The Hana Highway

Map to HanaSo you want to go to Hana.

It’s only 60 miles from Kihei to Hana but a round trip will take all day. Why? The last 40 some miles of the Hana Highway has over 600 curves – many of the hairpin turns – 46 one-way bridges, sometimes a lot of traffic, and many beautiful things to see along the way. Average speed is about 20 mph. That’s why it will take all day.

Tips: leave early (think sunrise) and plan on getting back after dark. (A moonlit night is nice.) Stop at lookouts and waterfalls so the driver can enjoy the trip. Share driving. If you can, spend the night in Hana or at the campground in the national park. Oh yes, if you’re prone to motion sickness, take meclizine before you go.

Ka'anae Peninsula as seen from Kaumahina Park

Ka’anae Peninsula as seen from Kaumahina State Park

The trip to Hana is about the journey, not the destination. The town of Hana is nice enough – you can get lunch there, buy some really expensive gasoline, maybe pick up a souvenir or two – but that’s not why you go to Hana. You go to Hana because of what you see along the way.

Surf off Ke'anae Peninsula

Surf off Ke’anae Peninsula

About halfway between Paia and Hana is Kaumahina State Park. It’s well signed and conspicuous on the mauka (uphill) side of the road. In addition to a fine view of Nua’ailua Bay and the Ka’anae Peninsula, it has some of the only public restrooms before you get to Hana. Two good reasons for a stop.

A side trip onto the peninsula makes a pleasant stop to admire the old stone church, stretch your legs and watch the surf.

Ching's Pool and Bridge

Ching’s Pool and Bridge

Inland from the Ka’anae Peninsula is Ching’s Pool and bridge. Very picturesque and a popular place for daredevils to jump from the bridge. The bridge is much higher than it looks in this picture and they say there are rocks in the vicinity where you might land. Jumping is NOT recommended.

Wailua Falls is a popular stop – not least because it’s right beside the road.

Wailua Falls

Wailua Falls

Past Hana is Koki Beach with a nice view of Alau Island. Once you’ve gone this far a trip to Ohe’o Gulch (aka The Seven Sacred Pools) in the Kipahulu portion of Haleakala National Park is worth the extra few miles. There’s a great hike from here too. See our post Hana – Ohe’o Gulch and the Pipiwai Trail.

Looking seaward from Ohe'o Gulch

Looking seaward from Ohe’o Gulch

Alau Island off Koki Beach Park

Alau Island off Koki Beach Park

For an alternate route to or from Hana see our post Hana – the Road Less Traveled.

Hana – the Road Less Traveled

Map to Hana - via Highway 31Many car rental companies on Maui say you can’t drive around the south side of Mt. Haleakala. Don’t believe them. There is a 10 mile stretch of well graded gravel road along the way but, unless the weather is extremely bad, any vehicle can safely travel this road. What the car companies really mean is that, if you get into trouble, they won’t come rescue you. Furthermore, since there is little or no cell phone coverage on this side of the island, if you do get into trouble, you’ll have to rely on the kindness of strangers for whatever help you might need. So there is some risk – but there’s some risk at the beach too.

A little west of the Kipahulu part of Haleakala National Park, the Hana Highway becomes Highway 31. As you travel west and turn north toward the Maui Winery at Ulupalakua it becomes Highway 37, the Kula Highway. It’s an alternate way to get to or from Hana.

Highway 31 is much different from the lush jungle-like Hana Highway. The waterfalls and hairpin corners are replaced by sweeping views of the mountain, ocean and, in the distance, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea on the Big Island. It’s a much easier on the driver and provides an experience of Maui not everyone gets to enjoy. Consider it on your next trip to Hana.

Hole in the rock

Hole in the rock

Alpenglow on Mt Haleakala

Alpenglow on Mt Haleakala

Ranch lands on the south coast

Ranch lands on the south coast

For other posts on Hana and east Maui, see Hana – Oheo Gulch and the Pipiwai Trail and The Hana Highway.

