The Road to Hana is one of the quintessential things to do in Maui (and all of Hawaii) and in my opinion one of the best drives in the Unites States. Think driving through curvy roads, black and red sand pristine beaches, misty waterfalls with pools, bamboo forests and lush greenery all around. It’s absolute heaven, and I cant wait to go back to Hana again (and again, and again).
Highway 36 (known as Hana Highway or Road to Hana) is one of the most famous highways in the entire country. With 600-plus turns, and 56 single lane bridges on this 64-mile road, you simply haven’t seen Maui if you haven’t driven the Road to Hana.
Although the drive only takes about 3 hours, you’ll definitely need an ENTIRE DAY to linger around and take in all the beauty of this island. And trust me, there are tons of stops on the Road to Hana you wouldn’t want to miss!
WHERE TO STAY?
The best accessible places to stay is Paia or Kihei, so that you can get a good start to your drive down to Hana. There’s also the Travaasa Hana, which is at the end of the Road to Hana, if you’re looking to spend a luxurious vacation in Hana.
WHERE TO RENT A CAR?
Since you’re most likely flying into Maui, the most logical place to rent a car is at the airport. Definitely get your rental car ahead of time so that can head out first thing in the morning.
While renting the car, most of the rentals will also advise that you’re not allowed to continue onward after the Seven Sacred Pools due to bad road conditions – it voids your rental contract. So you will be driving up to Halekala National park and then all the way back to where you started.
IS THE DRIVE TO HANA DANGEROUS?
Many say driving the Road to Hana is pretty scary, with it’s 52 miles of winding roads, tons of single lane bridges, hairpin turns, and rocky cliffs. But as long as you drive cautiously and on the slower side, you’ll be ok.
Don’t forget to fuel up before you leave. There are limited gas stations on the Hana Highway. Haiku has a couple of gas stations, and after that, the next station is in Hana.
CAN I DO ALL THE STOPS IN HANA IN ONE DAY?
NOPE! Sorry to disappoint you – It’s impossible to make it to all the stops on the road to Hana in just one day . So plan up ahead of time. Having done this road trip twice in my life, take it from me – Do your research and narrow down the spots you really want to see.
And remember you cannot swim in every plunging waterfall, see every stunning landscape, or eat every delicious snack and make it back to your room on time. Road to Hana is more about the journey than the destination, so roll down those windows and take in the fresh island air(and views) and don’t get bummed if you miss something; You can always go back!
TRAVEL TIP 2021
Download the Road to Hana Gypsy App ahead of time – It’s an audio guide app that gives you insightful information about Road to Hana, important stops along the route, stories about Hawaii’s history and culture and much more.. It’s kinda like having your own personal tour guide in the car with you.
A FEW MORE TIPS BEFORE YOU GO
- Start super early (around 6am or so) to avoid crowds. Plan to leave the Hana area (or your last stop) to go back around 4pm.
- Pack – swimsuit, hiking shoes, beach shoes, a picnic basket (loaded with snacks and a blanket) , an umbrella, a pair of sunnies
- You have to get food/breakfast at Paia, coz there are not many food options after this town.
- Bring cash for roadside fruit stands.
- Fuel your car up – there won’t be a gas station until you reach Hana.
- Do the 5 must do stops – if you don’t have time to cover all the stops along the way.
Phew, let’s ride it out! Now that you’ve figured out all the logistics of the drive and packed everything you need, buckle up- the best stops on the Road to Hana, are coming right up!
Most stops are hard to find, so make sure you keep your eye on the side of the road for mile markers (MM). Here is a map of some important stops:
- Blue – Waterfalls stops along the Hana highway
- Green – Hiking trails and arboretums
- Yellow – Food stops along the way
- Orange – Beaches & other stops
1. TWIN FALLS (MM2)
Our first stop was the Twin Falls – This stop has not two but three waterfalls. The walk to the first two falls takes about 10 minutes. The best waterfall is the last one, a 20-minute walk. The path is usually muddy but the walk through the dense foliage to the waterfall is really beautiful. If you are up for it, bring a swimsuit for a dip.
2. Waikamoi Ridge Forest Trail and Overlook (MM9)
This is a 30-minute hike that takes you through the dense rainforest in the valley with peekaboo views of the Pacific. We didn’t do the hike, as we had lots of other stops on our preplanned agenda, but the view from the overlook was pretty exceptional.
3. GARDEN OF EDEN ARBORETUM (MM 10.5)
The garden is most popular for its debut in ‘Jurassic Park,’ where the opening sequence of the movie was filmed. There is a $15 per person entrance fee to the park.
After admiring the view, be sure to walk around the area to find 500+ botanically labeled plants, hidden waterfalls, and Oh, the view from Rainbow Overlook – don’t miss that!
4. MUST DO STOP #1: Ke’anae Arboretum (MM 17)
Located near the 17 mile marker, this place is also known as the Painted Forests. It boasts groves of rainbow eucalyptus trees. These trees can grow more than 6-feet-wide and 200-feet-tall. The bark sheds annually, exposing a bright green inner bark that changes to blue, purple, orange and maroon as the bark matures. The best time to visit is right after a rain when wood has the deepest version of its colors.
