Lisa Owen

My first and only visit to the Hawaiian Islands up until now was 2008 – but I only visited the island of Oahu and wished I had the funds to get to Maui. Eight years later, I finally got to Maui and discovered beautiful sunrises over a volcanic crater, waterfall hikes and the very windy but scenic Road to Hana and wished I’d come here sooner.

The best way to see Maui is by car. My friend and I were able to drive around the whole island in four days with a number of stops along the way. There’s a lot to do in Maui and the following focuses on the east half of Maui taking in the Haleakala Crater, Seven Pools of O’heo and the Road to Hana.

First up in my road trip around Maui was watching the sunrise from the summit of the Haleakala Volcano – well worth the early morning start. Aim to be at the summit by 6am in winter. Sunrise is just before 7am during the winter months, but you’ll want to get there early to get a carpark and secure a good spot to watch the sunrise. This is a great spot for stargazing as well.

I left from Kahului at 4.30am. From Kahului, it’s about a 45 minute drive to the ticket office for the National Park but the queue to get in is slow. Entry to the park is $US15 ($A22). Payment is by credit card only. The entry pass is valid for three days from the first entry into the National Park. From the ticket office, it’s another 15-20 minute drive to reach the summit up a series of switchbacks.

Once you’re up at the summit, secure your position and then enjoy the sunrise as it comes over the horizon, lighting up the below clouds (you’re 3000 metres above sea level at this point) and over Haleakala’s crater and cinder cones.

Maui sunrise

The sunrise is spectacular, but dress warm – it can get very cold up there.  Take a warm coat, wear enclosed shoes and take gloves if your hands are sensitive to the cold. You might also want to bring a blanket – many people did so you won’t be alone. In hindsight, I also wish I’d had a flask with some hot coffee in it – it would have been great to help warm up as the sun rises.

Make sure you hang around after the sun has risen over the horizon and go up to the top viewpoint up a short set of stairs. In the early morning light, the view down into the crater and blue hue from the clouds is magical. Put the camera down, grab a rock to sit on and take the time to savour the view.


From the volcano, you can continue south along the coast to the Seven Pools of O’heo.  There’s a number of lookout points on the way offering great ocean views and you might even see some whales.

Be aware the road isn’t great along the south east coast of Maui – it’s gravel in some places or very potholed patches of road, but still accessible by 2WD. Probably the smaller car the better for this road as there’s a number of narrow and blind corners.

The Seven Pools of O’heo are part of the Haleakala National Park and you can use the pass you got earlier in the morning at the volcano. There are two options at the pools – or you can do both like my friend and I did. The easy route is a short 10 minute walk to the coast to a waterhole fed by a waterfall. The trail is mostly flat down to the waterhole, and it’s the perfect spot for a swim. But it will be packed with tourists – a lot of the tourist buses stop at this point.


The harder but more rewarding option is to hike the Pipiwai Trail up to Waimoku Falls – it’s less crowded and who doesn’t love a 120 metre waterfall.

The 6km return hike takes you past the Makahiku Falls – but during the winter time, the waterfall is barely a trickle so you’ll probably take a quick look and continue on. But along the trail, there are a couple of swimming holes perfect for a dip after working up a sweat in the humid conditions, and a bamboo forest.

Maui waterfall

The trail can be muddy and rocky in places, but there are some boardwalks through the bamboo forest. People of moderate fitness will easily tackle this hike.


The Waimoku Falls cascade down a tall lava rockwall into a shallow waterhole strewn with waterfalls. This is the tallest waterfall in Maui. It’s not really a swimming spot but a good place to sit and relax and maybe get your feet wet.

Maui Waimoku falls

The trail takes about two hours return, including photo stops. There’s no food or drink stops on the main road to the Seven Pools of O’heo, so make sure you bring a packed lunch. There’s no food stops until you reach Hana – and even then there’s only a couple of food stands and a small supermarket. Make sure you also bring plenty of water on this road trip as it can be very humid and you’ll want to keep rehydrated.

From the Seven Pools of O’heo, we headed up to Hana to drive the Road to Hana – a popular scenic stretch of road from the north east of Maui down to Hana. The road is marketed as a great drive to see the Maui coastline as well as a number of waterfalls. There’s several hikes in the area through forested terrain and up to waterfalls, but you’ll have to do your research beforehand as they’re not marked. You won’t find much in Hana – and blink and you’ll miss the town. The waterfront is nice to sit and have something to eat and drink, and there’s a fruit stand, handmade icecream stall and a Korean style hot food stand as you drive through the town if you need something to eat. There is also a lava tube just north of Hana. Cost of entry is $A17.50.

The Road to Hana is very windy and narrow with a number of one lane bridges so it can be a long drive. If you’re susceptible to car sickness, you might want to invest in motion sickness tablets. Look for Dramamine in US supermarkets or pharmacies. Coming back into Kahului from Hana, you’ll spot Twin Falls on your left – a small waterhole that is nice for a swim. There’s also a good lookout point before you reach the town of Paia. Paia has a number of boutique stores, souvenir shops and food offerings.

This suggested itinerary is a long day trip but it’s worth the journey. We started the trip at 4.30am from Kahului to catch the sunrise and with photo and lunch stops and the hikes through the Seven Pools of O’heo, we got back to our hotel around 6pm.

Things you should know:

  • It still gets hot in Hawaii during the winter months. Pack a hat and sunscreen when you head out, and also bring plenty of water.
  • There’s no food stops between Haleakala Volcano and Hana. You’ll want to take a packed lunch with you for this road trip.
  • The Haleakala National Park accepts credit card payment only. Entry is $15 for three days from the day you entered.
  • The Seven Pools of O’heo are popular – try to get there early to avoid the crowds.
  • Aim to be at the Haleakala Volcano for sunrise by 6am during the winter months to get a good spot for the sunrise in 7am. In summer, sunrise is as early as 5.30am so it’s a very early start!
  • You’ll want to stop a lot on the Road to Hana to take in the views – but it’s also slow going along the windy road. Make sure you have enough time to drive the road and enjoy the views.


Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 40 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @_thelittleadventurer Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia  

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.