook, though, was actually seeing the clouds from the parking lot. My friend and I got a few neat pictures from here because we really looked like we were standing above the clouds.
For a short hike, we decided to stop at the Leleiwi Overlook. You pull into a parking lot on the side of the road and cross the street to begin the hike. The hike takes you around the edge of the hill to get to a panoramic view of the crater. This is a good place to see the clouds and to learn about the weather from the signs.
Since we were not planning on hiking into the crater, our drive ended in Makawao, a city at the foot of the volcano. There are quite a few cute lunch options available here, so it’s a great spot for a snack. There are also quite a few boutiques that are a lot of fun to wander through.
Maui is a gorgeous island with a laid back feel and is perfect for a getaway. If you have an adventurous group, you will definitely find enjoyment on this Hawaiian island. For this island, you will definitely want a car, and to at least take one of the above road trips – if not both of them!
Have you ever been to Maui? If you have any additional tips for our readers or questions please leave these in the comments below.
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