The spectacular and infamous Road to Hana is more than a just a highway or transportation route— the road and the journey on the infamous Hana highway is a tourist attraction in its own right. The 50 mile trip from the population center of Kahului in western Maui to the central/upcountry town of Hana has more than 600 sharp turns and 59 bridges, 46 of which are one-lane. (Tip: If you are prone to car sickness, you will want to be the driver or take proper medication beforehand!)
While the trip can take as little as 3 hours, the sights along the way are well worth the treacherous and time consuming journey, and you’ll want to allow a full day to truly enjoy all of the pit stops. The road shows off true wild Maui beauty as it winds through lush tropical forests, past scenic steep ravines and by tumbling waterfalls. The road also passes ocean cliffs and jagged lava coastlines and overlooks beautiful black and white sand beaches. In August 2000, President Bill Clinton designated the Road to Hana the “Hana Millennium Legacy Trail” and the road is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The road follows an ancient Hawaiian foot trail and all but one of the 59 bridges date back to 1910.
Driving the Road to Hana
There are several ways to enjoy the Road to Hana. Van and coach tours are a popular way to experience the amazing views. By taking a guided tour, tourists can forget the stress of driving the difficult road and enjoy the sights and scenery. These van and coach tours also provide passengers with guide information about the sights along the way and stop at the most popular rest areas. Many other tourists prefer taking their own car, though all tourists should check with their rental car company to make sure their contracts do not prohibit driving on this stretch of Maui highway. Also remember never to leave valuables in your car at any time, as tourists are easy targets for theft.
Road to Hana Sights/Landmarks
Here are some of the highlights of stops along the Road to Hana. Set your odometer and look at the mile markers to help find some of the best spots along the highway:
Paia: A historic plantation town that is now a surfing and tourist hotspot with boutique shops and numerous good restaurants. The town also marks the beginning of the most treacherous part of the drive.
Maui Grown Market: Located 7.5 miles past Paia, this is the last food stop for 30 miles and serves up sandwiches, fruit drinks and has restrooms. After passing the Maui Grown Market reset your odometers. The mile markers from here start at 0.
Waikamoi Ridge Trail: Located .6 miles past mile marker 9, this is a half-mile nature walk through tropical trees, bamboo and ferns and has several scenically located picnic tables.
Garden of Eden Arboretum and Botanical Garden: Located at mile marker 10.5, this is definitely a stop worth making with 26 acres of Maui’s finest nature trails. Take a break from the road and take a walk through the trees, flowers and foliage in their natural island settings.
Puohokamoa Stream: Located at mile marker 11, this is a leisurely stroll on a paved highway past scenic picnic tables and to beautiful waterfalls with a large swimming hole.
Kaumahina State Wayside Park: Located just past mile marker 12, this park offers restrooms, picnic shelters and amazing coastal views. This is a great place to take a break, eat some lunch and enjoy the scenery.
Honomamu Bay: The access road to Honomamu Bay is located just past mile marker 14 and after a short drive leads visitors down to a beautiful black sand beach.
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Keanae Arboretum: Located .8 miles past mile marker 16, this marks approximately the halfway point to Hana. There are two 15 minute walking trails with views of the coastline and picnic tables.
Keanae Village: Located just before mile marker 17, this small Hawaiian village has about 12 weathered homes, a church with a red-tiled roof, taro fields and a swimming area. To get to the swimming area, walk down the gravel road through town and then swim 50 yards upstream to small falls and a large swimming pool.
Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside Park: Located .6 miles past mile marker 22, this park has a quiet stream and small waterfall with pools for swimming. There are also restrooms and great picnic spots.
Wainapanapa State Park: Located just past mile marker 32 this park provides access to a beautiful black sand beach, lava cave, restrooms and picnic tables.
Once you arrive in Hana, enjoy the sights and sounds of a still relatively undeveloped portion of Maui. If you continue on the road, you can enjoy the white sand beach at Hana Bay about 1.5 miles past Hana and about 30 minutes past Hana, in Haleakala National Park, you can swim in the famous seven sacred pools located at Kipahulu.
Tips for Driving the Road to Hana
While the journey on the Road to Hana is awe-inspiring, it is important to remember that the road is dangerous, crowded and not for the ill at heart. Here are a few tips before you venture out onto Hawaii’s most twisted highway:
1. Drive Safe. The sights along the way can be distracting for any driver, but with over 600 sharp turns and many narrow bridges it is important to keep your eyes on the road.
2. Leave early. It is really worth setting an alarm clock and getting out on the road as early as you can. The earlier you go, the more you avoid the traffic that can clog up the bridges and the more you’ll enjoy a leisurely pace along the way.
3. Get a good guidebook and pick out the spots you want to stop beforehand. There are a plethora of amazing attractions along the way and it is impossible to see and enjoy all of them. Pick out a handful of the most important to you before you set out and stick to those. Everyone will have a better time if you enjoy what you do get to see rather than rush through every stop.
4. Call before setting out on your trip to check road conditions. Because this section of the coast does get a lot of rain, landslides and flash floods are common. You can visit this website to check for daily road conditions and closures.
5. Stop at the roadside stands along the way. Many offer fresh fruit and homemade baked goods. The banana bread is often to die for.
6. Bring a picnic and lots of water. There are so many great spots to stop along the way and enjoy a beautiful picnic outside while soaking up the beauty of the coastline. Take a break and eat your lunch at one of many parks with picnic tables.
7. Bring good hiking shoes. If you want to do any of the hikes along the way, bring good shoes that you don’t mind getting wet and dirty.
8. Don’t trespass. There are areas along the way with clear no trespassing signs and sometimes fences or barbed wire. Don’t ignore these signs. The last thing you want during your scenic drive is a run-in with a cranky local after trespassing on their property.
9. Bing bug spray. There are a lot of mosquitoes in this damp section of the coast.
10. Consider a van or coach tour if you’d like to relax during the journey and allow someone else to do the driving.
11. Be prepared for the rain. The lush tropical foliage is there for a reason. This is the wet side of island and it does rain frequently.
12. Be careful when swimming near waterfalls. Never swim above a waterfall, you could get swept over the falls and hurt badly. This is remote area with little access to medical facilities, so don’t risk it and avoid injury.
13. Fill up! Gas is even more expensive in Hana than it is on the rest of the island and there are no gas stations between Paia and Hana. Fill you tank up before taking off.
14. Bring good tunes, a sense of adventure and patience with you! Plan on this trip taking a full day, so bring good music and enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way. You might also want to consider getting a guided Road to Hana CD, which will guide you through your dive and narrate the cultural and historic points along the way.
Here’s a look at some of the things you’ll see on the road to Hana on a sunny day… Keep in mind that the nicer the weather, the better the view. Although if you’re visiting at an exceptionally dry time of year you may see fewer waterfalls than during the rainy season.