Hana – Oheo Gulch and the Pipiwai trail

Lower pools

Lower pools

The road to Hana offers many spectacular views but much more awaits those who venture from the beaten path. If you’re going to make one long stop, consider the Pipiwai trail. The trail is a four mile round trip up the Oheo Gulch through bamboo forests past spectacular waterfalls and pools.Vertical gain to Waimoku Falls, the turn around point, is 650 feet. Allow 2+ hours – more if you like to savor the sights at a leisurely pace.

River's end

River’s end

Sometimes called The Seven Sacred Pools, the lower pools on the Oheo Gulch are a VERY popular destination about 12 miles past Hana. But there’s a lot more than seven pools and there’s nothing particularly sacred about them. The name, “Seven Sacred Pools,” is just a marketing ploy someone dreamed up a long time ago.

Shady grove

Shady grove

The well marked trail head is near the visitor center in the Kipahulu area of Haleakala National Park. A three day park pass – which is also good for the summit – is $10. Wear good shoes and carry water. Note: the river is prone to flash flooding. Don’t go if it’s raining or threatening to rain.

For the drive to Hana, see our post The Hana Highway. For driving the an alternate route to or from Hana (i.e. the south coast of Maui) see Hana – the Road Less Traveled.

Banyon tree

Banyon tree

Bamboo forest

Boardwalk through the bamboo forest

400 foot Waimoku Falls

400 foot Waimoku Falls

Haleakala – Into the Crater (The Halemauu Trail)

Near the trail head

Dust in our eyes from the Sliding Sands Trail blew us off the top of Haleakala. We decided to try our luck with the Halemauu Trail.

The parking lot at the trail head is clearly marked just below the 8,000 foot level. We were greeted by a couple of overly friendly Nene. The composting toilet at the parking lot was spotless the day we were there – hand sanitizer and everything.

Approaching the crater

The first part of the hike is gently downhill through native scrub. While still a little windy, it was much more pleasant than at the top of the mountain – no dust and occasionally a little shade.

The steep part

The first approach to the crater’s edge is spectacular if somewhat daunting. The switchbacks in the photo below descend almost 1,000 feet to the valley floor. Click on the photo to enlarge and zoom in on it.

While not as common as on the Sliding Sands Trail, people ride horses up and down those switchbacks.

The round trip from the parking lot to the Holua Cabin on the valley floor is an arduous 8 miles. It can easily take 4 to 5 hours. Bring food and plenty of water. As with anywhere at higher elevations on Haleakala, bring layers of clothing. It can get very cold.

You’ll also want to bring your camera. The views of the Ko’ olua Gap and crater interior are spectacular.

For an easier hike with all sorts of amazing views, take the one mile hike to the end of the ridge jutting out into Ko’ olua Gap. We stopped there for a picnic lunch.

On top of the world

Click here to see our blog on the Sliding Sands Trail.

Haleakala – The Night Sky

The Milky Way above Mount Haleakala. Photo by Wally Pacholka as seen in mauimagazine.net

It’s said that a large percentage of the American population has never seen the Milky Way – especially young people. It’s just too bright at night in the urban/suburban areas where they live. Of all the generations of mankind that have ever lived, this is a recent, and somewhat sad, phenonmenon.

Fotunately, this is not a problem on Maui. Go anywhere on the island on a clear night where there are no bright lights shining in your eyes and, in the summer,  you can see the milky river of light of the Sagittarius arm of our spiral galaxy slicing across the sky or, in winter, the somewhat dimmer Perseus arm. (In the northern hemisphere in summer, we look toward the center of our galaxy; in winter in the opposite direction toward deep space. That’s why the Milky Way looks brighter in summer.)

In the photo above (which I wish I could say I took), Jupiter shines brightly below the arc of the galaxy disk. This is a time elapse photograph, so the Milky Way won’t look as bright to the naked eye; but it still will impress.

The best (and coldest) views of the stars on Maui are from the top of Mount Haleakala. There are serious research telescopes on top of the mountian – not like the world-class telescopes of Mauna Kea on the Big Island, but impressive nontheless. You can’t look through the big scopes, but you can look with your naked eye or, if you have them, binoculars or a small telescope. Even small binoculars will reveal a wonder of stars and (if you know where to look or are just plain lucky) other wonders of the night sky. Even people with very ordinary night vision can see the Andromeda Galaxy with their naked eye,  2.5 million light years away! With binoculars, other galaxies, ghostly nebula,  the moons of Jupiter, and brilliant star clusters await those with patience and a little knowledge or luck.

