Posted by: kerryl29 | January 27, 2020

Hawaii Day 9, Part 2: The Hana Highway Experience

Last time I provided some background to the Hana Highway as a photographic location, along with some images from the sunrise shoot that proceeded my time along the road.  This time I’ll present the images I made during the rest of that day and flesh out the specifics of the highway as a photographic experience based on what I saw when I was there.

Many of the highway’s sights are identified by their proximity to the mileage markers that appear along the road.  That sounds great, but there are numerous cases where the markers themselves are either missing or hidden from view by the lush foliage that dominates the area.  The mileage numbers increase as you travel east (or southeast…or south) along the road; in other words, the numbers go up assuming you’re driving the road in a clockwise direction.  The vast, vast majority of visitors to the area approach the region from the west, so this is convenient.  The zero mileage marker–ground zero, if you will–is located just prior to the turnoff for Maui County Road 365, a.k.a. Kaupakalua Rd.  The road you’re driving on changes from HI-36 to HI-360.  This is the Hana Highway.

Given my head start, it was still early in the morning, a bit before 7 AM, when I reached ground zero, so there was very little traffic.  The first stop I made that morning was Kualanupeo Church, which is a short way down a side road (Door of Faith Road, by name) off to the left of the highway.  The church is in a very picturesque setting and the grounds were deserted when I arrived.

Kualanupeo Church, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

Kualanupeo Church, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

If you want to do any significant amount of photography along the Hana Highway you’re well-advised to pick your spots carefully and don’t dawdle all that much in any particular location.  The crowds had not become a problem when I started out that day but I knew they would become an issue eventually.  For instance, I had wanted to check out the Waikamoi Nature Trail, but I was concerned that if I did, I’d spend too much time there and thus, by the time I reached other locations that I wanted to see, they’d be too crowded.  It should go without saying–but I’ll say it anyway–that this is a terrible mindset to have when photographing…or doing much of anything, come to think of it.  I reached a point that day when I more or less said “the hell with it” and stopped worrying about this sort of thing.  I’d go places, take my time, and if that meant I didn’t see other locations–and it would mean exactly that–so be it.  My change in approach helped make the day go by a lot more pleasantly.  It also served as a reminder of something I noted in the previous post:  basing oneself in Hana for a few days would be a major, major boon to photographing in the area.

The guide book I was using made mention of a number of rainbow eucalyptus trees at a particular spot along the road and I was keen to see the trunks of these specimens, so I found a pullout and, with little difficulty, found some of the trees.  The most interesting bark patterns were located on the trunks well above my head so I used my 80-400 lens to isolate these areas and, using a focus stacking approach to compensate for depth of field, produced the images you see below.

Rainbow Eucalyptus Bark Closeup, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

Rainbow Eucalyptus Bark Closeup, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

Rainbow Eucalyptus Bark Closeup Black & White, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

I stopped and checked out numerous waterfalls along the way.  Some I didn’t photograph because they were exposed to bothersome open sun.  Others I didn’t photograph because I couldn’t park my car anywhere near them due to other vehicles already taking up the extremely limited pull-off spots, which made it all but impossible to stop.  But I did manage to photograph some of the waterfalls, starting with Hiapua’ena Falls.

Haiou’ena Falls, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

The above image was made from an overlook of sorts, maybe 20 or 30 feet off the roadway.  With some difficulty I managed to meander over a boulder field to the left of the above shooting position to obtain a different perspective.

Haiou’ena Falls, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

The highway hugs the coastline not long after this point and I caught a glimpse of some features along the way that made me find a pull-out and walk back along the guardrail to make a couple of images of the scene.  The lush vegetation, contrasting colors, interesting sky background and dancing light were the attractions for me.

Lush Forest, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

People driving by kept seeing me, with my tripod astride the guardrail along the shoulder of the road, and stopping.  Many got out of there cars and I think a few spotted what I’d seen because their phones came out for picture taking purposes.  Others must have wondered what on earth I was doing and were back in their vehicles before long.

Lush Forest, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

Before long a road to the left takes the intrepid visitor to the Kenae Peninsula.  This, in my opinion, is a must-do diversion from the main road.  It’s only about a mile down the side road to the end and along the way–particularly near the end of the road itself–you have the opportunity to see some wild coastline with heavy surf.  There’s also another picturesque church near the parking lot at the end of the road.  It was after 9 AM by the time I reached this point and the light was becoming pretty harsh but I was captivated by some of the scenes I discovered.  This would be a great sunrise or sunset location, if you’re staying near by (here we go again).  I tried to make the best of the situation, given that I was not staying nearby.

