Planning on taking a vacation this year? Do yourself a favor and consider traveling to Maui. I can say with the utmost confidence that if there ever was paradise on Earth, it's definitely located on the island of Maui. While Maui is exquisitely beautiful and diverse in terrain, driving the full circumference allows one to experience just how unique in landscape, geology and climate the island really is.

Photo Credit: Gord Webster

We started off our trip by traveling north up to Lahaina and the neighboring beach town of Ka'anapali. Both Lahaina and Ka'anapali have gorgeous white sand beaches, upscale art galleries, delicious and affordable restaurants, and fabulous shopping! Leaving Lahaina, we traveled around the northern part (or "the head") of the island which has natural scenic views of the northwest & north coast of Maui. The Road to Hana is a curvy coastal road with views of high-peak cliffs, beaches, waterfalls, and miles and miles of rainforest. You'll definitely need to pay attention while driving due to the many sharp curves, one-lane road/bridges and on-coming traffic.

As we finished our drive around the northern tip of the island, we land on the next leg of our trip: Hana. If you're unfamiliar with Hana, it's a small village on the east side of the island that has yet to be invaded by mass tourism (if you can believe it). You'll need to get an early start to avoid traffic and take in all of the lush scenery along the way. Make plans to stay a night or two at one of the spa retreats. I made sure we had enough time to get massages at our spa. Outdoor massages, warm breezes, our own secluded hale... what more could one ask for? You don't want to miss out on the black sand beach at Wainapanapa State Park. It's by far one of the most beautiful black sand beaches in all of Hawaii.

Photo Credit: Lee Stone

Things to keep in mind when traveling to Hana:

- There's no cell phone reception

- There are no restaurants (only local food huts)

- Gas up before you leave because once you start this road trip, there are no gas stations along it.

- Leave early! There are no road lights, so driving at night can be scary!

The journey along the Road to Hana ends near the Seven Sacred Ponds, a natural wonder that's part of Haleakala National Park. Many travelers return home on the road to Hana after visiting the ponds, but we decided to continue our drive down the south coast to experience yet another side of Maui. The scenery changed from lush, green vegetation to scorched earth and jagged cliffs. No rest stops, no eateries, no nothing! But it is worth going down SLOWLY because it is absolutely nothing like what you see in Hana.