RV enthusiasts don’t need to be disappointed that they can’t bring their RV from the mainland, because there are still ways to experience a different kind of RV-style camping on Maui. Waiʻānapanapa State Park, located on Maui along the Road to Hana, is one of the most scenic camping areas in the vicinity. Although Waiʻānapanapa State Park is mainly a tent and cabin campground, campervans, truck campers, and modified car-tents may camp in the tent area as long as the vehicle is modified for overnight sleeping.
The Road to Hana is one of the most scenic drives in the United States. The road consists of 600 or more hairpin turns and 59 one-lane bridges. Although the road is 52 miles long, the journey is slow-going at the posted speed limit of 25 miles per hour, and more often than not, drivers stop along the road to experience the waterfalls, the surrounding jungle, and the panoramic views of the black basalt lava coastline juxtaposed against the turquoise waters of the ocean.
Waiʻānapanapa State Park, located on the western coastline of Maui near Hana, provides guests with stunning ocean views, a black pebbled beach, and tropical surroundings. Waiʻānapanapa means glistening waters in Hawaiian, and the park lives up to its name. RVers won’t regret the decision to see Maui from a campervan. The views and adventure are endless.
Waiʻānapanapa State Park is 48 miles from the Maui’s Kahului Airport. Since this park is on an island, it is hard to get lost and finding your way since it is right on the tip of the western end of the beach. Less than three miles from Hana, 30 minutes from Nahiku, 40 minutes from Wailua, and about 50 miles from the City of Maui, you are not far from just about everywhere on the island.
Recognized as the crown jewel of Hawaii’s scenic highways, the Road to Hana (Highway 360) is the main road into the park. In fact, 360 is the main road to just about anywhere on the island. You can take the road from one end to the other and enjoy more than 600 curves and 59 bridges. However, this trip is not for everyone as people who get carsick or have a fear of heights may be a bit intimidated by the dynamic twisting and turning. Those driving larger rigs or pulling trailers may have some difficulty maneuvering on this road, so be careful and take it slow.
Visitors may enter the park for free. Overnight campers must pay a nightly camping fee. The price of camping varies depending on your state residency. Overnight guests may only stay in tents or vehicles outfitted for camping such as campervans, truck campers, and on-vehicle tents. Vehicles larger than a campervan may not stay overnight.
RV campers who want to RV in Maui will want to experience the campervan life while staying on the black sand beach at Waiʻānapanapa State Park. This state park allows for campervans and vehicles modified for camping and sleeping such as an on-vehicle mounted tent. The Waiʻānapanapa campground is a reservations campground with walk-in camping permitted on the day of arrival. Campers must register upon entering the park and keep the daily permit in a visible location on the campervan or vehicle. The sites are primitive with no hookups.
You can cook on camp stoves, portable grills, or designated park-provided grills as no open campfires are permitted. Only authorized service animals are allowed at Waiʻānapanapa State Park, so you will have to leave your pup at home. The campground provides overnight guests with restrooms, trash cans, access to drinking water, picnic tables, and an outdoor beach shower. Portable electric generators are prohibited except with the use of a special permit.
Waiʻānapanapa State Park is a stop along Maui’s famous Road to Hana. Guests who are interested in taking one of Hawaii’s most scenic roadways might consider taking a day tour instead of trying to traverse the road in a campervan. There are many local tours that take people on an epic adventure on the narrow highway. The highway has 59 bridges and more than 600 curves, making the drive a little bit scary for people who don’t like cliffs and switchbacks. Contact one of the local tour companies for more information.
One of the park’s main attractions is the blowhole. A blowhole is an ocean cave that is partially submerged. When the ocean water rises with the tides or waves, air and water are forced violently out of the cave, creating a spectacular mist of water accompanied by a loud sound. Depending on the tide, the spray can vary from mist to a deluge of water. To get to the blowhole, take the paved path east from the overlook area. Proceed to the blowhole cautiously and follow the posted rules, as this area can be dangerous.
The park has plenty of hiking and walking options around the day-use area, and some of the paths are paved, so visitors have ADA accessibility to some of the park’s attractions. For hiking, venture off the paved pathways and see the surrounding area from a scenic vantage point. All of the trails allow foot traffic only, so you won’t have to worry about colliding with bikes. The park’s main trail is the Ke Ala Loa O Maui/Pilani Trail. This trail is a three-mile, moderate level difficulty path along a barren lava rolling path. Other trails lead in and out of the park if you desire a longer walk. Pick up a trail map for more information.
You cannot go to Maui without fishing in that gorgeous ocean, so make sure you pack your fishing gear in the campervan before heading out. There are several places along the beach to toss a line in the water, and it doesn’t matter whether you use artificial lures for whipping (fly fishing) or natural bait with weights (dunking), you will most likely get at least a bite or two. Some of the most commonly caught fish include snapper, ulna, and sea bass, but you never really know what you will pull out of the ocean so bring a big net. Typical fishing setups are 12 to 20-pound test line, but the whoppers out there can reach up to 200 or more pounds. You can also hire a charter boat and guide if you prefer fishing that way.
Pa’iloa Beach, the park’s black sand beach, brings visitors to the park daily. The beautiful black sand isn’t sand at all; it’s small black pebbles. Because the sand is actually made of pebbles, laying out isn’t especially comfortable, but an added bonus to not having sand is that you don't have to worry about all that sand sticking to you. Bring a beach chair and comfortable water shoes if you want to spend time near the water. The tides near the beach are rough, so swimmers should enter the water at their own risk. Aside from the rough water, Portuguese man-o-war and jellyfish frequent this area of the ocean, so understand the water hazards before taking a swim.
Cliff jumping isn’t for the faint of heart or inexperienced swimmers. Consider cliff jumping if you are strong swimmer, and you understand the push and pull of the ocean as well as how to swim in current and undertow. There are no lifeguards on duty near the cliff-jumping area, and all adventurers must jump at their own risk. The cliff-jumping area is just east of the black sand beach. Before leaping, ensure you can see hazards in the water before taking the plunge. Be aware that getting out of the water is tricky. The lava rocks and other natural surfaces are rough and can cut your feet and skin. Water shoes are recommended.
Bring your sense of adventure when you visit the park’s Anchialine pool caves. Before entering the caves, you will want to stop and read the posted information about the legend of Popoaleae, the Hawaiian princess. The legend explains the presence of tiny shrimp during certain seasons, and the story adds to the general ambiance of the caves. The Anchialine caves are lava tubes and clear-water, spring-fed pools. Don’t be shocked when you get in the water, because these pools are cold! Venture out a little further and locate the hidden caves under the main cave walls. It’s a cave, and that means it is dark, so don’t forget your flashlight!
Diving and snorkeling are fantastic ways to see the amazing sights underneath the surface of the beautiful blue waters of Maui. If you don't bring your snorkeling or diving gear, you can buy or rent it at one of the shops in the area. The Molokini Crater has a lot of vibrantly colored coral, sea urchins, and fish like unicornfish, surgeonfish, tangs, and black durgons. Turtle Town has a lot of turtles (of course) as well as pinktail durgons, butterflyfish, triggerfish, and chubs. You can also just walk into the surf off the black lava beach and check out the stunning wonders in these waters as well.