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The ultimate guide to the Road to Hana
I know it’s about time that I wrote the ultimate guide to the Road to Hana. I’ve been asked for this for years, no exaggeration. So, without further ado, I present the most comprehensive guide to the Road to Hana in Maui known to humankind. Well, that is my hope, at least!
The Road to Hana is a very popular day trip on the island of Maui. Why? Because it has some truly spectacular stuff along the way. Waterfalls, bamboo forests, and breathtaking views of Maui’s natural beauty are all on this scenic drive.
This should go without saying, but you’ll need a rental car for the Road to Hana unless you plan to explore by helicopter. If you don’t have a rental car yet, I recommend Discount Hawaii Car Rental. You’ll find the best deals on any of the Hawaiian Islands.
What is the Road to Hana?
The Road to Hana is a scenic and famous 64-mile long, narrow curving, twisting two-lane paved highway along the western coast of Maui in Hawaii. It is part of the Hawaiian state highway system and stretches from Paia to finish at Hana Town.
It is technically called the Hana Highway, and the most important thing to remember is: It’s the journey, not the destination.
The Road to Hana is rated as one of Hawaii’s best scenic drives, and it is probably the most famous drive in all of Hawaii.
You may think 64 miles won’t take long, but with 59 one-lane bridges and over 600 turns, you’d be wrong!
This beautiful drive is full of lush rainforest cliffs, waterfalls, valleys, and black, white, and red sand beaches, and it is definitely an all-day adventure.
Traffic on the Road to Hana
It’s important to remember that the Road to Hana is an actual road, and people take it to work. If you can pull over safely to let locals past, it’s the right thing to do.
In 2021 the Hawaii Department of Transportation posted “no parking” signs along the Road to Hana. There are places to stop, so make sure you stop in these designated areas so as not to disturb the normal traffic flow.
Please be respectful
I can’t emphasize enough that people live and work in upcountry Maui. The area’s residents have been affected by illegal parking, trespassing, and all of the crazy traffic that this popular tourist attraction brings.
Please remember that people do live and work here. Only park in designated areas, and please, never trespass.
And yes, visiting the red sand beach is trespassing. Be kind to the locals and check out 20 things you should never do in Hawaii to avoid being “that tourist.”
Mile markers on the Road to Hana
You’re not going crazy; mile markers on the Road to Hana are confusing. They start over after 16. Also, after Hana, they jump to 51 and then go backward. You have been warned.
The good news is that despite the mile markers, there is just one round going around the island’s east side, and it would be tough to get lost.
Road to Hana Q & A
Now, let’s get into some common questions about the Road to Hana.
How long does the Road to Hana take?
It takes about two and a half hours to drive the Road to Hana, and that is with minimal stops for pictures and such. It’s doable in about two hours going straight through, but what’s the point of that?
I always tell my clients to plan for the Road to Hana to be an all-day adventure. I actually recommend driving the “backroad to Hana” home, but more on that later.
If you’re looking to get away from the crowds, you’re going to want to start very early. Since jet lag will be a problem, I recommend driving the Road to Hana early in your vacation.
Don’t forget to check out how to survive the flight to Hawaii for more tips for fighting jet lag.
What time of the year is best to visit?
There is no wrong time to visit Maui. The Road to Hana will be crawling with tourists, but that’s part of the fun! It’s excellent during whale season (November through March or so) because you might even see some whales along the way.
If you’re not convinced, check out my post about the worst time to visit Hawaii. Spoiler alert: there is never a wrong time to visit Hawaii.
What to pack for the Road to Hana
The Road to Hana is an all-day adventure, so I recommend packing some snacks and water in a small cooler. You can stop at many fruit stands along the way if you’re hungry or thirsty.
You can stop for lunch in Hana, but keep in mind there aren’t many restaurants outside of Hana other than fruit stands.
Other necessary items for the Road to Hana:
- Comfortable walking shoes, I recommend Teva sandals.
- Pocket ponchos, you never know when the rain will start!
- Cash, some of the stops along the way only accept cash for payment
- A camera or GoPro
- While Hawaii is relatively safe, a small backpack to carry your things, I don’t recommend ever leaving your belongings in a rental car.
- A bathing suit or an extra set of clothes. You never know when you’ll get muddy, wet, etc. Plus, it’s nice to have a bathing suit if you decide to hop in the water somewhere.
- Reef-safe sunscreen, while you’ll be covered by the trees for some of the days, any beach stops or anywhere that isn’t surrounded by the rainforest will require some sunscreen.
What is the best way to see the Road to Hana?
You have three options for seeing the Road to Hana for yourself.
