The Road to Hana isn’t your average road trip…and The Road Les Traveled it isn’t. The teeny tiny – sometimes one lane – curvy road is just as crowded as it is charming. Think taro patches, turquoise seascapes, waterfall pools, botanical gardens and lush rainforests. If starting in Wailea, google maps will tell you the 64 mile stretch to Hana takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes. Well the thing about Google Maps? It lies.
Things to know before you go:
Start early! Like 7 or 8am early. This drive will take you all day, and starting late means traffic and crowded places of interest.
The road has many nicknames, one being “The Divorce Highway.” Driving this road is pure eye candy at every turn, but the exhausting 617 hairpin curves and 59 unforgiving one-lane bridges can make for one hell of a day(s). Oh, don’t forget the speed limit is 25 mph or less the entire way which puts the drive time to about 2.5 hours WITHOUT any stops or traffic. Absolutely impossible IMO 🙂 It’s about the journey, not the destination, y’all!
IF you attempt this road with a baby (entirely possible and FUN!), then I suggest staying the night in Hana because you’ll need extra time. Be aware that there aren’t many lodging options in Hana, and most come at a high price tag. We stayed here – no regrets, but it’s insanely overpriced.
Download the GyPSy Guide to Hana app on your phone before you depart for a guided audio tour. It’s $6.99 but was absolutely worth every penny to us! Not only does it give you incredible advice along the journey, but it also tells you Hawaii history as well. It does a great job of letting you know which are the best viewpoints and attractions you don’t want to miss, and what things are nice extras to do if you have the time. The best learning experience for the whole car (Nora will have to listen again one day 😉 )
Don’t forget a car charger because the app will run down your battery – and it’s a LONG day! Our rental only had a USB-C port (ugh) so we didn’t have a charger. Needless to say, my phone was at 5% when we stopped in Hana for the night.
There is hardly any service on the road, so make sure you download some music for the drive!
Get a parking and entry reservation for Waiʻānapanapa State Park (black sand beach) a few days prior to starting this adventure. Same day reservations aren’t available.
Practice Aloha. If a local pulls up behind you while driving just pull over and let them pass, otherwise they will drive on your tail until you do.
Banana bread on Maui is serious business. If you’re into it as much as I am, try a banana bread tasting at all these stops 🙂 Aunty Sandys (Mile Marker 17 down Keanae Road), Halfway to Hana stand (Mile Marker 17), Nahiku Cafe (Mile Marker 29), Hana Farms (Mile Marker 34). You’ll most likely come across even more loaves at unnamed fruit stands along the way as well!
You’ve probably heard about the “back way” which creates a loop instead of turning around at Hana. We didn’t do the loop because most major car rental companies explicitly prohibit their vehicles from being driven there. Some people do it and are fine – but others have gotten stuck on remote dirt roads or in potholes, having to be towed out. It’s on my list to do another time (hello! This is The Road Les Traveled after all!).
15 Stops on The Road to Hana
- Paia Town – First stop! I love this cute little town. Get gas here because I don’t think you’ll have another chance until Hana. Visit Paia Bowls or a stop at Mana Foods for brekkie and road trip snacks, and visit Secret Beach for sea turtle viewing. We had the entire beach to ourselves on our final morning on Maui AND saw a beautiful, giant sea turtle. Note – this beach is clothing optional 🙂
- Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees – Mile Marker 7; There’s a grove of beautiful rainbow eucalyptus trees here, a site I’ve never seen before! We had to pull over to a small designated area real quick to snap these stunning photos so we could always remember them. They’re native to Philippines but has been introduced and grows well in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, New Britain, and Hawaiʻi.
- Garden of Eden – Mile Marker 10/11; 26 acres of trails with unique flowers and trees away from the crowds. It’s a steep $15pp admission fee so if you’re willing to cough up the change, it’s a great spot for a bathroom break and chance to get out of the car (seat). The cafe at the entrance has yummy snacks to choose from (with a porter potty – but nicer restrooms exist inside the gardens)!