Ke’anae Peninsula, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

Ke’anae Peninsula, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

Ke’anae Peninsula Black & White, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

Ke’anae Congregational Church, Ke’anae Peninsula Black & White, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

It was probably pushing 11 AM by the time I returned to the highway from my time on the Ke’anea Peninsula.  It was at this point that I recognized that photography would largely be hopeless for awhile.  The sun was out pretty relentlessly by this time (though that wouldn’t be the case indefinitely); additionally, most locations were overrun.  In some instances, as I alluded to above, it doesn’t take many people to jam a spot, as many locations have limited access.  So, I did two things for the next couple of hours; 1) I found myself literally unable to access locations, due to do a lack of nearby parking and moved on, or 2) I scouted spots that either didn’t work well given the ambient lighting conditions, had too many people around to make for anything but a snapshot, or both.

To illustrate the point, one such latter location was Pu’a Ka’a State Park, which is really a wayside, right off the highway west of Hana.  This location actually has more accessible parking than any other spot I found that’s located right alongside the Hana Highway, but when I arrived there it was nearly impossible to find somewhere to put the car.  I found a pullout about 1/10 of a mile up the road and walked to the small park–home of several waterfalls as well as decently maintained restrooms.  There were dozens of people roaming around when I was there and a goodly number of them were swimming or wading in a pool below one of the waterfalls.  Several people were climbing up the cliffside abutting the waterfall so that they could jump into the pool.  Lots of others were staying dry but watching the festivities.  The sun was directly on all of this so I didn’t even bring my camera gear but (in a bit of foreshadowing) I did see numerous possible images that I would make under better circumstances.  I hoped to stop at this location on the way back later in the day, hoping that it would be in even light and (much) less crowded.

The above tale was repeated numerous times that afternoon.  For other spots, I simply couldn’t get even get a glance as there was no equivalent to that 1/10 of a mile down-the-road pullout that I’d found near Pu’a Ka’a State Park.

When I got to the turnoff for Wai’anapanapa State Park–about a mile down an access road from the highway–I made a left and joined countless carloads of my “best friends” into the park.  The lot there was jammed but I lucked out, and snagged a spot that someone was vacating.  There were countless people on site, many of them on the park’s black sand beach, which is easily accessed by a short trail from the bluff above.  I got out–sans gear–and meandered about.  A trail leads to both sides of the cove that contains the black sand beach and I checked it out, found lots to like and returned to the car to get my equipment.  I figured I was there, so I might as well try to make the best of the situation.

Naupaka Shoreline, Wai’anapanapa State Park, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

Wai’anapanapa State Park is yet another spot along the Hana Highway that’s overflowing with compelling photographic opportunities.  If I sound like a broken record, there’s good reason for it.

Forest Floor Closeup, Wai’anapanapa State Park, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

Black Sand Beach Black & White, Wai’anapanapa State Park, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

I wandered the length of the trail, on both sides of the cove with the black sand beach.

Coastal Overlook, Wai’anapanapa State Park, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

Coastal Overlook Black & White, Wai’anapanapa State Park, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

On the far side of the cove, the trail ascends a bluff from beach level, bends around a headland and leads the hiker to another cove, with another black sand beach, this one devoid of bathers.  It’s an enchanting location.  The dark black rocks wrapping around the cove are covered by naupaka.

Naupaka Cove, Wai’anapanapa State Park, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

A burst of rain came upon me suddenly while I was here, and I waited it out under a tree.  After four or five minutes it ceased and I made my way back to the parking area.

I ultimately reached the town of Hana by mid-afternoon.  Several of the spots I wanted to visit were no-gos due to lack of parking but I did find a virtually empty lot at Hana Bay and spent some time milling about there.  I discovered a forested area adjacent to the lot that intrigued me.

Hana Bay Beach Park, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

Hana Bay Beach Park, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

I eventually drove all the way to the access point to the Hipalulu District of Haleakala National Park, home to the so-called “Seven Sacred Pools” (more accurately known as Ohe’o Gulch–more on this location in a future entry).  The area was (what else?) extremely crowded, so I turned around and began the long drive back, with the intention of stopping at some of the places I hadn’t been able to photograph on the way in.  That didn’t go very well initially.

