Road to Hana: An Unforgettable Maui Day Trip!

Jungle with water flowing up the middle on the road to Hana

The Road to Hana is one of the best day trips you can take while in Maui.  No Maui itinerary would be complete without including the road to Hana. The drive is an adventure in itself. It has 620 curves in its short 52 miles!  You will see gorgeous waterfalls, hike thru dark lava caves, walk across black sand beaches and so much more!

How to Plan for the Road to Hana

Plan the whole day for your drive to Hana. Make sure and get up early to beat the crowds and tour buses. You won’t regret getting an early morning start when you have one of the many waterfalls all to yourself. Also, the sooner you go up, the more time you have to enjoy all the stops along the way and still be able to make it down before dark.  I think you’ll find, it’s a road you prefer to drive in the daylight.  So first things first, fuel up!  There is only one gas station in Hana, so fuel up before heading up the mountain.

Getting to Hana

It’s about 1 hour to mile marker zero from Lahaina and around 40 minutes from Kihei.  The beginning of the road to Hana starts just outside the town of Haiku. Haiku is where my recommended supply stop, Jaws Country Store, is located. You can use the embedded map below to get driving directions from your hotel or condo and plan for how long it will take you to get to the starting point. Even though it may only take around 3 hours to drive straight to Hana from West Maui, you will be making lots of stops along the way, which is why you need to plan for this to take up your whole day. And I can’t stress enough how important it is you get an early start!

What to Pack

If you are prone to motion sickness, I would recommend bringing Dramamine and riding up front if possible. Pack a picnic lunch (see my recommended stop below) as well as extra water and snacks. You have a full day ahead of you and it’s good to be prepared for any delays or emergencies that could come up. I also like to wear my swimsuit underneath a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, that way I am always ready to jump in the next swimming hole that tickles my fancy. Additionally, some of the hikes are best suited to strap-on sandals or tennis shoes, so bring something good for hiking as well as your flip-flops.

Road to Hana Packing Guide
Swimsuits
Rain Jacket
Sunglasses
Tennis Shoes or Strap-on Sandals
Sweatshirt
Hat (sun protection)
Flip-flops
Drinks/Water
Dramamine
Cameras
Bug Spray
Hairbrush/comb
Towels
Snacks
Smartphone
Sunscreen
Picnic Lunch *Jaws Country Store on the map
*Optional Change of Clothes (for dinner that evening)

Self-Driving Guide

I have included some of my favorite stopping points along the road to Hana on this Google Map. You may also want to download a self-driving guide from the app store. Shaka Guide or GyPSy Guide to Hana are both excellent app choices. You can download these to your phone for offline use. This saves battery and you will avoid losing connection in case your cell service doesn’t work on the road to Hana. These apps are great as they will not only recommend areas of interest along the road to Hana, but they will also give you historical information that you would otherwise miss on your own.

Stops Along the Road to Hana

How to use this map: Click on the star to the right of “Road to Hana” to add this to your own Google Maps. You can also click on the icon to the left of “Road to Hana” for a drop-down menu of all the places I have marked on the map. Click on any of the icons on the map to pull up driving directions and specific information.

Jaw’s Country Store

This one is actually before the official start of the road to Hana, however, it is a great place to pick up that picnic lunch I mentioned before. It is the perfect one-stop shop to begin your drive to Hana.  Chances are you missed breakfast in your effort to get an early start.  No problem!  Jaw’s Country Store has you covered!  Get your coffee fix and breakfast while you pick out your picnic lunch for later today.

Twin Falls Maui Waterfall

I stopped here on my very first trip to Maui and although I had a lot of fun here, I recommend you skip this on your way up to Hana. There are so many great waterfalls along the road and this one takes a bit of time walking to it and back. It can also get busy with tour buses stopping here.  So continue past it and instead stop if you have time on the way back and want to see one more waterfall and swimming hole.

Garden of Eden

I stopped here with my husband on our first trip to Hana and we had the whole place to ourselves (thanks to an early start). It was such a beautiful garden to wander thru, admiring the views, the bamboo “forest” and an array of native plants. They have chairs you can lounge in and relax before returning to your drive to Hana. It was well worth the stop!

Kaumahina State Wayside

This is a great rest area to stop and use the restroom. Enjoy the scenic viewpoint and stretch your legs before continuing on your journey to Hana.

Ke’anae Lookout

This stop is a small detour off of the road to Hana, but I think it is well worth the extra effort.  Turn off the Hana Highway on to Ke’anae Road and follow the road all the way to the end where you will turn around and come back the same way when you are finished.  Make sure to stop at the different viewing areas to watch the waves crash against the shore.  Towards the end of Ke’anae Road, you will find the Lanakila Ihiihi O Iehowa Ona Kava church, it is the only building to survive the massive tsunami that wiped out this village in 1946.

Take time to read the plaques posted that share information about this historic event. This short, beautiful detour, is full of historical significance.  Oh and in case you didn’t take a bathroom break at Kaumahina State Wayside, they do have public restrooms.  There is also a food stand where you can get banana bread and shave ice in case you need a snack.

Keanae Church on the road to Hana

The historic Lanakila Ihiihi O Iehova O na Kaua Church.

