When I was heading to Maui and trying to figure out what to do, just about everyone I talked to said Road to Hana had to be on the list. Coming from California I love long coastal drives and the idea of one through some of the most beautiful parts of Hawaii was on the top of my list. After taking the drive I’ve put together a set of tips for the Road to Hana to get the most out of your drive.
Take a day or two on your itinerary to Maui and plan a journey along the Road to Hana. You’ll have a chance to feel like you’re getting away from it all, see the beautiful landscapes the island has to offer, find some of the best beaches, and take a dip in a waterfall, or two!
The one thing about the Road to Hana is that you’ll want to do a little preparation for the trip. Use my tips for the Road to Hana to get the most out of your journey. It’s a long slow drive where you’ll loose service and not come across very many amenities. That is part of the beauty of the trip but why you might not want to do it on a whim.
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Tips for the Road to Hana
#1 Plan Accordingly With Your Accommodations
Depending on where you are staying it can be a long drive to get to the start of the Road to Hana. Consider staying the night before in Paia, right at the start of the drive. Since there aren’t too many hotels you might also want to look into an Airbnb rental. Also, if you want to take your time remember to book a room along the road. There are a few places to spend the night in Hana. Again, I’d suggest trying Airbnb.
#2 Leave Early
Whether or not you’re a morning person you’ll want to start early, especially in the winter months. You’ll want to be leaving Paia (the start to the road) by 8 am at the latest. This allows you to get ahead of many of the crowds. It also means you’ll have more time to explore and stop. This was one of the tips for the Road to Hana I came across that helped the most, especially traveling in the winter when sunset comes early.
#3 Start the Drive with A Full Tank
It might not seem long in mileage, but you’re driving slow and winding through roads. Meaning you’ll eat up far more gas than you think you will. Gas along the road is far more expensive than the other parts of the island. Make sure you fill up your tank the night before and you’ll be ready to go.
#4 Black Out a Full Day (or Two)
The Road to Hana is not a half day activity. You’ll want to stop just about everywhere and the drive is very slow. Even starting early you will take the full day to do the trip. If you’re looking to get some hiking in you’ll even want to stay the night out in Hana to make sure you have time to fit in everything you want to explore.
#5 Pack Water, Snacks, and Something Bubbly
There aren’t a ton of places to stop and prices are higher for simple things on this side of the island. Make sure to pack some simple snacks to keep you over until lunch and then till dinner. Bring a few water bottles. Also, if anyone in your car gets carsick you’ll want to pack some sprite or ginger ale to settle their stomachs.
#6 Download the Road to Hana (or Maui) GyPSy Guide & Plan Ahead
You will loose service along the road! You might get it in a few spots but plan your trip like you won’t. The day before the drive you’ll want to download one of the GyPSy Guide which allows your GPS to work on their map even without service, and reads along tips and stops to visit along the road.
Do a little research ahead of time and write down the few spots you know you don’t want to miss. While I’d love you to come back to this blog post on the drive, odds are you won’t be able to. So make sure to write it down and the GyPSy Guide will help you find it on the road.
#7 You Don’t Need to Stop Everywhere
You could stop every 100 yards along the drive, but one of the top tips for the Road to Hana is that you don’t need to and won’t be able to see everything. Plan a couple spots you know you want to see and then pick a couple that catch you eye along the way. If you time it right, you’ll have a chance to hit a few more on your way back.
#8 Bring Cash
Many places along this side of the island will not take credit cards. You don’t need a ton, but be sure to pull out some cash before you start the drive.
#9 Where Your Swimsuit and Bring A Change
If you think there is a chance you’ll be jumping in the water, whether at a beach or a waterfall, you should wear your swimsuit. There will be a ton of people and it’s much easier to just slip off an extra layer than it is to change in and then out of your suit. It’s beautiful out so you can stay in it for awhile and then have a change of clothes for your drive back.
#10 Drive at Your Pace, Prepare for Bends and Single Lane Roads
Like any windy road, there will be people who want to drive faster than you do. One of the tips for the Road to Hana you should take to heart is do not feel pressured to go any faster than you feel comfortable with. If you’re the slow car, just be courteous and when a few cars (in California the law is four and it makes a good rule of thumb) pull over into one of the turnouts and let them pass.
Most of the bridges along the way are single lanes, be sure to know basic etiquette. When you come to a bridge stop, see if there is another car on the other side, if so treat it like a stop sign, if you can’t see the other side then honk quickly before going forward.
There are also over 600 bends along this road. Make sure to take them slow enough that you stay on your side of the road. I saw a couple times where people almost blew into each other and you don’t want that to be you.
