When doing any research while planning a trip to Maui, it's guaranteed that the Road to Hana will be top on the list of must-sees. The 64.4 mile stretch of highway consists of 620 curves and 59 bridges and leads you through lush rainforest terrain, waterfalls, and deep valleys. It truly is a once in a lifetime experience and, as cliche as it sounds, is more about the journey than the destination. In my opinion, the drive itself isn't worth it (and honestly quite stressful) unless you plan to make frequent stops and get out of the car to enjoy the beauty along the way.
No matter how you decide to conquer the Road to Hana, or what route you take, you'll need to dedicate a full day to this activity and plan on an early wake up call. The itinerary I outline below took around 11 hours and we left Lahaina around 6:15 a.m.
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How to get there
The first important decision you'll need to make is whether you want to drive yourself or do a guided tour. We've done both and they each have pros and cons. On our honeymoon, we chose this guided tour with helicopter flight which was epic and allowed you to skip the long drive back (while also seeing Maui from the skies). Since it was our first time visiting Maui, I was glad we chose the guided tour for a few different reasons. First, we didn't have to worry about driving, parking, etc. which can be extremely stressful with multiple one lane bridges and blind corners to navigate. Second, our guide was amazing and shared a lot of unique facts and history about the island during our tour which we wouldn't have heard otherwise. The downfall to a guided tour is your itinerary is already set in advance so there were some stops we missed out on our didn't get to enjoy as long as we would have liked.
On our third trip to Maui we decided to conquer the Road to Hana again and drive ourselves this time. While it was a LONG day, I did enjoy the freedom to create our own schedule and stop at what interested us. We also went past Hana town to explore Haleakala National Park and the Pipiwai Trail (which was my favorite part of the entire trip). If you're driving yourself, some people also choose to stay overnight in Hana town to break up the drive and give yourself more time to explore the following day. And last, if you are driving yourself I cannot recommend the Shaka Guide app enough. The app offers a number of different tours for purchase which provide turn-by-turn offline navigation (you won't have any cell service) and entertaining narration along the way.
Important things to consider
Weather: The reason the Road to Hana is so lush is because of all the RAIN. It rains almost every day on Hana but it never lasts long and it's usually a light/warm rain. Bring a towel or two, a light rain jacket/travel umbrella.
Clothes: Lots of rain means lots of mud. Be sure to wear shoes/clothes that you don't mind getting dirty. Water shoes work great for waterfall hikes. You can swim at some waterfalls/beaches so bring a bathing suit/towel if you plan to get wet.
Cash: Bring more cash than you think you'll need. Many of the roadside farm stands and food trucks only take cash and you don't want to miss out on all the yummy snacks.
Gas: Make sure you have a full tank of gas before leaving Paia as there are no gas stations along the road until you reach Hana. The drive itself from Paia to Hana takes about 2.5 hours depending on how many stops you make along the way.
Valuables: There have been numerous reports of car break ins along the road so be sure to lock your car when you leave and keep all valuables out of site or better yet, bring them with you.
Parking: Many of the main attractions have dedicated parking lots or pull out areas but they can fill up quick so you may have to pass something by and try again on the way home (turning around isn't always easy). There are also new roadside signs that designate no parking areas with fines enforced. Locals do travel this road every day so be sure to pull off and let folks pass if they are traveling faster than you.
Road to Hana: Classic Tour
On our most recent trip we took a classic tour which starts and ends in Paia and includes driving the Road to Hana all the way to end and then turning around and coming back the same way. You'll also see people talk about going the "reverse" way or all the way around the island. This is possible but is not recommended by rental car companies and features a potentially dangerous section of one lane road.
Our main goal on this trip was to hike the famous Pipiwai Trail so that's the timeline I will outline below but you can revise as needed based on which stops are most important to you.
Hit the road - we left from Lahaina Shores Beach Resort at around 6:15a. From this location on the island it will take around 3 hours to get to Hana town. Our plan was to drive straight through and arrive at Haleakala National Park around 9:15a (park opens at 9a) to be one of the first ones on the trail and avoid a majority of the traffic on the way there. This plan worked very well for us as we encountered few other cars on the road with us which made the drive a bit less stressful. If you start this early, a majority of the food stands, etc. won't be open yet so you're not missing much if you drive straight through.
