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Hikes Along the Maui Hana Highway

Hikes Along the Maui Hana Highway


By avatar  Stacy
Posted On 05/31/2018 23:11:24
Trip Date 08/15/2017  

Destinations | Hawaii | Maui | Hana | Hiking | Bamboo Forest | Na'ili'ili Haele | Twin Falls | Sacred Garden | Kealia Pond



Continuing with our attempt to discover more "off the beaten path" sights, we headed toward northeastern Maui, best known for the Road to Hana. On previous visits we saw the typical "minivan tour sights" along the Road to Hana, so our plan was to drive only the first part of the road today, therefore allowing time for stops along the way. We wanted to get out of the car to see some of the more remote beauty that is hidden from the highway.

If you enjoy hiking, have access to transportation and are up for a little bit of adventure, read on for an overview of our day. This post will provide you with some ideas on exploring northeast Maui (including GPS coordinates for harder to find locations) - all for only the cost of fuel for your vehicle.


Bamboo Forest

We started driving clockwise along the Road to Hana looking for cars parked on the roadside between mile markers 6 and 7 (GPS: 20.881124, -156.204494). What began as a bright sunny day with blue skies was beginning to look less beautiful when a light drizzle started coming down just as we made our first hiking stop. Once parked, we took off on foot in search of a clearing in the Bamboo Forest with high hopes that we would not get soaking wet from any upcoming downpour. I had no idea what kind of hike I was in for, but I quickly learned that bamboo was my friend!

Our hike started on a muddy, very slippery and steep downhill path that, thankfully, was relatively short. It was on this entrance into the forest that I experienced how my new friend, the bamboo, could help me. To avoid slipping and sliding on downhill sections of the path, I could plant one foot against a green stalk of bamboo to brace myself while finding a safe (hopefully flat) spot for my next step. To help maintain my balance and prevent me from slipping and falling as I walked along the trail, I could grab a stalk (remember, only grab the green stalks) and hold on tightly (sometimes it felt like I was holding on for dear life) as I moved along - always hanging on to a stalk with one hand as I searched for the best stalk ahead of me for my other hand. Having the bamboo as my assistant, I was much more confident as we hiked.


Bamboo is My Friend!

Bamboo is My Friend!

Na'ili'ili Haele Stream

We soon came upon the Na'ili'ili Haele Stream which we successfully made our way across (unfortunately we were not wearing the best shoes for our hike). We continued onward following the path alongside the stream until we saw our first waterfall on this visit to Maui.


Na'ili'ili Ha'ele Stream and Waterfall

Na'ili'ili Ha'ele Stream and Waterfall

We encountered some hikers who were on their return hike and, after learning that there were several additional waterfalls, we kept on hiking. The second waterfall that we came upon was smaller than the first, but still beautiful.


Another Waterfall on Na'ili'ili Ha'ele Stream

Another Waterfall on Na'ili'ili Ha'ele Stream

On the side of the stream opposite the waterfall, we saw a path that appeared to be heading toward a forest exit. Since we had visions of completing several more hikes before the day's end, we turned around to head back in the direction of our car. We crossed the stream and wound our way back to the clearing where we entered . . . and successfully made it out without a rainstorm!


Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees

Before we continued on Hana Highway, we walked through the grove of Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees (GPS: 20.88173, -156.203707) on the opposite side of the road from where we hiked. Although there were posted "no trespassing" signs, since there were many others walking through the grove, we tested our fate to get a closer view. The many colors almost looked as if they were painted on the trunks of the trees - it's hard to believe that the colors truly were natural.


Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees

Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees

Kaumahina State Wayside

Winding along the twisty, turny, narrow Road to Hana with its many one lane bridges (yield to oncoming traffic!), we continued our drive until we reached the well marked Kaumahina State Wayside (GPS: 20.871421, -156.169137). Our stop at the wayside, located just past the halfway point between our starting point on the highway and the town of Hana, was well timed to give Scott a brief driving break and allow us to take in the view from the overlook. Leaving the parking lot, we stuck with our plan to reverse our direction to allow time for some afternoon hikes that we had passed along our drive (and missed during our prior visits).

