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It’s world-famous for a reason! The Road to Hana meanders peacefully through pristine rainforests and sparkling waterfalls, presenting new and stunning vistas at every bend.
Sure, Maui is known for know for relaxing at Ka’anapali Beach, snorkeling at Kapalua Bay, and wandering the boardwalk in Lahaina. But this epic journey to it’s remote east side is what sets truly Maui apart from the other Hawaiian islands.
Since The Road To Hana is an absolute must-see on Maui, let’s talk about how to do it and what to experience along the way.
With over 600 twists and turns and more than 50 one-lane bridges, driving the Road to Hana is truly an adventure—an all day adventure, to be sure!
How you prepare for your journey will largely depend on whether you’ll be taking a guided van tour or driving in a rental car. In this guide we’ll cover both options so you can decide which is best for your trip.
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty, it’s important to realize that doing the Road to Hana, whether by guided tour or by rental car, is an all day event.
If you plan a full day for The Road To Hana, you’ll enjoy the experience so much more, and you won’t be scrambling like to get to your luau or dinner show afterward. Take our word for it—save the luau for another night!
Since the Road to Hana is quite long and twisty, you may want to consider taking a guided van tour instead of driving yourself.
This allows you to completely relax and enjoy all the beautiful scenery without having to keep your eyes constantly glued to the road.
Your friendly, knowledgeable tour guides also know all the hotspots to stop at along the way, so you’re sure to see the biggies.
Equipped with captain’s chairs and panoramic windows, these fully air-conditioned vans are, in a word, comfortable.
These are not cramped, funky, little vans. You’ll be traveling in total style and comfort on your Road To Hana tour!
You’ll have plenty of time to explore, take photos, and stop at Maui’s favorite roadside “snack shacks” to sample a variety of local goodies—fresh tropical fruit, smoked fish, banana bread, and smoothies.
You’ll want to bring a little cash with you. Visa: It’s where you want to be…unless you’re on the Road to Hana!
Another advantage to a guided tour is that when you’re done exploring and ready to go home, you’ll probably be ready for a nap. Your comfortable captain’s chair is a great to catch some “Z’s”.
It’s a relief to simply hop back into a luxury van, stretch out, and leave the driving to someone else.
You’ll definitely want to pack a bag to take with you for the Road To Hana. Here’s a list of things to bring with you to make your guided tour comfortable and exhilarating:
Some folks want the freedom to stop and go as they please or even spend a night or two in Hana. Driving the Road to Hana in a rental car allows for such liberties. It’s much more about the journey than the destination!
Sure, Hana is a pretty, little town, but the real treat is enjoying all the stops along the way, as well as seeing the sights that lie just beyond Hana Maui.
Here’s a list of the most popular stops on the Road to Hana. In our humble opinion, you don’t need to see them all. Our recommendation is to give yourself a full-day, and pick out a few of your favorites.
This is an extremely popular stop…that you should seriously consider skipping!
By all means, stop and see Twin Falls, but we suggest you do it another day in combination with a Maui zipline adventure.
This is a cool place to stop. You won’t see any waterfalls, but it’s still nice to take a quick amble through the verdant Maui jungle.
The name says it all. In addition to the beautiful gardens, it also affords panoramic views of the ocean, and views of Upper and Lower Puohokamoa Falls.
There’s an art gallery with beautiful locally crafted items, as well. Note that there is an entry fee of $15/person, so this may weigh into your decision to see it or skip it.
You might consider passing on this one. First of all, accessing the lookout requires that you go on private property marked with a “No Trespassing” sign.
With that said, there’s a large hole in the fence with a well-traveled path right on the other side leading to a nice lookout.
It’s really up to you, but we suggest keeping things legit and visiting the Garden of Eden, instead. There you’re able to see each of these waterfalls from spots within the garden area.
This is a nice park with good views of Keanae Peninsula. We’ll let you make the call, but you won’t have missed anything phenomenal if you skip it.
Don’t miss this! The Honomanu Bay Lookout offers great views of the Hana Highway as it twists along the rugged Maui coastline. An enchanting sight!
It’s worth taking a few minutes to check out Keanae Park. This is one of Maui’s most recent lava flows. You’ll find a lava rock shoreline, restrooms, and a banana bread stand. Very yummy!
These falls are totally worth your time! We recommend accessing them from the ocean side of the bridge (the end that’s closest to Hana). But if you decide to hike over to the falls, please be careful!
This park is a popular stop, but, in our opinion, you won’t be missing much if you keep driving. There are restrooms here if you need a break; the waterfalls are only so-so.
