Guest Blog by Miguel M.
There is likely no better introduction to the incredible world of Hawai’i than the Road to Hana tour. I say this because my friend and I took the tour a mere 18 hours after stepping off the plane from the cool and damp Pacific Northwest into sunny and beautiful Maui. As a first-time visitor to the island, I knew to expect a tropical wonderland – but the trip was made all the richer with the guidance and knowledge of Skyline, and I came away from the tour enthralled with the magic of the island.
As an outdoor enthusiast and national park lover, I’ve traveled on quite a few crazy roads. So I was pretty excited about the tour – to me, the windier, crazier, and more scenic the better—barf bags be damned! And the fact that I wouldn’t have to manage the hairpin turns but could enjoy the view every part of the way? Even better.
The excitement for the tour helped manage the early morning wake up call. The Skyline van pulled right up to our hotel room at 6:45 am sharp. We tossed our day-trip bags – sandals, towels, reef-safe sunscreen, and a GoPro to capture it all – into the van and began our journey.
On the way to scoop some of the other guests, we got to know our fearless road-warrior tour guide, Francois. Francois was charming and friendly, and immediately gave us a sense of calm for what had been hyped as a historically bumpy ride.
Our first of many stops happened as the north shore beaches came into view. We pulled into a parking lot to make a quick foray down to a beachside sea turtle refuge. Coming from someone who’s most common interaction with wildlife is the squirrels in his backyard, this was super exciting. Watching them make their way from the beach to the ocean and back was incredible. Not too shabby of a life, soaking up the sun on that beach. I offered to swap lifestyles, but they weren’t proficient in Photoshop, unfortunately.
Up next was a quick stop at a little local market for snacks, coffee, and a tasty breakfast burrito to get us fueled up for the day ahead. We hopped in the van and officially hit the pavement on the famed road. “What’s so special about the town of Hana?” I asked Francois. “Hana is actually a pretty small village with no major draws. The journey is the destination, my friend.”
We came around a few hair-bending turns and our first view of the incredible cliff sides and mountains of East Maui revealed themselves towering above the ocean. As we picked our jaws off the floor of the van, Francois took the first of many stops that allowed us to stretch our legs and snap 7 million iPhone photos. None of them did justice to the incredible views, but we tried.
We piled back in the van. Since I have the metabolism of a hungry shark, my stomach was already having the mid-morning rumbles. I was in luck, as our next stop was at the legendary Aunt Sandy’s Banana Bread stand. We ordered one, then took a bite of the warm, fresh loaf. Time stopped for a minute. We stepped back in line and ordered four more. “For our friends back home,” we said. We all knew those loaves would not be making it home.
“Onward through the jungle!,” Francois declared. Our next stop would be the first waterfall visit. “Bring your towels for this one.” A short walk from the road revealed a gorgeous, lush pool with a wide 20-foot waterfall above it. After we jumped into the cold water, Francois recommended we swim behind the waterfall where we could sit on some rocks and watch the cascading water. It was here I had to ask myself, “why again do I live on the mainland? And how do I make one of these for my backyard?”
We squeezed water out of our swim trunks and carried on down Hana Highway, while we admired the incredible views peeking around every corner and were educated on the flora and fauna of eastern Maui. As locals flew by the van at breakneck speeds, it felt so nice to not be in charge of the wheel. “I’ve driven this road hundreds of times, and it never gets old,” Francois declared.
Our day carried on – we stopped in a lovely garden for a delicious farm-to-table lunch, serenaded by ‘ukulele from the other Skyline travel guide, Ikaika. We strolled on black sand beaches, explored a sea cave and took a dip in the perfectly warm Pacific Ocean. We stopped at a roadside home selling authentic, locally-made souvenirs. We took a jump into yet another turquoise waterfall-fed pool.
Towards the end of the route, and after our final few hairpin curves, I noticed my feet had a few cuts, my skin was a bit burned, and my hair was lovingly “ocean-battered.” I felt, basically, like I’d been run through the Hawaiʻi wringer. But it felt like there was no better way to be introduced to the wonders of Hawaiʻi. Having Skyline take care of all the nitty-gritty details while we enjoyed the best that Maui had to offer was truly an incredible way to learn about this special place. It is a tour, and a windy road, that I won’t soon forget.
Why wait? Have the experts handle the nitty-gritty details and book your tour today!
About the Author: Miguel is a graphic designer and photographer living in the Pacific Northwest, with a newfound love of all things Hawaiʻi.