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The Road to Hana Guide: Everything You Need to Know Before Getting Behind the Wheel

The Road to Hana is a famous stretch of highway in Maui, Hawaii. The Hana Highway was paved in 1962, and today it’s primarily a tourist attraction and a means for locals to travel from one area of the island to another. It’s also one of the best free things to do in Maui. It’s curvy nature and one-lane bridges have made the road a famous visitor attraction. Make sure your read this road to Hana guide before you get behind the wheel and make the drive on this thrilling route around the island.

road to hana guide

Everything you need to know about the Road to Hana

I have been to Maui several times and driven the road to Hana exactly once. A few years ago when my husband and I decided to make the trek over to the famous bamboo forest and do the hike on the east side of the island, we didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into.

When we vacation my husband is always the driver of the rental car and I’m in the passenger seat navigating.

What I didn’t realize before we started was that we did not have a full tank of gas and my husband didn’t realize that we had a very long journey ahead of us with no gas stations along the way.

To say it was stressful is an understatement. We stopped at the midway point panicked at a random roadside shop and explained to the girl working there that we were afraid we were going to run out of gas and weren’t sure what to do.

She was completely useless and obviously annoyed at our naïve tourist-selves. She had no advice for us so we continued on our journey, white knuckled and finally made it to Hana on fumes. There is a reason they call it the “divorce highway.”

Is the Road to Hana really worth it?

Well that depends on how you feel about long twisty car rides. If you are going to have a car full of kids that tend to get motion sickness and will complain the whole way then I would say no. If everyone on board is okay with a couple-hour-each-way road trip then you’ll have some fun. 

The drive is beautiful. There is plenty of scenic places to stop along the way and I just love driving past waterfalls and lush jungle plants.

While my husband and I enjoyed Hana (well I did a lot more than him because I wasn’t the one who drove) I would not do the drive with my daughter who is 6. I know my child and she would be complaining the whole time and that doesn’t seem like much fun.

If you want a taste of Hana without putting all those miles on your rental car then head to the Sacred Garden. It’s a free botanical garden and nursery in Haiku and super kid friendly.

What time should you start the Road to Hana?

Most people who make the drive to Hana start sometime between 7:00am – 10:30am. Leave early, bring plenty of snacks, fill up the gas tank and say your prayers before you head out and you’ll be good to go.

Best stops to make on the Hana highway

There are plenty of places to stop on your journey to the eastern side of the island. Here are some of the places you’ll probably want to park and get out.

  • Ho’okipa Beach Park– This beach is located roughly around mile 9 of the historic Hana Highway. While headed East on the Road to Hana, Ho’okipa is nestled in between the Town of Paia and Haiku Town Center. It’s right at the start of the Hana Highway and an easy place to visit even if you don’t want to go all the way to Hana.
  • Twin Falls- A family owned and operated bio-diverse farm since 1997, Twin Falls is home to the first accessible waterfalls along the way. Stop and grab some freshly squeezed sugarcane juice, coconut candy, and locally grown fruit at the Twin Falls Farm Stand before heading to the Lower Falls, an easy, short walk from the parking lot, or the Upper Falls, a one-mile round-trip hike through a beautiful trail. 
  • Huelo Lookout– The Huelo Lookout is located in between mile marker 4 and five. Here is where you’ll find a quaint rest stop with panoramic East Maui island views. When looking for the Huelo Lookout, look for the farm stand that marks the destination. From the farm stand, some steps take you to a viewing point.
  • Waikamoi Nature Trail Located at Mile Marker 9.5 This trail is an easy loop hike filled with ferns, tall trees and scenic overlooks. There are two hiking options; the long route and the short. The shorter one is just under a mile long.
  • Maui Garden of Eden– The Maui Garden of Eden is situated at mile marker ten. If you’re only choosing a few places to stop en route, the Garden of Eden should be at the top of your list. The Garden of Eden is a beautiful arboretum that was created by Alan Bradbury, Maui’s first ISA certified arborist.
  • Ching’s Pond  Located at Marker 16.8 — This is a popular swimming hole that many people pass by without even knowing it is there. The brave locals cliff dive from the bridge, a 25 foot drop. The less adventurous leap from the lower portions or simply watch from the sidelines. Jumping is absolutely, positively not recommended so do it at your own risk!
  • Keanae Penninsula– The Keanae Peninsula is located just past the Keanae Arboretum, approximately mile marker 16. This area has a lot of history, gorgeous coastline views and an opportunity to catch a glimpse of ‘Old Hawaii.’
  • Nahiku Marketplace– Mile Marker 28.8 Marketplace is a Hana shopping center, which consists of a tiny handful of Hawaiian product shops.
  • Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach – Mile Marker 32.2 A short, yet steep, path leads to the beach which started with large coal colored rock, followed by shiny black sand with descending sizes of pebbles.
  • Ohe’o Gulch — Seven Sacred Pools The last stop on the Road to Hana for many is the Ohe’o Gulch, also known as the Seven Sacred Pools. There are several falls that flow through Ohe’o Gulch and they are popular. Expect to see lots of tourists.

Is the Road to Hana dangerous?

It’s a 62 mile winding mountainous road that connects Kahului to Hana with an average of 10 turns per mile. It’s stressful, but not impossible. There are several spots that are one way, over a bridge and around a corner all at the same time. Use common sense, don’t speed and you’ll be fine.

How should I dress for Hana?

Shorts and a t-shirt are perfect for a day on the Road to Hana. Bring along a light jacket or sweater. A rain jacket is also a good idea as Maui is known for brief periods of torrential rain followed by bright sunshine five minutes later.

Are rental cars allowed on the Hana highway?

An important point to note about where you can and can’t drive on the road to Hana, is that most major car rental companies do not permit you to drive past the Kipahulu region onto some brief stretches of unpaved road. Don’t drive through the back side of the road past Hana unless you are independently wealthy and can afford to foot the bill if you crash your car and get hurt.

Alternative to driving yourself to Hana

If you aren’t comfortable driving yourself to along the Hana highway you can take a paid tour with several different companies who will do the driving for you.

The tours aren’t cheap but you get driven in an air conditioned Mercedes van and make about 10 different stops along the way where you can swim, eat and take lots of pictures.

The other thing to keep in mind if you take a paid tour is that they will drive you all the way around the island where you normally aren’t allowed to go with your rental car. You’ll get to see parts of the island that most people never get to visit!

Have you ever driven the Road to Hana? Let me know your tips and tricks.

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