The Road to Hana is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. With its lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls, and pristine beaches, it’s no wonder that this route is such a popular tourist destination. If you’re planning on making the drive yourself, or if you’re just curious about what to expect, then read on! In this blog post, we will tell you everything you need to know about the Road to Hana.
What is the Road to Hana?
The Road to Hana, also known as the Hana Highway is Maui’s Highway 36. It’s a 64-mile drive along the islands’ north and western shores. It offers breathtaking sights and views that are hard to find on any other drive or location. Going through roads carved into cliffs and rainforests you will not be disappointed.
After going over the basics of the Hana Highway and things you should know before starting, we’ll go in-depth with all the information you need while on your journey.
Is the Road to Hana Dangerous?
Unfortunately, a lot of sources like to play up how dangerous the Road To Hana actually is. While you do need to use caution on some of the windy roads and sharp turns, it is still very safe. There will be points where you have to pull to the side to let others pass. If you are a respectful and safe driver, you will have no problems.
Keep an eye on the weather and time of day. If you’re already worried about the drive then you don’t want to do it while it’s raining in the dark. However, the Road to Hana is completely safe and the danger can be overstated. Remember to be respectful of other drivers, Hawaii is known for great road etiquette and you should offer the same courtesy.
If a local looks like they want to go faster than you, let them pass. Be aware of where you stop for pictures and try not to block traffic.
If you’re still worried check out a Road to Hana tour. We have a section about tours below.
Decide On A One-Day Trip or An Overnighter
The Road to Hana is a long and winding road, and it can take up to three hours to reach your destination. If you’re pressed for time, or if you just want to experience the highlights of the drive, then a one-day trip is probably for you. However, we think that the drive is best enjoyed over multiple days. This way, you can take your time and really savor all that the Road to Hana has to offer. Plus, there are some amazing camping spots along the route! If you have an extra day or two to spare, we highly recommend spending at least one night on the road.
Rent a Vehicle
The Road to Hana is a remote and rural area, and there is no public transportation available. The only way to experience the drive is by renting a car. We recommend renting a four-wheel-drive vehicle, as some of the roads can be quite rough. Don’t worry if you don’t have any experience driving off-road; the rental company will provide you with all the information you need to know.
Road to Hana Tours
If you don’t want to rent your own car or drive all day, you can consider taking a tour. This is a great option if you’re not comfortable driving on unfamiliar roads, or if you just want someone else to do the driving for you. There are many different tour companies that offer Road to Hana tours, and they will all take you to the same amazing places. The only downside is that tours can be quite expensive.
Unique Maui Tours has a great tour and will take care of you for a good Road to Hana experience.
Do Plenty of Research
There is too much to do along the Road to Hana. It will be virtually impossible to do it all in one day, or even in two days. That’s why it’s important to do your research before you go. Decide what you want to see and do, and make a plan. This will help you make the most of your time on the road and ensure you get to do what you are really interested in.
What You’ll Want to Pack
Now that we’ve gone over the basics, it’s time to start packing! Here are a few things you’ll want to make sure you have before hitting the road:
- A map of the island (or a GPS system)
- Bug spray
- Beach gear (if you plan on spending time at the beach)
- Hiking gear (good hiking shoes, light layers of clothing)
- Camping gear (if you’re planning on spending a night or two on the road)
- A cooler with food and drinks
- Cash – a lot of the places you stop at along the way only take cash
- Do not bring any unnecessary valuables. Maui is a safe place, but like anywhere else you can run into trouble. Bring only what you think you will need.
This is just a basic list; there are many other things you may want to pack, depending on your interests. Take into consideration all the activities you have planned and pack around that.
Where Should I Start the Road to Hana?
This is a common question because of how much conflicting information can be found online. The Road to Hana can be modified to fit your schedule and goal, but traditionally does have a set “route”. Generally, the Road To Hana is considered to start on the North Shore in Paia and ends at “Haleakala’s Back Side”, which is just past Hana.
We recommend starting in Paia town for the traditional experience that most people follow. Some may tell you that you can start wherever you want on the highway, but for a defined journey you should start there. It’s an easy place to stop for a bathroom break, gas, and food before starting the adventure.
Some may tell you the Road To Hana goes further too, but this article is focused on the traditional way. You can easily do some extra research to add the bonus mileage to your trip.
Tips & Advice
- Start early, the roads can be daunting and you are going to want to do the whole thing with plenty of light. We recommend starting in Paia Town.
- If you want healthy and affordable food, we recommend stopping at Mana Foods in Paia. Stock up on drinks and other foods you may want for the journey.
- Fill up a full tank of gas before starting. It will just make for a smoother trip overall.
- There is no cell service or reception most of the way. Have a physical map and a decent idea of where you are. Most phones nowadays have offline maps you can download and navigate with.
- If you have the time, spend a night or two in Hana. It can be expensive but is a unique experience if you have the funds.
- Take your time! Enjoy the views and take plenty of pictures. It isn’t a race to the end, it’s a unique experience that can’t be found in many other places.
- Remember to be respectful of the locals and follow driving etiquette. If you’re used to a fast-paced city environment – slow it down. Be kind and courteous to other drivers and pedestrians.
Road to Hana Stops & Highlights
Road to Hana Waterfalls
There are a ton of different waterfalls to see and visit on your journey. This will also tell what Mile Marker each of these falls is located. Some navigation may be required. If you’d like to learn more, visit our comprehensive guide to the waterfalls of Hawaii.
