Driving Hawaii

In Maui, it’s all about the ‘Road to Hana’, a beautiful 52-mile drive over on the east side of the island with a couple dozen waterfalls just moments from the road and scenic views. But with beauty comes problems, as most tourists are also on the same road causing a lot of back-to-back traffic. Many who we spoke to said the ‘Road to Hana’, while beautiful and scenic, required a lot of time to see everything. Instead, we were given the suggestion of driving on another road ironically known as the ‘other’ road to Hana, even though it doesn’t actually lead there and man was it intense.

Kahekili Highway wraps around Maui’s northwestern tip and when I say wraps, I mean hugs. Most definitely not for the faint-hearted, nor for aggressive or impatient drivers or for those afraid of heights or steep drop-offs, Kahekili has hairpin curves and albeit paved, is one lane majority of the way.

As we set off from Kaanapali, I was feeling confident as the driver. The roads seemed pretty easy going and we hadn’t got to a one-lane road just yet.

We passed Kapalua, where I highly suggest stopping for a swim with the sea turtles.

We kept heading north pass Nakalele Blowhole. We didn’t quite have the right shoe attire to traverse down the cliff to the blowhole so we skipped that one

Then I started to see the signs. ‘Narrow Road Ahead’, ‘Yield, Oncoming Traffic’, ‘Winding Roads’, and of course the one that really had me questioning our chosen route, ‘Falling Rocks’.

But we persevered and kept on driving. Mainly because once you start driving, there isn’t really any turning back as there is simply no space to do so.

After a few hours of nail biting cliff side turns we arrived in Paia, a small town on the north side with a more local vibe. Here there are some great little boutiques and restaurants as well as some of the best surf spots on the island.

With our tummies still churning from the twists and turns, we settled on Ho’okipa Beach to watch the surfers cruise out to catch some waves. It was very calming, exactly what we needed after the morning.

As we laid there I eventually looked over to the right to find the best neighbor of all. It took me a good 10 to 15 minutes to realize I was sharing the sand with some very big sea turtles. Unmoving, they resembled the volcanic rocks that surrounded them as they planted themselves amongst the other visitors to sunbathe. A very surreal moment I have to say.

We finally refueled at Mama’s Fish House and this place is everything you expect in a true Hawaiian experience and a landmark for which I see why now. From the beachside location to the Polynesian décor, Mama’s serves up a beautiful lunch experience that yes, while on the pricier side, is one of those tick off the bucket list occasions. I had the Sashimi as an appetizer and the Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi stuffed with lobster and crab for entrée. My mouth is simply watering just thinking about it now.


With our bellies full and a bit of a tan, we decided to drive the initial section of the Road to Hana towards to Twin Falls. After all, we had driven this far; we needed to see some of these magical falls. Only 15 minutes from Paia, they are easy to access from a car park and a short walk to the first waterfall. The secret is to keep walking to the second fall, which is less crowded and more hidden, making it feel like you are in a scene of ‘The Beach’, apart from the less than perfect paradise of course. As we arrived, the sun was approaching that perfect axis that hit the trees and glistened down onto the freshest water.

While many say you cannot go to Maui and leave without doing the Road to Hana, I say try something different to the rest of the crowd. You may feel the hairs on the back of your neck rise up at times. But you will also see fewer tourists, sunbath with sea turtles and eat like a Hawaiian king.

At least, we felt that way. The only thing we did do like everyone else? We took the main highway home.

Steph_profHerstory is a weekly column on women and travel by Steph Ridhalgh. Steph is a Sydney born; New York based television producer and travel blogger. Not one for being quiet for too long she simply loves talking about travel and lifestyle.

Steph is the founder of STEP(h) ABROAD, a travel and lifestyle resource for those who love to be in the know and know how.

Connect with her on the web, Facebook and Twitter