You’ve probably heard of Maui’s famous Road to Hana with its 30 bridges and countless waterfalls. But did you know that there’s another beautiful Hawaiian drive that’s off-the-beaten-path but filled with history and scenic vistas? That’s right, the road to Halawa Valley winds along the Moloka’i scenic southern coast, ending at a beach where Polynesian voyagers from the Marquesas Islands stepped upon the sand in 450 A.D., or possibly even earlier.
Starting from Kunakaukau, Moloka’i’s main town, it’s 28 slow-going miles to Halawa Valley. And you’ll want to bring drinks and snacks, or better yet a picnic lunch, to enjoy on the beach once you arrive. After leaving Kunakaukau, Manae’s Goodz and Grindz or the small store at Pu’u o Kaiaka Ranch offer the only choices to purchase provisions.
The most scenic portion of the road to Halawa Valley starts after Manae’s Goodz and Grindz, near Hilltop Cottage, our paradise, while visiting Moloka’i. At first, the road passes ancient Hawaiian fish ponds where lava and coral rock walls trapped the fish served to royal Hawaiian chiefs. Pockets of secluded beaches are sprinkled along this portion of the coast. If the locals are surfing, be sure to stop to watch them battle the waves for a ride to shore.
Around mile marker 15, the road narrows and begins to climb. Soon, you’re in ranch country with grass covered hillsides on one side and sweeping ocean vistas on the other. Take the curves slowly, honking as you approach because the road to Halawa Valley is basically one lane at this point.
A couple of overlooks provide the opportunity to photograph both Moa’ula Falls and Hipuapua Falls thundering down the steep slopes of Halawa Valley. As the road dips into the valley, the pavement turns to dirt, eventually ending at Halawa Beach Park where you can take the short walk to Kama’alaea Beach (to the left) or Kawilli Beach (to the right).
Alan and I enjoyed a picnic lunch among the rocks at Kawilli Beach. We parked our beach chairs in the sand, then relaxed in the solitude of this isolated beach. I felt as if I’d traveled back to Hawaii’s beginning. Before leaving Halawa Valley, we stopped at the picturesque Ierusalema Hou Church. It seemed appropriate to step inside to say a word of thanks for the wild beauty of this place.
If you drive the road to Halawa Valley, remember to honor the signs indicating private property. To hike to the waterfalls, which are located on private land, you’ll need to hire a local guide.