The long drive out to Hana will usually include stops at countless scenic lookouts, engaging fruit stands, rain pools, waterfalls, state parks, hiking trails, and beaches, but be sure to keep your eyes peeled for a large sign that reads “Lava Tube.”
After parking the car in a small gravel lot, you will be 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”), you will be handed a flashlight and pointed in the direction of the opening to the cave.
You will undoubtedly be surprised to discover how large the lava tube really is. It’s as if Maui’s designers had taken a page out of New York City’s subway system and dug a massive subterranean tunnel. As you travel deeper and deeper into the cave, look for educational signs and placards along the way highlighting particular points of interest. Learn about stalactites that look 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. The section 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.
The region of Hana has remained one of Maui’s most remote destinations, but who knows how long this natural paradise will remain free of tourist traps, widened roads, and strips of hotels? Who’s to say the lava tube tour won’t grow in popularity and transform into a group tour as opposed to an exploratory self-guided adventure? Also, because the lava tube is on private property, the owner may opt to simply shut down access to it. In summary, make sure to take the lava tube tour the next time you are in Hana!
Part of a NileGuide Special Report: 25 Destinations to See Before They Change Forever.