I have to be honest: I was not a fan of Maui. It was far too manufactured and didn’t live up to the peaceful oasis I had hoped for. If there was one saving grace to Maui, it was the road to Hana (aka Hana Highway). I had just gone SNUBA diving with my sister and was completely beat. I fell asleep in the car and when I woke up a couple of hours later, we had the ocean to our left and lush mountains to our right. It was beautiful.
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- Hyatt Regency Maui Restaurants: Swan Court, Umalu, Japengo, Regency Club Lounge, Starbucks
- Maui Activities: Parasailing, SNUBA Diving, Jet Skiing, Atlantis Submarine, & Hana
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Before we set out, we took the advice of a valet at the Four Seasons: 1. Leave early in the morning. 2. Leave with a full tank of gas. 3. Bring food with you just in case. We eventually got hungry on the ride home and when the peanut stands disappeared on unpaved roads, we had snacks to hold us over.
We stopped at a roadside truck called Garden Gourmet Cafe, which is right outside the Maui Garden of Eden. This place has 5-star reviews on Tripadvisor and Yelp, with people noting it’s “freshly made” food.
I’ve never caught so many suspicious reviews in one place before. I witnessed the cook walking between the house and truck several times, with bottles of store-bought mango juice, pizza, and less than fresh looking fish. To their credit, it did all taste fresh, but it wasn’t. Everything was bland to the point that I ended up adding hot sauce to make it taste like something – and I’m not someone who likes hot sauce or spicy food.
The food took a good 30 minutes to prepare and while it wasn’t the best thing I ever ate, there aren’t many options in the area so this was as good as it would get. The best part about the Garden Gourmet Cafe was the view, near the picnic table.That in and of itself was worth the overpriced, underwhelming food.
It takes 5 hours to drive to Hana and back. At one point, we stopped at a local beach with a park area. We knew there was a shorter way back to Lahaina through some unpaved roads, and thought we’d ask some locals if that was a good idea or not. It didn’t seem like wed make it back before dark, and taking the same (unlit) road in the dark didn’t seem like the best idea.
We consulted with some locals, who informed us that driving through the unpaved road was safe. However, “You need to be a good driver and fill up on gas before you go”. The road was only unpaved for around 20 minutes and apparently, the locals use it frequently. There was a gas station nearby, where we filled up, then headed back on the road.
For the most part, the road back was paved. At one point we hit a bid of a dirt road, and wondered if that was the “unpaved” portion. If so, it was a piece of cake. Definitely nothing like the unpaved road on the way to Arghandeh. Cell phone service was surprisingly good on the drive, though it dropped off near the unpaved roads, then picked back up shortly after.
It rained on and off throughout the drive, and the roads got pretty narrow at one point. Once we got past the unpaved portions, however, we were treated to smooth pavement, open roads and stunning views.
We came across black sand beaches, tiny houses perched atop golden hills, and scenery straight out of an illustrated children’s book – rainbows and all.
Overall, I think a drive through Hana is a must if you’re looking for a bit of adventure on your vacation. At a certain point when you’ve checked off the activities you’re “supposed to do,” and the resort gets boring, you’ll need a change of scenery. It’s a long and somewhat slow drive, but it was the most memorable part of this trip. If you want to get away from the commercialism of Maui resorts, a road trip to Hana is the perfect escape.