Few places in the world have terrain that shifts as drastically as the viewpoints on the 52 mile road to Hana on Maui’s eastern coast. The windy scenic road passes through dry desert, moon-like rocks, charcoal black sand beaches, epic waterfalls and verdant jungles.
It feels like one of those roads that you can drive through every day and still discover new hidden corners. Even as a Maui-born local, our guide Sierra Lerback is still amazed by the beauty on this long scenic path, and she took a few friends along for the wild ride. Rosie Jaffurs (just an island hopper flight away from Oahu) and San Diego-based Mele Saili were grateful to be sitting shotgun and passenger side to get an eyefill of the views.
From a local and a seasoned traveler, Sierra and Mele talked story about the best stops to pull over on the famous Road to Hana, and where to get the best kombucha on the island.
All photos by Luki O'Keefe.
What are your favorite special places on the Road to Hana and why?
Sierra: On our journey to Hana the Seea girls and I were lucky enough to visit some of the most beautiful places on the island including Waioka (mermaid looking pool next to ocean), Kaihalulu (red sand beach), a secret black sand beach, and to Kipahulu (big waterfall). These are a few of my favorite places in the world, full of beauty and secluded from the outside world.
Hana takes you back to old Hawaii and the simple life, it's the best place to go and forget all of your worries and leave with a clear mind. There's nothing like climbing from waterfall from waterfall with your friends, surrounded by nothing but lush green Forrest. It's a very special and sacred place to the people of Maui, and around Hawaii.
What is the history of the Road to Hana?
The road to Hana was one of the many original roads used to transport goods such as pineapple and sugarcane, with its perfect soil and tropical weather Hana was a place where all things thrived and provided sustenance for the people of Maui in the 1800s. Since then the road had completely changed and been paved over in most places, although the backside is still a one lane road, filled with gravel and dirt... Not the most friendly on a rental car either.
How does it feel to travel through all the different landscapes in a short distance?
Mele: Magical. That place just pulses with energy and life that I've never experienced anywhere else. It was incredible that Sierra grew up there and showed us so many hidden hangout spots, waterfalls, lookout points. And everyone knew her so we were welcomed pretty much everywhere we went.
Sierra: One minute you're on dry shrubby sea cliffs, then 20 minutes down the way you're in a lush tropical forest. The islands have so much diversity it teaches you to appreciate all kinds of beauty, whether it be the black sand beaches or the red volcanic rocks.
Mele, you've been to Maui before to visit your sister. What's the story of how she ended up there?
My sister Mikela and four girls from our home town in Pacific Beach decided one summer to move to Maui on a whim. They barely saved up any money and had little to no travel experience. I believe all they took was a suitcase of clothes, a surfboard, bathing suits, skateboards and a hammock each.
My family had bets on how long they would last... The first 6 months they camped in the jungle. She'd FaceTime me with a huge smile on her face but covered in bug bites from sleeping in a hammock in the jungle. People started recognizing them around town and would invite them over for drinks and dinners and an occasional couch to crash on. They eventually upgraded to a shave ice back stock warehouse for a bit and eventually moved into a house altogether after a year of adventurous homelessness.
In the '80s my mom moved to Maui to rebel against her parents and met my dad who moved there from Tonga, was just finishing up high school and working on his uncles banana farm. They met on a dance floor at the club one night.
Sierra, you and Rosie knew each other before this trip. Do all women surfers on the islands have strong relationships?
Sierra: Maui and Oahu are pretty similar in a sense, but here on Maui we don't have nearly as much of a city as they do. The culture is very similar all around Hawaii, people who love the islands and ocean.
Growing up and surfing in Hawaii you are always with the same group of girls, and it's so awesome because everyone is so supportive and encouraging to each other. It's like one big family.
Where did you get the best waves?
Sierra: We got a little bump of swell at Honolua Bay and surfed the inside break called Keiki Bowls, the rights were lining up perfectly and the girls were killing it. I've grown up at this break and it was so awesome to have all of us out here trading waves and smiles.
What recommendations do you have for visitors of Maui?
Sierra: Places to go/ things to do: Road to Hana, Haleakala, Paia town, Maui kombucha (best in the world!!) I'm addicted, Honolua Bay.
What advice do you have for travelers to Maui and the road to Hana?
Mele: Pull over for locals!
Sierra: For those who get carsick, it would be in your best interest to take a plane out and experience the beauty from the sky and save yourself the two hours of winding roads. But if you don't mind, it's well worth the journey.
Do's / Don't’s: Pull over for locals on the road. Don't steal flowers from stranger’s yards. Eat LOTS of poke. Pack it in and pack it out. Do your part to keep the beaches clean. Don't drop your keys in a cow pasture. Sooo bad haha crawling on all fours through the grass looking for them for a while! Sunscreen. All day everyday. Support local businesses!
All photos by Luki O'Keefe.
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