Hana Highway

Hana Highway

On day five of our stay in Hawaii, we hopped in the car and headed for Hana.  The road to Hana is a pretty famous thoroughfare, known for its scenic vistas and waterfalls, as well as its cliff-hugging curves and decrepit-looking one lane bridges.  As it turned out, it wasn’t anything an Ozarks-trained driver couldn’t handle!  Craig was nice enough to let me drive since I get car sick, and on the few occasions that he did drive, I also found that I have a control issue when it comes to riding in cars in hilly/curvy conditions, especially when the car is being driven by someone more accustomed to 6 lane freeways and large truck driving.  I think what I am trying to say here is that we all have our driving specialities, and Hana Highway was made for me. Here’s  a little video of the road that Craig took as we got started:

On the way to Hana, we stopped in a few of the small towns along the way, but skipped most of the roadside hiking trails and waterfalls because they were packed with other tourists.  The roadway is already very narrow, and people had no problem pulling over so that 1/4 of their vehicle was in the ditch and the other 3/4 was still in the road.  No thanks.  We

Apparently you -can- get to heaven from Hana

Apparently you -can- get to heaven from Hana

did stop at roadside stands to partake in banana bread and coconut juice.   We also stopped at a couple roadside parks which actually had parking lots and not so nice restrooms.

We arrived in Hana around lunch time and stopped at a beautiful Waianapanapa State Park to eat our picnic lunch of goober pb&j on Hawaiian sweetbread and apples.  We perched atop a hill in a little grove of trees, watching the waves crashing on the rocky coast, birds cruising on the sea breezes, and visitors enjoying the small black sand beach. There is camping available in the park, so if we go to Hana again, we’ll be bringing our sleeping bags!

After lunch in the park, we stopped at the Hotel Hana Maui and visited their art gallery.  It was a

Hotel Hana Maui

Hotel Hana Maui

wonderful collection, and as soon as we win the lottery we’ll be heading back there to take some of the art home with us.  The grounds of the hotel were very beautiful, calm, and quiet.

From there we continued on down Hana Highway a little further, and happened, quite on accident, upon what is apparently the 2009 #5 best beach in the world, as ranked by Dr. Beach. Hamoa Beach is just a little past Hana on a very unsuspecting side road, but it is absolutely awesome.  The beach area and facilities are nice, and the water and scenery are beautiful.  We did a little bit of snorkeling here, but the waves were so nice and big that we quickly switched to body surfing.  Luckily the underwater floor at Hamoa is mostly sand, because we both got tumbled more than once. One wave picked me up and drug me backward, laughing all the way, depositing me in a sitting position on the beach.  I don’t think the locals were impressed.  We topped off our swim with some shave ice before hopping back into the car for the trip home.

On the way back to the north side of Maui, we were surprised to find most of the roadside pull-offs completely empty.  We stopped at one waterfall that was really nice, but after finding and following a trail next to the waterfall, we found that it lead to another set of falls.  We boulder-hopped up to those falls, and at the top found another waterfall three times taller than the first!  I’m sure this is all outlined in a million Hawaii guide books, but we had a sense of adventure

Chickens and Cats

Chickens and Cats

and discovery finding it on our own.

We also stopped at a roadside park that we had visited earlier that morning.  On our first visit, we had noticed a few “wild” chickens strutting around the picinic area.  On our second visit, the park was completely empty except for us, and instead of just a few chickens,  there was now a full-sized flock of not only chickens, but also cats foraging for

rainbow eucalyptus trees

rainbow eucalyptus trees

food.  I’ve never seen chickens and cats co-existing, so the whole scene was a bit bizarre to me.

Finally, in the last stretch, as our camera battery was dying from being on all day, Craig managed to snap a picture of these amazing trees that don’t have any bark, but their trunks and branches are covered in a rainbow of color.  Very cool!

After we came off the road to Hana, we decided to take a side trip to the Haleakala Crater, which is also a national park.  Haleakala is one of two volcanoes that formed the island of Maui, and since neither of us had been to a crater, we thought we’d check it out.  On the way up to the park, it became misty and started to rain on us, and the cloud cover made it very dark.  We felt like we had driven right into a fairy tale, and were keeping our eyes peeled for Robin Hood or the Big Bad Wolf to jump out of the towering forests on either side of the road.  As we continued on, we started up a series of 20-some switchbacks.  As we climbed, our surroundings changed from lush green forest to desert-like scrub and volcanic rock.  Eventually, we found ourselves in the sun again, because we had climbed above the clouds into an other-worldly place that we had not expected.  We climbed out of the car at the visitor center and found that we were freezing!  We wrapped ourselves in whatever towels and sarongs we had in the car, and ended up looking like a pair of shabby middle-easterners.  The parking lot was empty except for another couple dressed in garb similar to ours, and we laughed as we bolted past one another, running to see the different vistas on each side of the crater before we froze to death.  To the north we looked out over the top of huge white cumulus clouds to the setting sun, the bright fluffiness a stark contrast to the dark rocky ground we stood on. To the west and south side of the crater, there was no vegetation, only various shades of red and black rock, blended together down the valley like a painting that had gotten rained on before it could dry.  To the east, perched at the highest point of the crater was an observatory and research center, which looked like something out of Total Recall. We could not believe we were in such an amazing place and our camera battery was dead!  We did manage to eek one picture out of the camera before it shut itself back down.  Finally, after watching the sunset from the observatory parking lot with a bus load of Japanese tourists (who were enviably dressed in down coats and stocking caps!), we headed for home, tired, but ecstatic from all the amazements of the day.

The view from atop Haleakala

The view from atop Haleakala

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