Touring the Road to Hana with Wade Holmes of No Ka Oi Adventures

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Waianapanapa State Park

After being a longtime proponent of touring Maui’s famous Road to Hana independently, I decided that I’d give a guided tour a try.  After asking around, Wade Holmes of No Ka Oi Adventures was highly recommended, so I booked his one-day Discover Hana Adventure tour.

No Ka Oi Adventures does not offer the typical road to Hana guided tour. For starters, he typically drives a Ford Explorer, which immediately makes his tours much more intimate than the typical mini-bus tours. The day I toured, there was only one other gentleman on the tour. (Andy couldn’t make it because he was attending the Maui Photo Festival that day.)

Wade can customize your guided-tour to you interests and fitness levels. Weeks before my tour, Wade emailed me to ask me what I’d like to see on the tour. I didn’t make any requests then, but on the day of the tour he did customize a few things based on my interests and what I had seen on previous trips.

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A secluded, secret waterfall off the Road to Hana

I could tell that Wade enjoys taking his guests off the beaten path to hidden places that most people don’t know. Wade took us to two waterfall-fed pools for swimming where we were the only people there. Cool, eh?

Wade’s knows the road to Hana like the back of his hand. For various reasons, locals have hidden some trail heads, but Wade knew exactly where to go. There was one pile of yard waste hiding a trail head. If Wade hadn’t shown me the way, I never would have found it.

Here are the highlights of what we got to see and do on this full-day adventure:

– Ke’anae Peninsula was our first stop. This was a great place to stretch our legs and take in the views without crowds.

– A short hike to a very secret waterfall-fed pool that’s not even in the Revealed guidebook. We swam here.

– Another short, though adventurous hike to a swimming hole with a waterfall at Wailua Iki.

– Sampled the unique coconut-based ice cream and candy at Coconut Glen’s. (I probably wouldn’t have ever stopped here on my own. When you’re touring the road to Hana independently, you literally have to make decisions to stop within a few seconds. I probably would have passed on by without knowing what a quirky and tasty stop Coconut Glen’s is. I’ve written about stopping at Coconut Glen’s.)

– Stopped at Wai’anapanapa State Park for quick hike to the spring-fed freshwater caves.

– Hiked to the red sand beach (Kaihalulu) in Hana. Wade brought blankets, towels, and sunscreen for all of us so we were able to relax on the beach while soaking in the sun and scenery for a half hour or so.

– For lunch, we ate at a local place, Echo’s, off of Haneoo Road outside of Hana town. The burgers with da kine sauce were pretty good, but the views of Alau Island from  Echo’s were even better!

–  Our next stop was the longest as we hiked the Pipiwai Trail up to Waimoku Falls.

–  Our adventure completed with driving what I call the back side of Hana which is one of Hawaii’s forbidden roads for car renters. In the past, Andy and I had only driven a short section of this forbidden drive. So, it was neat for me to see the entire drive with Wade’s expertise. We stopped a couple of times in Kaupo. The most interesting stop was seeing the historic St. Joseph Church.

– We were able to catch the last rays of sun before heading back to our meeting point in Maalaea.

– See all the photos that I took on my day of touring the Road to Hana with No Ka Oi Adventures.

The first view coming into the Red Sand Beach

The first view approaching the Red Sand Beach of Hana

So, what did I think of touring the Road to Hana on this guided-tour? I really liked it! Though I had already toured the Road to Hana independently on three other occasions, I felt like I got to see and do much more than I’ve experienced previously. In fact, I’d like to repeat this entire tour with No Ka Oi Adventures some day when Andy can come along.

Wade’s educational background is in Ethnobotany with a specialty in Hawaiian and Polynesian plants. Not only did I get to learn about unique plants from Wade, I got a tasting lesson, too. I ate lilikoi (passion fruit) and sipped yellow ginger nectar.

A unique aspect of No Ka Oi Adventures is that the tour is all-inclusive. Lunch, snacks, juice, water are all generously provided. Wade even supplies towels and sunscreen for his guests.

