The Road to Hana

In my last Hawaii post I told you about our trip to Haleakala National Park. What I didn’t realize 22 years ago was that there is another entrance to the park that is only accessed on the Road to Hana, after you pass the town of Hana. Within that more remote part of the park was the other main reason why I wanted to return to Maui.

The Pools of ‘Ohe’o have been more commonly referred to as the Seven Sacred Pools. The National Park Service and the state of Hawaii are trying to teach us the actual name, but you know how we are. Also, there are many more than seven pools, especially depending on how rainy it has been. Legend has it that they got their familiar name in the 1940s from an employee of the Hotel Hana-Maui to market this then-secret place to tourists. I must say – it worked!

I first heard about this special location in the 1994 movie IQ. Meg Ryan dreams about going there on her honeymoon. She muses that swimming in the Seven Sacred Pools is said to feel like “a million kisses on your skin” because of how aerated the water is. That does sound special, and the definition of the word “‘ohe’o” just happens to be “something special.” I suppose the actual name Pools of ‘Ohe’o would not exactly have rolled off Meg’s tongue in the movie dialogue, but my interest was piqued, so I’ve been wanting to see this area since 1994. (Not enough to figure out how to see it in 2020, though. I blame that on having teenagers at home, limited brain space for planning, and eternal fatigue. Plus, there were no iPhones.)

Before you pretend to get in our rented jeep with me and see the sites – a little background on the parks. In 1916 Hawaii National Park got its official designation. It included Haleakala on Maui and Hawaii Volcanoes on the Big Island. It took until 1961 for them to figure out that this was just weird and that’s when they were separated into two distinct parks.

On October 3, we climbed into our yellow rental jeep and began our journey. Maui’s Road to Hana meanders roughly 60 miles. Once on the road, you turn left, then right approximately 617 times before you arrive in Hana – about three hours later. There are many blind turns and 56 bridges, several of which are one-way only. It is not for the faint of heart or those who easily get car sick. But it is amazingly beautiful.

As soon as we got on the road, it began to rain, and it continued all day. Bob and I had done this part of the trip before, so that lessened the disappointment. We downloaded the shaka guide, which kept us on point as to what we were seeing. He tells you when to stop and when to drive past and gives some history mixed with Hawaiian music along the way. He makes sure you get banana bread as this seems to be an integral part of the trip. This is a current version of audio tours – quite an improvement over the cassette tape we had in 2000.

I chose to do my sightseeing mainly through the car window, but Bob would get out and do short walks. The waterfalls were fully on display due to all the rain, so there’s that.

The sea was rough that day (as seen through the car window).

We had a (required) reservation at Wai’anapanapa State Park, which is just a few miles from Hana, from 3-6 PM. Thankfully, the rain had stopped. Wai’anapanapa means glistening waters. It is home to one of the famous black sand beaches and has stunning views. Among the beauty on display there was a Hawaiian monk seal. He was going through the molting process so he wasn’t too energetic. He was guarded but fine to pose for pictures.

Years ago mongoose were brought to the islands to combat the rat problem in the sugarcane. The problem was not solved as mongoose are diurnal and rats and nocturnal.

Water shoes are obviously necessary here as the black sand and volcanic rock don’t exactly squish between your toes.

The dry weather that was forecast for the following day, magically appeared and we were ready to embark to our much anticipated destination – the Seven Sacred Pools Pools of ‘Ohe’o. Staying in Hana for the night is a good idea if you want to do the entire loop in daylight.

This sign reflects the island mentality. No matter that it’s leaning. It’s all good.

We stopped for coffee, Hawaiian style and began the ten-mile drive to Haleakala National Park.

We heard rumors that we would not be able to complete the entire road because of the rains from the day before. Undaunted, we climbed into our trusty jeep

Pipiwai Trail is said to be one of the most beautiful trails in Hawaii. We decided to do it second. All energy available must go to seeing those pools! After we saw the pools, we headed onto the Pipiwai Trail. This is what it looked like – so beautiful and so many roots to trip over. We happily turned back in keeping with our main goal of not injuring ourselves.

The first glimpses of the pools were captivating, and it just got better and better as we walked along the water’s edge. Here we spotted another Hawaiian monk seal enter the water from the beach. Here I just wanted to sit and be still while I took in all the beauty. You must go there if at all possible!

When Bob was able to pull me away, we slowly walked back to the trailhead and wandered through the park. It’s magnificent. When we left the park, the ranger told us that the road was out ahead, but you never know, it may be fixed before we got there. We were game. We passed several fruit stands along the way.

Our inevitable end of the road soon appeared. We did a u-turn and headed back the way we came. It was disappointing but it was hard to be too upset given all the beauty we had seen on the Road to Hana. Plus, with this being a sunny day we could stop and see the rainbow eucalyptus at the Keanae Arboretum. We had seen them 22 years prior and they continue to stand out as one of my favorite Hawaiian things.

It is so grievous to deface these lovely trees, but I wanted you to see a close-up of how beautiful the colors are.

Take time to smell the eucalyptus!

We were near the end of our journey and the Shaka Guide told us to pull over one more time. This is a beach where women’s surfing competitions take place. Parasailing and windsurfing, as well as regular surfing, were all happening as we cast our eyes down the beach.

And there were turtles – green sea turtles, or honu, which is their Hawaiian name. This is the largest of the sea turtles. We were there toward the end of nesting season. There must have been 20 or more of them.

So ended our Road to Hana. We did not expect to see so many turtles or a Hawaiian monk seal. We did think we’d make it all the way around the loop, but that’s the thing about nature and weather – things are subject to a change in the elements and that’s okay. We’re thankful.