Living on Maui Gentry and I often felt the need to leave the beach and do some day trips to avoid getting island fever. Being on a small island it’s easy to run out of new things to do. Both Gentry and I love to adventure, see new things and experience places we’ve never been before. The first time we took a trip up the Hana Highway we knew that this would be the source of many of our adventures. The Hana Highway is full of twists and turns bringing you into bamboo forests, farmland, past waterfalls and through thick wooded cliff sides.We would grab a towel, our bathing suits and a rain jacket and off we went.
We first made sure to stop in Paia town before heading up the coastline. If you’re spending most of your time near your resort or on the beach make sure you give yourself ample time to walk around Paia. This town has so much character and such a local vibe, I promise you’ll be glad you stopped. Pretty much all stores and restaurants here are locally owned and operated so you’ll be sure to find some unique Maui treasures. This is the last town you pass through before you start driving up the coastline. Paia offers a great local market called Mana Foods. We would often head to the market load up on some snacks and lunch before we headed out on our trip.
After a long day on the road Paia is also a great place to stop on your way back to your hotel at the end of the day. You can grab pizza from my favorite pizza spot on the island at Flatbread Pizza Co., enjoy crepes at Cafe Des Amis, or eat some of the absolute best fish on the island at the Paia Fish Market. Allow me to take a minute to tell you about my love for the Paia Fish Market as a drool all over my keyboard. There are a ton of places on Maui to eat local fish and seafood, however, I can almost guarantee that most of those places can not compare to the fish market. Located at the corner of Hana Highway and Baldwin Avenue is the original Fish Market and the one I recommend. It’s a little blue building most likely with a line out the door and around the corner, you can’t miss it. Some of the menu items I recommend are the fish and chips and the fish burger with rice…YUM!! If you stop please enjoy a bite on my behalf.
As you head up the Hana Highway be sure to keep an open mind and be willing to adventure. One of the wonderful things about exploring the Hana Highway is the endless amount of land that you can explore along the way. We would often see a cool bamboo forest or a stream and park our car and go hiking. Of the many explorations that we did we would often find ourselves at our own private waterfall, at a massive sea cave or at a beach all to ourselves. Certainly don’t be afraid to wander, some of the coolest things we’ve done were due to our own curiosity.
Now I do understand that stepping off the beaten path is not for everyone and that’s ok too. There are a ton of stops that Gentry and I made on a regular basis due to the fact that they were easy to get to and even though they had more tourists they were beautiful places to see.
There is a ton to see on the Road to Hana, waterfalls, valleys, beaches you name it. However ,the highway is long and the speed limit is slow so you certainly won’t have time to see all the sites. If you’re going to add some stops to you list here are some of my personal recommendations.
Located between mile markers 16 and 17 this is one of the first stops along the highway to cool off. Most people will simply stay on the road and completely miss this water hole all together. Located on the ocean side of the highway this pond is not visible from the road. Park your car and just below the bridge you’ll find Ching’s Pond. A great place to stop and cool off and take a dip or try your hand at some cliff jumping. The water here is beautiful and often you can have the pool all to yourself.
Waioka Pond…AKA Venus Pool
My absolute favorite thing to do along the Hana Highway is visit the Waioka Pond otherwise known as the Venus Pool. Pretty much every time we traveled the Road to Hana we stopped at the Venus Pool. It’s off the beaten path and not many vacationers know about this spot, often times you can find that you have the pool all to yourself. Located on the beach side of the highway this pool is extremely difficult to find. Although the land that the pond sits on is part of the state park the path you take to get there is currently on land owned by Hana Ranch and although there isn’t an actual KEEP OUT sign please note that this is private property. You’ll park on the side of the road near mile marker 48 and walk to the new bridge just up the street. You’ll pass under an opening in the fence and travel through an open field (there is a small foot path visible from the road) where you’ll enter a small wooded area and bam you’re at the pool.
It’s no wonder this place is nicknamed the Venus Pool, the water here is bright blue and as long as the water isn’t flowing into the pool from upcountry you can easily see all the way to the bottom. Personally I’m not much of a cliff jumper but if you are and that’s your thing, this is a must. The access out of the pool is not easy so if you’re not a great swimmer you’re better off watching from the sidelines. Also be sure to look up at the sky before you make your jump, flash floods are common on this side of the island and if there are any clouds up country your better off just snapping some pictures and getting on your way.
Black Sand Beach at Waianapanapa State Park
This is a stop that will show up on just about any map you get from your rental car agency. Waianapanapa State Park is viewed by many visitors who choose to travel the Road to Hana. You will see a ton of tour buses stopped here and it’s super popular for those traveling on their own. This black sand beach is beautiful! One of only 2 black sand beaches on the island of Maui there truly is nothing like this. The sand here is absolutely spectacular which makes this a must see. While traveling this is also a great spot to stop and have your picnic lunch. There are restrooms, picnic tables and showers which makes it a great place to stop and hang for a while.
O’heo Gulch / “Seven Sacred Pools”
At the end of the road before hitting the back side of the highway you’ll find O’heo Gulch better known as the Seven Sacred Pools. This is part of Haleakala National Park so there is a large parking lot and bathrooms which makes this a great place to stop. The falls here are absolutely stunning. Sure there will be a lot of people at this stop, it’s a huge reason people travel up the highway but it’s totally worth it. If the water is low and there isn’t a threat of flash flooding this is a good spot to take a dip and cool off. This is also where you’ll park to hike the Pipiwai Trail and Waimoku Falls. There is also a great camp site here, if you’re looking to do some camping this spot is awesome. Camping is a great option should you want to spend more time on the east side of the island and hit the Pipiwai trail first thing in the morning.
Pipiwai Trail/ Waimoku Falls
Having probably done this hike at least a dozen times this is my favorite hike on Maui. The Pipiwai Trail brings you through an amazing bamboo forest, through streams, past waterfalls and ends at the most spectacular waterfall of them all the Waimoku Falls. This hike in my opinion is very mild. You’ll travel 1.8 miles to reach the falls, the path is clear and you really don’t gain much elevation at all. The downside to this hike is the amount of people you’ll be sharing the trail with, however, if you’re willing to share this needs to be the hike on your list. Make sure to bring your camera, the bamboo in this forest is unlike any other and the waterfalls are amazing. When people ask me what hikes they should go on this is the one I ALWAYS recommend. Sure there are other awesome hikes but this is easy to access and I can guarantee it won’t disappoint.
The Hana Highway really is spectacular. Many people don’t realize the beauty that awaits them if you’re willing to explore and take the time to make the drive. I have great memories driving with Gentry along the winding coastline, having picnics next to waterfalls, stopping in random spots and hiking all on our own.