Ching’s Pond

If you’ve been anxious to go for a swim, here’s your chance.  If you can handle the “refreshing” (aka very cold) water at Ching’s pond it is a beautiful spot for a quick swim and waterfall photo opp. This is a popular swimming hole with locals and visitors alike.  The climb down is a little steep, so I recommend wearing your strap-on sandals or sneakers for the climb down. This is a fun stop on the road to Hana and I think it’s worth the icy plunge! Don’t expect to spend too much time here though, it’s more of a quick jump in, take photos, get back to the car and warm up, kind of stop.

Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside & Falls

The Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside is another great rest area stop along the road to Hana.  There are restrooms and picnic tables, not to mention more waterfalls, making this a great option to eat that picnic lunch you brought.  Eat lunch and enjoy the waterfalls (and lots of feral cats roaming around) before continuing towards Hana.

Waterfalls on the road to Hana

Exploring the Pua’a falls after our picnic lunch.

Hana Lava Tube

This was one of my favorite stops on the Road to Hana.  I mean, how often do you get a chance to walk thru a cave that was carved out by hot lava?  You get a chance to experience the darkness of the lava tube as well as discover some interesting facts about what has learned to live in these dark tunnels. This will be a fun stop for adults and kids alike!

Waianapanapa State Park

You definitely cannot miss stopping at Waianapanapa State Park!  This beautiful state park is famous for its black sand beach.  It also has a blowhole, multiple hiking trails, and campground. Stop here and enjoy the blowhole, take photos of this gorgeous stretch of coastline and if you want, go for a swim off the black sand beach. Just be careful as there are no lifeguards and the waves are big and the currents often strong, so use caution! Additionally, you can take the short paved trail to the Wainapanapa caves.  Wainapanapa State Park is your last stop before reaching Hana.

black rock beach at Wainapanapa State Park in Hana

The black sand beach at Wainapanapa State Park.

Hana

You made it! Pat yourself on the back! Now check out this town that had a highway named after it.  If you need more snacks or drinks for the trip back, try Hasegawa General Store or the Hana Ranch Store. For most people who drive the road to Hana, this is where they turn around to head back down the mountain.

However, for some, they have one more stop on their list– the Pools of O’heo or the Seven Sacred Pools. Now I only recommend doing this, if you left early enough in the day, as it adds a little over 1-hour round trip drive time from Hana. Plus another 30-minute round trip hike to see the pools and then any additional time should you decide to swim (conditions permitting).

Tip:To see the Seven Sacred Pools at Ohe’o before the crowds arrive, drive all the way here first, then see all the sights in reverse order back down.  Better yet, camp at Wainapanapa State Park (reservations required) or snag a first come first serve site at Kipahulu Campground.

Pools of Ohe’o (aka Seven Sacred Pools)

To get to the Kipahulu Visitor Center, and the trailhead for the Kūloa Point Trail which takes you to the Pools of Ohe’o, you will need to drive about 40 minutes past Hana.  You will also need to pay an entrance fee for Haleakala National Park. If you plan to see the sunrise in Haleakala National Park, make sure to hang on to your receipt and as long as you go during the 3-days your receipt is good for, you won’t need to pay the entrance fee a second time.  This, of course, works the other way as well, if you just visited Haleakala for the sunrise, and have a valid receipt, you can use that here and avoid paying another entrance fee.

Driving Back Down

Hopefully, you started your day early enough that you are now driving back with some daylight to spare.  Either way, make sure to take it slow, watch out for pedestrians and be mindful of the locals who live on these roads.  They tend to drive a lot faster and know the roads much better than we do.  So if you see them wanting to pass, and can give them any space, go ahead, but otherwise, don’t worry, when they feel they can pass they will, whether you pull over or not.  Once you have made it all the way back down, you can then officially congratulate yourself for surviving the road to Hana!

Tip: Plan ahead and reserve a table at Mama’s Fish House for dinner, it will make a wonderful ending to your day.  Just don’t forget to reserve ahead of time and to pack that *optional change of clothes I listed.

Safety Tips for the Road to Hana

Fuel up in Paia before beginning the drive to Hana.  There is one gas station in Hana, but it’s going to cost you! It makes a lot more sense to fuel up before starting your drive. Plus, it’s always a good idea to start any road trip on a full tank of gas.  If you get to Hana or take the extra trip to the Pools of Ohe’o, check your fuel levels then, and you can decide whether you need to fuel up again before making the drive back.

Drive carefully and pull over when it is safe to do so to let other drivers pass.  Locals who live off the Hana Highway are often on their way to work or on their way home, so give them preference. Do your best to get an early start for your drive to Hana so you can make the return trip before dark.

Swim with caution. There are some fun spots for swimming, but this area gets a lot of rain and the currents can be dangerous.  So if in doubt, stay out.

When parking on the side of the road and walking to see waterfalls, exercise caution and watch out for vehicles.  And the same applies when you are in your car, watch out for fellow pedestrians and take it slow around the 600+ curves as you never know what’s on the other side.

Final Thoughts on the Road to Hana

Driving the road to Hana and seeing the sunrise at Haleakala are both day trips that shouldn’t be missed on your visit to Maui.  They are worth the extra effort. Just plan ahead and remember, the road to Hana is about the journey, not the destination. And what a journey it is!

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