Driving the Road to Hana: Maui Hawaii
The Road to Hana is a spectacular Maui driving adventure. Like many Maui experiences, this road trip is more about the enjoying the journey, than focusing on the destination.
Beginning in Kahului and ending in Hana, the paved route is roughly 52 miles with dozens of hairpin curves and one-lane bridges. There are many blind spots and the speed limit hovers around 25 mph. It also rains for a time nearly every day. Although the trip could be completed in about 2.5 hours, you should plan on taking one full day to enjoy the drive.
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The itinerary will follow Hawaii Route 36 to 360 into the town of Hana. It passes by taro fields, waterfalls, rain forests, fruit groves, and scenic lookouts. There are tiny hamlets to explore, but the majority of this ride consists of appreciating the magnificent natural environment. For more information on Maui read our 9 Day Travel Itinerary: Maui by Jeep.
Once arriving in Hana, Rt. 360 turns into 31. The road loops around the Haleakala National Park, but the quality of the highway deteriorates. For this reason, we recommend retracing your route. It is also worth mentioning that there are great hikes, beaches, and waterfalls around Hana. Consider spending a night or two, if you can.
Since, the Road to Hana is a major driving destination for day trippers, you will be sharing the road with many other cars and tour buses. Don’t try to see everything. This ride is not about any one outstanding element. Rather, the joy of the Road to Hana is the million little breathtaking vistas you will enjoy throughout the day.
We recommend approaching the drive with a strategy. Do a bit of research (see our suggestions below), and develop a list of must-see and want-to-see stops. Leave early! Then, pull into your must-see stops. If your want-to-see stops appear to be overrun, continue down the road to another less crowed attraction.
ROAD TO HANA TRAVEL TIPS
Smaller vehicles are easier to maneuver (one-lane roads and blind spots). Rent a vehicle with big windows and a top (rain protection and ability to lock vehicle).
The road is paved and 4-wheel drive is generally not necessary (if you are remaining on the highway)
Give way or ‘take turns’ on one-lane sections of the roadway. Use good eye contact with other drivers. Tooting the horn is considered rude
Pull over and let faster moving vehicles (tailgaters or flashing lights) pass. They are likely locals in the middle of a work day
Make sure you have a full tank of gas and functioning spare tire
Bring drinks, snacks, sunscreen, hat, extra camera batteries, bug spray, rain gear, and sturdy shoes (bathing suit and towel if you plan on swimming)
Pack a paper map and/or GPS that does not require cellular service (cell service is spotty)
Consider investing in a CD Audio Guide so you can concentrate on the scenery and not a guidebook
Keep track of the hour and leave Hana in time to make it back to Paia before nightfall
ROAD TRIP ITINERARY & GUIDE
Here are a few of our favorite stops that take in scenic vistas, short walks, and waterfalls.
Stop 1: Charley’s Restaurant and Saloon in Paia
This diner serves up a great breakfast. Early morning it fills up with tradespeople and surfers. The atmosphere is friendly and the food plentiful. Plus, it is fun to have breakfast in the front dining room while the locals enjoy beers in the backroom.
Stop 2: Mile Marker 9 at the Hookipa Beach Park
Park in the Hookipa Beach Park lot, and then sit on the grassy banking overlooking the surf. The spot is where some of the best wind surfers in the world come to practice. However, in the morning you will likely see surfers vying for waves.
Stop 3: Twin Falls
At Mile Marker 2, look for a parking lot. A short walk leads to a waterfall. Then, a slightly longer (12 minute) walk leads to a second larger waterfall and pool. Note: although there is a parking lot and vendors onsite, it is private property. Take care to stay on the trail and act respectfully.
Stop 4: Waikamoi Ridge
At Mile Marker 9 there is a small rest area with facilities, and great little ¾ mile hike (free). The trail loops through a eucalyptus grove, lush green vegetation, and flowers. After driving through a section of winding road, it is nice to stretch your legs and see the foliage up close.
Stop 5: Maui Garden of Eden
At Mile Marker 10.5, look for the sign for the Maui Garden of Eden (admission charge). The attraction offers trails through 26 miles of gorgeous gardens with spectacular ocean and waterfall views. Great stop for snacks, gifts, and coastal perspective.
Stop 6: Honomanu Bay Lookout
Just past Mile Marker 14, keep an eye out for large pull off offering panoramic views of the coastline and highway.
Stop 7: Keanae Peninsula
Around Mile Marker 17, look for the turnoff for the photogenic Keanae Peninsula. If you have time, take a drive to the fishing village of Keanae. You will pass taro farms, banana trees, and swaying palms. The town is set against black lava rocks and the sapphire sea. Take a break for a smoothie or some banana bread.
Stop 8: Hana Town & Hasegawa General Store
After Mile Marker 32 and signs for the Hana Airport, you will approach Hana Town. Drive to Hana Bay and walk the town pier and park (rest rooms). Then, continue to the town’s center. Across from the Traveaasa Hana Resort, hike up to Fagen’s Cross (20 minutes) for views of the coast. Next, stop in at Hasegawa General Store for snacks and people watching.
Stop 9: Hamoa Beach
From Hana, continue on Rt. 360 about 3.5 miles to Haneoo Road to Hamoa Beach. Relax for a time. This beach is great for sunbathing, beachcombing and swimming. There is a restroom and outdoor shower.
Stop 10: Mama’s Fish House
When you are ready, retrace your route. On the ride back to your lodgings, we suggest stopping at Mama’s Fish House in Paia for a memorable and fun Hawaiian meal.
To read about another exciting Maui highway, read our post on The Kahekili Highway: Maui's Wild Side.
Aloha, Laura and Randy
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