Sunday, December 18, 2016

Hawaii 2016 - Days 1 & 2 (12/3/2016 & 12/4/2016) - Road Past Hana

I had an afternoon flight from Seattle to Maui, arriving around 9:00 at night.  At the National Car Rental, their computer systems were down so (from what I could gather) they appeared to be giving all Emerald Aisle customers access to the Executive cars as well.  In any case, I picked a Buick LaCrosse.  I only mention this because I really enjoyed driving that car for the 3 days that I had it.

I wasn't sure if my T-Mobile pre-paid plan would have service in Hawaii, but the coverage turned out to be pretty good - I had LTE service upon landing.  I had downloaded the Maui and Oahu islands in Google Maps so that the data would be available for offline navigation - this ended up being helpful for some of the stretches where I didn't have service.  However, my phone's GPS did not position me well enough to do guided navigation to the Royal Lahaina Resort, where I was staying.  I therefore navigated based on the directions listing, with the GPS location only becoming good enough to follow my position about 5 minutes away from the hotel.  A reset of the phone the next morning fixed the positioning issues for the most part.

On Sunday morning, I looked up some breakfast places on Trip Advisor and decided to drive to Duke's Beach House which was at the Honua Kai Resort a little further up Honoapiilani Hwy.  To be honest, I'm not really sure why I didn't just eat at the restaurant at my resort.

I finished breakfast around 10:15am and took off for the Road to Hana, aka Hana Highway, having to get back to Kahului first.  The Hana Highway (routes 36 and 360) is about 65 miles long and connects Kahului to Hana along the north coast of Maui.  However, it takes about 2.5 hours to drive (with no stops) because it is very winding and narrow, with one-way traffic at many short stretches (e.g., crossing old bridges).  In addition, there are many scenic stops along the way that make the journey longer and more worthwhile.  Thankfully, this stretch of road is well maintained and makes for a smooth drive  There was light rain on and off throughout the late morning and afternoon, but did didn't deter me from making quite a few stops, including:
  • Hookipa Lookout - this was a great place to watch surfers below, and the waves were pretty good, though not huge (I'm not sure how they compare to the waves most days); the light rain didn't bother me too much here, and I assume it doesn't bother the surfers who are already in water; one of my favorite stops.
  • Twin Falls - a lot of cars stop here because it provides access to the first waterfall along the route; the waterfalls aren't super impressive, but it may be worth the detour.
  • Garden of Eden Arboretum & Botanical Garden - this may be worth the $16 if you're into trees (they had quite a few types labeled) and vegetation, but otherwise you should probably skip it - you can get similar landscape views for free.
  • Kaumahina State Wayside - nice to have a public toilet along the route; also provides a decent view of Nua‘ailua Bay.
  •  Ke‘Anae - I really liked the rocky shores there.
  • Somewhere in there I stopped for a late lunch at a group of roadside eateries.  I got a veggie taco from a place called Island Style Taco - I wasn't too impressed, but it at least provided sustenance.
  • Hana Lava Tube - I actually passed on going down into the caves because I was running out of daylight (it takes something like 30 minutes to go through) and I was a little scared to go in alone; I would have done it if I had company and more time.
  • Waianapanapa State Park - made a quick stop to overlook the black sand beach.
  • Hamoa Beach - there was a nice view overlooking it, but the beach itself wasn't spectacular, partially due to the rainy weather; there were some great waves coming in, though.

It was past 4pm by the time I reached Hana, and I kept going down the road, wanting to see a few more sights.  I stopped at Wailua Falls, which is one of a few that are visible from the one-lane bridge crossings, because it was on my list; really, I drove past it, parked, then walked back - I wouldn't suggest stopping at/on the bridge itself.

I made it to Ohe'o Gulch (and the Kipahulu Visitor Center of Haleakalā National Park) around 5pm, but decided not to stop and check out the natural features because the sunset was quickly approaching.  The roads had greatly deteriorated after passing Hana and I feared that the drive back would be pretty bad (I was about as far away from the hotel as could be possible on the island).  I was right to be worried - the road along the southeast coast of the island was awful.  It was highly deteriorated (parts were more gravel than paved, with potholes aplenty), narrow (i.e., one car width) for long stretches, and had missing/decayed guard rails at a couple of cliff edges.  Add to this the fact that the sun was setting, and I literally feared that I might not make it back alive, as I didn't know how long the stretch of bad road would continue.  After a very tense hour or so the road improved significantly as it turned inland - smooth pavement returned and there were no more winding turns.  It began raining around 6pm when it turned dark, but by then I was thankfully on the better road.

By the time route 31 connected to route 37 I was more at ease.  I made it up to Kahului then back to the hotel around 8pm, very grateful to be in safe and familiar territory.

Pictures can be found here:

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