From National Geographic's Drives of a Lifetime Series
The hair raising drive along Maui's Hana coast delivers black sand beaches and plunging waterfalls.
One of Hawaii's great drives is the Hana Highway on the island of Maui. On your left will be the azure ocean; on your right, rushing waterfalls, limpid pools, and luxuriant jungles of bamboo and fruit trees. But this highway serves up more than beauty: It's an impressive feat of engineering, dug out of Maui's precipitous eastern coastline with hand tools. Clinging to the cliffs, it slinks around some 600 curves and across 59 bridges (over half of which are just one lane wide).
Unspooling along 52 miles of Maui's eastern coast, this route runs from Kahului to the town of Hana.
A bit past mile marker 10 is the Garden of Eden Arboretum and Botanical Garden, a lush 25-acre tract known as the site of the opening sequence of the film Jurassic Park.
Around mile marker 11 look for a pullout along the road. A path leads to the dramatic Lower Puohokamoa waterfall, which plummets 130 feet. The upper waterfall, across the road, is more modest but still worth a look. A fun extra: A swim in the cool waterfall pools.
Farther south, just past mile marker 22, lies this roadside state park offering yet more waterfalls and swimming holes. Though there are some basic trails here, the landscape feels remote.
At mile marker 32 you'll happen upon this 122-acre state park featuring a scenic black-sand beach (with treacherous waters; swimming is not recommended), sea caves, and a rock arch. Hike shoreline trails to the sea cave, where the water occasionally turns blood red due to the presence of millions of tiny shrimp. Also here: remains of the old King's Highway, the first road built around Maui.
Around mile marker 42 is a head-turner: ‘Ohe‘o Gulch, a cleft in the island that has spawned scores of pools and numerous waterfalls at the east end of Haleakala National Park. Always a crowd pleaser, this site is considered a must-see even by locals. A good way to experience it is along the four-mile around Pipiwai Trail, which snakes along above the gulch.
Mile marker 45 means one thing: Proximity to what many consider one of the most spectacular cascades in the Hawaiian islands—Wailua Falls. Pull into the nearby parking lot, then walk over to these waterfalls that ribbon down 80 feet through luxuriant vegetation.