Vacation to Maui • Driving the Road to Hana • Day 3 • January 4, 2018
Our last day on Maui started off bright and early by walking to Kuloa Point to watch the sunrise. The evening before, it had been crowded with people, but this morning we had it all to ourselves. We ate breakfast and watched as the sun lit up the sky, and admired the pastel silhouette of the Big Island. In case you haven’t picked up from the fact that we’ve mentioned the Big Island in every post, we are excited to visit that one someday and conquer those high peaks! After the sun had risen, we made our way to the Pīpīwai Trail, which is a popular 4 mile trail in the Kīpahulu district of Haleakala National Park.
If you’re looking for a relatively easy trail that has a variety of highlights along the way, this is definitely one to hike! It follows a stream back into a lush jungle with all sorts of tropical plants. Since we’ve had a few months to learn about the flora of the Hawaiian islands, we were able to point out what most of the plants were. There are a few points along the way where you can stop and see waterfalls and walls on the opposite side of the stream, but these waterfalls were pretty dry the day we were there. As you continue, you’ll come across a big, impressive banyan tree. We took a few minutes to wander around it and marvel at all the roots and branches. However, as crazy as it sounds, this one wasn’t even the biggest one we’ve seen. After crossing the stream a few different times over some bridges, we entered the bamboo forest.
I knew that the trail ended at Waimoku Falls, but given that the previous waterfalls we had passed by were barely a trickle, I wasn’t expecting to see much. We were not only pleasantly surprised, but also completely blown away by the sheer size of the falls — 400 feet tall! It was incredible, but still amazing to know that this isn’t even the tallest waterfall in Hawaii. This one also ties for first on tallest waterfalls we’ve had the pleasure of seeing (Raven Cliff Falls in SC is also 400 feet tall, and our second place goes to Bridal Veil Falls in Telluride, CO at 364 feet tall). We made it to the end, and there was one other couple there, so we exchanged pictures. It was definitely a good idea to hike this early in the morning before the crowds though — the viewing space for the falls is very small and I imagine would get crowded later in the day.
We made our way back to our campsite, packed up the tent, and started our road trip on the Hana Highway. There are so many places to see, but we hadn’t done much research besides letterboxing and both of our phones were dead. We decided to just go at our own place, stop when we felt like it, and enjoy our last day on Maui.
Our favorite stop of the day was at Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach. We went out in search of letterboxes, but instead of finding those we found dramatic views of the black sand and vibrant colors all around. It’s not really sand, just very small pebbles and stones that are volcanic rock. This is no hidden gem, there were many people at the main beach that morning, but once we started walking on the trail past the beach we left most of the people behind. We followed the trails looking for a letterbox until we were far from the beach and all by ourselves. We gave it a good try, but gave up in the end. While Curtis was searching for the box, I noticed what looked to be a cave, and we went down to explore it together. There were 3 openings in what I believe is a lava tube, with the different layers of rocks evident by the change in color, going from black to brown to red. It was a beautiful contrast to the bright blue waves crashing into the “cave”.
We attempted one more letterbox on another trail on the opposite side of the beach. Once again, we didn’t find this one, but we did find a coconut which Curtis cracked open by banging it against rocks, and we enjoyed the fresh snack as it was now into the afternoon with the sun beating down on us. We’ve cracked open coconuts before the “civilized” way, but this was our first time really foraging and enjoying one in the wild.
Once back at our car, we continued our drive West. While this road is definitely more paved and reliable than the Pi’ilani Highway, the mere fact that there is much more traffic might make it just as “dangerous.” Most of the bridges are one-lane, but you can actually see if there is oncoming traffic which makes it safer than the Pi’ilani, but there were some narrow curves along the cliffs where some seemed to struggle with staying in their lane. We made a few more stops to see different waterfalls along the side of the road, and one last stop for a short loop trail where we admired different large trees and attempted one last letterbox.
We made it back to Kahului and went to Da Kitchen for one nice meal together. My favorite thing that we ordered was actually the appetizer — fried spam musubi, our first spam dish on the islands! We had a few hours to kill before our 10:30pm flight, so we drove to a nearby beach to just sit and watch the waves and surfers as the sun set. We walked over to the water, still in our hiking boots, and tried to stand as close as we could to the waves rolling in while not getting our boots wet. I would always chicken out when the wave looked like it would get close enough, and Curtis ended up getting wet a few times. It was a silly game, but it had us laughing until our stomaches hurt.
Finally, we said goodbye to Maui and took the short flight back to Oahu. We enjoyed seeing lights and making out the towns on Molokai, and recognizing much of what we saw on Oahu from the air, even in the dark. Within an hour of landing, we were safely back in our home, reunited with Charlie, thankful and honestly amazed that this trip had gone so well. What a good start to our island hopping adventures — here’s to many more!