Now’s the Time for a Maui Vacation: Tips for Visiting Hāna

For my last couple of blog posts, I’ve been highlighting places to go and things to do here on Maui while Lāhainā recovers from the August wildfires. So far I’ve focused on South Maui and Upcountry Maui – now it’s time to hit the road to Hāna!

Let’s start off with why you absolutely have to make the time for Hāna if you’re here on the Valley Isle …

Located on the windward (east) side of the island on the slopes of the Haleakalā volcano, Hāna sees an average of 80 to 150 inches of rain annually (as opposed to, say, Kīhei, which averages less than 10 inches). Thanks to all that rain, the area stays lush and green and unbelievably gorgeous year-round.

And thanks to Hāna’s remote location, going there is like going back in time to simple, slow-paced, stunning “old Hawaiʻi.” To get from the north shore town of Pāʻia to Hāna, you’ll travel a distance of only 45 miles – but it’s 45 miles that include over 600 turns and nearly 60 bridges. Along the way, you’ll have incredible views of Maui’s northeast coastline, spot all kinds of wild and wonderful rainforest vegetation, and lose count of all the waterfalls.

Most vacationers try to squeeze a trip to Hāna into one day, which is doable if that’s your only option! But if you can, spend at least one night there so you can relax and truly enjoy one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

On the Road to Hāna

First, some basics: fill up your gas tank before you leave, pack some drinks and snacks, and get started early in the morning. As far as road etiquette, if there are locals behind you who clearly have someplace to be, pull over and let them pass! And when you come to one-lane bridges, the unofficial custom is to allow five to six cars to move through in a group before the cars on the other side get their turn.

As an aside, soon after you’ve left Pāʻia town on the road to Hāna, you’ll pass one of the top-rated restaurants in the world (Mama’s Fish House), as well as the windsurfing capital of the world (Hoʻokipa). Both are definitely worth visiting at some other point during your Maui stay! In fact, if you happen to go to Hoʻokipa in the late afternoon/early evening, you’re likely to see dozens of honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles) napping on the beach.

About 15 to 20 minutes into your journey to Hāna, you’ll see signs for the paid parking area ($10 per car) at my first recommended stop, Twin Falls. The lower falls can be accessed quickly and easily here, and even the hike to the upper falls (generally described as easy to moderate) totals only 1.8 miles in and out. You may want to hop in and enjoy a swim in one of the cool waterfall pools as part of your Twin Falls adventure – but even if you choose to stay dry, this is a great place to spend an hour or two surrounded by bamboo groves, banana and ʻulu (breadfruit) trees, ti plants, and endless varieties of hibiscus, orchid, and protea.

Next stop: a quick-but-scenic little diversion on the Keʻanae Peninsula. Keʻanae is a tiny, peaceful community where you’ll be blown away by the contrasts of the brilliant blue ocean, the black lava-rock coastline, and the vivid greens of the taro fields and other rich plant life around you. If you follow the road down to Keʻanae until it ends, you’ll find a park with bathroom facilities, and you can stretch your legs with a stroll around the grounds of the historic Keʻanae Congregational Church, built in 1860. On your way back to the highway, it’s an absolute must to stop at Aunty Sandy’s for some fresh, warm banana bread!

In the Heart of Hāna

It’s well worth your time to make a reservation to access the first must-see attraction in Hāna itself, Waiʻānapanapa State Park. There are cabins for rent within the park grounds, or you can choose to spend your allotted three hours hiking around the rugged sea cliffs on each side of the extraordinary black sand beach. While you’re on the beach itself, make sure to explore the little lava tube cave that’s to the right if you’re facing the water.

Fun fact: Hāna is also home to what was the first resort hotel on Maui! Built in 1946, the Hāna-Maui Resort was originally the six-room Kaʻuiki Inn. Even if you don’t have the luxury of staying there, you won’t be sorry if you set aside some time for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at the farm-to-table Hāna Ranch Restaurant.

Speaking of eating, make sure to stop in at The Bamboo Hale for excellent artisan pizza and fresh salads in island-style, open-air surroundings. Hāna also has a wide variety of food truck options, but the most authentically local lunch choice is just beyond town, at Huli Huli Chicken (at Koki Beach). “Huli” means “turn” in Hawaiian, so what’s referred to as rotisserie chicken on the mainland is known as huli huli chicken here.

But wait … before you leave Hāna proper, be sure to stop in at the over-100-year-old Hasegawa General Store! It’s the perfect place to replenish your supply of drinks and snacks, grab a couple of souvenirs, and get a true sense of life in this sleepy, one-of-a-kind community.

Just Beyond Hāna

Now let’s move on to the beaches! Koki Beach is a nice place to spend some time once you’ve finished that ʻono (delicious) huli huli chicken. Just a little further down the road, though, you’ll find Hamoa Beach, one of Maui’s true gems. Hamoa is known as the best body surfing beach around, but it’s also a standout because of its soft sand, great swimming conditions, and huge shade tree at the far end (which creates an ideal spot for a beach nap).

And finally, about 12 miles past Hāna town, you’ll find another of Maui’s most unique and remarkable attractions, the Pīpīwai Trail. Park in the paid lot for Haleakalā National Park to access this nearly 4-mile hike (2 miles each way) that leads you through an otherworldly bamboo forest to the spectacular 400-foot Waimoku Falls, with smaller waterfalls and a giant banyan tree along the way. If you have time to extend your visit to the area, you can also opt to make a reservation for tent camping at Kīpahulu Campground.

Once you’ve seen Maui’s magical east side, you’ll understand exactly why it’s often referred to as “heavenly Hāna.” If you’d like to learn more about things to do on Maui or finding Maui real estate, contact me today!

Pamela Reader, Realtor Broker

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