Three Bears Falls - No parking at this stop so you'll have to drive by slowly and take in the views. It's nice to check this one out on the way to Hana as you'll be on the right side of the road and (hopefully) have less traffic behind you so you can take your time.
Wailua Iki Falls - Another road side waterfall that you can spot while driving over the bridge. May not always be visible in the drier season.
Wailua Falls - Located past Hana Town on your way to Kipahulu (Haleakala National Park) this 80 foot waterfall is definitely worth pulling over for. There is a small parking lot just over the bridge and you can get closer to the falls via a short rocky trail just past the right corner of the bridge. Recommend stopping here on your way to Pipiwai trail for less crowds.
Pipiwai Trail - This was #1 on my Maui bucket list and 100% worth it. You'll enter via Haleakala National Park ($30 fee per car which is good for three days so save your receipt if you plan to visit Haleakala Summit). There is plenty of parking here as well as an overflow grass lot so you don't need to worry about getting a spot. The trail is 4 miles out and back and winds through a bamboo forest ending with breathtaking views as Waimoku Falls. Along the way you’ll also pass by a giant banyan tree and a viewpoint for Makahiku Falls. I would rate this as an easy hike as there is minimal elevation gain and a majority of the trail is along wooden boardwalks.
Pools of Oheo - Located at the same site, this 0.6 mile loop trail features a waterfall, coastline views, and is good for all skill levels. You can no longer swim at the pools but the short trail is definitely worth it for the views alone.
Lunch at Huli Huli Chicken - After a full morning of driving/hiking we were hungry and ready for lunch. On your way back toward Hana town, take the short detour on Haneoo Road which leads to Hamoa Beach, Koki Beach, and the famous Huli Huli Chicken. This roadside stand was hands down one of the best meals we had in Maui and offers picnic seating with stunning views of Alau Island. Other options for food near by include Braddah Huts and a nearby smaller food truck park as well as a few restaurants in Hana Town.
Waianapanapa State Park (black sand beach) - This is another famous stop along the Road to Hana and if it's your first time, simply can't be missed. Advance paid reservations are now required for entry/parking within a 2.5 hour time slot. You can arrive at any point within the time slot but must be gone at the end of the reservation time. This is such a unique beach with its black sand/rocks. You'll see lots of folks swimming here and can also hike over on the cliffs to the left of the beach or through the sea tunnel.
Coconut Glen's - We began the long drive back to Paia with a few stops left to make along the way. This roadside stand is known for their organic, vegan ice cream made from coconuts. It's a quick stop but worth it if you're in search of a sweet treat.
Halfway to Hana - This is another roadside stand with a decent selection of snacks and drinks. Most people will stop here on their way to Hana as a "halfway" point, but it's just as good on the way back. Must try their famous banana bread and use the bathroom if needed.
Twin Falls - This is typically one of people's first stops on the drive and parking is very limited so it's often crowded in the morning. I suggest saving this as your last stop of the day (or even on the day you fly out if you have a late flight). This is a paid parking lot $10/per car and you'll read mixed reviews on whether it's worth it. I personally think it is if you can get access to all three waterfalls. The first two falls are located only a few minutes in on the gravel trail but Cave Falls (the third fall) is the real adventure. This is a 1.8 mile out and back hike with two river crossings that leads to a stunning waterfall with easy swimming access. Cave Falls is weather dependent as the river crossings are not safe when there has been a lot of rain due to flash floods.
Ho‘okipa Lookout/Beach - Make this your final stop on the Road to Hana to watch the surfers riding the large waves as the sun sets. This beach is also famous for the many sea turtles who come to rest on the shore (to the right of the bathrooms). Free parking available.
Flatbread Company - Depending on what time you're ending your drive, it may be the perfect time to grab dinner in Paia. Flatbread Company makes the most delicious wood fired pizzas and was another favorite meal of ours. Try their signature Kalua Pie which features Kalua pork, BBQ, red onion, pineapple and goat cheese.
There truly never seems to be enough time to see it all on the Road to Hana. If we had more time (and let's be honest energy), a few additional stops I would make are:
I love creating detailed travel guides to ensure you get the most out of your time. On this blog I'll be sharing some of my past trips in hopes that it helps you plan your next adventure. Pack your suitcase you never know where I'll be heading next!
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