Maui Road Trip: Running of the Bulls

By Mr. TWS

What a day for a Maui road trip through diverse terrain with scenic views and surprises.

"View of the Pacific Ocean from road along backside of Haleakala Mountain"

View from Haleakala backside road

During our last morning in Hana at Travaasa Hana we took a horseback ride along the coast and got a great tip from our guide, Jolynn Piimauna — to take the road along the backside of Haleakala instead of backtracking on the Road to Hana. Mai Tais, swims in the pool, walks on the beach and dining on Hawaiian natural cuisine have cut into some of our blogging time. So, although our day was full of sights and activities, in this post I’ll share just a few of the sights and an amusing anecdote from the drive from Hana in East Maui to Napili on the northwest shore of West Maui.

"Rocky coastline on Maui"

Rocky Maui coastline

"Rocky beach along Haleakala backside road, Maui"

Sweeney on a rocky beach

The northern route to Hana is a great drive but a lot has to do with the stops and hikes; on the Haleakala backside route, there were beautiful vistas and mountain views along the whole drive.

"Unpaved portion of road from Hana along backside of Haleakala Mountain"

Unpaved portion of Haleakala backside road

We’d read a lot about the roughness of this route but it seemed from things we’d read online this was a thing of the past with recent paving. The road was a bit rougher in spots but also wider and smoother, particularly where recently paved. We’d read ( I thought jokingly) that the dangers included possibly running into cows, so I was surprised and amused to find a stray calf wandering in the middle of the road. Sweeney was driving and stopped abruptly, though we were probably going 15 mph at the time.

"Calf on road from Hana on the backside of Haleakala Mountain"

Calf on road

She inched forward to get past the calf without spooking it, but as she got closer, the calf kept moving ahead. As we moved forward, we saw a Hawaiian cowboy (paniolo) with an ATV. We’d learned just that morning from Jolynn that cows were no longer herded by horseback riders but rather ATV drivers.

Who knew there was a running of the bulls in Hawaii? We caught it at close range.

We assumed the paniolo had heard of the wayward calf and was in pursuit; however, passing the calf, we found that the paniolo was blocking the road with his ATV and looking up the road (away from the calf). We stopped the car and waited, expecting for help to show up so that he could let us pass; however, the time dragged on.

"Maui rancher and ATV blocking the road on Haleakala backside road from Hana"

Rancher and his ATV

As the cars gathered behind us, people parked and I got out to shoot some pictures. Then Sweeney suggested I go ask what was happening. I approached the cowboy and he said that he was stopping traffic because they were bringing the bulls down the road for mating. We chatted for a bit and I started back to rejoin Sweeney. She began screaming for me to get in the car and pointed up the hill. I whipped around and saw bulls stampeding over the hill. That may seem an overstatement but it is exactly what it looked like; the running of the bulls headed right at me.

I ran back toward the ATV, I guess, to get a closer picture. (Isn’t that what zooms are about?). Perhaps it was to share the minimum cover the ATV provided. The stampede seemed to stop itself; the bulls knew where the gate was and they seemed excited to get inside. I didn’t get a photo or video of the stampede, but this short video shows the aftermath (not our voices in the background, by the way).

While I was up talking to the cowboy, several people approached Sweeney (in the driver’s seat of the lead car) and asked her what was going on. One woman asked: “Well, what’s going on?”, as though Sweeney was in charge of the delay and the woman wanted to know why. Then even more amusingly, an impatient young man approached the “person in charge” (Sweeney) and said agitatedly: “So how long is this going to take?” Of course, Sweeney replied: “I don’t know.” He retreated muttering to himself. I’d love to have heard how each of them relayed the message to their travel companions.

"Beautiful scenery on a Maui road trip along the backside of Haleakala Mountain"

Beautiful scenery along the way

"Haleakala Mountain, Maui"

Haleakala Mountain

Stay tuned — there will be much more about our Maui exploration in upcoming posts, including the horse ride and the rest of the drive to Napili.

This is our contribution to Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox and R We There Yet Mom’s Friday Daydreamin’ Series.