If you’re out on a clear dark night on Maui, stop somewhere dark and look up. You won’t be disappointed.

See our other posts on Haleakala titled Haleakala – The House of the SunHaleakala – Come Prepared, and Haleakala – Into the Crater.

Haleakala – Into the Crater (The Sliding Sands Trail)

Horse back riders on the Sliding Sands Trail

There are several great trails into the Haleakala erosion crater. If you click on the picture to the right you can see a line of horses and riders ascending the Sliding Sands Trail. It’s only when you see something like this that you get an idea of the scale of the place.

While this is all explained in the Maui trail book in our condo, the trail head is a short walk around the cinder cone on the south side of the parking lot. From the start of the trail it’s 2,500 vertical feet to the crater floor – so the hike down is pretty easy. The hike up is another matter. Depending on your physical condition and how you react to the thinner mountain air, it will take 1.5 to 2.0 times as long to hike out as it takes to hike in. Keep this in mind if you’re hiking later in the day. It gets dark (and cold) fast when the sun goes down. Even in summer it can be chilly in the shadow of the west rim of the crater in the late afternoon.

Haleakala Crater – Photo by Dick Morgan

As you can see from the photos, you are entirely exposed on this trail. Use sunscreen and carry water. We generally hike with a daypack with water, snacks, extra clothing and anything else we might need.

Consider adding a hike to your Haleakala experience. If you come early for the sunrise, you can hike in and out before lunch and then enjoy a meal in the Up Country. Alternatively, if you’re not into starting your day at 2 or 3 AM so you can see the sunrise, you can hike in the afternoon and time your return to see the sunset from the top of the mountain. It’s a whole lot like the sunrise, but without the busloads of tourists and people standing five deep at the best vantage points.

Speaking of sunrise and sunset, did you know that Haleakala means “house of the sun” in Hawaiian? To find out more, click here.

For another great (but harder) hike into the crater, click here to see our blog on the Halemauu Trail.

Haleakala National Park – Come Prepared

There’s lots to do on Mount Haleakala: hiking, biking, horseback riding, star gazing, watching the sunrise (or sunset), camping, birding, or just escaping the heat of the beach for a day.

Haleakala Crater – Photo by Dick Morgan

While you’re there or on the way, you have a good chance of seeing rare plants and rare birds and, at the top, a landscape not unlike the pictures from Mars. There is also a chance you’ll see nothing. If the mountain is shrouded in clouds, wait for another day. If you can see the top from outside our front door at Maui Vista, it’s worth a try. Even so, the weather on Haleakala can change rapidly and the erosion crater can fill with clouds in minutes. On the other hand, it can change for the better just as fast.

If you go, be prepared. According to the National Park Service, the average temperature at the summit is 17 degrees (Fahrenheit) cooler than at sea level. And that’s an average. It can be very cold especially at night and in the shadows. If the wind is blowing and you don’t have layers of clothing, you will not stay long.

In addition to the drop of temperature, several other things happen at 10,000 feet. First, many people feel light-headed due to the thinner atmosphere. Take it easy until you know how the altitude affects you. The thinner atmoshpere also means the UV rays are even stronger than at sea level. Fortunately you’ll probably be wearing more clothes than your normal beach wear, but remember to bring sunscreen. Finally, if you’re active, you may need more water than usual. There’s precious little water and no food at the summit. If you plan to stay a while, bring your own.

It’s about a two hour drive from Maui Vista to the top of Haleakala over good, but windy roads. It’s a National Park so, if you don’t already have a pass, there is a $10 entrance fee per vehicle. The pass is good for three days and includes the driver and all passengers. There are also things to do and places to eat in the Up Country below the park. (See our posts Kula – a Drive in the (Up) Country and Grandma’s Coffee House in Kula.) Make a day of it!

See our other posts on Mount Haleakala by clicking here and here.