I have always wanted to visit Maui. After many trips to Waikiki I wanted to explore further afield and finally booked a trip there. I considered booking a car and driving the road to Hana on my own, instead opting into a tour. After a lot of research, I chose the Heavenly Hana Tour with Roberts Hawaii and I am so pleased I did!
Here’s a short list of reasons reasons why a tour is best for the road to Hana:
- Local insights – where to eat, use bathrooms, best places to swim, secret places
- Local knowledge & stories – Hawaiian storytelling, local jokes
- You don’t have to drive those beastly roads! They don’t call it Death Road for nothing.
- You make loads of new friends
- You see all the stops and more
And here’s the slightly longer story and reasons…
Our hilarious guide, Bjorn, a tropical Hawaiian Viking picked me up from my hotel at 8am. Bjorn is a wonderfully dramatic and hilarious storyteller. His favourite word was Ono! He loves food (and so do I) – it’s all Ono! His fantastic commentary kind of reminds me of Jack Black and he’s probably the number one reason I suggest to do a tour. There are a lot of little quirks make Maui, Maui, and Bjorn helps you discover them all.
As soon as we were all on board, Bjorn shared around some local crystallised ginger for everyone to try and of course, in case they became ill on the windy roads that take you to the gorgeous Hana. Smart. Actually, Bjorn has ALLL the supplies. Sunblock, bug spray, water, juice, first aid etc… oh and bubbles! Everyone loves making bubbles no matter how old you are. And they make for epic photos!
We were gifted flowers and I learnt that a flower behind the right ear means single and in the left means taken. While we all took admired our flowers we were provided a bit of a history tour as we excited the airport area. What was the last sugar mill in Hawaii has just closed there and the last boat left just before last Christmas. There are 36,000 acres of sugar cane on Maui.
Through the sugar cane fields we made our way towards the greener parts of Maui. And man, is it green! Wild trees and vines grow everywhere, it’s a jungle out there… literally. A tropical jungle, surround by huge volcanic mountains, deep ravines and an always changing coastline.
Quick fact: the first medical marijuana dispensary in Maui just opened. Woody Harrelson bought the rights to grow distribute, harvest and sell weed on the island.
The seats on our minivan are plush, (not leather and sticky) with lots leg room and we are not packed in. We pass the surfing munks, – hilariously, if the surfs up the bell doesn’t get rung at the Monastery!
Our first stop is Ho’okipa Beach Lookout, right next to Paia, the surfing capital of pacific. This beach is more likely to be home to windsurfers with huge surf. While the beach was a cool site, I was super excited to explore the local delicacies at the park! A woman had set up with her mango bread which was a favourite with the locals. Even that early she had nearly sold out, so I bought a mango bread and a new flavour she was trialling, pineapple and coconut – yummm! A few paces to the right was the fruit stand. I ordered a fresh coconut to drink (how could I not?!) and grabbed some passionfruit and guava. I had never eaten guava just on its own before and the smell floating up from the fruit was intoxicatingly sweet.
Back at the minivan, Bjorn had laid out a lovely breakfast for us. Coffee, tea, some coconut and apple pastries and some fruit.
We continued on, stopping to take pictures of the view, at bathrooms and various points of interest with Bjorn telling us the stories of Maui the entire way. What a trooper! I loved the rainbow trees, similar to gum trees and when their bark falls way there are beautiful pastel rainbow colours underneath. We made a stop down by a wicked rough volcanic beach where we could get some shaved ice or a smoothie. Bjorn bought us banana cake there from Sandy’s, it was delicious and moist.
The lunch spot was stunning, Wainapanapa State Park complete with a blowhole, a cave, a stunning black sand beach and a cliff walk with black rocks contrasted by the bright green plants. Just beautiful. We explored then had lunch there, refreshing turkey and salad wraps with fruit and a cookie. While we ate we watched the Mongoose scuttle around, searching for food. They were introduced to keep the rat population down but unfortunately took a better liking for native birds.
We learnt about Maui cruisers which are older sedans that have parts missing. Locals drive them around until they die then dump it and get another Maui cruiser. They leave them on side of road and they eventually become a Maui cruiser BBQ! Someone throws a light on them and they burn away. We also learnt about how on the islands, everything has a medicinal purpose. Bjorn passed around some nuts that were good for constipation and some leaves that were good for the opposite!
Hana Town itself was lovely to explore, a tiny settlement home to the largest heiau in Hawaii. There’s not much there except a general store and a gas station. We made stops at stunning waterfalls, where the water was freezing from coming off the tops of the mountains – would you believe it actually snows there sometimes? I hopped in but only to my waist, I prefer the warmer waters of the beaches.
The roads to Hana are so incredibly narrow. I would not want to drive them. In many cases you have to find a place in the road wide enough for two cars (only just, a wheel might be on the brink) and even then you have to take the side mirrors in to squeeze past. I would not feel comfortable that close to a cliff with a tight squeeze with another car on the other side! Especially when it was a hire car. They say honeymooners often experience their first fight here on the roads as it’s so hard to drive. At one point we were driving up a hill, with an incredibly large drop right beside us. No barriers, nothing. They call it death road and I can see why. You’d have to have nerves of steel to drive there! At some points the road is so rough it shakes so much you think the bus might fall apart! Thank you Bjorn for keeping us all safe and driving where I would never find the courage to.
The Maui landscape is so incredibly diverse from the mountains, covered in dark clouds to the lush jungle, green and full of life (friendly – no snakes) to the blue-skied coastline, with red, black and white sand, from rough and rocky to beautiful and soft sand. I haven’t covered off many of the stops or things I learnt here, I will let the pictures do the talking.
*While this tour was gifted to Wander Wonder Wonton, this review is completely true and authentic. There’s no way I would drive those roads!!