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

52 thoughts on “Maui Road Trip: Running of the Bulls

  1. patti

    Love Maui! Such an incredibly beautiful island, so much to take in. When we drove the road to Hana we were moving slowly through one of the hair pin turns and a guy was sitting on a one-lane bridge wall. The windows were down on the car and as we passed him he asked us, very nicely, if we wanted to join him in a smoke. (as in funny cigarettes) Ha! It was great. I love the village of Lahaina too. Aloha ~

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      Aloha. Glad you enjoyed the smoke…and Maui. Not sure when you were here last. Lahaina seems to have grown quite a bit since our last visit. We are enjoying Napili just north of there. Thanks for the comments.

  2. Lisa

    Wow – I think I would have panicked if there was a herd of cattle stampeding toward me! Loved your photos – we skipped the Road to Hana when we were in Maui but did make it to the top of Haleakala which was incredible!

    Love the new look of your website too! 🙂

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      Well, I panicked only to the extent I couldn’t react quickly enough for the video. I’m sure it sounds a little like hyperbole especially with the video I did catch at the end. I am probably overly calm in such situations and some day it will probably cost me. Good thing they knew where the gate was and wanted to get in. It really was an amazing sight. As I again looked at the picture of the cowboy blocking the road, I can still see the full run of them coming over the top of the hill and they were running hard. Thanks for you comments. Glad you like the new look of the sight…that’s Sweeney.

  3. Linda

    Stunning….and so much in common with the Canary Islands….this reminds me so much of a drive I made last week. I’ll try to remember to tell you if I write about it, so you can compare! Must, must, must go see for myself! You have no idea how much I’m enjoying my virtual tour with you in the meantime!

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      Thanks for the comments. Glad you’re enjoying it. Most of the photos were from the car while we were moving. I didn’t really expect them to be ok. Lots of Maui coming. We’ll really have to find a way to the Canaries.

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      We did see some goats too but not even close to he number of cows. We also saw a few mongooses (mongeese sounds better) but many were on the trip to Hana. We saw a deer crossing sign but no dear and I think wild pigs are also there. It’s amazing they’re so similar even with different oceans.

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      We’re here and know we’ll feel the same way. We can’t believe it took us so long to get back. Flights from San Francisco are quite reasonable so we will definitely start coming back more. We have friends that come to Hawaii numerous times each year. Glad you liked the post. Thanks for your comments.

  4. Dick Jordan

    Smart move on your part to take the “wrong road” back from Hana. I did that drive a few years back. Didn’t see any bulls or cows, just one very large dump truck coming at me on the narrowest spot on the road!

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      That does seem like the time you always have those trucks coming. We saw more large vehicles on this back route. I was really leaning to taking this route and the recommendation iced it. Thanks for the comments. In hind sight I should have been set with the camera for the charge over the hill. I just never expected them to be coming like that. And we’d already waited about 15 minutes when I turned to get back to Sweeney.

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      Thanks for the comment. I really hope you get back. It is so beautiful and the people are awesome. More about that in future posts.

  5. Donna Hull

    I remember how narrow that road was in 2000. I made Alan turn around and go back the other way. We were newlyweds so he just smiled and said, “Yes, dear.” Isn’t the horseback ride at Travaasa Hana wonderful?

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      I’m sure he’s still responding similarly to your suggestions. The horseback ride was great. I’m just finishing the post on it. Travaasa was amazing. Anyone going to Hana should plan to stay a night or 2 but then they’ll be sad they didn’t stay longer. Thanks for your comments.

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      Thanks for the comment. We’ve almost never been misled by tips from locals. It’s so easy to ask and people generally are quite pleased to have the opportunity to help. Not like the old Johnny Carson line: “New York cab drivers are the friendliest people in the world. Ask them for directions and they’ll tell you where to go.”

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      Not a lot of stopping points so some pics taken from the car. It was a great experience. Hope you get to try it soon. Thanks for the comments.

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      We still laugh when we talk about it. I think they thought Sweeney had just stopped to enjoy the view, oblivious to those behind her. The views were beautiful. Thanks for commenting.

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      It is a long ride. Staying in Hana was a good way to break it up and to see a bit more, though we were lulled by how nice it was to enjoy the serenity of the setting and the back way really seems like the way to go, unless you missed early hikes along the way to Hana. Thanks for your comments. Hope you get there soon.

