After a successful first evening of camping in our borrowed VW Westfalia, it was time to head to Hana. We packed up Ms. Ruby West (the van), courtesy of Aloha Campers, scooped up my lovely friend Jenny, and hit the trail.
First off, visitors to Maui either seem to hate or love the Road to Hana, and rarely anywhere in between. As someone who absolutely loves it, I assume the people who hate it feel that way for one of three reasons – 1) they got extremely carsick or sketched out (to be fair, the road does have over 600 narrow turns, and that’s just on the way there), 2) they didn’t get out of the car (meaning they drove straight to Hana and straight back, missing all the wonderful waterfalls, hiking trails, gardens, ancient sites, beaches, ocean cliffs, fruit stands, and everything else you can’t enjoy by staring out of your rental car window), or 3) they perhaps suck a little and don’t understand/appreciate nature (you know who you are).
Personally, I think driving to the 10,000 foot summit of Haleakala is a much sketchier, scarier journey than driving to Hana.
But back to camping.
Day 2 – Camping in Wai’anapanapa, East Maui
I’m pumped to report that there were absolutely no issues driving Ruby to Hana. She handled it like a boss, and did it much more stylishly than Pale, our Toyota Camry. Since we had already been to Hana twice in the last three weeks, we decided to get a later start to our morning and drive straight to Wai’anapanapa State Park, where Delphine of Aloha Campers had already reserved our camping permit for the evening.
And holy moses, y’all. What an absolutely wonderful day to be at Wai’anapanapa! This has always been one of my very favorite stops on the Road to Hana, particularly because there is so much to see and do in one area, and it’s all walkable.
Wai’anapanapa is home to Maui’s most famous black sand beach, as well as hiking trails through hala trees, a lava tube, multiple blowholes, sea arches, freshwater caves (the perfect cure for a hangover or particularly hot day), and more. The vivid colors of the bright green plant life mixed with the jet black lava rock and unbelievable turquoise water are an absolute treat for your eyeballs, and an absolute shame to the colorblind.
We checked in at the front office, showed them our permit, and were told to move the orange cones to let ourselves into the designated camper van area, a circular, shaded spot just a little behind the tent campers and conveniently near the bathrooms, vending machines and outdoor shower. While you should definitely expect a fair amount of rain and bugs while camping here, remember that you chose to camp in a tropical rainforest, and rain and bugs were here long before you. You’ll be just fine.
A little restless from the drive, we decided to go on a leisurely walk along the trail nearest to the ocean, stopping to watch cliff divers daringly (or stupidly) climb to the top of sharp lava rock formations before jumping into the clear water below.
Hala trees were everywhere, and ocean mist and smell of sweet flowers was a lovely addition to our temporary home in tropical heaven. But alas, it was time for a dip in the ocean. It’s still summertime on Maui, after all, and sweating is an ever-present part of the equation on this island. Fortunately, the water was calm enough to avoid Big Beach-style, near-death wave-ducking, which I’m always fairly thankful to avoid (10 cool points for the Caribbean).
After setting up our campsite, changing into dry clothes and making ourselves a well-deserved adventure-time cocktail, we walked back down to the beach to enjoy sunset in the sand. Although this beach gets extremely crowded during daytime hours, one of the biggest perks of camping here is that after the park closes, you have the majority of the beach (and surrounding trails) to yourself. It’s kind of like being locked in nature heaven, and I’m very alright with that.
I highly recommend the lava tube at nighttime, by the way. It beats the grotto bar at the Grand Wailea by a long shot.
After cooking up a simple little dinner in the pouring rain, feeling a bit sorry for the tent campers – once again, VW to the rescue! – we decided to call it a night and get up early the next morning to watch the sunrise, which is especially beautiful from the Hana side.
And beautiful it was.
The van comfortably fit three of us, no problem, and saved us 90% of the time and effort that goes into camping, especially when preparing to camp in the rain. Particularly in Hana, camper van > tent.
The next day we headed to our final camping destination, Kipahulu, located about 10 miles past Hana Town, but we’ll get back to that in the next post! Mahalo for reading, campers.
Hermergerd I love this!
Ok- just wanted to shout to ya! I’m Katie Rae too!
Hi, I love your blog! I find it very inspiring. I will be in Maui, for the first time in mid-March, but I’ll be alone and really wanna camp because I’m on a budget and I like to be outside. Is it safe? ( I’m a 21f) Would you recommend do a similar route , as your your camper trip ? And/or is there a way to find buddies to camp with
Hey Courtney, thank you for reading! Yes, I’d say as long as you stick to the official campgrounds, it’s safe to camp alone. I’m not sure how long you’ll be there, but in addition to my route through Hana, the Olowalu campground in west Maui is a great spot too, and right on the beach. I’d plan for a couple of days there to start, and you can always ask around and try to meet people who might be interested in joining you. Lahaina, Kihei and Paia are spots you’ll find lots other travelers and locals your age. Have a blast, and let me know if you have any other questions. You’ll also be there for whale season. Nice!