Road to Hana is 52 miles of twisting curves and stunning views from Paia to Hana on Hawaii’s second largest island, Maui. The drive along Hana Highway features over 600 curves, 59 bridges, and waterfall after waterfall. Along the drive, you’ll get jaw-dropping views of rugged coastline and luscious rainforest. There’s plenty of opportunities to pull over for food and drinks, capture postcard-worthy photos, or take in the incredible scenery. As a perfect mix of adventure and romance, it’s truly a road trip of a lifetime.
Sometimes this road trip is overlooked because it’s viewed as too dangerous. There are even shirts claiming, “I survived the Road to Hana.” It’s no easy drive with sharp curves and one-lane bridges, but as long as you go slow and stay alert, it doesn’t seem as bad as everyone raves about.
We started our trip along Hana Highway at 8:00 a.m. in Paia, a cute town brimming with boutiques, restaurants, and bars. It’s a nice spot for a meal, as we found out during our return journey, and even has free parking to boot. After passing through this quaint town, you’ll continue for about four miles passing through Haiku, where the mile markers change back to zero. This makes it easy to know where the attractions you wish to stop at are located and helps you keep up with how far you’ve traveled.
Located at mile marker 2, Twin Falls is the the first waterfall you come across. With several small falls here, this is a popular spot for swimming and taking photos. Just after Twin Falls, we made a stop at a fruit stand for a smoothie and crepe at a picnic table with a view of the ocean. We even crossed paths with a friendly cat who found comfort on the the hood of our car.
A few miles later, we stretched our legs at the Waikamoi Nature Trail in the Koolau Forest Reserve, which is between mile markers 9 and 10. Take in the fresh air; it’s relaxing being amongst the towering trees paired with the sound of a crashing waterfall. We stumbled upon a sign that read, “Quiet, trees at work.” The short trail is muddy, so be sure to bring an extra pair of shoes you don’t mind getting muddy.
Along the Road to Hana, a plethora of signs for banana bread began to make us hungry and our mouths drool. We stopped at the Halfway to Hana Stand for a warm, tasty loaf of this Hawaiian delicacy. The stand also sells warm and cold beverages, brownies, candy, and other snacks.
Especially after passing the halfway point, there are endless waterfalls and overlooks to pull off the road for. It’s said that the most picturesque part of the drive is between mile markers 19 and 25. One of our favorites is Upper Waikani Falls, approximately a half mile after mile marker 19. Photos here turn out absolutely beautifully as the falls are surrounded by lush greenery.
Another waterfall we love is Upper Hanawi Falls just past mile marker 24. The waterfall is breath-taking, and we were able to walk down to the right and swim in the falls’ pool. It was cold but incredibly refreshing, so don’t forget your bathing suit and towel.
One of our last stops was at Wai’anapanapa State Park in Hana, which features stunning black sand beaches, caves, blowholes, and sea arches. It’s a wonderful spot for a hike, swim, and picnic. You can sit on the beach and people-watch or be mesmerized by the crashing waves.
As one of the most isolated towns on not just the island of Maui but all of Hawaii, Hana is a more authentic destination to explore. Some even call it “Real Hawaii,” making the Road to Hana a must when visiting Maui. It feels like this is what Hawaii is really all about.
Tips for Driving Road to Hana
Bring a guidebook with you. It’s convenient to know what’s coming up around the next bend. I used the Road to Hana section of my Fodor’s Travel Hawaii 2016 Guide Book since we bumped around the islands for 10 days.
Don’t have a strict itinerary. It’s nice to go with the flow and be able to stop when you like.
Start early. You have more of a chance to miss the crowds and ensure you find parking at all the overlooks you want to stop at.
Don’t be in a hurry. It’s a dangerous drive to do when wanting to get through it quickly, and you’ll enjoy it much more when you have a laid-back schedule.
Bring a change of clothes and shoes. There’s a good chance you’ll get muddy when out exploring this scenic area of Maui because it rains often.
Make stops for food. Pull over for fruit, sugar cane juice, and banana bread. It’s nice to get out of the car for a bit and enjoy delicious, local treats.
Pull over for faster cars to pass. It’s polite and puts less stress on you to drive faster.
At one-lane bridges, it’s accepted for five cars to go through at a time and then drivers from the other direction proceed. This is a Hawaiian custom, so drive like a local.
Have you drove the Road to Hana or is it on you bucket list?