America’s big on epic road trips, but perhaps the most epic road trip in the United States is on the piece of land that looks the least like the rest of the United States. The Hana Highway on the Hawaiian island of Maui twists and turns for 52 miles past lush tropical rainforests, waterfalls, beaches and more. It’s a slightly dangerous ride, with steep drop-offs and narrow one-lane bridges, but the views are intoxicating, and those who need to stretch their legs can do so, in restaurants serving fresh-caught fish, for waterfall photo-ops, in a filming location of Jurassic Park, through short lava caves which have walls resembling melting chocolate, and fields of Red Ti plants. From Paia to Hana, the coast follows you and you follow it right back, keeping one eye on the road and the other on the expansive, limitless blue ocean sending white tides crashing against the cliff walls or foliage-covered peaks in shades of green you never knew existed. This is one highway ride you’re going to want to roll the windows down for.
Photo by keybuk/Flickr.
The best way to relax before a day on the road is to hit the beach and have a meal at Mama’s Fish House, located conveniently at the start of the Hana Highway. This restaurant in Paia is not to be missed; anyone who has ever been there will attest to its quality and unapologetic festiveness. Aside from the fresh-caught offerings – the Mahi Mahi stuffed with crab is a real favorite and diners are delighted by the elaborately garnished cocktails in true luau fashion. Book a reservation by sundown and the ambiance of light descending into the limitless ocean will get you raring to fire up your engine the next day.
Just 20 miles out of Paia, the Garden of Eden Arboretum is a great place to stretch your les. One of the most famous tropical forests and arboretums in the country, there’s a reason why they call it the Garden of Eden: its 26 acres burst with tropical flowers, green stalks and bamboo shoots and other exotic trees that graze the sky, rocks, mountains and waterfalls accessible via unspoiled trails. Visitors can explore the Upper Puohokamoa Waterfalls up close in all its glory after glimpsing the 40-foot falls from a look-out on the Hana Highway, as well as interact with the local fauna: ducks, peacocks, lizards and more can be spotted on the grounds. Sadly, no dinosaurs are left in the arboretum, but the Keopuka Rock, seen in the first scene of Jurassic Park, still stands in all its photogenic resplendence.
Photo by Jason DeRusha/Flickr.
After hours baking in the sun, families can stop off and go where it’s cool: under the Hershey Kisses-shaped stalagmite ceiling in the Hana Lava Tube. Located towards the end of the highway near Hana itself, the Lava Tube offers a unique look into subterranean Maui as well as the adjacent Red Ti Botanical Garden maze, a wide, over-consuming and highly manicured labyrinth planted with large stalks of the red-leafed plant.