#11 Rent the Smallest Car You Can
People often ask if you need four-wheel-drive on the island. In reality, it’s the opposite. With the single lanes and crazy bends, it’s much easier to drive the road in a tiny compact instead of the big convertibles or jeeps. There were moments that I don’t know how two jeeps would have passed each other.
A few times we had the driver passing us say through the window “I wish all the cars where your size”. Unless you’re visiting Maui with a large group it’s cheaper and easier to drive around the island in a compact. No reason to waste money on an upgrade.
#12 Get Back Before Sunset
With all the bends, this drive is much better when you can see the cars coming up on you and where the road turns. One of the tips for the Road to Hana that I’d take seriously is getting back through the worst of the drive before the sunsets. If you leave early, even in the winter you’ll have enough time to really enjoy the drive.
You don’t need to be back in Paia by sunset but you might want to be and grab dinner during the sunset with the beautiful view at Mama’s Fish House.
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Can’t Miss Spots for the Road to Hana
Since one of the tips for the Road to Hana is being prepared, I thought I’d also share a few of my favorite spots. I did find that everywhere we stopped was worth it and know there are more that would have been as well. I think no matter how much time you have to do the drive you’ll want more time, and that’s okay, you’ll just have to take a trip back.
#1 Twin Falls
At mile marker 2, you find your first excuse to get out of the car. It might not be the grandest of the falls you’ll see along the drive but it’s just a short walk from the parking space and you’ll already feel like you’ve gotten far away.
#2 Upper Waikani or Three Bears Fall
Just before mile marker 20, you’ll find a great waterfall to catch some photos or take a dip in. Here you’ll see three beautiful streams coming down. You’ll want to park just a little bit past the bridge and walk back down. You can take in the view of the falls and back out to the ocean the other way. If you want to take a swim, make sure the rocks aren’t too damp. The first steps on the trail aren’t easy and you do not want to fall here. But if it’s a nice day it can be a perfect spot for a dip.
#3 Ke’anae Arboretum – The Rainbow Eucalyptus
One of the unique things you shouldn’t miss along the Road to Hana is the Rainbow Eucalyptus. The colors in these trees really are amazing and like nothing else I’ve come across. A great spot to see these trees up close and personal without having to pay a fee is the Ke’anae Arboretum. It’s a few minute walk to get to see the trees and worth a stop just before mile marker 17.
#4 Wainapapnapa State Park – Black Sand Beach
Right after mile marker 32, you’ll find this beautiful state park. Other than Haleakalā, this is the stop we spent the most time at. You’ll want to explore some of the coastal trails, the black sand beach, the caves, and the blowhole. It’s the perfect place to take a break for the drive and just wander.
This is one of the reasons why you should bring cash along the way. The best spots to eat along the Road to Hana are the food trucks. You’ll find stands along the way into Hana and a variety of food trucks in the town.
We stopped at Braddah Hutts BBQ Grill and it was one of the best meals on the island. You can enjoy their fish tacos or their BBQ meats. Their potato salad was also spectacular and a huge side for just an extra dollar. It was just past the general store and worth the wait!
#6 Haleakalā National Park – Seven Sacred Pools & Bamboo Forest
Any trip along the Road to Hana isn’t complete without a trip to the Seven Sacred Pools, also called Ohe’o Gulch. There are more than seven pools, and they aren’t particularly sacred. But what they do bring are some beautiful falls. If the weather is right, you can also take a swim in some of these beautiful pools.
Here you’ll also find a variety of hikes including about a mile hike up to the Bamboo Forest that is worth saving time for. You can also keep going for more falls worth the view. It’s worth saving time to do the six-mile round trip hike.
#7 Spend Time in Paia On Your Way Back
Since you’ll want to be back by sunset you’ll have more than enough time to hang out in the town of Paia after your drive. You’ll want to grab dinner at the
You’ll want to grab dinner at the Paia Fish Market for a casual and delicious meal, I loved their fish and chips. Also head over to Charley’s Restaurant & Saloon where you can catch some live music just about every night. While it’s often local artists you’ll see, the walls adorned with rock stars from Willie Nelson to Neil Young, so you’ll never know who’s going to show up.
It’s About the Journey on the Road to Hana
While you might have places you want to check off your list on the drive on the Road to Hana. Remember that it is about the journey, what you experience between places, that is just as important. It’s also about the time you’re spending with your fellow travelers. I hope you’ll use these tips for the Road to Hana, to enjoy the trip along the way even when the road is slow and windy roads. It’s well worth the sites you’ll see along the way.
The Road to Hana was one of my favorite activities on the island of Maui, but there is so much more to enjoy on the island. For a few more ideas take a look at my favorite outdoor activities I had a chance to try.
Have you taken the drive before? If so what tips for the Road to Hana would you pass along? Leave a comment below.