This last weekend I drove out to Hana with no set schedule or itinerary. I figured the countless scenic lookouts, fruit stands, rain pools, waterfalls, state parks, hiking trails, and beaches would provide plenty of inspiration for my uncharted journey. It wasn’t long before my first adventure was underway.
The large sign that reads “Lava Tube” along the Hana Highway had caught my eyes in the past, but I had never really given it much thought. I have been through the famous lava tube system on the Big Island, so what could this Maui attraction really offer, right? Wrong!
After parking the car, I was briefed on the intricacies of this particular lava tube system, which stretches for miles upon miles, with some chambers still unexplored. After forking over a mere $11 (locals should ask for the Kama’aina discount), I grabbed a flashlight and descended down into the cave.
I was surprised to discover how large the lava tube really was. It’s as if Maui had taken a page out of New York City’s subway system and dug a massive subterranean tunnel. As I traveled deeper and deeper into the cave, educational signs and placards along the way highlighted particular points of interest. I learned about stalactites that looked like melted chocolate Hershey kisses, stalagmites formed from lava that dripped down from the ceiling and cooled on the chamber floor, blind insects that have been discovered inside the cave, and how one enormous chamber was actually used as a nuclear fallout center in the 1970s, complete with bunk beds and supplies.
All in all, this self-guided tour, which takes about 45 minutes, is absolutely worth a stop as you make your way out to Hana. The setting is truly fit for a Jules Verne novel. Water droplets constantly drip down from the ceiling and a thick darkness surrounds you the second you opt to turn your flashlight off. I was told the portion of the lava tube you are able to explore runs for about 400 meters (one lap around an Olympic track), but it seems much longer than that.