Review by Aidyn, Age 12 (Parent Notes below)
The Road to Hana is a sixty-mile long road complete with fifty-nine bridges and just over six hundred hairpin turns. If you go, make sure you get an early start, or you’ll be stuck driving it in the dark (Dad wouldn’t be happy).
I know that the idea of sitting for a few hours in the car just for the sake of having a road trip is a little foreign to kids now-a-days, but my angelic six-year-old brother did fine, so I think you can stand it. Besides, you’ll have plenty of chances to get out and see some amazing stuff. You need to plan exactly what you are going to do, or you might end up camping out in your car so you can continue in the morning! If you get out at every single stop along the way, you could easily be on the road three days or more. My Mom picked out six places to stop at, but we only ended up doing three of them. Here they are:
1. Keanae Peninsula (between mile marker 16 and 17)
Our first stop, Keanae Peninsula had some amazing exhibits of the more beautiful-but-deadly side of nature. The waves pounded white near the rocks where you can view it. The walls of spray looked dazzling with the sun shining on them, but you don’t want to fall in.
After hanging out at the rocks for a little while (there were lots of the little snails that latch on to the rocks, and Mom even saw a sea turtle!), we drove a short ways down the road for a snack at small roadside snack shack called Aunty Sandy’s. We got some banana bread (it was still warm) and some Aloha Maid, a Hawaiian juice brand we had all come to love. It was great after being in the car for that long!
With our bellies filled and sense of adventure even more revved up, we hopped back into the car and went further up and further in. Our next stop was:
2. Upper Waikani Falls (between mile marker 19 and 20)
Swimming in a waterfall. What could be better than that? Answer: Swimming in the waterfall with an insulated wet suit and snow gear! Upper Waikani Falls is cold! But it’s super fun to swim in and is really isn’t as bad once you’re in; your whole body turns numb within fifteen seconds. Make sure you bring a swim suit, but wear tennis shoes to get down to it, because the hike is steep and slippery. Once you get down though, you get to splash around, and Mom can take plenty of awesome pictures! Upper Waikani Falls can all be one huge waterfall, or, like when we were there, can be three separate smaller falls. It has mist all around near the waterfall, and ivy grows around it. It truly is a picturesque scene.
And last but not least is:
3. Waimoku Falls (inside Haleakala National Park at mile marker 41)
I know what you’re thinking: what is it with all the waterfalls? This is not your ordinary waterfall. Waimoku Falls is a four hundred foot tall waterfall with a two mile hike to get to it- great for stretching your legs. I know you think you can hike that pretty quickly, more or less, but I recommend putting aside just over two hours for there and back. I agree that that may not seem that horrible, but there is lots of going up- up stairs, up hills, crossing couple of small streams- it takes longer that you realize. And who wouldn’t take half an hour of to climb the banyan tree? Towards the beginning of the hike, there is an enormous banyan tree. Low branches lead to the trunk, and from there you can go almost anywhere on the tree! There is also a bamboo forest that, no, I’m not exaggerating, blocks out most of the sun. Make sure to bring plenty of water, since Hawaii can get hot, and insect repellent.
When your finished with every thing, sit back in your car. If you just keep driving to the end of the Road to Hana, a short ways, you come to a highway, and dad can drive home quicker and on a smoother, straighter road. Watch the sunset and even listen to a book on audio! Ahhhh…
The Road to Hana can seem a little intimidating with kids, but we found it to be an amazing experience. I think the key to making it successful with a younger crowd is a little bit of forethought and planning. We researched the stops we thought would be most enjoyable with the kids and mapped them out, but, as Aidyn said, we didn’t get to all of them. We started at the beginning of the road at about 10:00am. Had we gotten an earlier start, we could have worked in another stop or two, but it was still totally worth it.
A couple of our kids have a tendency toward car-sickness, but we didn’t have any trouble that day. Just be prepared to take frequent driving breaks should they be needed. The key to the Road to Hana is being organized, but flexible. If you need to toss or out or modify plans along the way, do it! Take the time to really enjoy each stop, or skip one if no one seems to be into it.
There are places to buy food along the way, but as we had mostly exhausted our Hawaii budget at this point and were trying to do it on the cheap, we just packed sandwiches in a cooler and ate along the road. We went through quite a lot of water throughout the course of the day. While there are places to buy it, definitely try to bring a good supply with you so you don’t end up with thirsty kids and no vendors close by.
To get to Upper Waikani Falls, you have to hike down a little path that starts at the edge of the bridge. The initial jump to get down to the path is a little steep, but don’t let it keep you from trying it. The path is not difficult after that, though the rocks down at the falls are very slippery, so be extra careful once you get down there. Aidyn was not exaggerating about how cold it is, but the kids loved the experience. Definitely take a towel or two down with you because the swimmers will be shivering when they get out of the water!
Waimoku Falls is inside of Haleakala National Park. On a navigation note – the mile markers jump to #56 after Hana town and then start going back down. Haleakala National Park is at marker 41 after they start going back down. Admission to the park is $15.00. In addition to Waimoku Falls, there is a shorter hike to see (and swim in) the Seven Sacred Pools. There are more than seven and they are not actually sacred, but it makes for a great title! We found Waimoku Falls, itself, to be less impressive than we had anticipated, but the hike was awesome. The kids loved the banyan tree and the bamboo forest was like nothing we had ever experienced. Our youngest hiker was 6 and, while he was wiped out at the end, he did fine. If you have very young kids, maybe consider bringing a backpack along for them to ride in. Our youngest had a great time seeing the sights from his vantage point on my husband’s back.
We would definitely recommend going back by way of the newly paved, and much straighter, road that loops back around the island at the end of the Road to Hana. Bring along a fun snack and an audio book to listen to in the car to make it a more enjoyable ride. It will take about an hour and a half to get back to civilization.