Location -- East Maui, along Hana Highway, Mile Marker 31, turn ocean side on Ulaino Road [aka Blue Pool Road]; ~1.1 miles from highway. Proceed past stream bed crossing, along dirt road. Turn right, ocean side. Garden entrance is well marked.
Site - Kahanu Gardens, National Botanical Garden and registered as a National Historic Landmark for the impressive Pi`ilanihale or Hale O Pi’ilani Heiau, described as one of the greatest engineering and construction feats in all of Polynesia.
Interesting Facts - “Heiau” is the Hawaiian word for sacred spot, or some refer to these sites as temples or sanctuaries. The Pi’ilani Heiau, a lava rock structure, is believed to be the largest remaining ancient structure in Hawaii.
Kahanu Garden has high quality, plant collections from the Pacific Islands, particularly plants of value to the Hawaiian people as well as to other cultures of Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia. Collection includes the world's largest collection of breadfruit cultivars; and one of the largest, untamed native hala (Pandanus) forests in the Islands.
More than half of Kahanu Garden is covered by a forest of native hala, Pandanus tectorius, in the Pandanaceae, or Screw Pine family
Timing and Cost - Open only M-F, 10 - 2; Find kiosk just past entrance. Pick up the self-guided brochure. Pay the entrance fee of $10 per person. Note that fee is per person, not per vehicle. Children under 12 are free. Allow one hour, or more if you prefer to linger with the plants and the views.
Preparation - Best to wear closed toe shoes with good grips – either sneakers, hiking boots, or water shoes, since trails are often muddy. The hike to the heiau site is short and easy, about ½ mile over flat terrain. Long pants, mosquito repellent, a good hat for shade, and bottled water are also good for this hike. As in all parking lots near tourist sites on Maui, do NOT leave valuables in the car, even hidden, locked in glove compartment of 'secured' in the trunk.
At Kahanu Gardens, when you visit the Pi`ilanihale or Hale O Pi’ilani Heiau ... or any such 'sacred' site -- do NOT walk or climb on the structure. They will emphasize this in the brochure of the self-guided tour and when you register at the entrance.
Enjoy walking around it, perhaps noticing the many plants which were important to the Hawaiian people and have been planted here as reminders of lives once lived in harmony with the land and the sea.
Take in the amazing view of Honomâ`ele Bay
You may see small piles of stones, some wrapped in leaves or other plant material, which have been left by others. Some say this is an ancient Polynesian practice - a gift of honor and respect to a particular site, grave, etc. However, many now claim this is a total myth and was made up and became a fad only 40-50 years ago.
May be best to simply go by the principle - take only photographs, leave only footprints. Do not pick up stones and move them; do not pluck anything from the plants; do not pick up flowers or fruits or other droppings from the trees and shrubs.
NOTE - Blue Pool is CLOSED by locals due to overuse & pollution. It is not wise or safe to trek past the end Ulaino Road, across stream, or along 5-10' section of boulders/ shoreline. Even though you may see some signs that encourage parking, or even charge for it, the road is a dead end. You will see road closed and Blue Pool closed signs. Unless you are hiking with the actual owners of this land, it is KAPU - which means forbidden. Do not go along with some guidebooks which seem to encourage ignoring No Trespassing signs. Would you enjoy having strangers tromping through your yard or house, just because someone said there was something cool nearby?
IF taking this road for Kahanu Gardens, a legitimate visitor destination, then be aware.
The garden entrance is located down Ulaino Road, also referred to as Blue Pool Road, ~ 1.1 miles from Hana Hwy; near Mile Marker 31, between Kalo Rd & airport road, or Alalele Place. Turn ocean side – RIGHT if coming from Hana Town. Go past end of pavement onto dirt road; careful of ruts, potholes & mud.
Continue down the dirt road and just past the stream crossing, the one that has been paved and has the concrete high water markers on either side. Please, heed the warning signs and do not attempt to cross the stream if the water level is even with or above the red portion of the concrete markers. If it is safe, cross the stream – being careful to stay on the roadway and avoid the big pothole near the opposite bank. The gardens will be just ahead on your right – ocean side. The entrance is clearly marked.
Do not go down this road, attempt to cross the stream, or head to the gardens in the late afternoon or evening - it closes at 2 pm. And is only open M-F.
There are three legitimate visitor destinations along this road, just before Hana Town, on east Maui.
You can head to the cave or lava tube tour site, or the Hana Maui Botanical Gardens [which also has 2 duplexes for rent, a budget option for Hana]; or the much more impressive Kahanu Gardens, a National Botanical Garden.
All 3 sites have prominent signs at their entrances.
There are also a few vacation rentals along Ulaino Road, most notably Gecko Song House just before the end of the pavement.
If not visiting friends, or one of these sites, or staying along this road - avoid it, esp. where the dirt road begins. Can be dangerous due to mud, high water stream crossing, narrow passages, extreme dips, and general remoteness of area. Make sure you have good tires, brakes, and undercarriage clearance if heading here for one of the legitimate sites.
Also beware of angry local man, a big man with crazy hair and a machete, near the end of the road. He is enforcing the Blue Pool closed edict, to which all the warning signs attest.
Fondest memory: The quiet of the mornings, the amazing variety of birdsong, the peace of gentle walks through the botanical gardens ... the breathtaking vista of the bay near the heiau at Kahanu.