Hawaii in a Campervan | Part 6: Maui + The Road to Hana

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Twin Falls? Sure.

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another waterfall whose name I have long since forgot

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nice one, veronika

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Ke`anae Peninsula – Mile Marker 16. In 1946 this area was nearly completely destroyed by a tsunami. The only building left standing was a stone church


lilikoi (passionfruit) was literally falling off the trees

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Ching’s Pond (Blue Sapphire Pools) – the thing to do here is to jump off the cliff above the waterfall into the pool below. I don’t get why you’d want to do that, it’s wasn’t that high a jump or anything.


This is what happens when you ask a drunk guy to take your photo. He was loving that digital zoom (and this was the least zoomed in)

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 We had just gotten in a fight and were pissed off at one another when this photo was taken. The show must go on!


Upper Waikani Falls (aka Three Bears) was probably my favorite waterfall that we visited on the Road to Hana. Too bad we were pissy the time to fully enjoy it. If I were to do it again, I’d probably just head here and spend the day. It was beautiful and uncrowded.

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Opuhano Point, Nahiku — Mile marker 25 or so — we were less than halfway there! 
After getting eaten by mosquitoes trying to find some hidden pools we booked it to Hana


Always a reassuring sight. In addition to these dangers, the black sand beach is open to the ocean with no outside reef to break the force of the waves and current. What’s worse, current, jellyfish or man-o-war? Shudder.


Final official stop: Black Sand Beach at Waianapanapa State Wayside Park – mile 44?
You can also tent camp here. We just took outdoor showers.

The road to Hana is a 52+ mile coastal road that puts the PCH to shame. It is peppered with all kinds of waterfalls, rainforests, swimming holes, bamboo forests, beaches, and about a zillion other ‘secret’ trails that lead to magical places. The problem is, of course, finding those places, but assuming they actually exist, this small, treacherous stretch of cliff-hugging highway is pretty much right out of a fantasy novel.

We started with the idea that we were going to see EVERYTHING. MUST CHECK EVERYTHING OFF THE LIST. All the (limited) info we found said that travel from point A to point B (Hana) took about 2.5 hours without stops. So assuming this was something like driving the rim of the Grand Canyon we figured that maybe twice that time would allow us to see EVERYTHING. We were driving after all…

What we didn’t account for was all the hiking, getting lost, backtracking, trespassing, stumbling into a friggin’ mosquito breeding ground, no gas station finding, fighting over all the above, stony silenced car riding, reconciling, telephone post counting, getting lost about a million more times, fruit stand stopping, camera lens cap losing, lilikoi picking, coconut water drinking, wave crashing, useless guide book tossing, and everything in between. It was an epic journey to say the least.

The first few waterfall stops — and honestly I barely recall the names of anything we saw beyond ‘waterfall’ or ‘swimming hole’ — were crawling with people. We hiked maybe 30 minutes through scorching heat before we found the waterfall and spent way too much time deciding what we should do before we moved on to the next sight. We spent a lot of time at the first few sights which in retrospect I think if I were to ever do this again I would maybe pick 3-5 things I wanted to see and just call it day. I know this sounds totally unappreciative but after a while we suffered from what I call “waterfall syndrome.” That’s when the first five waterfalls are amazing, but after about the 10th waterfall you are pretty much over taking photos and can just view it in passing from the window of your car. (‘Waterfall syndrome’ is also applicable to museum collections although sometimes I refer to that as “Art Overload.” )

I realized early on, maybe like mile 2, that the Campervan gods had eaten all of my shorts that I brought for the trip, leaving me with two pairs of shorts, one of them being my least favorite, ugliest pair of turd brown culottes which were only spared because they had been hanging up to dry.  To this day we have no clue what happened to those shorts. Most likely they fell out of our van** somewhere along the way. At the time, sweating bullets in my cargo pants, it felt like the world was going to end.

As we traveled further South, the less people we saw. Besides the occasional fruit stand the road was pretty much uninhabited (it seemed). One time we took a detour to some tiny little ‘town’ — except it was really nothing like a town as I imagined it — just a cluster of maybe five homes, all with huge “Keep Out” signs hand-scrawled with dripping red paint and a barking dog or two chained to a stake.

Another time, after counting telephone posts, messing up, going back, and recounting, we found what we thought was the start of a trail that would lead us to some private swimming pools. To get to these pools required traipsing through a field of chin high grass. Again we encountered a keep out sign although the book said that the path was actually ok. We decided to risk it so I made my way to the start of the path/field and literally within a matter of less than 15 seconds I was covered in mosquitoes. I ran back to the van as if I were on fire, jumped inside, slid the door shut, and started going into a weird kind of shock. I’m over exaggerating the shock part but my body was going crazy from having been bitten by that many mosquitoes at one time. I’m one of those people that is extremely allergic to bug bites – they puff up to walnut size and remain itchy and irritable for weeks. For a brief moment I felt like I couldn’t breathe, like someone poured hot oil on me and I needed to rip my clothes off. It was awful and actually a little bit scary. Later I counted over 40 bites on my body — all of which were obtained in those fateful fields..

Needless to say our road to Hana trip pretty much ended at what I refer to as Mosquito Fields.

I can’t tell you how many times we followed the directions in our guide book exactly as described, only to find ourselves in some place completely different? Or maybe it *was* the place in the book? Maybe the trick was to look for something other than what we intended to find? It was all a mystery; like an episode of Lost.

To make an already long story short, the road to Hana was beautiful and frustrating at the same time, though maybe that is part of the charm. Somewhere along the way we found outdoor showers to clean up for the night and made it to Hana. We half-ass searched for the Red Sand Beach but honestly our hearts weren’t in it so we booked it to our home for the night: Kipahulu Campground.

TIP: If you plan on doing the Road to Hana, I would highly recommend getting a book or map that specifically covers the road in detail, not just Maui as a whole. Then I would pick a few places that you really want to see (and honestly I’d skip like the first 5 things) and then go online to a)double check the directions b)double check to see if things like land slides or road closures have closed the obscure trail that leads to the site you want to visit. The most updated info will most likely be on a travel forum of some sort. Also, don’t plan on your phone’s GPS getting you to all the hidden little coves– I think its mapped way better now than it was seven years ago, but I have heard that reception is still lacking. Good luck!

**While we were in NZ for our honeymoon we also rented a campervan and also mysteriously lost some items — like one flip flop — so this must just be a thing with campervans? Or else we are just dumb. Most likely the latter.

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