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The Kahekili Highway: Maui's Wild Side


Driving the One-Lane Kahekili Highway | Maui HI
Driving the One-Lane Kahekili Highway | Maui HI

The Kahekili Highway snakes around the jagged peaks of Maui's mountainous northwest coast. The narrow, steep-sided, occasionally one-lane road will introduce you to some of the island's most breathtaking scenery. For more information on Maui read our 9 Day Travel Itinerary: Maui by Jeep.


The highway is paved, but has few guardrails. It is overgrown in places and prone to rock slides. It should be approached with caution, especially in wet weather. However, if you are a confident driver who enjoys getting off the beaten track this Maui road trip should not be missed.

Credit: Menehune Free Maps
Credit: Menehune Free Maps

It seems every corner of the 40 mile journey brings something unexpected. Hugging the coast past the West Maui Forest and Mount Pu'u Kukui, the highway veers in and out of pastures, woodlands, artist's galleries, and epic ocean views.


Read on for tips on how to navigate this day trip driving adventure.

Kahekili Highway Pastures & Ocean Views | Maui
Kahekili Highway Pastures & Ocean Views | Maui

For more ideas on traveling to Maui read our blog posts on:


ROAD TRIP TIPS:

  • Make sure you have a full tank of gas and reliable vehicle (with a functioning spare tire)

  • A 4 wheel drive/all wheel drive small SUV is best

  • Do not go in inclement weather (fog, rain, high winds)

  • Tell someone where you are going (on the off chance there is a mishap)

  • Stock up on supplies (water/snacks). There are few places to stop along the route

  • Bring a paper map or GPS that does not rely on cell service (your cell phone likely will not function)

  • Amble, don't roar. Set a leisurely pace for enjoyment and safety

  • Bring extra batteries for your camera

Julia's Banana Bread | Kahakuloa Village, Hawaii
Julia's Banana Bread | Kahakuloa Village, Hawaii

The route is straightforward. It will take you from Wailuku around the northernmost tip of the island to Kapalua (or vice versa). The approximately 40-mile (64km) drive will start on Hwy. 3400. This turns into Hwy. 340 (Kahekili Highway), and then Hwy. 30 after the Nakalele Blowhole. Don't forget a stop at Julia's Banana Bread.


Begin the ride in the old plantation town of Wailuku. The streets are full of wooden storefronts and coffee shops. If you have not stocked up on water and snacks (and a last bathroom break) you can do so here.

Traveling the Kahekili Highway | Maui, Hawaii
Traveling the Kahekili Highway | Maui, Hawaii

A few miles after Waihee, the 'highway' turns into a country road for about 20 miles. Between Wilhee and Nakalele Points there are periodic one lane portions of the road. Be on the lookout for pull-offs where vehicles can pass each other. Keep an eye peeled for rocks, mud, and animals in the road.

Cattle Grazing | Kahekili Highway | Maui, Hawaii
Cattle Grazing | Kahekili Highway | Maui, Hawaii

This is the truly magnificent (although nerve-wracking at times) portion of the drive. The ancient Hawaiian footpath will introduce you to the unspoiled, untamed side of Maui. There are scenic lookouts and nature points to explore along the route. Also, look for the Kaukini Gallery (some of Hawaii’s best artists sell paintings and handicrafts here).

Explore the Artisan's Galleries | Kahekili Highway
Explore the Artisan's Galleries | Kahekili Highway

When you reach Rt. 38, around Honokohau, the road turns back to a traditional two-lane highway. Follow the road to Kapaulua. We suggest ending the ride with a 3.5 mile round trip hike of the Kapalua Coastal Trail.

Grazing | Kahekili Highway | Maui, Hawaii
Grazing | Kahekili Highway | Maui, Hawaii

Driving into Kapalua look for signs to the Ritz Carlton Hotel. Once there, park in the lot by Kapaulua Bay. Find the sign for the Kapalua Coastal Trail. Flowers, pine trees, and native plants line the path. Waves crash upon jagged lava rocks that are just a short distance away. In the sun, the water turns an incredible sapphire blue. When you get to the beautiful DJ Fleming Beach, turn around and retrace your steps.

Kahekili Highway | Maui Coastline | Hawaii USA
Kahekili Highway | Maui Coastline | Hawaii USA

On the return trip, if it after 3 pm, stop at Merriman’s Kapulua Restaurant. There are views of the surf and swaying palms on three sides of the eatery. The menu is American, the food is fantastic, and this might be the most romantic late afternoon lunch you will ever enjoy. (Make a reservation.)


For another exciting road trip through Maui read our post on the Road to Hana.


He la maika' i (Good day!) Laura and Randy


For more ideas on traveling to Maui read our blog posts on:


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