Our last day in the Maui paradise, and another gray day at that. We had no agenda for the day, but since we had to check out of the resort at 10 a.m. and our flight wasn’t until 10 p.m., we knew it would be a car day. Not knowing exactly what we wanted to do, we drove north from Lahaina to see something new. First, through the neighborhoods of Kapalua, where you live when money is no object, with its fenced communities, well-manicured shrubs, and multiple golf courses.
Returning to the highway, we ended up taking what became the most challenging of the winding-road drives we had taken this trip – narrower roads than on the way to Hana or Haleakala, seemingly steeper drop-offs, and certainly fewer guard rails.
It all started off tamely enough, even as we got about 10 miles past Kapalua on route 30, where we pulled off for a 1-mile hike. Here, at the head of the trail, we looked back for a view of the blowhole at Nalalele Point, with the silhouette of Molokai behind.
The trail was easy, offering views to steep cliffs along the ocean and the occasional dolphin jumping, but no whales. Midway through the trail, we got our first glimpse of the striking Kahakuloa Head to the southeast, before turning back to the trailhead.
Once more in the car, we proceeded clockwise to the southeast as the road got progressively worse. We were on what we later learned was the infamous Kahekili Highway, which was probably not covered by our rental contract at this point. Two lanes became one-and-a-half lanes and eventually barely more than one lane with pull-offs for passing – hardly a “highway”. Few guard rails and sharp hairpin turns ruled the day.
But, it was worth it to arrive at this view of Kahakuloa Head. If you look closely, you can see the road cut coming from the right, and then it turns back to the right toward the Kaukini Gallery at the top plateau at right, our next destination.
From the garden at the gallery, you see a view of the town of Kahakuloa, and can see the cliff-side road zig-zagging around the bay to the right. To get a better feel of the terrain, it’s worth looking at the Google Earth satellite view. Zoom in when you get to the site to really appreciate the road and head as best you can from a screen. Or, read what other visitors have said about the Kahekili Highway, from its perils to its grandeur.
After this final view of the West Maui Mountains from the Kaukini Gallery garden, our trip is (mostly) downhill from here, figuratively speaking. The Kahekili Highway only got narrower, sharper, and steeper from this point for several miles before opening up again as it got closer to town. After a brief detour to see the ‘Iao Needle, a spike of rock rising 1200 feet from the valley floor (but not photogenic on this gray day), we had a wonderful dinner at the Hali’imaile General Store before heading to the airport.