The key to to appreciating Maui's Hana Highway is really taking the time to stop and explore along the way. One of my favorite places along the famous drive is Waianapanapa State Park. The 120-acre park is a mix of dense tropical forest, black lava cliffs and caves, and a black sand beach (the sand is actually small, smooth lava pebbles). Daredevils can cliff jump off the rocks that are nicknamed "rabbit's ears" because of their shape. And the park is open to campers.
Have you been here? Share a tip or a photo with fellow travelers.
Black Sands Beach
On the East coast of Maui is the Waianapanapa State Park Campground. There is tent camping allowed ($5/night) in a grassy area about the size of half a football field at most, so not any privacy except what you bring with. It rains most nights here so be sure to put your rainfly on. There are also cabins for rent. ($45/night) This is a great place to spend a night to avoid having to drive all the way back to the others coasts. It’s also a close drive to Hana, The Seven Sacred pools of Oheo (where I lost my glasses cliff jumping), and the Popowai Trail which leads to 200’ Waumoku Falls. The coast line is beautiful with a black sand beach with strong currents at times. There are also many sea caves to explore and an old hiking trail along the coast. Follow the trail South to a blowhole. Sunrises are amazing over the ocean. Facilities include a bathroom with flush toilets and an outdoor shower. The road to get here is the famous road to Hana which winds (and winds and winds) along the East coast past many waterfalls, and a number of local fruit stands selling local produce, smoothies, coconut, and banana bread.
My kids were so excited to visit a beach with black sand. After playing in the waves for awhile, I convinced them to venture into the lava tube adjacent to the beach. My kids had to muster some bravery to crouch down and enter that dark space, trusting that they would see light again around the corner. They did it, and were rewarded with this spectacular view of crashing waves. Their experiences not only made for an exciting vacation day, but also taught them lessons about bravery and trust.
Honokalani Black Sand Beach is located in the Wainapanapa State Park on the island of Maui. This large beach is set among lava cliffs, and the sand is actually fine, smooth, lava pebbles. A small sea arch, sea caves, and seaside lava tubes are located in the beach area. But half the fun of this beach is the drive that gets you there. Black Sand Beach is one of the last stops on the world-famous “Road to Hana,” so unless you have accommodations in nearby Hana itself, you probably can’t afford to spend too much time sunbathing, which is unfortunate.
Living in Hawaii, I don’t know how many times I have driven the road to Hana. I always seem to get roped into it when I have company in town, and I always seem to forget how long it actually takes. If you are going to make the trek, I have a few suggestions. 1) Get the smallest rental car you can get. 2) Leave as early as you can. The trip takes ALL day 3) Bring lots of snacks and water, because once you hit the road, there are not many places to stop along the way. Stop in Hana for lunch and provisions, to make your way back around the back side, because there is nothing for a lot of miles. 4) Be prepared for slow drivers, and crazy local drivers as well. Don’t talk on your cell phone and drive either. Turn your phones off! Bring some good music, because the radio stations go out of range. If you have small children, bring things along that are going to keep them occupied. All in all, it is definitely a MUST do at least once, while you are on Maui. It really shows the true beauty of Maui. Please be advised, this drive is not for the faint of heart. It has over 52 miles of 600 curves, and 59 narrow bridges. There are guided tour companies, that can take you in a private narrated van tour, if you don’t really like to drive yourself. There is also a drive fly back in a helicopter option. I personally advise on going the WHOLE way around. There are some great mobile apps and CD’s with mile marker by mile marker narratives.