I highly recommend the first or third option. If driving yourself isn’t an option, I recommend a helicopter tour over a guided driving tour. The Road to Hana is very narrow and only very small busses are allowed.
This can make for some very claustrophobic conditions on a road that will bring out motion sickness in almost anyone. The idea of being shoved into a small van with lots of people on the Road to Hana is a nightmare for me, so I would not recommend it.
That said, a private tour might be doable, but again, if you’re prone to motion sickness, I would not recommend anything where you have to be in the back of a car.
When is the best time to drive the Road to Hana?
Ideally, you’ll want to start the Road to Hana very early. I would recommend hitting the road as close to sunrise as possible. It starts to get crowded around 8-9 AM, so any time before this is ideal.
That said, the Road to Hana can be busy any time of day, so make sure to be patient and plan accordingly. You’ll also want to stop for gas in Paia.
While you want to start your journey early, you don’t want it to be dark when you start hitting the popular spots, so check the sunrise time and plan accordingly.
Driving to Road to Hana
The best tip for driving the Road to Hana is to not over-plan it. Yes, you’re going to want to “see it all,” but without several days to explore this beautiful area, you won’t be able to.
Where you can stop may be dictated by the crowds, so try to be flexible. Pick a few stops on your “must-see” list. Make sure to make a reservation if the stops require it, such as Waiʻānapanapa State Park.
As a Hawaii Travel Agent, I recommend driving the Road to Hana the first day or two of your trip.
First, you’ll be up very early because your body will still be on mainland time. Also, if you do miss anything, you can always come back and explore a few days later.
The best stops on the Road to Hana
There are fruit stands, and banana bread stands all along the Road to Hana. Some of these fruit stands will have people working, and some are on the honor system. Fresh fruit, banana bread, and other local treats are a must-have for your Road to Hana drive.
Paia is the last stop before you officially begin your journey to Hana. Make sure to fill up your rental car with gas, grab some ice for your cooler, snacks if you don’t have them already, and get started!
Location: Mile Marker 2
Twin Falls is the very first of the waterfalls on the Road to Hana. You’ll always see cars parked here, so it’s easy to spot. There is a farm stand here if you want to grab some fresh produce or local snacks.
Is Twin Falls a “must-see”? While this is a beautiful spot, if the Road to Hana is already looking crowded, you can skip this spot since most people stop, and you may be able to get ahead of the crowds.
However, if you have small children and want an easily accessible waterfall, this is a great stop!
Rainbow Eucalyptus Grove
Location: Mile Marker 7
The most well-known grove of rainbow eucalyptus trees is near mile marker 7 on the Road to Hana. If parking is an issue, I would recommend stopping at Ke’anae Arboretum instead.
Location: Mile Marker 9
I recommend stopping at the lookout, but not the beach park itself. Ho’okipa Beach park is not the best park for swimming, although it’s a great place to watch surfers! Unless you know what you’re doing, I would advise not trying to surf here.
Waikamoi Ridge Trail
Location: Mile Marker 9.5
Waikamoi Ridge Trail is a beautiful tree-covered hike with two loops. One look takes about 10 minutes, and the other takes about 30 minutes.
If you love hiking, check out the best hikes in Maui.
Garden of Eden Arboretum
Location: Mile Marker 10
Maui’s Garden of Eden is a less popular stop since you have to pay to get in. That said, this fantastic gem along the Road to Hana is a must-see!
Maui’s Garden of Eden is open from 8 am-4 pm daily. The current cost of admission (as of 2022) is $20 for adults and $10 for children. Military, Kama’aina, and students, and AAA members are discounted. Children 5 and under are free.
The Garden of Eden features several trails, views of Puahokamoa Waterfall (no, you can not swim here), over 700 varieties of plants, real restrooms, and more. Plan to spend about 30 minutes-2 hours here.
At the Garden of Eden, you can even Repel down Puohokamoa Waterfall with Rappel Maui. This is a unique excursion that I would recommend for anyone who loves adventure.
Fun fact: parts of Jurassic Park were filmed here. Do you know where most of the Jurassic Park movies were filmed?
Kaumahina State Wayside Park
Location: Mile Marker 12
Kaumahina State Wayside park offers a lookout point, several trails, restrooms, and a picnic area.
Location: Mile Marker 14
You shouldn’t try to drive down to the bay unless you have a 4×4 (check your rental agreements) but this beautiful spot is often missed. Honomanu Bay is an old fishing village and Taro plantation.
I talk about Honomanu Bay in my “where to find a black sand beach in Maui” post. There, I mention how it is important to note that this is more of a local beach popular for surfing and fishing.