A paved walkway provides you with a half mile walk through 150 varieties of tropical plants from around the world, including different types of taro, gingers, hibiscus, papaya, and a mix of native and non-native Hawaiian trees.
5. AUNTY SANDY’S BANANA BREAD
Located right on the peninsula, this is a great stop for some delicious fresh out of the oven banana bread; trust me its one of the best I’ve tried in my life. Our loaf ($6) was warm and moist and topped with chocolate chips, macadamia nuts and lots of deliciousness.
6. WAILUA OVERLOOK (MM 18)
The overlook is just half mile farther up on the other side of the road, and gives you unobstructed views of Keanae. Its completely worth a quick stop.
7. 3 BEARS UPPER WAIKANI FALLS (MM 19)
This is a popular one and appears to be three different cascading waterfalls. Parking is a bit tough, but arguably the best waterfalls on the Road to Hana. You can see the fall as you drive by or park your car and walk down to get a closer look of the falls.
8. MUST DO STOP #2: WAI’anapanapa State Park (MM 32)
This park, comprised of 122 acres, boasts a dramatic black-sand beach, large sea caves, volcanic tubes, a blowhole, and a coastal hiking trail. The black sand is formed out of volcanic rocks from lava flow which is cooled and hardened by the ocean waves over thousands of years. It’s a perfect spot for tanning or dipping your feet in to cool off.
The powerful contrast between the black sand/pebbles and the deep blue-greens of the ocean calls for great photo opportunities , so don’t forget to bring your camera along.
Reservation are required to visit this beach. Plan to be here around an hour or so if you want to check out everything and chill on the beach.
Congratulations, you have now reached Hana! (MM 34)
Hana is a quaint little town , with nothing great to see, but you can stop by to get some Thai take out from Ae’s thai kitchen(food truck) .
- Transition from Highway 360 to 31: Now MM start counting down from 50
9. MUST DO STOP #3: KAIHALULU RED SAND BEACH (IN HANA TOWN)
A dramatic and hidden cove in Maui; The crescent-shaped beach is cut deep into the Ka’uiki Head cinder cone, whose rust-red lava cinder cliffs supply the beach with its red sand. Part of the trail was lost to a landslide, so the path is dangerous and not recommended to someone who is not comfortable with hiking at cliff-edges or with slippery/unsound footing.
It’s tricky to find and a bit of a hike but oh, so worth it. As you’re coming into Hana town, take a left on Hauoli road (you’ll pass a church) and then turn right when the road dead ends at the Hana Community Center. Park along the street and walk across the open lawn of the Community Center. You should be able to pick up a trail through the bushes. The trail literally takes you along the edges of a cliff and and can seem a little dangerous, but once you get past this; the views will not disappoint you.
This beach has the bluest water on the island and is undoubtedly our favorite spot along Road to Hana.
10. Koki and Hamoa Beach (MM 50)
Just past Hana are two more beaches that are worth a quick stop : Koki & Hamoa Beach.
Koki Beach has brownish sand and a lovely red cliff backdrop, but there are signs warning against swimming. We set up a picnic on the beach and devoured our delicious takeout, until it started to rain. IF YOU DIDN’T KNOW – It rains frequently in Hana so be prepared to carry an umbrella or raincoats with you.
Hamoa Beach has greyish sand and bright blue water and is a lovely spot for swimming.
11. MUST DO STOP #4: WAILUA FALLS (MM 45)
Wailua Falls is a picturesque, yet very easily accessible waterfall visible from the Hana Highway. You don’t even need to get out of your car to snap a few pictures. You can view it from the bridge or walk down a short steep trail to the pool.
12. MUST DO STOP #5: OHEO GULCH (7 SACRED POOLS) AND PIPIWAI TRAIL (MM42)
The last and final stop on our own customized Road to Hana trip. A 4 mile hike unfolds alongside a string of (many more than seven) pools and waterfalls framed by the lush green diversity of the tropical rainforest and the famous bamboo forest. Its a part of Haleakala National Park (you’ll pay $25 per vehicle to get in but keep your receipt because you can also use it at Haleakala summit).
The highlight of the trail is the massive bamboo grove which starts about halfway through the outward section. It’s the most extensive and beautiful grove we’ve seen. There’s also a large banyan tree about halfway of the hike and some smaller waterfalls along the way. At the end of the trail, you are greeted with the view of a magnificent 400 ft Waimoku Falls.
The trail is a truly stunning experience but requires good time management to make it here and still have time for the full hike. It’s one of the finest hikes I’ve been in Hawaii and is a MUST on your itinerary.
This is where most people turn back on the Road to Hana and if you continue on, you’ll officially be on the “backside” of the Road to Hana. On the way back, don’t forget to turn on your gypsy guide app to listen to more stories about the Hawaii’s history and culture.
Hope you had a great time reading through this blog post and I’m sure this should help you plan your favorite stops along the drive. For real time coverage of my latest trip to road to Hana trip with geotags, videos, and pictures, watch the “Maui, Hawaii” highlight on my Instagram account (@preksharaj)