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.
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.
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.
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.
After our adventure, we were rewarded with some time at the lush beach. Beware — black sand gets hot!
Back on the road again, we passed so many waterfalls and views of the ocean that I stopped keeping count.
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.
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.
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.
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 Kyle the Vagabond. I’m including the photos here to show the full diversity and beauty of East Maui!
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.
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?