Despite being to Maui a number of times, the wife and I have never been to Hana. To be honest, I had never really been interested in making the drive. But, the wife did want to check out the Pipiwai Falls hike, so I made a Hana road trip a priority for this trip.
The drive to Hana via the famous/infamous Hana Highway takes about 2.5 to 3 hours without stopping. Originally we would have taken our time on this Hana road trip. But given the outstanding upgrade we were given, we kind of wanted to get back to the hotel ASAP. So we decided to set out early, around 7am, and make no stops along the way. In a way I regretted that decision, as there was much to see, but there’s always a next time.
We did make it into Hana about nearly 3 hours of driving. Even at that early hour, there were quite a few cars already on the road, but it wasn’t gridlock yet. We stopped in Hana for gas at the Chevron station across from Hasegawa General Store. From there we continued on into Haleakala National Park’s Kipahulu District.
After paying the entry fee, we headed to the parking lot. Even at this early hour, it was nearly full! So if you want to check out the hikes in Kipahulu, I definitely recommend coming as early as you can.
After a quick stop for a bathroom break, we were on our way. Round trip, expect the hike to take 2-3 hours. Depends how much you want to stop along the way to take in the sites, rest, etc.
Despite the pictures we’ve seen online, the Pipiwai Trail is primarily made up of inclines. This starts immediately at the trailhead with a set of stone stairs you’ll need to ascend.
Once at the top, you’ll need to cross the road.
From there you’r ascent will continue, and eventually you’ll come across the first point of interest.
Peering into the valley, you may be able to see Mahakihu Falls. The falls is rather far from the look out, but looks like it would have been an interesting sight.
of course, this time around the falls was completely dry. I supposed I should have know better. Maui has been under drought conditions for quite some time.
Continuing on, the next point of interest will be the banyan tree.
The banyan tree is an awesome sight and unlike any other you’ll see in the state. Even it’s sheer size is pretty incredible, look at the people to the lower left. Thanks to the shade the tree provides, this is a great point to stop for a little break, too.
Following the banyan tree, you’ll ascend further to your first crossing over the Pipiwai Stream and into the bamboo forest.
The initial part of the forest is made of more stone steps and you continue up Haleakala’s slopes. Eventually, though, the trail will level out a bit as you approach the boardwalk portion.
The bamboo forest was my favorite part of the hike, not only because it was shaded, but because of the sounds. The bamboo lightly crashing into each other in the wind was very soothing. It was still pretty hot, though, thanks to the humidity. And though I was wearing hiking shoes, they didn’t grip well not the boardwalk, so I nearly fell a couple of times.
Eventually you’ll emerge from the bamboo forest and find yourself in a rainforest. At this point, you’re very near the falls and will begin to see it through the trees.
At the end of the boardwalk, you will have to cross over Pipiwai Stream once more, though there’s no bridge this time. The level of the stream will depend greatly on the amount of rain that has fallen in the area. During our visit, the stream was minimal and neither of us got wet. Unfortunately, that also meant that Pipiwai Falls was also, uh, very light.
After snapping a few pictures at the falls, we headed back down. The hike down wasn’t a whole lot easier than the hike up thanks to the heat and humidity, but we made it back down pretty quickly. From there, we jumped back into the car and headed out. Not wanting to deal with the gridlock returning the way we came, I decided to take a chance and drive back on the Back Road to Hana, also known as the Piilani Highway.
A goal of mine was to actually find Charles Lindbergh’s grave site at the Palatal Ho’Omau Congregational Church. Unfortunately, there’s ZERO signal out in Hana, and I couldn’t get Google Maps to load anything. I hindsight I should have downloaded all the offline maps, but I didn’t. Oh well… There’s always next time right? We did, however, come upon this nice church along the way.
Huialoha Church is seemingly in the middle of nowhere, but was a great place to stop and stretch our legs. The church also had outstanding views of the Kaupo Gap.
Once you’re at this stage of the drive, the road is generally two lanes and not too bad, but is largely unimproved. Visibility isn’t the greatest, so watch out!
The views, while arid, are quite spectacular, though. As you may remember from Mr. & Mrs. J’s post on their drive to and from Hana, you will come across this dry stream that you’ll need to cross.
Nearly all of the stream crossing and bridges along the Piilani Highway will be single lane. Visibility is generally better than the Hana Highway, so in that sense going this way isn’t quite as bad.
You’ll gain elevation the further east you drive, and eventually you’ll end up in Ulupalakua. Here you’ll find Maui Wine and the Ulupalakua Ranch Store.
Having already visited Maui Wine on our last trip and being hungry this time, we decided to checkout Ulupalakua Ranch Store. After shopping around a little, we ordered some burgers.
I had a simple Maui Cattle burger, while the wife opted for the Maui venison burger. Both were good, the venison had just a tiny hint of gaminess to it. The burgers were done to our requested temperature, but they weren’t rested before serving, so they were really hot and the juice kind of ran out.
From lunch, we took a straight shot back to Kihei, which was about another hour’s drive. Once there, we detoured one final time prior to arrive back at the hotel for some Ululani Shave Ice.
I went with tamarind, guava, and lilikoi/passion fruit, while the wife got the sour mix.
After our shave ice, we headed back to the Andaz Maui, ending our Hana road trip. We were tired from such a long day, but it being Valentine’s Day, decided to do something romantic and took a little sunset walk along the beach.
The sunset was gorgeous that evening and was a perfect prelude to dinner. Having had our official Valentine’s dinner the previous night at Ka’ana Kitchen, we opted to dine at the down defunct MiGrant at the Wailea Beach Marriot that night. To get there, we took the Andaz’s complimentary intra-resort shuttle.
Since the restaurant has since closed, I won’t go into any details. I will say, though, that the food was good, the drinks were “meh” and the service was decent.
Migrant was the brainchild of celebrity chef Sheldon Simeon. You may remember him from Bravo’s Top Chef. The restaurant was Simeon’s take on local food with a Filipino flair. Our orders were a little hit or miss, but were largely good.
My guess as to why the restaurant closed is due to the resort’s top-to-bottom renovation project. Fortunately, Simeon has opened a new casual takeout spot called Tin Roof.
After dinner we called the number provided to us by the Andaz and they sent a shuttle to pick us up. We had to wait 20 minutes for it to arrive, but we were treated to a fireworks show from the nearby Grand Wailea.
Like Mrs. J, I felt that the Hana Highway was nice, but too crowded. The back road to Hana was also beautiful in a very different way, and not nearly as crowded as the “regular way.” But, it was, uh, scary at some points. To say that some portions were a white-knuckle experience would be an understatement. That being said, I’d take the same route we did this last time again next time. I’d probably opt to stay in Hana one night too to maximize our time there.
Our Valentine’s Day wasn’t your normal Valentine’s Day to say the least, but it was still a good one!
Valley Isle Love
- Hawaiian Extra Space HNL-OGG
- Lavender farm among the clouds
- Review: Andaz Maui
- Andaz Maui Dining Guide
- Hana Road Trip