My first stop was at Wailua Falls which had been so crowded the first time I went by that I didn’t even try to get out of the car.  It was modestly better this time.  I was able to find a place to ditch the vehicle but the location was still overrun with people.  After about 10 minutes, I gave up and moved on.  Another hour and it might have been workable but I wasn’t in a position to wait that long.

I had better luck at Hanawi Falls, probably because of how much later it was when I got there.  Parking really wasn’t a problem and, once I waited out a couple of people, I was able to photograph the location in relative peace.

Hanawi Falls, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

Hanawi Falls Black & White, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

Hanawi Falls, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

By the time I got all the way back to Pu’a Ka’a State Park, which had been inundated with people earlier, it was within an hour or so of sunset and the location was completely deserted.  What a difference!  I took advantage of this windfall and really tried to make the most of the situation.

Waterfall, Pu’a Ka’a State Park, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

I made multiple images of the waterfall that people had been bathing beneath earlier in the day, with no interference.

Waterfall, Pu’a Ka’a State Park, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

I then turned my attention to what I termed “waterfall alley,” a series of falls in a narrow slot, plunging over a cliff wall, which I approached from several vantage points.

Waterfall, Pu’a Ka’a State Park, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

Waterfall Alley, Pu’a Ka’a State Park, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

Waterfall Alley, Pu’a Ka’a State Park, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

Waterfall Alley, Pu’a Ka’a State Park, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

I still had many miles, and a good solid hour, just to get to the head of the Hana Highway.  At one time, I had hoped to get back to Papawai Point, where I had begun the day with a sunrise shoot, for sunset, but at some point I realized that there was absolutely no chance of that happening.  When I reached a point on the highway–a restricted view ocean overlook–I found a spot to pull off and made a couple of images as the light dropped to nothing.  It wasn’t an ideal end-of-day location, but it would have to do.

Evening Shoreline, Hana Highway, Maui, Hawaii

I would return to this part of Maui later in the trip, to visit the Hipalulu District, and I’ll relate that experience in a future post.


  1. Wonderful photos. We had a great day drive on the Hana Highway in October from Kihei to Kihei. So many beautiful contrasts in the landscape.

    • Thanks!

      Sounds as though you were there the month after I was…did you go all the way around, through Kapuo on the Piilani Highway back to Kihei?

  2. Yet another great set of images. The rainbow Eucalyptus bark and the waterfall alley are my favorites.

    • Thanks, Ellen!

  3. Maybe someday I will get to see those rainbow Eucalyptus trees in real life. I am impressed by the tenacity of that tree rooting itself on the rocks of the beach and always love the silky stream of the waterfalls. Wonderful series!

    • Thanks very much, Jane!

  4. Beautiful pictures of Hawaii! I really like your “evening shorline” photo.

    • Thanks!

      That image is about as close as I come to a “grab” shot these days. The light was nice and I was miles (and probably more than an hour) away from any known (to me, I mean) location that might have allowed me to take advantage of it. There was a place alongside the road with a pullout and an obstructed view ocean overlook. It’s probably also worth noting that, obstructed or not, the view itself was nothing to write home about; nice enough, but nothing incredibly dramatic. The main elements obstructing the view were: 1) the foliage from the copious undergrowth; and 2) the tree trunk. I decided to see if I could use the elements to my advantage, so I moved around a bit to check different perspectives and dramatically widened the field of view by zooming out. I don’t recall exactly how wide I went, but I think it was somewhere in the 35-40 mm range. I had started at something in the neighborhood of 60-70 mm in an attempt to eliminate the impediments but didn’t like the result at all (it was essentially just the end of the distant headland, a bit of the ocean and some of the sky); hence the decision to go much wider and include the foreground. I should also mention that this was a focus stack compilation of five images; I didn’t have anywhere near the dept of field I needed with a single frame.

  5. […] I detailed in the second installment chronicling Day 9 of my trip to Hawaii last year, by the time I reached the Kipahulu District of Haleakala National […]

  6. […] first glance.  The valley is exceptionally lush, reminiscent of the locations I visited along the Hana Highway or spots on Kauai, and quite a contrast from many of the arid scenes that had dominated my […]

Please feel free to comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: