Imagine 52 miles worth of curvy road along the coast of Maui with natural wonders around every corner. The Road to Hana is a nature lover’s paradise full of bamboo forests, waterfalls, colored sand beaches, lush rainforests, and much more. If you are looking for a beautiful picturesque drive packed with loads of adventure, the Road to Hana is a perfect fit. After making this journey, it is easy to see why the Road to Hana has been ranked one of the best scenic drives in the world!
Where is it?
The Road to Hana begins in northern Maui in the city of Kahului where Highway 36 starts, however most people (including us) begin their journey from the hipster surfer town of Pāʻia, which is roughly 20 minutes further east.
How do I get there?
Well, first decide how you would like to experience the journey. You can choose to rent a car and drive yourself which allows you the flexibility to stop where you want for as long as you want. Or, if you prefer to leave the planning and driving to someone else, consider booking a trip with a guide. If you choose the latter, then feel free to skip this part, as you probably don’t care how to get there if someone else is driving you!
As noted above, the Road to Hana begins on Highway 36, so if you are coming from the west, lets say from Lahaina, then take Highway 30E, make a right on N Kihei Rd, then take Highway 311N until you hit Highway 36. If you are coming from the south, lets say from Wailea, then take Highway 31N to 311N to Highway 36.
Once you are on Highway 36, start paying attention to mile markers. Each sighting is located by the nearest mile marker, and when you get close, pull off the road. For example: Ho’okipa Beach Park, a surfing Mecca, is located at Mile Marker #9. Some locations will have signs, but not all. Others you may have to search a little harder for the path to the location (Kaihalulu Beach is a perfect example of this). Continue along Highway 36 stopping at the sights of your choice until you get to Highway 360 (last mile marker on Highway 36 is #16). Hop on Highway 360 and the mile markers will begin counting up from zero. Again, stop at the mile markers you choose while driving down the eastern coast of Maui to Hana Town. You can continue past Hana Town for additional sights. There are many amazing places to see past Hana Town, and I highly recommend continuing on. When you get past Hana Town, the mile markers will begin counting down from 51.
You can turn around once you reach Oheo Gulch, or depending on where you are staying, you can make the full loop around which will take you on the Piilani Highway (Highway 31). The road is unpaved in places when making the full loop, so I would only suggest taking this route if you have a vehicle that can handle the rocky roads. Additionally, if you have a rental car, check with the rental company first as I have heard that many companies will not cover you if something goes wrong on this part of the road.
What do I pack?
- Swimming suit
- Extra change of clothes and shoes
- Tennis shoes/Hiking shoes
- Nausea medicine (if curvy roads make you car sick)
- Phone charger
- Camera with extra memory cards & battery
- Lunch (You can bring a lunch or buy something at the various stands along the road)
- A cooler of water/soda
- Bug spray
- Cash (for treats/drinks at the roadside stands and national park entrance fees)
- Small first aid kit
- Rain coat (It is highly likely that you will get rained on at one point for a short period)
How long does the drive take?
It depends! You can stop as little or as much as you’d like. The Road to Hana is only 52 miles but the average speed is 25 mph (or less) due to the 620 hairpin turns and 59 one lane bridges, therefore it would take just over 2 hours without any stopping. But remember, it isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey! Consider staying overnight for more time to explore.
What stops should I make?
Here are some stops you surely won’t want to miss:
Mile Marker #6.7 – Na’ili’ili Haele Stream & Waterfalls: This stop provides a beautiful walk through a bamboo forest, across a stream, to two beautiful waterfalls. Be careful crossing the stream, and make sure you have a waterproof case for your camera and phone.
Mile Marker #10.5 – Garden of Eden: Stop in this botanical garden to check out all the local tropical plants, including the rainbow eucalyptus! And don’t forget to pay a visit to Keopuka Rock, notable for its feature in the opening scene of Jurassic Park. Note: There is a fee of $15 per adult, $5 per child to enter.
Mile Marker #16.7 – Ke’anae Arboretum: Stop here, free of charge, for a beautiful short walk through the tropical forest which is home to various exotic plants and lush vegetation.
Mile Marker #17.3 – Halfway to Hana Snack Shop: Stop off here to celebrate the halfway point to Hana and to purchase some delicious snacks. Get the banana bread. You won’t regret it!
Mile Marker #32 – Wai’ānapanapa State Park: Home to a black sand beach, lava tubes, caves, a blow hole, and burial sites; this state park can keep you busy for hours! The black sand beach is a must see at the park, and can easily be reached down a flight of stairs.
Kaihalulu Beach (in Hana Town) aka Red Sand Beach: Finding the path to this beach isn’t easy. Go to the end of Uakea Road and look for a thin trail beginning at the end of the pavement. Use caution navigating the trail as the path isn’t the safest and takes you past cliff edges. Also note: Due to the seclusion, the beach is frequented by nudists.
Mile Marker #42 – Ohe’o Gulch “Seven Sacred Pools”: If you want to go for a swim, this stop is a great place as it offers various pools for swimming. Ohe’o Gulch is a part of Haleakala National Park so there will be an entrance fee of $20 per private vehicle, good for three days. This means save your receipt, and go to Haleakala Summit within the next two days!
What are some helpful tips for the journey?
- Begin your journey early! The earlier the better, as the road gets pretty crowded.
- Plan out the stops you want to make beforehand. It is hard to turn around once you have driven past the mile marker.
- Don’t overload the journey. Be like a true islander and take your time at each stop to truly experience the beauty.
- Fill up your tank and purchase supplies at the Minit Stop gas station in Pāʻia. It opens at 5am. This is important! There are no gas stations along the road until you get to Hana, and the gas is more expensive there.
- If you are staying close to Pāʻia, consider swinging by a day beforehand to Pāʻia Gelato. First, the gelato is superb, and second you can buy a guided cd to listen to on the Road to Hana which provides you with some history and tells you which mile markers to stop at along the way.
- Make sure your camera has plenty of memory because you’ll need it! There are so many photographic spots, and the last thing you’d want is to run out of space.
- Consider renting a car with a convertible top. Drive with the top down for an awesome viewing experience, but be prepared to stop and put the top back up when it begins to sprinkle.
- Drive safely and slowly! There are roughly 620 hairpin turns this road, so be cautious. Additionally, watch out for yield signs. Many of the 59 bridges are one lane.
- Take your valuables with you when you park the car. You’ll probably see broken glass in the road as you pull off to park at some of the mile markers. Don’t give someone a reason to add your window glass to the pile.
- Some of the hidden gems on the Road to Hana are on private property. Be curtious and obey any “No Trespassing” signs.
- You MUST try the Banana Bread. It is ridiculously good and baked fresh everyday! You can find the bread at many little roadside stands along the journey.
- Try to make your way off the curvy roads before dark as the roads can be harder to navigate at night.
- Check the weather before hand. Maui gets a lot of rain and you’ll want to be prepared. If there has been too much rain lately, some of the roads could be closed off. Click here for potential road closures.
- Have a blast and “Spread the Ahola”!
If you have a question I have failed to answer here, please reach out! I would be happy to respond!
*To see more photos from our journey along the Road to Hana, check out My Restless Roaming Spirit’s Instagram account here!