Waterfall and Swimming Hole

On our way back toward our starting point, Scott maneuvered the car into a small roadside spot near a waterfall that we had seen just beyond one of the single lane bridges. We did two short hikes (one on each side of the bridge) through more bamboo to catch an up close view of the falls (and line of daredevils waiting to jump into the water). At the time of our visit, the best view (as well as the access to the falls) was from the trail to the right of the bridge.


Roadside Waterfall along Road to Hana

Roadside Waterfall along Road to Hana

Waikamoi Nature Trail

The only hike that we did today for which we easily found parking in a designated lot was the Waikamoi Nature Trail (GPS: 20.875442, -156.186525), a loop hike which both started and ended with a view of the valley and the ocean in the distance. While the hike was enjoyable, compared to our other hikes it was our least favorite of the day (and with the readily available parking, probably not a favorite hike of others).


Twin Falls

Our final hike of the day was to Twin Falls and, based on the lack of available parking in the lot (GPS: 20.912433, -156.243015), we were excited for what was sure to be our best hike of the day. (The lot with the snack stand near the trailhead was completely full and the nearest roadside parking spaces on the wide paved shoulder of the road required a "pre-hike" to get to the trailhead.) After hiking for less than a half mile on a well maintained gravel trail, we came upon a fork in the road (as well as several perfectly timed portable toilets). The sound of rushing water lured us off to the left (passing in front of the toilets) where we came upon views of several smaller waterfalls with lots of jumpers, swimmers and observers.


Twin Falls Cascading into East Maui Irrigation Ditch

Twin Falls Cascading into East Maui Irrigation Ditch

Ho'olawa li'ili'i

Backtracking past the toilets, we turned left to start the hike on the right fork. After a short distance, we came upon a gate with posted hazardous conditions warnings as well as a "do not proceed" caution to inexperienced hikers. Based on the fact that we had already completed several hikes today, we must be experienced, so forward we went. Just past the gate, the trail looked just like the trail before the gate - wide and gravel, so the difficulty really hadn't changed. We talked to several people on their way out and all said that the waterfall was beautiful, but they also confirmed that the hiking conditions did worsen.

We soon came to the point where we truly understood the warnings - an irrigation ditch that we had to cross. Since we were not wearing proper shoes for this type of hike, we took off our shoes and socks before attempting to cross. With footwear in hand, we successfully crossed the stream which was loaded with many sharp (and slippery) rocks. After balancing on a large rock to put our shoes back on for the remainder of our hike, we made our way over the concrete dam where we caught the view of Ho'olawa li'ili'i, often referred to as "Caveman" by the locals.


Ho'olawa li'ili'i

Ho'olawa li'ili'i

We're Not as Young as We Once Were!

We watched a few people jump into the swimming hole and quickly realized that if we wanted to make any other stops before dinner, we best begin our return hike. All started out well as we crossed the concrete dam and approached the stream. We removed our shoes and socks and I started across first - but this time I slipped pretty quickly, landing in the water. While trying to stand up, I lost my balance and landed in the water a second time. On my second fall into the stream, I took my camera underwater and lost my grip on my shoes and socks. Scott was able to grab my footwear which was fast approaching a drop into the ditch, and I was finally able to escape the water and return to my starting point.

I dried my camera, caught my breath and gained my confidence before attempting to cross again. My second crossing was more successful than my first, and other than a small cut on my left foot, I was all in one piece - and armed with the knowledge that I am not an experienced hiker (as well as another reminder that I am not as young as I once was)! Although also still in one piece, due to being submerged in the water, my camera would no longer turn on.


WARNING - Experienced Hikers Only!

WARNING - Experienced Hikers Only!