- Ke’anae Peninsula – Mile Marker 16; Known for its taro fields and sad historic events. On your drive down, you’ll pass a stone church built in 1856, the only remaining building after the devastating tsunami of 1946 which killed twenty four people when waves topping 35 feet crashed into the village with no warning. Following this tragedy, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center was implemented, which still sits on Oahu’s Ewa Beach.
- Half Way to Hana – Mile Marker 17; If you have a craving for some banana bread, you’ll go right past Half Way to Hana. Being a self-proclaimed BB Master myself, I gave this bread a 7/10.
- Coconut Glen’s – Mile Marker 27; Made with love and coconuts from the jungles of Maui, this vegan ice cream really is something to pull over for. Glen reminds me of a modern-day Willy Wonka, and his food truck is his modern day chocolate/coconut/ice cream factory.
- Nahiku Cafe & Marketplace – Mile Marker 29; After a sugar rush at Coconut Glen’s, we needed some caffeine in order to make more headway along our journey. Grab some coffee and some macadamia nut banana bread for a snack down the road!
- Ka’eleku Cave (Hana Lava Tube) – Mile Marker 31; I wanted to visit this natural wonder, but we simply didn’t have the time. The 40 minute tour costs $12pp and is said to be one of the most fascinating stops along the Road to Hana. It was formed approximately 960 years ago as a result of molten lava spewing up from underground and flowing toward the ocean!
- Hana Farms – Mile Marker 31; A sucker for a beautiful roadside stand, we pulled off and bought an array of goodies. It’s THE place to grab local produce and homemade baked goods.
- Waianapanapa (Black sand beach) – Mile Marker 32; Shiny black-sand Waianapanapa Beach is surrounded by bright green jungle foliage on three sides and cobalt-blue water lapping at its feet. Dreamy, right? Don’t be like us and forget to make a paid reservation (implemented in March 2021). We saw it via drone from afar.
- Hana Town – Mile Marker 34; You’ve made it to Hana! Congrats! This is where we spent the night in order to make the drive enjoyable with a baby. There’s lots to do around here, but if you’re hungry, don’t miss all the food trucks near the Hana-Maui Resort.
- Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach – In Hana town near the Hana-Maui Resort; A local to Maui mentioned this spot near the town of Hana, and I’m so glad she did. The .5 mile trek via narrow pathways along the coast is beautiful – but note it could get a little tricky if you’re not careful with your footing as there have been multiple injuries/rescues along the path due to erosion over the years. You can easily wear sandals with some good traction on the bottom, but I wore proper hiking shoes because I was wearing Nora at the time and wanted to be extra safe!
- Wailua Falls – Mile Marker 45; Get out of your car in the dedicated parking lot (or don’t – you can see it from the car as you pass!) to photograph or swim next to these gorgeous falls. I get it – you might have waterfall fatigue by now, but this is a good one. Cascading approximately 80 feet down the side of a lush jungle wall into to a lovely plunge pool, this is easily one of Maui’s most accessible and majestic falls. No hiking required!
- Haleakala National Park: Ohe’o Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools) / Bamboo Forest (Pipiwai Trail) – The 7 Sacred Pools are a chain of waterfalls that flow into each other, producing the seven water chambers. As inviting as the water looks, you can’t swim in it. Around the same spot, you can choose to hike the Pipiwai Trail. This was certainly on our list, but Nora was having a bit of a meltdown by this point, so needless to say…we skipped it. Y’all go for us and see the beautiful bamboo 3/4 of the way there! ALSO – if you visited Haleakala Crater at sunrise/sunset, your entry into the park is good for 3 days and will work at these stops as well so you don’t have to pay the $25 fee again.
- Huli Huli Chicken – Mile Marker 49; If it’s lunch time (and even if it isn’t), stop here. “Huli” means “turn” as in turn over the flame. Place your order for chicken, pork, or ribs all served plate lunch–style with potato mac salad, rice, and green salad. Park yourself at the picnic table (or giant log) facing scenic Alau Island and count your blessings. It was a highlight for us!
- Hamoa Beach – Mile Marker 51; Crescent-shaped beach lined with Hala trees that’s good enough for locals and visitors alike!