Locals aren’t thrilled about the fact that more tourists have found their way to this beach. Unfortunately, some tourists are disrespectful, leaving trash and being the kind of tourist you don’t want to be.
If you do choose to visit Honomanu Bay, please be respectful (there are ancient burial grounds here as well,) and leave the place better than how you found it.
Location: Mile Marker 16
Located on the Ke’anae Peninsula, the Ke’anae Arboretum offers free entrance The Ke’anae Arbotetum sits beside Pi’inau’au Stream and within a rainforest.
Visitors can take a short walk on a paved walkway and see over 150 varieties of plants from taro, hibiscus, papaya, ginger, and more. There are several other trails to enjoy and most of the plants are marked.
Just make sure not to pick any plant or flower! This is another great spot to see rainbow eucalyptus trees.
Halfway to Hana Stand
Location: Mile Marker 17
You can purchase banana bread all along the road to Hana, but many believe the banana bread at the Halfway to Hana stand is the best. You can also purchase other snacks and drinks.
Wailua Valley Wayside Park
Location: Mile Marker 18
Wailua Valley State Wayside is a “blink and you’ll miss it” spot. This isn’t a very popular stop on the Road to Hana, but it is a great place to get out and stretch your legs.
There are only a few parking spots, but you can get an excellent look at Wailua Valley (a perfect photo spot) so it’s worth a quick stop.
Upper Waikani Falls (Three Bears Falls)
Location: Mile Marker 19
Three Bears Falls is a very popular spot. How could it not be, with 3 side-by-side 70-foot waterfalls! Unfortunately, there is only parking for 2-3 cars. Do not park if there are no spots available.
You can drive up just a bit to another parking spot and walk back down. For me, this is a must-see on the Road to Hana and one of my favorite stops.
Pua’a Kaa State Wayside Park
Location: Mile Marker 22
If you’re interested in a quick hike, this is one of the best stops on the Road to Hana! You can stretch your legs, hike to a waterfall, and, as a bonus, there are restrooms and a picnic area.
Location: Mile Marker 24
Hanawai Falls is one of the many beautiful waterfalls on the Road to Hana. There are spots to pull off both before and after the bridge. Just make sure to park in a designated area. This beautiful waterfall is worth stopping for beautiful photos.
Ka’eleku Cave (Hana Lava Tube)
Location: Mile Marker 31
At Mile Marker 31, you’ll turn left on ‘Ula’ino Road and drive for about half a mile. You can access to Hana Lava Tube on the left. I would recommend bringing flashlights or head lamps – you’ll need them.
The Hana Lava Tube is open from 10:30 AM – 4:00 PM daily. There is an entrance fee of about $12 per person. Exploring Ka’ekeku Cave takes about 30-45 minutes.
Location: Mile Marker 31
Kahanu Garden is privately-owned and available for self-guided tours. It is open from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM Monday – Friday.
They recommend spending at least 30 minutes exploring the plants, archaeological and cultural features. Entrance is $16 for those 13 and up and free for children.
Reservations are appreciated although not required, you can book those here.
Wai’anapanapa State Park
Location: Mile Marker 32
Wai’anapanapa State Park is my #1 Road to Hana must-see. If you’re looking for the best stops on the Road to Hana, this is one of them! In fact, it’s so popular that you now need a reservation.
Wai’anapanapa State Park is the most popular black sand beach in Maui, but not the only one!
Wai’anapanapa State Park is home to Maui’s most famous black sand beach as well as two freshwater caves. The 150-acre park is also home to many ancient sites including burial sites, a pictograph, and more.
This is a must-see if you’re interested in Hawaiian history. There are also several hiking trails within the park.
Location: Mile Marker 34
Hana Town hasn’t changed much in years, and the locals like it that way. Hana is rich in both history and culture. I recommend checking out the Hana Cultural Center.
While in Hana you can also grab some lunch or dinner, fill up your car with gas, and grab any snacks you might need.
Next, you’ll need to decide if you want to head back or go around the “back road to Hana.” I talk about this in my 7 best things to do in Maui post – one of my oldest blog posts!
I always recommend driving all the way around. A lot of stops are past Hana anyway, so why not keep going around all the way around on highway 31? You’ll eventually end up in Kula and then make your way back toward Kahului and then on to the south or west side, wherever you’re staying.
It sounds more complicated than it is, because like the Road to Hana, there is basically only one road so you can’t get lost.
Location: Mile Marker 50
There aren’t a lot of great beaches from swimming along the Road to Hana, but Hamoa Beach is the exception. It can be difficult to access but the calm water makes it worth it!