Some of the most notable are:
- Twin Falls, located at Mile Marker 2
- Waikamoi Falls, found at Mile Marker 10
- Lower Puohokamoa Falls, 0.8 miles past Mile Marker 10, and Upper Puohokamoa Falls which are just past Mile Marker 11
- Haipuaena Falls, around half a mile past Mile Marker 11. This fall is typically much harder to get to so most people skip it
- Ching’s Pond & Falls, 0.9 miles past Mile Marker 16
- Pua’a Ka’a Falls, right near Mile Marker 22
- Upper Hanawi Falls, just past Mile Marker 24
- Wailua Falls, located at Mile Marker 45
While this list doesn’t cover every single waterfall along the Road to Hana, it has some of the popular ones that are well worth a visit. Remember to read up on how to stay safe while hiking in Hawaii. This applies to every activity on the island, no matter where you are or what you are up to.
Road to Hana Beaches/Bays
If you have the time, be sure to check out some of Maui’s great shoreline beaches on your journey.
Great beaches and bays along the way:
- Ho’okipa Beach Park – Directions
This great beach is just before Mile Marker 9. It is nestled right between Paia Town and Haiku. This is mainly a water sports beach as the surf can be a little rough for lounging and swimming. You can find a few small tide pools to explore and sheltered swimming areas. Overall a good stop if you’re looking to explore along the way.
- Wai’anapanapa State Park – Directions
If you’re looking for some of the best pictures and scenery, you have to visit this park. It features a black sand beach, sea arches, a blowhole, hiking and walking trails, and much more. It is located near Mile Marker 32.
- Hamoa Beach – Directions
A short drive past Hana and is definitely worth visiting. It has a ton of vegetation and sea cliffs making it a relaxing place to spend some time. There is a reason this beach is regularly considered one of the best on Maui.
- Koki Beach Park – Directions
This beach is much different depending on when you visit. Summer months will greet you with calm sandy beaches, and in the Winter the beach will be mostly replaced with muddy beaches and unsafe ocean conditions. It has some tide pools to explore, but be careful if the tide is not calm. There are a few interesting arches around the beach and is a great place to visit
Road to Hana Hikes
If you decide to take some extra time to experience the hikes along the Hana Highway, check out a few of these great hikes. Just like the waterfalls list, there are too many to count. We’ve highlighted some of the most notable hikes along the drive.
- Pipiwai Trail – Directions
Cascading waterfalls, big bamboo forests – this hike is hard to beat. Located above Oheo Gulch, it’s a 3.8-mile out-and-back adventure. It can be a challenging route so make sure you have some good shoes. Overall it’s a great stop to add to your Road to Hana journey if you’re interested in a little hiking.
- Waikamoi Forest Ridge Trail – Directions
Just past Mile Marker 9, keep an eye out for the trailhead we linked to above. This is a short but beautiful hike that sits just under a mile long. It goes through a lush forest with plenty of vegetation and even has some picnic tables if you’re looking to stop for a snack.
- Kuloa Point Trail – Directions
Another easy loop to complete on your adventure is this great overlook trail. It’s only half a mile long and offers some decent swimming if the conditions permit. The current here is strong so stay in the pools if you decide to swim. It has great views and is worth the time it takes.
- Kahakai Trail – Directions
This trail also near Oheo Gulch is a bit longer at around 2.9-miles long. It’s an out-and-back trail that has a lot of historical significance, as it showcases the ancient preserved trails. The trail can be variable so wear good shoes for this hike.
There is a $10 admission fee, but it is well worth the views and learning experience.
Road to Hana Restaurants:
Here are a few of our favorite spots that are worth stopping by on your drives.
- Kaua Store – great for poke bowls.
- Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread – freshly baked banana bread along with fruits and hot dogs.
- Coconut Glens – this roadside food truck has some great ice cream with plenty of good flavors
Road to Hana Map
Road to Hana FAQ
Q: How long is the Road to Hana?
A: The Road to Hana is just about 64-miles long
Q: When should I start the drive?
A: You should pretty much always start the day as early as possible if you are planning on doing it all in one day. If you’re stopping to camp or sleep somewhere along the way, then you can be more flexible with start times.
Q: Why am I seeing more places to visit than are shown on official guides and maps?
A: Some of the places listed on “unofficial” guides or less popular maps are either unsafe and dangerous or are trespassing on local private property.
Q: Where are the best places to get food?
A: There will be a lot of banana bread stands that sell other foods along the road. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, but if you’re on a budget hit the grocery store and stock a cooler.
Q: Does it rain a lot on the Road to Hana?
A: Depending on when you visit it may rain every day for a little bit – usually not for too long though.
Q: Will I have cell service?
A: No, you will not have good cell reception for the majority of the drive. The highway follows a mostly isolated part of Maui with lots of rocky cliffs and hills.
Q: Will it be worth driving around the backside of the island?
A: If you’ve rented a car, you should check your rental agreement or ask the rental agency. If it is allowed you are definitely going to want a 4-wheel-drive SUV. The roads aren’t paved and will get worse if they have seen heavy rain.
Q: How long will the drive be?
A: This answer will be completely different for everyone. Some people might only make a few stops, some might stop a lot. You should plan for a minimum of 3 hours, depending on where you start as well.
You’re Ready for the Road to Hana
Now that you’ve learned about what the Road to Hana is and how to approach it – you’re ready for a journey! Pack your bags and the car and get ready for a great time.
We hope this article has helped you plan for your Road to Hana vacation. With all that Maui has to offer this is a must see.
If you have any questions or concerns about this article, feel free to contact us. We are always happy to hear from you. Thank you for reading!