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      It really was a fun surprise. I wish I had been more anticipating of the charge over the hill; it was a bit of a wait and then it was over in a flash…that video would have been an awesome addition. I sure have the image in my head and it still makes me chuckle. Thanks for your comments.

  6. Vera

    Yes, I’d be very quickly in the car if I saw these coming…:) Although they look kinda cute, too – from a safe distance. I will tell my brother about this, should he ever go to Hawaii – his favourite colour is red which I’ve heard bulls don’t like that much…

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      Thanks for commenting. As in the video they were mostly calm, but the stampede just before over the top of the hill in the picture made you think they might be dangerous, not so much maliciously, just running in a group. I think that’s why hippos kill more people in Africa than other animals. The unfortunates are between them and their destination, usually the river. Good thing I wasn’t wearing red. (Actually, I think that is a myth; I believe they’re color blind.) The calves were a lot cuter.

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      Thanks for your comments. Sweeney was driving and I took some Dramamine, which helped. It was pretty and will probably do it again, stopping a bit more. Staying at least a night in Hana and taking the south way back is really the way to go. Thanks for commenting.

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      It was a great drive and this episode was a lot of fun. We kept laughing about the oddity and also the funny questions Sweeney got. We did see other cattle in Maui and Molokaʻi, also horses. Though as I mentioned, horses are not much used for herding cattle, rather ATVs. There is a Hawaiian word for Hawaiian cowboys: paniolo. Thanks for commenting.

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      The views were amazing; lots more vistas on the southern path. I wish I had stayed prepared for the bulls coming but I wasn’t expecting they’d be at full charge, so I only caught the less exciting milling about waiting to go through the gate. Thanks for your comments.

  7. InsideJourneys

    I love how people just naturally assumed you’d know how long the holdup would take.
    That video, the cows/bulls, the roads could easily have been in Jamaica. Glad they weren’t unruly. Can’t wait to hear about the rest of your trip, Cathy.

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      I didn’t hear it; but it still makes me laugh. It was just that she was the first in line. People can be really amusing.

      It has been years since we were in Jamaica, but did drive around a fair bit into rural areas and you’re right about the similarity but I wouldn’t have thought about it. So thanks for the comment.

  8. Mary {The World Is A Book}

    How cool! It’s such an unexpected sight but what an unforgettable experience. We only made it to Mile 7 of the Road to Hana but would love to actually complete it one of these days. Those views are stunning! Looks like a wonderful trip so far and looking forward to more of your adventures.

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      Thanks for commenting. Hope you are able to make it all the way. Staying at least a night in Hana really makes a lot sense and Travaasa was great. Also, returning on the southern route is better. Wish we had done a bit more hiking to see more of the falls.

  9. Leigh

    Haven’t been to Maui but it sounds like it offers plenty of interesting activities. I doubt that running of the bulls is in any of the tourist brochures! That’s what makes travel so much fun.

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      We did move around a lot and getting oriented in the new sites took a bit of time but it was fun. So there were lots of things we didn’t get to. I agree about the unexpected; serendipity is one of my favorite things about travel. Thanks for commenting.

  10. Michele @ Malaysian Meanders

    I really wasn’t expecting that development in your drive back, despite the title of this post. What a great story it makes! We didn’t do the backside drive back from Hana a few years ago because I think it was still on the rough side. Looks like gorgeous scenery.

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      Thanks for the comments. If you get to do the drive again, I would recommend that route. The scenery was beautiful and it was a fun little occurrence on the trip.

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      Maui was great; it had been a while for us to be in a tropical place. Hope you can get there soon; it was fantastic. I wasn’t expecting the running either; even with the delay, I was caught off guard and missed the stampede itself on camera. We mixed leisure in a bit more than other trips partly because the places we stayed were so inviting and made the ocean and pools very accessible. Thanks for the comments.

    1. Mr. TWS Post author

      I think a lot more was recently paved, though we did hit some short unpaved sections which weren’t that bad either. The stampede was a fun surprise. Thanks for commenting.

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