Researching the Maui leg of our Hawaii roadtrip, I came across ‘The Road To Hana’. But what was this mythical road? Where would it lead us? It turns out the Road To Hana is an epic drive through some of Hawaii’s most luscious scenery. Most importantly (and you’ll read this everywhere along the drive), ‘it is the journey, not the destination’. You are not racing to get to Hana and see the sights there. Instead, you are meandering round the Hana Highway, stopping off at the many attractions enroute.
There’s lots to take into account if you are wondering whether to factor this in to your trip. Many people do it as a day trip from their Maui beach resort. In my eyes this is crazy. The Road to Hana was one of our favourite parts of our entire Hawaii roadtrip and deserves time for you to take it slowly. There are multiple stops you can make from hidden waterfalls to black sand beaches. I had read about the high rate of rental car theft. To counter this and make the most of our time, I planned to spend two nights in Hana. This way we wouldn’t be in a rush and I could also leave the valuables at our airbnb rental for the second day. I worried that how sleepy Hana was that two nights would be too much. Luckily it was the perfect plan, we were able to go at our own speed one the first day, explore at leisure on the second and then do the return leg on the third day. We also wouldn’t have to do the drive in the dark.
There are two things to be mindful of when considering this drive. If you are driving yourself and not going through a tour, make sure you are a confident driver. The road has about 600 curves and 54 bridges (many one lane)! Tourists will think nothing of randomly pulling over to check out a waterfall. So even if you drive safely, others may not. If you spot a local, please pull over and allow them to pass. I can see how they get frustrated with tourists driving slowly on the Hana highway especially if they’re trying to get to work. On a similar note, be respectful. For the people who live around here, tourists can be very annoying. If you see something signed ‘off limits’, then keep out. Don’t trespass, there’s more than enough beauty to go around for everyone!
What to have in the car
- If you can, load up on gas in Kahului (where airport is) as this will be cheaper than further down the route.
- Download the GyPSy app. Simply press play when you are starting the drive and you will be accompanied by a smooth talking professional tour guide! Best of all, GyPSy advises where to stop enroute.
- Have a look at all the different stops (everything is measured on mile marker) so you can see what you might want to miss. Check recent reviews and opening times.
- Have your trainers & socks to hand so you can go and do some of the hikes
- Have swimsuits and towels to the ready if you’re planning to swim in the waterfalls.
- Fill the car with water and some snacks.
- Don’t be scaremongered into buying a picnic in Paia thinking you’ll never see food again. There’s plenty of eating opportunities on the Road To Hana.
- Get enough cash out before you depart Paia. There is an ATM in Hana but it was broken when we were there
Driving Paia to Hana – Where did we stop?
We set off around 8.30am from Paia, hoping to beat the traffic from daytrippers coming from further afield. We were really lucky and experienced little traffic on any of the days.
- We didn’t bother with Twin Falls as there was no parking
- Our first stop was the Waikamoi Ridge Trail, a short and relatively disappointing trek compared to what you’ll get further along.
- We paid $15 each to visit the spectacular Garden of Eden. The grounds are stunning although if you don’t want to pay, you can drive further to the Arboretum
- There are plenty of waterfall stops enroute. You’ll end up stopping whenever you can find a parking spot. We swam in a few and just hiked to others, including Hanawi Falls
- Take a slight detour round to the Keanae Peninsula to sample Auntie Sandy’s banana bread. Delectable! Then drive a bit further along to check out the impressive shoreline of the Keanae Peninsula. The volatile waves and black lava rock make for a magic contrast.
- As a geography nut, I love a cave. Formed approximately 960 years ago as a result of molten lava spewing up from underground and flowing toward the ocean, you can pay to go inside The Hana Lava Tube. Cost is $12 per person and you get a torch to brighten the dark tube (lots of fun for kids). This was our last stop before the town of Hana.
Day in Hana & Beyond
As mentioned above, I was very pleased with my decision to spend a couple of nights in Hana. I would have hated to rush the drive and not get the chance to relax and explore. On our second day, we set out for Haleakala National Park to climb the Pipiwai Trail. Located just above the Oheo Gulch, the walk is a four mile round trip up to the incredible Waimoku Falls. Meandering through the bamboo forest, this is one of the most beautiful family walks I have been on. Plus it’s not too tough for the little kids.
In the afternoon, we spent time at Waianapanapa, a beautiful black sand beach. You can either enjoy the waves or take the trail to a blowhole, where you are greeted by incredible views.
After our second night in Hana, we returned to West Maui. I had planned to keep driving round the South side of the island in a big circle. However, there are high cliffs and unpaved roads so we decided to return the way we came. This is not a bad thing as it was lovely to see the Road to Hana in the reverse! Plus the GyPsy app provides different commentary in each direction.
- Hana’s food truck scene is pretty great. We ate delicious Thai and Mexican food from Ae’s Thai Kitchen and The Surfing Burrito
- If you’re craving a cappuccino, stop off at the Nahiku Marketplace. There’s a decent collection of food trucks and little shops
- Delicious chicken and ribs with the most perfect beach setting (at about the quarter of the price of Mama’s Fish House!). Huli Huli Chicken is a food stand at Koki Beach, check for timings as it’s not open every day.
- Sample tropical fruits at the ONO organic farms fruit stand in Hana Town.
Where did we stay?
A tropical cottage hideaway that I found through airbnb. The property is about 10 minutes from downtown Hana (although there’s really not too much to Hana). The jacuzzi was the perfect way to unwind after a day exploring.