Traveling Maui’s Highway 30 – Not the Hana HighwayFebruary 26, 2011 1 Comment
The best known driving excursion on the beautiful Hawaiian island of Maui is of course Hana Highway. With its waterfalls and roadside fruit stands and the sleepy village of Hana town offering beaches that are red, black, and white sand, it is of course a twisting, turning stunner of a drive. Highway 30 is less well known but equally lovely, and it too will beautifully utilize a day of your vacation time.
As with Hana Highway, this is a road of many twists and turns, and there is a section of it that still bears the name County Road 340 that is one lane and full of curves. If you have children – or adults – in your party that are prone to car sickness, this is a journey best foregone. But barring that possibility, it’s one you and your family should relish. Only sixty miles round trip, this road will bring you fantastic views, particularly as the road begins to climb through the mountains of West Maui.
From these lovely heights you’ll see a glimpse of Maalaea Bay, and in the late fall through spring you may be able to spot some migrating humpback whales. You’ll also see the uninhabited island of Kahoolawe, and as you drive, Lanai, the pineapple island. All along this drive you’ll see both ocean views and the West Maui mountains as you take this road. The road was deserted enough even at this beginning portion of the drive that we were able to make a few stops to watch lizards on rocks and the steady and beautiful undulation of the sea, and raise our binoculars to watch for the whales. We didn’t spot any, but as our visit was the very end of May, we might have missed them.
New adventures awaited. We loved following the dictates of a Maui superstition that honking your vehicle’s horn inside a tunnel fends away evil spirits. The small rock tunnel made the sound echo and the kids cheer. Shortly after the tunnel what were low rising hills truly turn into mountains, as West Maui mounts to nearly six thousand feet. Here you’ll get stunning views of rich, wet green valleys and the land that leads into Iao Valley away from the coast and the scene of an historic island battle. There is a lush primal feeling to this area, and the bright greens and golds are somehow quintessentially Mauian.
Soon you’ll be entering Lahaina, a true tourist town but a great stop for lunch, whether you want a burger or an elegant meal. We liked lunching on appetizers at the Mala Ocean Tavern, sharing orders of local mahi mahi ceviche with crisp house made tortilla chips, coconut shrimp, and a great platter of hummus, olives, babaganoush and feta cheese with fresh pita bread. The kids chose tomato shitake mushroom flat bread, with mozzarella cheese and fresh basil – an avant garde pizza with style. The food was all made with organic, island sourced ingredients and tasted like it, too. We browsed the galleries, with their large collection of ocean scenes and fish-centric animal portraits, ukelele shops, tee shirt stores, and flip flop havens.
We walked along the slightly oily harbor area, admiring the boats, and took some photos with a guy who made his living charging tourists like us to pose with the parrot perched on his shoulder. We also strolled through the historic prison, Hale Paahao, once a second home to drunken sailors subdued into better behavior by turn of the century missionaries. Better than the cool and echoing passageways was the giant monkeypod tree – around which a small crafts fair was strung for some browsing before we hit the road again. We found wonderful handmade soaps while the kids enjoyed running around the grassy area. Note: the town beach in Lahaina is just a narrow stretch for jumping on and off nearby boats; drive up the coast further along Highway 30 to wiggle your toes in the sand.
Highway 30 swings loosely around the condo-dominated Kaanapali resort community. You can make a beach stop here if you wish, at any number of high rise beach front hotels. There’s plenty of hotel parking and it’s easy to access the beach; but instead we took our stop here at the small Whalers Village Museum, which depicts an interesting but rather sad chronicle of the whaling enterprises that would’ve led the humpbacks circling the Maui coast today to the harpoon.
As the road climbs again, the coastal view includes a glimpse of Molokai, a leper colony no more, while inland, impressive looking ironwood trees mark the start of the luxurious Kapalua resort.
This is a good last stop for sodas or restroom facilities, or a longer stop to enjoy the beach facilities the elegant new Ritz Carlton has to offer. Regardless, from this point on, as the road narrows and wind bowed trees mix with dark lava rock, facilities will be limited. Tight curves led us to several magnificent pull outs that offer vast views of open aqua blue sea. While the speed limit here is indicated as twenty five miles per hour, we didn’t push it much past ten as the road is also down to one lane here. Coming out of this narrow stretch you’ll enter the lovely beach town of Kahakuloa, which lines a pretty black rock beach.
We found kids selling mangos and lemonade here, and stopped for refreshments and a nice leg stretching for the kids before hugging the one lane road again. Lava rock gives way to green grassy farm country that might be Kentucky or Central California, except for those empty, gorgeous ocean views.
Next view up: the north side Haleakala volcano and then you’re back in the civilized town of Wailuku, not that far from the airport. Before finishing our loop drive we stopped at the highly recommended Saigon Cafe for tasty and inexpensive noodles in fish broth and an early dinner. Somehow all that driving made us ravenous!