If you’re visiting Maui for more than a day, the Road to Hana is a must-do. It is literally a road that leads to the town of Hana, which doesn’t sound that exciting when I put it that way. What makes it essential is the road itself and all of the sights along the way—jungle, waterfalls, black sand beaches, and much more.
The road is narrow and curvy, barely fitting two-way traffic, and has roughly 54 bridges, most of them one-lane. It’s not for the faint of heart, but hardly anyone on the road is in a hurry, and if you’re a confident driver, that’s half the experience. There are guided tours for those hesitant to take the wheel, but you lose control over your itinerary. Some sights are right by the road, with beach views opening up before you and waterfalls cascading right by the road. Others are less obvious, requiring a short hike without any signs or markings.
There’s plenty of literature and resources to guide you on your drive, so I’ll just give my quick tips and share a few photos.
- Start early. We left our hotel on the south side of the island at dawn and reached the start of the road just as the sun was completely up. We never really hit traffic on the whole road, and didn’t encounter many people until the afternoon. You also want to leave lots of time for lazing on a beach and still being able to drive back in the daylight. Gas up first!
- Bring lots of water, some snacks, sunscreen, bug spray, hiking sandals, a change of shoes and clothes, towels, and cash.
- When parking, lock your car and put everything out of sight. Bring any valuables with you.
- Use an app to help guide you via GPS. I found this so helpful since even when you don’t have a cell signal, GPS knows where you are and the guide tells you when to turn for some hard-to-find locations. Gypsy is pretty good, but there are a few options. Download it before you leave and bring a car charger. That being said, don’t simply rely on the app. They don’t mention every stop and they interject their opinion a lot, which you might not agree with! Do some research first and consider buying a map.
- Eat the banana bread at a roadside stand, and grab a late lunch in Hana. There’s some great Thai food served out of a trailer near the beach.
- This is more of an FYI: the Seven Sacred Pools are no longer open to swimming. It makes this stop slightly less worth it, but if you’ve already been to Haleakala Crater or plan to go (and you should), your park entry is good for three days for both ends of the park, so you might as well make a stop and see the pools. There’s also a hike to a couple of waterfalls if they are flowing. Bring bug spray!
- Drive the backend to Pukalani. Okay, okay, take this with a grain of salt, since some sites and the Gypsy app will practically beg you not to. The reason for this is huge portions of the road past Hana used to be unpaved. If you get stuck on this road it could void your rental car contract and cost thousands of dollars for a tow truck. Now almost the entire road is newly paved—there’s just a relatively small, jungly section that’s unpaved past Haleakala National Park, but just take it slow and even a compact car can make it. You’ll pass some beaches and then the landscape becomes volcanic ranch land that crashes down into the ocean. It’s totally different and beautiful in it’s own way, and ends near a winery and lavender farm. Plus, you don’t have to drive the road to Hana both ways.
- Extra tip: Check in with the rangers at Haleakala National Park to double check the road condition in case of flooding before venturing further south.