Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Road to Hana Saturday, July 26th, 2014

We survived the Road to Hana!
On July 25th, we left for our bi-yearly Hawaiian vacation.  The day had arrived that we had awaited since August 12, 2012, the day we left Maui two years ago.  Our Hawaiian vacations are two weeks of intense activity and intense family time, family which includes my parents, and has included my sister's family, my brother in law, and any friends we have met up with along the way. Our way of unwinding before coming home for our last three Hawaiian vacations has been to head to Hana, Maui and spent a few nights in this quiet oasis away from the Maui hubbub. This year however our island order was switched, and we wound up finishing our vacation on Kauai--meaning no Hana getaway.  If we wanted to see our beloved Hana on this trip to Maui, it was going to need to be a day trip, so that's what we did.

Vacationers avoid Hana because of the distance from the centers of activity and the "road to Hana's" very illustrious reputation for traffic and being windy.  This is a mistake.  The Road to Hana and the destinations waiting along it's path can easily be completed in a day if that is what you have.

Here are a few pointers from someone who has made this trek often--seven times so far.

It is imperative to start early.  We took advantage of our jet lag and left our hotel on Ka'anapali Beach at 6:10 AM.  This allowed us to be crossing through Paia before 8, to Ching's Pond by about 8:30, snorkeling in Hana Bay by 10, back to Waianapanapa State Park by 12 and to Hamoa Beach by 130.  We left Hamoa Beach by 4pm and were home by 8, and that included stops at Costco for gas, the liquor store, and Safeway.
By leaving early you do also minimize the traffic on the road, which ALSO minimizes the car sickness.  With a good passenger watching the road ahead, it is possible to roll the stop signs at the one lane bridges rather than constantly stopping and starting.  That's what makes ME sick anyway.

The road really isn't that bad.  Some rental car agreements will tell you that your 2WD rental
Waikani Falls (aka The Three Bears)
Took this one from the highway!
car is not insured if you drive "all the way around," which means that instead of turning around and returning to Kahalui the windy way you came, you drive past Kipahulu, through upcountry around the other side of Haleakala to return to Kahalui.  Frankly, for a day trip, we have NEVER not driven all the way around.  We have always driven a two wheel drive minivan, and we've always survived.  Though there are parts beyond Kipahulu which are narrow and rough (even a five mile stretch of dirt road), and there is no doubt that caution is in order, there is no real reason to avoid it.  Ask the ranger at O'heo Gulch if the road is open and drive carefully.  It's different scenery, is less windy, has almost no stop signs, and in my opinion, takes less time.

It is absolutely necessary to carry with you the latest edition of Maui Revealed by Andrew Doughty.  We purchase the latest edition of this book every time we go to Maui.  It is a guidebook like no other.  The authors describe the Road to Hana in significant detail, frankly pointing out what stops are worth a look and which are not.  In some regard, this is a formal endorsement of this book.  Our trips to Hana would have been significantly lacking had we not had this publication in tow.  Recently our friends wanted advice on how to spend their Hana day.  I sent them right to the book.

Two things you will need to take with you--food and gas.  It's in short supply out here.

When taking a day trip to Hana, you can't see everything, but this is where we stopped this time......

Ching's Pond

Who is Ching anyway?

Ching's Pond is a lovely little freshwater pond and waterfall just below the highway right before the 17 mile marker, not far beyond the Keanae Peninsula.  Right before the bridge, pull to the right and park.  Cross the highway carefully and take the path right past the no swimming sign down to the idyllic setting below.  As with nearly all little known idyllic settings, closed water shoes are a must during your entire visit to Ching's Pond.  Between the mud, sharp rocks underwater and uneven climbing surfaces, flip flops are a recipe for
disaster.  Flip flops and adventure in Hawaii DO NOT GO TOGETHER!

The water is super cold, more like an arctic lake than a tropical pond, but refreshing when
you get used to it.  The area has plenty of platforms from which to jump into the deep water, the most popular being near the waterfall into a 10 foot diameter opening, the only area deep enough.  From 8-10 feet up this is pretty easy to do without killing yourself, but the area is heavily visited by foolhardy local youth who jump 25 feet from just below the bridge into to this same space.  I don't have enough life insurance for such a challenge!
You will not have the place to yourself.  There is potential I suppose from stink-eye from the locals, but we have never had any problems--which brings me to the story of the naked guy.

I hesitate to tell this story but it was part of our experience.  We got to Ching's Pond by about 8 am and had the place all to ourselves, but it was not long until we were joined by a local vagrant dressed in one sock and a sarong, who decided it was time for his weekly bath, and in so doing stripped himself of all his garments and went swimming. Hmmm...

He didn't bother us, approach us, or talk to us in any way.  He just went and did his thing, whatever that was, over by the waterfall where we couldn't really see him.  Nonetheless, it was quite creepy, not to mention revolting (there is nothing good about the combination of nudity and cold water) so I have to admit we were uncomfortable and cut our time here short. It's a fairly small area so averting your gaze forever is not so simple. The final nail in the coffin was when he decided to dry himself by laying on the rocks in the sun..."time to go, kids, and by the way, DON'T LOOK AT THE NAKED GUY!!"

