Many say the Road to Hana is a journey not a destination. For some it is the highlight of their trip to Maui. For others, usually back-seat passengers, the trip from Kahului to Hana is stomach-wrenching torture. This road through Hawaii's Garden of Eden winds by numerous waterfalls under a canopy of tropical rainforest. There are hundreds of hairpin turns and countless one-lane bridges, making it tough to make safety a priority as fantastic coastal scenery begs you to look away. Just remember there is always a turn-out nearby to safely pull over for that snapshot.
So how long does it take to get to Hana? From Kahului to Hana allow anywhere from 2 to 4 hours each way. Roundtrip from Lahaina it is an all-day adventure. It can be done in a day, but it is better to stay in Hana for at least one day. I have made several trips to Maui and stayed in the West Maui resorts. But after discovering Hana, I much prefer the solitude and scenery of Hana's beautiful beaches and other nearby gardens and coastal cliffs. To be sure, Hana is not for everyone. There are no shopping centers, large hotel franchises or fast-food restaurants. But it is The Place to totally relax with plenty to see.
The best place to stay is at the Hotel Hana-Maui, but it is more expensive than lodging in Lahaina. On my first trip to Hana I was travelling alone and chose to stayed at the Popolana. It had a ocean view overlooking a black sand beach. A bargain in Hana at $130 a night, I didn't mind the small bed and ants when I turned on the shower. At least they cleaned the room daily. I would however recommend the Hotel Hana-Maui if money is no object. And as a hotel guest, you have access to their lounge chairs at Hamoa Beach which is rated as one of worlds' best beaches. A little farther down the road from Hamoa Beach is Venus Pool - a deep blue pool surrounded by cliffs near the edge of the ocean. See the photo below for the exact location as finding it is a bit tricky. It is just before the 2nd bridge after Hamoa Beach. you'll probably notice a few cars there by the bridge if arriving later in the day.
One of the most beautiful beaches in the world, located right in Hana is Red Sand Beach. It is hidden behind the Hotel Hana-Maui. Part of the trail is steep and along an eroded cliff, so tread carefully. This is a unique place surrounded by a massive red cliff wall. You can swim here if the water isn't too rough, but the bottom is rocky rather than sandy. I recommend wearing a life jacket or flotation belt here. Access to Red Sand Beach, also called Kaihalulu Beach, is from the south side at the back of the hotel.
If you want to see a nice black sand beach, head a couple of miles north from Hana to Waianapanapa State Park. This place is very popular as you can go snorkeling if the water isn't too rough. Many come here to hike the coastal trail and watch waves crash among the numerous lava coves. You may even spot a whale offshore. Be sure to wear sunscreen here as there is no shade along the coastline.
If you're trip consists of more than a scenic drive to Hana, be sure to drive ten miles further to the Ohe'o Gulch Pools, or 7 Pools, located at this section of Haleakala National Park. The 7 Pools cascade over waterfalls from pool to pool toward the ocean. This popular place is best seen before noon as it quickly becomes crowded as throngs of tourists make their way from Lahaina. Just another reason to make Hana an unhurried destination rather than a road trip.