Tips for Hiking along Hana Highway

Although each of the Hawaiian Islands offer visitors natural beauty of their own kind, there is definitely something special about the Road to Hana. Full of narrow passageways, twists and turns, and plenty of one lane bridges, it can be a white knuckle experience for both drivers and passengers alike. Here's a few tips for your journey along the road:
  • Start with a very loosely planned itinerary so that you have the option of pulling off of the road when you see a viewpoint, hike, waterfall or other sight that you have an interest in exploring further.
  • Start your day off by being well prepared for your hikes:
      Wear good shoes for hiking and crossing through streams;
      If there is any chance that you might want to swim, wear a swimsuit under your clothes; and
      Bring plenty of water.
  • Take a look at this website if you are considering a hike in the Bamboo Forest for additional help in finding the entrance, more about what you can see in the forest, as well as for information on East Maui Irrigation (EMI).
  • The Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees can be seen from the roadway, however be very careful when stopping or parking. As the grove is located in a posted "no trespassing" area, exercise extreme caution if you attempt to get a closer look.
  • With a large parking lot, the Kaumahina State Wayside is a great place to stop, take a break from driving and enjoy the views - plus it has restroom facilities. Due to the narrow highway, making a u-turn on the Road to Hana is virtually impossible, and there are not many places to turn around, so the wayside also makes for a great turnaround point.
  • It goes without saying that you should honor all of the normal rules of the road including observing posted speed limits, wearing seatbelts and avoiding alcoholic beverages. Additionally, if you decide to stop for a longer look at a waterfall or other sight with limited or no parking, use extreme caution and ensure that you pull completely off of the highway so as not to be a hindrance to other passing vehicles.


The Sacred Garden

Albeit a little wet, I didn't let one little fall stop me! After finishing our Twin Falls return hike plus the post-hike back to our car, we ventured off to a destination that we found on maps.me, our favorite GPS app for traveling. The Sacred Garden (460 Kaluanui Road; Makawao, Maui, HI 96768), a non-profit nursery, was filled with orchids, succulents and tropical plants plus ferries, statues and paintings representing a wide variety of religions. Additionally there were various other decorative garden accessories along with a variety of stress relievers including complimentary tea, journals, two labyrinth walks and even space for visitors to paint or just plain meditate / relax.


The Sacred Garden

The Sacred Garden

Kealia Pond Natural Wildlife Refuge

Wrapping up our rather full day, we stopped to take an evening stroll on the boardwalk at Kealia Pond Natural Wildlife Refuge (GPS: 20.795458, -156.485256) which we had driven past multiple times daily since our arrival on Maui. Lined with photos and educational reading displays, the wooden boardwalk was easy to walk along (even in the heavy winds we experienced in the early evening), had beach access in several places and provided a nice place for viewing the visiting birds.


Kealia Pond Natural Wildlife Refuge

Kealia Pond Natural Wildlife Refuge

If you are considering a visit to the Kealia Pond Natural Wildlife Refuge and are also contemplating spending time at the Maui Tropical Plantation or Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, try to plan your visits on the same day as they are clustered relatively close together.


My Camera Saga

After allowing about six hours of drying time, I started receiving a "lens error" message each time that I tried to power on my camera - at least it was attempting to turn on by the end of the day. I'm sure glad that we almost always travel with two cameras. I'll keep my fingers crossed that by our morning wake-up, my camera will wake up as well!

Northwest Maui

If you are looking to explore more of Maui, consider heading west to see some of the island's natural attractions. Our post titled "Northwest Maui: Natural Beauty and Snorkeling with Honu" will give you some starting points for planning a day that you will thoroughly enjoy.

Unexpected Hiking Experiences

We would love to hear about an unexpected experience that you had while hiking. In the comment section below, please share where you were hiking, what happened and whether you do anything different as a result of your experience.




Total FitBit steps today: 13,782
Weather:86F Partly Cloudy


Hikes Along the Maui Hana Highway



Related Stories  

   It's Named Turtle Town for a Reason!   It's Named Turtle Town for a Reason!

   Northwest Maui: Natural Beauty and Snorkeling with Honu   Northwest Maui: Natural Beauty and Snorkeling with Honu

Created On 05/28/2018 12:55:02  
Updated On 10/14/2018 23:23:27
Scheduled On 05/31/2018 23:11:24
Posted On 05/31/2018 23:11:24
Last Editor Stacy
Location  Bamboo Forest (Na'ili'ili Haele), Hana, HI, United States
LinkId  HanaHighwayMaui
StoryId  1527526502695





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