Location: Mile Marker 51
Koki Beach isn’t a great swimming beach but it is a fantastic place to watch surfers.
Location: Mile Marker 45
This 80-foot waterfall is beautiful and my personal favorite. It’s easy to see from your car, but you should get out and take a closer look!
Kipahulu, Haleakala National Park
Location: Mile Marker 42
The Kipahulu district of Haleakala National Park is past Hana town and well worth the additional drive.
Kipahulu is home to some of the Road to Hana’s most famous stops from the Pools at O’heo (Seven Sacred Pools), Pipiwai Trail, and Waimoku Falls.
The Pools at O’heo. Fun fact: there are more than seven of them!
You can also camp here, check out the visitors center (with real restrooms) and see more ancient Hawaiian ruins.
Palapala Ho’omau Church
Location: Mile Marker 41
Built in 1857, this church is also the burial site of Charles Lindbergh. If you choose to stop here, again, please be respectful of the land and the people.
What is the “back road to Hana”
If you continue past Hana, past Wailua Falls, and past Kipahalu district of Haleakala National Park, you’ll eventually find yourself all alone on highway 360, which turns into Highway 31. (Pi’ilani Highway)
This is the point where most people turn around and go back, but I say the adventure is just getting started! Yes, it’s windy, and narrow, but it’s no more dangerous than the road you’ve already traveled and there are a few stops past this point that are worth seeing such as:
- Kaupo Gap Trailhead
- Nu’u Refuge Nature Preserve
- Manawainui Gultch View Sea Cave
Past all the major Road to Hana attractions and not another soul in sight!
You’ll eventually circle back around and start heading north again. If you like wine, I recommend stopping at MauiWine near Kula. It’s a great winery and you’ll be driving right past.
At this point, you’ll be very close to Wailea/Makena if you’re looking at a map. If you’re staying in Wailea you may be wondering, why is there no road from this area to Wailea??
Why is there no road between Highway 37 and Wailea?
I talk about this in my guide to upcountry Maui, but a fun and frustrating fact is that while Keokea and Highway 37 are very close to the Wailea area, there is no public road connecting them.
There actually is a road. However, it’s rumored to be Oprah’s private road, and regular people are not allowed to use it. 😉
There is no “official” road between Highway 37 and Wailea-Makena, but you can see how close they are on a map.
There are several rumors surrounding the road but the most commonly held belief is that the private road (about 3 miles long) belongs to Oprah Winfrey.
In order to get home, you’ll continue north on what is now turned into Highway 37. You can take Highway 37 all the way to Kahului and then continue to either the south side (Wailea/Makena) or West Side (Kaanapali/Lahaina) depending on where you are staying.
Should you stay in Hana for part of your Maui vacation?
As a Hawaii Travel Agent, I’m often asked if visitors should stay in the Hana area during their vacation. My answer is always no.
You absolutely can if you want to, but Maui is not a particularly large island and you can definitely explore no matter where you are staying. If you would like to stay centrally in order to explore the entire island, I would recommend staying in the Wailea area. Some of my favorite resorts in the Wailea area are:
If you really want to stay near Hana, you do have a few choices.
The Hana-Maui Resort is a luxury resort located near Hana. The hotel features an outdoor pool, spa services, and water sports rentals for both adults and children.
The Hana-Maui Resort is a great option for honeymooners or families with children. It offers world-class amenities while still providing the opportunity to experience daily regional activities and traditions.
While not truly all-inclusive, the Hana-Maui Resort is one of the only resorts to offer a food-included package. But, of course, that comes at a premium!
The ultimate guide to the Road to Hana
The Road to Hana is a beautiful area of Maui that has incredible views, serene landscapes and plenty of things to do along the way. If you love waterfalls, hiking, banana bread, and getting out and exploring, the Road to Hana is for you.
More things to do in Maui
If you’re looking for more things to do during your Maui vacation, I’ve got plenty of them. Check out the following blog posts to help you plan the most epic Maui vacation.
- 50 things to do in Maui
- The best boutique hotels in Hawaii,
- 7-day Maui Itinerary.
- The best 5-star resorts on Maui.
- How to find Little Beach in Maui.
- 15 Free things to do on Maui.
- 4 day Maui Itinerary.
- The 10 best honeymoon hotels in Maui
The ultimate Road to Hana Guide
I hope that you enjoyed this guide to the Road to Hana in Maui. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below!
If you need some help planning your Maui vacation, reach out! I am a Hawaii Travel Agent and that is what I do. I am selective about how many clients I work with, so reach out as soon as possible for the best availability. You can contact me to learn more.
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