When I was arriving at the car, a large truck pulled over the bridge.  He stopped right in the middle of the highway, and yelled out his window to our naked friend 25 feet below "HEY!!!!  GET SOME CLOTHES ON!!!  THIS IS A COMMUNITY!  THERE ARE KIDS ALL OVER THE PLACE!"  I think at this point he made some attempt to procure some kind of loincloth, but too late--damage done.  I think I'm scarred for life.

Anyway, don't NOT go to Ching's Pond because of the naked guy.  He takes his bath Saturdays at 8am if want to avoid him. 

The usual fun at Ching's Pond

Snorkeling in Hana Bay

Okay.  The best snorkeling on Maui is at Molokini Crater--but you're gonna need some money to get there.  The best snorkeling on Maui that you can get to by land is in Hana Bay--hands down.  Clearest water and a great variety of colorful coral and fish, and NO crowds--maybe because it's not so easy to get to carrying snorkeling gear, neither is entry or exit into the water very easy.

To get there you need to travel all the way to the town of Hana and to Hana Bay.  Now of course you don't just run into the water via the beach--to get to something lovely, as usual, you have to take a 10 minute mildly treacherous hike to get there.  Park at Hana Bay and walk to the very end of the road, past the boat ramp.  Here you will see the beginning of the trail, complete with its own warning sign.  All you do is follow the trail, wearing your closed water shoes of course, along side of the red cinder rock until you get to the lava rocks that jut out over the water, leaving a nice spot to leave your shoes, car keys, etc.  Along the way you have to boulder scramble a little and pull yourself up on some roots.  Another hazard is the red rock itself, which leaves ample evidence that boulders do fall from its faces.  We are sure to keep our eyes and ears widely open, and I actually put my arm above my head, in case a small rock should fall.

Mornings are best.  We were there by ten but have been there by 730 in the past.  It is unlikely you will see another snorkeler.

Wai'anapanapa State Park

If you can say it, Wai'anapanapa is a nice state park located about two miles before Hana at the 32 mile marker.  Here there is a black sand beach, officially Pa'iloa Beach, which is nice to look at and easy to access but bad for swimming. There is also a coastal hike which will take you 3.5 miles to Hana Bay along a lava rock shore line should you so desire.  There is a campground, fairly decent rest rooms (though dark), showers and plenty of picnic tables.  But we weren't there for any of this stuff...

Wai'anapanapa is also home to two spring fed freshwater caves (though only the first is suitable for any worthwhile fun) which are accessed by a short trail on the left side of the parking lot.  This is also another local hot spot, and when we arrived on this day the area was occupied by about 15 teenagers and their chaperones, all trying to outdo each other with there flipping ability.  Of course there is a small cliff and the requisite deep area and cold clear water.  Once you get started with the jumping you find yourself saying over and over, "Just one more time!"

The freshwater cave is yet another closed water shoe experience.

Hamoa Beach

Though many will say that the final destination, the pinnacle of your Road to Hana experience, is the O'heo Gulch, otherwise known sometimes as the "Seven Sacred Pools."  (The Seven Sacred Pools are neither seven, nor sacred, nor pools----discuss.)  We disagree.  We say that it is Hamoa Beach.

Hamoa Beach is consistently named one of Maui's best, and even America's best beaches by varying sources, and there is no doubt there is plenty of fun to be had here.  The beach is located about 10 minutes beyond Hana of Haneoo Road.  There is only street parking, but we arrived at 1pm on a Saturday and were able to park with relative ease.

The beach is a crescent of gray sand.  Shade is available.  The bottom is sandy as opposed to rocky which can make entry and exit at other Hawaiian beaches quite uncomfortable.  There is no lifeguard on duty.  You will notice lounge chairs, an attendant, and a cabana building with some decent looking bathrooms and showers--but stay away unless you are staying at the Travaasa Resort and Spa (a colossal rip off BTW) who has laid claim to these facilities.  For the rest of us low lifes, there is a single unisex restroom behind the building.  Hold your breath and wear your shoes--seriously makes your mom's words, "just go in the ocean" sound a lot better.

Anyway, yeah, the facilities not so nice, but the beach is lovely.  The surf can get rough so you gotta be careful.  You also have to steer yourselves and your kids away from the surfers and their hard pointy boards that can rip your head off.

This was our first day on the island, and not again on our vacation did we experience such great boogie boarding.  I used to really stink at boogie boarding but I've gotten better, and at Hamoa I was riding waves a 100 feet all the way out to the shore where they dissolved into the sand.  We were sore and wiped out after jumping on those boards over and over and over again, but it's hard to stop.  Even I was pulling the "oh, let me just catch a few more waves before we leave" line!

Building sandcastles never loses its charm

The same sandcastle on Hamoa Beach six years ago

Anyway, if it's your first time on "The Road" there are plenty of other places that are worth stopping that we skipped this time including the Venus Pool, the Pipiwai Trail, and Maui Cave Adventures/Ka'eleku Cave just to name a few.  Plan your trip around what you want to see and ENJOY IT!

And here are a few more pictures from past Hana adventures...

Skipping off to the Seven Sacred Pools

Finally actually swimming at O'heo Gulch
(and what do we have on our feet??)

Wailua Falls is between Hamoa Beach and Oheo Gulch

A hunter's road leads to Wailua Iki
(not sure we were allowed to be here!)

The End of Scenic Nahiku Road
 Well that is the end of our Hana adventure, and I've only covered the first day of our trip!  Look for upcoming posts about food and activities on both Kauai and Maui!

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