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My stomach flipped a few rounds as I dragged myself out of bed and towards the tour vans, regretting my last few drinks the night before. “There is no way I can do this trip unless I’m in the front seat,” I said to the guide Isaac, partially hoping for a swift return to my bed.

“Jump on in,” he said, opening the front door. And soon we were off on the first of forty miles worth of twisty turns, one lane bridges, and beautiful ocean views. We were off on Maui’s famed Road to Hana with the free Banana Bungalow tour.

The Road to Hana Tour

The Road to Hana Tour

The Road to Hana Tour

On of the most iconic trips in all of Hawaii, this tour takes on waterfalls, forests, and beaches of ever color of the rainbow. In this case, it’s definitely about the journey rather than the tiny destination town of Hana.

Our first stop was the hippie town of Paiai, where we fueled of on breakfast, coffee, and good vibes before breaking in Hookipa Beach Park to watch surfers and windsurfers alike tackle on of Maui’s most famous waves.

Road-to-Hana
Road-to-Hana

Next up? Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread, snacked on in front of the beautiful views of the Keanae Peninsula. I’m a bit of a banana bread connoisseur, and even a slight motion-sickness induced nausea couldn’t keep me from enjoying this treat.

The Road to Hana Tour

Though the road was intense — narrow and windy and packed with carfulls of gaping tourists — we stopped often, breaking up the journey and sampling just a fraction of the available activities and diversions. Our next breaking point, and my favorite stop of the day, was at Waianapanapa State Park. This beach boasts striking black sand, a beautiful lava tube and sea arch, and one of the craziest adventures of my time in Hawaii.

After hiking down a path to some fresh water pools, I took an adventurous jump in to cool off and thought that was that. Not so. With a flashlight between his teeth, Isaac led us through pitch black tunnels deep into the cave. Sometimes having to duck our heads underwater and swim, waiting for air in the promised chamber on the other side, sometimes having to tread water in blackness waiting for the rest of the group, it was a true trip of faith.

When I saw light at the end of a tunnel, I had never been so happy. It was exhilarating.

Road-to-Hana
Road-to-Hana

The Road to Hana Tour

The Road to Hana Tour

After our adventure, we were rewarded with some time at the lush beach. Beware — black sand gets hot!

The Road to Hana Tour

The Road to Hana Tour

Back on the road again, we passed so many waterfalls and views of the ocean that I stopped keeping count.

Road-to-Hana
Road-to-Hana

I felt that I could have kept driving forever on the winding path, but the next stop was well worthwhile — a barbeque pit lunch from a side-of-the-road food truck, where we were treated to some local music, and the company of the most adorable dog in town.

The Road to Hana Tour

The Road to Hana Tour

The Road to Hana Tour

Unfortunately, recent rains and high water levels derailed some of our plans. Normally, the tour stops at the Seven Sacred Pools and the Bamboo Forest, but both were inaccessible on the day of my trip.

The Road to Hana Tour

Instead, we went to another waterfall-and-swimming-point that meant meandering over a field and ducking under a bridge. Once at the coastline, we took turns cheering each other on, jumping off ever higher points.

Road-to-Hana
Road-to-Hana

The Road to Hana Tour

And lucky for me, I was able to return to this portion of the Road to Hana and explore the Bamboo Forest with blogger friend and local Hawaii expert . I’m including the photos here to show the full diversity and beauty of East Maui!

Road-to-Hana
Road-to-Hana

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Road-to-Hana
Road-to-Hana

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Road-to-Hana
Road-to-Hana

At some point in Hawaii you start to just become completely spoiled by beauty. For example, the white sand beach that we stopped at, I didn’t take a single photo! I didn’t whip out my camera again until the famous Kaihalulu red sand beach. The crimson-hued sand was a first for me, and I soaked up every minute of wiggling it between my toes.

The Road to Hana Tour

Road-to-Hana
Road-to-Hana

Suddenly, I was shocked to find that it was nightfall, and we were headed back to the Banana Bungalow. What a wonderful way to spend a sunny Hawaii day (unless you happen to suffer from motion sickness!) and what a shock that this incredibly valuable trip is just part of the free tour system at Banana Bungalow. And most mind boggling of all, we only brushed the surface of what there is to do along this wiggle on the Maui map. I can’t wait to return some day.

Have you ever driven the Road to Hana? What did you think?

