Hawaii Vacation: Road to Hana and Oheo Gulch

The last time I posted, we were bracing ourselves for a massive snowstorm. Said massive snowstorm came and went, but winter is still gracing us with presents every day. Wind, rain, freezing rain, sleet, ice, black ice, wintry mixes and the most-talked-about phrase of the season, the polar vortex. How many different words do you really need to describe downright cold? And so recapping our Hawaii trip continues to be my saving grace as the first month of the year closes out and February rolls in.

Day 6: Road to Hana

All the tourism sites tout the Road to Hana as a must-see, must-drive, must-do. So naturally, I put it on our to-do list. My dad wasn’t so sure though. Everything he had read and heard said the Road to Hana was an arduous trip, and a long one at that. He preferred to spend a full day seeing other Maui attractions, but my persuasive daughter powers persisted, and in the end, Mom and I convinced him to give the Road to Hana a go.

If you aren’t familiar, the Road to Hana is a 68-mile stretch of highway along Maui’s rugged eastern coastline that boasts a whopping 620 curves and 59 bridges. The drive is a total of two and a half hours without stopping, but the whole point is to make numerous stops. At various points throughout the drive, you can see waterfalls, hike through lush tropical forests, gawk at rainbow-colored eucalyptus trees, stop at a roadside fruit stand, view the ocean from a high-in-the-sky overlook, watch windsurfers dominate the waves and so much more. To do it all in a day is literally impossible.

In true Sarusal fashion, we got a late start in the morning. We eventually hit the road, headed toward the town of Paia, where we dined for lunch the day before. Minutes later, that’s where the Road to Hana officially began. I spent most of my time with my nose in a tablet, trying to figure out which stops would be best for us to check out. Not the best idea when you’re sitting in the back seat, rounding 620 turns every which way. Motion sickness quickly settled in.

The only cure was to actually make a couple stops, so I could actually get my bearings. We pulled over to the side of the road at one point, where some tourists were embarking on a trail. We only stayed a few minutes to get some fresh air and did the same near an arboretum not much farther on the drive.

Our first actual stop where we saw something worthwhile was the Keane Peninusula. Nothing but craggy stretches of volcanic rock, extending off into the distance beside a vast blue ocean. Mikey and I immediately came upon some black crabs that blended seamlessly into the rock. Good camouflage.

Less than a mile from this stopping point, there was another picture-worthy site of the Keane Peninsula where more cars were gathered to watch the waves pound into rocky terrain. We captured some of our best photos here. Words can’t describe how stunning it was. I could’ve stayed there all day.

Once Dad and I had our fill of photographs, we hit the road again and made another little stop at an overlook.

road to hana overlook

road to hana overlook

Then, it was back at it again until we came upon Waikani Falls, also known as Three Bears Waterfall. Dad was getting very irritable with the other tourists at that point. Many of them were blatantly avoiding the “no parking” road signs, making it difficult for other cars to pass. We found a parking inlet around the bend from the falls and walked on the side of the road until Waikani Falls came into view.

We spent a good deal of time at Waikani Falls. Took lots of pictures and witnessed an angry local call the cops on all those tourists who were illegally parked until we eventually decided it was time to move on.

At that time, it was starting to get late in the day. We decided to forego the rest of the stops on the Road to Hana in order to make it to Oheo Gulch before close.

Oheo Gulch is a series of swimming pools, fed by waterfalls. It is part of the National Park Service, so expect to pay a $10 fee per car upon entering the park. You may also hear Oheo Gulch referred to as the Seven Sacred Pools. But there’s nothing sacred about them. Locals will tell you the name is just a marketing tactic. Props to the copywriter who came up with that one.

We didn’t spend much time at Oheo Gulch, but it was a great way to end the day. With all the twists and turns and braking and accelerating on the road, it was nice to be on solid ground. Mikey and I swam through some of the pools. (Careful climbing on all those rocks. They’re slippery suckers.) And as is always the case, Dad took pictures and Mom found a breezy area to catch some quick zzzz’s.

Although many tourism sites will tell you to avoid driving back at night, Dad thought it was a piece of cake. You get the benefit of less cars on the road. Dad ultimately admitted that Road to Hana wasn’t nearly as challenging as everyone says it is. The tourism sites probably have to say it is, so that off-islanders know to use extreme caution. But to someone like Dad who grew up on an tiny island, he didn’t think much of it. It was a lot like driving on Guam.

Dad got us safely back into Paia. We were all starved at that point and found a little Thai restaurant, called Bangkok Cuisine in Kahului to fill our grumbling tummies.

Hawaii2013B_179

Overall, I have to say that the Road to Hana wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Yes, part of the reason for my poor experience is because I was nauseous the whole time. (Seems to be a theme for the trip as evidenced by my surfing post and the Haleakala post that’s in the works.) Or maybe it’s because we’ve done coastal drives before. In fact, that’s a common activity back on Guam. “Hey, let’s go drive around the island.” And driving around Guam is better because you can literally drive around the entire island in less than a day. Aside from the nausea though, I wasn’t overly wowed by what we saw on the Road to Hana, with the exception of the Keane Peninsula. Now maybe that’s because we didn’t make nearly enough stops as we would’ve liked, which brings me to my next point…

Would I ever drive the Road to Hana again? Maybe, but leaning toward the side of no. The only way I would do Hana again is to spread it out over a couple days. I’d need to stay overnight somewhere to break things up. To do it in a day is frankly, too rushed. And next time, I absolutely positively need to remember to bring the Dramamine.

Next up: visiting the summit of Mount Haleakala.

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3 Comments

Filed under Travel, Vacation

3 responses to “Hawaii Vacation: Road to Hana and Oheo Gulch

  1. Shirley

    Your pictures were lovely, especially to a “green” starved Michigander like me! We have had over 80 inches of snow so far this winter and it is only Feb.1! Thank you for allowing me to remember what lush green looks like.

  2. Pingback: Hawaii Vacation: Mount Haleakala | Everything Glitters

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