The black sand is a lovely novelty to check out, and the rest of the park has some terrific attractions including caves and short hikes.
Reservations required in advance.
Welcome to Heavenly Hana! Seriously, you could probably breeze right on past Hana, and sleep well knowing you didn’t miss a whole heck of a lot! BUT since you just drove The Road to Hana, you may as well stop for lunch and check it out.
Dining in Hana is a unique experience, and although you won’t find many full-blown “restaurants” here, there are a number of roadside food trucks, stands, and shacks dishing out some extremely tasty cuisine! Here’s a list of some local favorites!
There are also a few sites in the area that you might consider seeing:
Now that you’ve had lunch, are you’re ready to finish what you started? Great!
The next three stops are among the very finest on the entire drive. Notice that the mile markers count downward on these next three stops? This is because it’s a different highway—Highway 31.
Unless you’re planning on spending a night or two here, you’ll probably want to get back on the road somewhat quickly, since some of the most beautiful stops are to be found along the 12 miles of road that lie beyond Hana.
A tad past Hana Maui and you’ll find beautiful Hamoa Beach.
This salt and pepper sand beach boasts an idyllic, tropical setting, making it one of the most striking Maui beaches. Take a few minutes here to dig your toes in the sand and revel in the pristine, natural beauty.
Don’t even think about passing this one up; Wailua Falls is spectacular! Since it’s right on the side of the road, you can’t miss it.
Park your car, and take the short trail to the base of the waterfall, where you can get a closer look. You can even take a dip if you’re feeling extra adventurous.
Naturally, we saved the best for last! This stop alone makes the entire drive worthwhile.
Not only are you greeted by a cascade of gleaming pools, but you’re also at the site of one of Maui’s most epic hikes—Pipiwai Trail.
Since the Seven Sacred Pools are located within the Kipahulu District of Hakeakala National Park, there is a parking fee per vehicle.
However, the parking pass is valid for three days and includes access to the summit of Haleakala Crater. So, be sure to check out the sunrise at Haleakala within that timeframe to get the most bang for the buck.
Of course, you don’t have to pay any parking fees at the Seven Sacred Pools or atop Haleakala Crater if you visit them as part of a guided tour—another benefit of taking a guided van tour of the road to Hana.
You’ll find several great hikes in the 7 Sacred Pools area. The three “Kipahulu Area Trails” are the most popular of the bunch, and Kuloa Point Trail and Kahakai Trail are the shortest of the three, each only about a half-mile round-trip.
If you want to tackle the best hike Maui has to offer, then Pipiwai Trail is what you’re really after. It’s much longer (about 4 miles round-trip) and includes a ramble through an incredibly lush bamboo forest.
You’ll see the impressive 185 ft. Makahiku Falls, and if that isn’t enough, at the end of your hike, you’ll come to the crowning jewel—400 ft. Waimoku Falls.
It really doesn’t get any better than this…anywhere! Read more about The Pipiwai Trail in our Guide To East Maui.
If you’re thinking about driving the road Hana and hiking Pipiwai Trail on the same day, then you should consider booking a guided hiking tour instead of doing it on your own.
A guided tours ensures that you’ll be in good hands with folks who really know their way around the roads and trails.
When it’s time for you to call it a day and head back to your hotel, there really is only one way back, and that’s the same way you came in.
We do NOT suggest driving the “back side,” since it comes with many added risks that, in our opinion, really aren’t worth taking.
Besides, much of the back side consists of very rough roads and relatively sparse scenery.
And if these aren’t reasons enough, car rental companies make you sign an agreement that you won’t drive the back side in their cars! Enough said.
If you’ve timed things right, you may drive through Paia right around dusk. Consider stopping here for dinner and a brief stroll around Paia’s charming shops and galleries—if you have the energy.
Paia Maui has some excellent eateries, of which these are a few of our favorites:
When you get back to your hotel, take a hot shower, grab a seat on your lanai, kick up your feet, and enjoy a Mai Tai…or three! You’ve earned it!
Also, please give yourself a big pat on the back. You’ve survived the Road to Hana!
A van tour exploring one of the the most beautiful, and windiest roads in the world, is of course preferable. But if you’re adventuring The Road To Hana in your rental car follow these simple tips to save some time and get you back to your hotel in at a reasonable hour.
A 2-day trip on The Road To Hana is an ideal way to enjoy the adventure. Here’s a list of some recommended hotels and B&Bs in the Hana area:
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