The Road to Hana is a winding, yet beautiful, road that runs along the tropical coast of Maui. With views of breathtaking cliffs, beaches, waterfalls and tons of rainforest along the way, there’s never a dull moment. Do keep in mind, this experience is more about the drive than it is the destination. Don’t focus on getting to Hana quickly, focus on enjoying the beauty along the way.
Things You Must See on The Road to Hana
The objective of this drive is not simply just to arrive at the beautiful coastal town of Hana, but to enjoy everything along the way. For an unforgettable drive, plan to spend a full day as you stop at all the gorgeous sights this journey has to offer.
Between mile markers 18 and 19 – This waterfall is is also know as The Three Bears for its three streams of water flowing down the lava rock cliff. Please note that if the weather has recently been dry, this waterfall may only be a trickle. So, when possible, ask locals if the waterfall is flowing.
Black Sand Beach
Don’t miss the black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park located between mile markers 32 and 33. The beauty of the beach is striking — with the black sand surrounded by the glimmering blue ocean and a vibrantly green landscape. Don’t be afraid to take the short walk to go stand on the beach and admire its beauty up close.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, there is a small cave nearby that you can jump into and take a short swim in its cool waters.
Wailua Falls is a beautiful waterfall easy to see from the road side. It can be found between mile markers 45 and 44, past the town of Hana but before you get to the Oheo Gulch on Highway 31. The waterfall will be on the mountain side of the road. There’s also plenty of parking nearby so you can stop the car and get out for a good look.
Oheo Gulch – Seven Sacred Pools
Shortly after the Wailua falls, you’ll reach the Kipahula area, which is about 10 miles beyond Hana. Here you can see the Oheo Gulch with its beautiful cascading pools. You can spend some time walking around this area or even go for a longer (2+ hour hike) on the Pipiwai Trail. Do note, the Oheo Gulch is part of Haleakala National Park, which means you need to pay for entry. If you don’t want to pay for an entry ticket, you can just enjoy its beauty from afar and continue on your way.
Tips for Driving The Road to Hana
Beat the Crowd
Don’t sleep in, the Road to Hana is worth planning for a full day of adventure! If you get an early start, preferably before 7 AM, you will be well ahead of the crowds. Stop in the town of Paia, the last substantial town before Hana, for gas, breakfast, and any other supplies.
Take Your Time
Although the drive can be done in about 2.5 hours nonstop, it’s much better to stop at all of the sights you hope to enjoy along the way. This is not a race. There is no finish line. The only prize you’ll receive are the sites along the way, and the memories you make. Some of the best include the Twin Falls Waterfall, Waikamoi Nature Trail, Keanae Peninsula and the caves and blowholes at Wai’anapanapa Beach (Black Sand Beach). You can find many other stops in several Road to Hana tour guides.
Drive the Full Loop
Don’t listen to the naysayers. If you do, you’ll miss out on some of Maui’s greatest visual treasures. Other guides and reviews will recommend you turn around after Hana. But there is so much more to see! There are two great sites to see after you pass Hana town. Many will steer you away from this because of danger. The back side of the loop is a little bumpy from years of patching the road, but it’s paved and completely safe. The only thing you will need to be sure to check is whether your rental car agency has any restrictions.
Drive it Backwards
Most people start the tour from Paia and drive along the North Shore. Of those people, most do not venture to complete the full loop, but turn around once at Hana and head back the way they came. If you’ve decided to drive the full loop, you also have the option of doing it backwards (starting from the south shore and going around the backside). Very few people go this direction, which keeps you away from the crowds and rarely stuck behind other drivers.
Take a Tour
There are a few ways to experience the Road to Hana: you can drive it yourself, take a group tour, or even take a private tour. Of all the times it’s worth taking a tour, the Road to Hana is certainly one of them. Often times the Road to Hana is called the Road to Divorce because of the high amount of tension that comes from the drive – not to mention the driver really doesn’t get to enjoy as much along the way.
When going with a guide, they will know all the best land marks, when to go where, how to beat the crowds, and all the history along the way. You can really maximize your time on the road, making sure to hit all the best stuff with little worry. We chose to do the road with Maui’s Private Guide, and we couldn’t have been more happy with the outcome. They offer completely private tours (just you and your own group) and allow you to really dictate how the journey will go and what you want to see. If you can afford it, doing this as a private tour is by far the way to go.