This one-day Discover Hana Adventure tour costs $225 per person based on parties of two or more. For an all-inclusive tour that lasted from 6:30am until about 7:30pm, that’s really a pretty good deal.  Though other road to Hana tours cost $100 to $150 per person, they’re not customizable or all-inclusive, and you don’t get the adventures of swimming at a secluded waterfalls. No Ka Oi’s Hana tour is geared for people who enjoy adventures and avoid crowds, which suited me perfectly. If you don’t want to hike, then I recommend you choose one of the standard road to Hana guided tours.

You may be wondering if I recommend driving the road to Hana independently or going with a guided tour. I say, do both! I think both methods are complimentary, plus the road to Hana has so much to offer, you can’t do it all in just one or two days.

Have you toured the road to Hana independently and on a guided tour? Which method did you like best?

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About Sheila Beal

Sheila Beal is the founder and editor of Go Visit Hawaii. You can connect with Sheila Beal on Twitter, Go Visit Hawaii on Facebook, or Sheila Beal on Google+.

9 comments

  1. You’ve pretty much convinced me to try the guided tour with this blog post. Well, to ask Cari about it, at least. (Joint decisions and all that.)

    Little concerned about the amount of hiking involved, but still looks so fun and interesting, especially with someone who knows the area so well.

    Were there no nudists on the Red Sand Beach? There were at least 3-4 couples bathing in the nude when I visited in May. Made taking photographs a challenge. ;-)

    Thx for the great info, Sheila!

    • Hi Matt – It really was a great way to see the Hana Highway without worrying about someone driving while another person navigates.

      With Wade’s tour, he can modify the hiking based on your interests. I would imagine that we hiked 6 miles that day, but it was all so spread out through the day that I had a chance to recover. We rarely hike over 3 miles at a time here in NC because we’re normally hiking with my parent’s dachshunds. Anything more than 3 miles and we’re carrying them. Even though I hiked more than my daily norm on this tour, it wasn’t that challenging.

      I think there was one couple that were nekkid at the Red Sand Beach. I tried not too look their way, but when I did by accident, um, awkward. You saw 3 or 4 nekkid couples? That must have been interesting.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. Matt,

    It would be my pleasure to take you and Cari to Hana if you decide you’d like to give it a shot.. As Sheila mentioned, I am happy to adjust the day to your interests and abilities. I know the Road to Hana very well, and always have lots of options..

    Please take a look at my website when you get a chance. [Linked in the above article.]

    We also have a Facebook fanpage that is frequently updated with fun pictures from our adventures..

    Aloha! (and thanks again, Sheila!)

    wade

  3. I was looking forward to your review of this, don’t know how I missed it. Great review and that tour sounds amazing!! I love that you got to see things you wouldn’t normally find or know about on your own. Plus it would be nice for all to enjoy the scenery and let someone else worry about the road! :>)

  4. Hello,

    I will be in Maui from April 9-16, 2012 with my husband and two kids ages 9 & 12. I would like to take the guided tour of the road to Hana. Do you recommend to do this with kids. What activities do you recommend? We will be staying at the Hyatt Regency in Lahaina.

    Thank you,

    Marlene

    • Hi Marlene,

      I think it’s a great guided tour for anyone. It would probably be best if you contacted Wade Holmes directly and asked if he has experience taking kids on his tour. (Use the link to No Ka Oi in this article to find his contact details.)

      With a family of four, I would imagine it would end up being a private road to Hana tour just for your family. His well-worn Explorer wouldn’t be able to take any more passengers.

      My only caution is that if your kids get car sick easily, the road to Hana is not easy on the tummy. That goes for any anyone driving or touring the road to Hana.

    • Aloha Marlene!

      Yes, I have taken kids on my Discover Hana Adventure many times.. As long as they are comfortable riding in the car for that long, I imagine they would very much enjoy it.. There are several chances to get in the water where it is safe for youngsters to swim.. We normally do the full loop around East Maui and it is a full day (about 12 hours), but the feedback I have gotten from families with kids has always been positive…

      Here is my website if you do choose to book a tour with me:

      http://www.nokaoiadventures.com

      Thanks (and thanks to you too, Sheila!)

      wade

  5. This sounds a great deal. I was just hoping the trail is not hard to hike. I just had an ankle surgery 2 months ago. I am thinking if its worth of me taking it or see other options. But it does sound beautiful. I’ll do some hikes but not intense. Thank You.

    J.

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