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19 Comments...
  • Gaelyn
    January 10 2013

    You’ve definitely sold me on Hawaii. Just wish it wasn’t so expensive.
    Gaelyn recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 10 2013

      You and me both! I definitely wouldn’t have been able to make this trip happen had it not been for frequent flyer miles and my many family and friends in the area.

  • Lovely photos! I just did the road to Hana too. It was amazingly beautiful. My favorite stop (besides for banana bread) was the Black Sand Beach.
    Annette | Bucket List Journey recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 10 2013

      My only complaint: That sand was way too hot! I thought my feet were going to burn off!

  • Steve McKee
    January 10 2013

    My true road-to-Hana story.
    Christmas week, 1980 (maybe ’81). Noreen and I have flown down to Hawaii from Fairbanks, Alaska. Emplaned at minue-48, deplaned at -84.
    We meet up with friends from DC. With no advancve planning one afternoon we drive off in our jeep for the road to Hana. We’re maybe halfway down when I start reading the brochure, which warns to allow for a full day down and back. So we turn around and decide to do it the next day.
    And so we do. We see Carol Burnett’s House. Richard Pryor’s. Eat way expenxive lunch. On the way back we are stopping at all the various and spectacular vantage points. At more than one we meet up with some of the same people, everyone pulling over. This includes one couple, man and woman who are probably in their fifties.
    The day proceeds, the road gets too long, too turny, too windy, too leafy, but eventually we are back at our hotel room.
    We are watching the local evening news.
    “We tAke you now to Maui and the Road to Hana. A woman in her fifties, a tourist, was killed today when she and her husband pulled over to the side of the road at one of the many Road to Hana vista points and the woman opened her door and stepped out and over a cliff and fell hunfreds of feet to ocean below. Her husband later ha to be rescued half way down the cliff, as he had climbed down trying to get to his wife.”
    It was the woman we had seen at a number of the same stops we had done.
    And that’s my true Road to Hana story.
    Steve McKee recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 10 2013

      Steve! That’s a crazy story. How devastating. I can definitely see how accidents happen on this road… there were crazy drivers and so many cliffs and twists and turns. That would have chilled me to the bone.

  • jill
    January 10 2013

    Beautiful!! I’ve been to all of Hawaii island with the exception of Moloka’i and Mau’i – if Ive ever made it to Maui, the road of Hana is definitely the top of my list to do.

    • Meihoukai
      January 10 2013

      I have got to go back to Hawaii… I really want to ride the donkeys on Moloka’i! It was the only major island I didn’t step foot on.

  • TammyOnTheMove
    January 10 2013

    Wow, the black sand looks surreal. I can’t believe you jumped off that cliff. That looks so high!
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      January 10 2013

      Jumping off tall things is one of my favorites! I get a big adrenaline rush and I get to look like a badass, which I’m really not 🙂

  • Shaun
    January 11 2013

    Really diggin the bambo forest. Always wanted to trek through one.

    • Meihoukai
      January 12 2013

      It was truly amazing! Tricky to photograph, because there isn’t too much light, but definitely an amazing setting for a bit of a trek!

  • Tim Lara
    March 21 2014

    Did you try Stand Up Paddling?!! We went with and it was the best thing we did. Jason, our instructor was great and took photos of us with Sea Turtles!

    • Meihoukai
      March 21 2014

      I didn’t Stand Up Paddle on Maui, I just did so on Kaui! I wrote a post about it you can find via the search bar at right 🙂

  • Nishi
    March 22 2016

    Hi Meihoukai – Thanks for the fantastic post! Couple of questions: How difficult was the swim in that black cave? were u able to stand on your feet? Were there any non-swimmers in the group?I am a beginner level swimmer and am wondering if i will survive that.

    Thanks,
    Nishi

    • Meihoukai
      March 29 2016

      Hey Nishi — it’s not a swim I would recommend for anyone who isn’t totally comfortable in the water. There were definitely parts where I wasn’t touching the bottom and it being totally in the dark in some parts… I would perhaps sit this one out if I were you. There’s plenty else to enjoy!

  • Elaine C.
    November 7 2016

    Great article! I was considering doing road to Hana with Banana Bungalow myself, but I was wondering, would you recommend this to a beginner or non-swimmer? I have also never cliff-jumped before and I am afraid of having to do it!

    • Meihoukai
      November 7 2016

      Hey Elaine! The tour will change every week based on the driver, the weather and a bunch of other factors so I wouldn’t worry too much about any one aspect — just talk to the tour guide the day before and I’m sure they’d be happy to give you more details on what they have planned. Regardless, even if you have to sit out one of the activities, it’s not to be missed!