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You’ve headed to Maui and you’re ready to check out one of Maui’s most popular things to do: the Road to Hana. This all day adventure takes you on a winding drive through lush, east maui, which is remote, beautiful, and unlike what you’ll find on the other side of the island.
While this tops the list for most visitors’ bucket list, there is a lot to know before you set out on your journey. Overcrowding, parking challenges, and private property make this a tricky day out if you’re not prepared. But we have you covered with our complete Road to Hana guide as well as our favorite tours, which make for a stress free day on the road.
Here are some of our best Road to Hana resources from this article:
1. We highly recommend a tour, here are our favorites.
2. If you want to try the drive yourself, mind your manners for the local commuters and other travelers taking in the sights.
3. Book a rental car for the drive.
4. Whether you pick a tour, or traverse it yourself, let us help you pick the best route because there’s more than one!
What is the Road to Hana?
The Road to Hana is a stretch of the Hana Highway (HI-360) that connects the town of Hana in East Maui with Kahului in central Maui. The 52 mile drive is relatively short distance wise, but isn’t an easy road to navigate. With 620 curves and 59 bridges winding you through the rugged rainforest landscape of East Maui, the drive is an experience. The resorts and crowded beaches of the leeward side of the island have been replaced by waterfalls, cliffs, and dramatic ocean views.
We do think that this scenery is best experienced with a professional tour guide, but we’ll dive more into that later.
Why the Road to Hana is so famous
The road is famous for its stunning natural beauty and the many unique stops along the way. There are several parks, beaches, waterfalls, and hiking trails that can be accessed from the road, as well as historic sites and cultural attractions. Some of the most popular attractions include the Twin Falls waterfall, the bamboo forest that is part of the Pipiwai Trail, and the black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park (we cover more stops below).
The Road to Hana is also famous for its challenging driving conditions. The road is narrow and winding, and requires drivers to be alert and cautious. A majority of the bridges you’ll encounter are only one-lane, which makes the drive tricky, and slow at times. You’ll sometimes hear it referred to as the Divorce Highway as the drive can get tense at times. However, the stunning scenery and the many attractions along the way make the drive worth it for those who are up for the challenge.
Driving challenges on the Road to Hana
We’re going to address this upfront because I don’t see a lot of articles covering this and it is an important consideration into if and how you drive the Road to Hana.
The Road to Hana has seen a lot of challenges in the last decade, which make driving difficult. There has been an influx of visitors heading here (because it’s so beautiful!) and a lack of parking and knowledge about and how to navigate the road. Combined with road maintenance work, sometimes this trip can be more of a headache than the view is worth. This is especially true in the height of the summer when it is most crowded.
It’s important to know there is a lot of private property and areas where parking is strictly prohibited. You will get cited and ticketed if you park illegally on the road, and they began cracking down on this very seriously starting in 2021.
Our Road to Hana etiquette guide gives you our best information on driving the road well (like who goes first on those 49 one-lane bridges?) and what to watch out for on your journey.
And our favorite guided tours help to alleviate the overcrowding on the road and eliminate any driving challenges you may encounter.
Top 7 Stops on the Road to Hana
There is so much to see and do on the Road to Hana that it’s challenging to fit it all into one day. It’s important to have a few of your must-see stops picked out before setting off on your drive.
Road to Hana map
1. Wai’anapanapa State Park
Mile marker 32
This is quite possibly our favorite stop, so take some time to explore here. You’ll find a black sand beach, caves, tidepools, panoramic views, and walking trails. They also offer camping and cabins if you decide to extend your trip for just one night.
Reservations are now required to visit Wai’anapanapa State Park so make sure you’ve made those well in advance of your visit.
2. Eucalyptus Rainbow Trees
Mile marker 7
This is a popular but quick stop to check out the rainbow eucalyptus trees at mile marker 7. There are no signs, so this is easy to miss. There is parking, available, but it is on the other side of the highway, so take care when crossing. If you want to skip this stop, there are rainbow eucalyptus in the arboretum on the Keanae Peninsula.
3. Ke’anae Peninsula
After mile marker 16
Here you’ll find a rugged coastline, an arboretum, and (famous) Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread. Stretch your legs, go for a walk, and enjoy the views. Be sure to find some Rainbow Eucalyptus in the Ke’anae arboretum.
4. Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside Park
Mile marker 22.5
These are very accessible waterfalls with picnic tables, restrooms, and swimming holes. This is a great place to stop and take a rest. You’re more than halfway to Hana so take a minute to enjoy the beauty you’ll find in this park.
5. Kipahulu District of Haleakala National Park
12 miles past Hana
This area is actually past Hana, but it’s worth a visit. In this part of Haleakala National Park, you’ll find the Pipiwai Trail with the famous Bamboo Forest and Waimoku Falls. Entrance to this park of Haleakala National Park does require paying the entrance fee.
If you plan to visit Haleakala National Park again on your trip (perhaps for sunrise or sunset), keep your ticket. It is good for entrance into the park for three days. You’ll also find the Pools of ‘Ohe’o here (sometimes called the seven sacred pools but these are often and swimming in Oheo Gulch is strongly discouraged due to safety concerns.
You can check the status of the hiking trails on the National Park Service website.
6. Hamoa Beach
Mile marker 51
On sunny days, this bay is absolutely beautiful. When the ocean conditions are calm, it’s a great place to do some swimming and enjoy the crystal clear water. This is one of our favorite beaches on Maui.
7. Wailua Falls
This impressive waterfall is located right off the highway, with additional space for parking. No need to hike to this impressive fall! To the right of the bridge, there is a path that will lead you down to the pool and if the conditions are safe you might be able to enjoy a quick dip.
What You Should Skip on the Road to Hana
Popular sites will tell you to stop at places that you shouldn’t. These spots are either on private land, have no parking/extremely limited parking, or are dangerous. These include:
- Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach
- Bamboo forest (not to be confused with the bamboo forest on the Pipiwai Trail)
- Hanawi Falls
- Upper Waikani Falls
Tips for Driving the Road to Hana
Can you take a rental car on the Road to Hana?
You can absolutely take your rental car on the Road to Hana. The confusion with most visitors is whether they can take their car on the unpaved portion of the road that is past Hana town, sometimes known as the backside or the backway to Hana. This is the portion of the road that takes you from Kipahulu to upcountry Maui (highway 31). This part of the road is unpaved, has no guardrails, little cell phone service, and will occasionally wash out during big storms on Maui.
Because of this, some rental car companies will void the insurance and/or not provide emergency roadside service if you drive on the backside of Hana. Confirm that you’re able to drive this section of the island with your rental car company in advance.
If you’re looking for a rental car, you’ll definitely want to check out our favorite booking site, which has helped us save thousands of dollars over the years.
How long should I plan for the Road to Hana?
If you drive the road without stops and there’s no traffic, you can expect to drive the entire Road to Hana (one way) in just over two hours. But the stops are the entire point of enjoying this part of the island! With stops, you can expect to spend 10 -12 hours. Yes, that’s a long day, but you can do as much or as little as you want.
Guided tours for the Road to Hana all run 10-12 hours long.
Where should I start driving the Road to Hana?
The Road to Hana officially starts in Paia town, a charming community on Maui’s north shore. This is your last chance to easily stock up on food, water, and gas before heading onto the road, so if you need to, make a stop here. We usually grab a coffee in town and a few snacks from Mana Foods.
If you have enough time on Maui, we recommend exploring Paia and the stops closer to it on a day when you’re not driving the Road to Hana. There is a lot to see and experience on Maui’s North Shore, which is why we include it as a separate day in our Maui itinerary.
What’s the best route to take on the Road to Hana?
While the Road to Hana may seem pretty simple (drive there and drive back) there are a few different ways you can structure your day to see what you want to see on the way. If this is your first time driving the Road to Hana, you’ll probably want to stick with the classic Road to Hana route.
Options for driving include:
- Classic Road to Hana: make stops from Kahului to Hana and then drive back
- Stops on the Way Back: drive to Hana and make stops on the way back
- Circle Tour: make stops from Kahului to Hana and continue to the backside
- Reverse Road to Hana: drive the backside of Haleakala to Hana and make stops from Upcountry to Hana to Kahului
- Road to Hana with a Helicopter Tour: take a helicopter with a Road to Hana guided tour to enjoy the view from two perspectives
As you start looking at tours you’ll find that some stick to the Classic Road to Hana route, while others do a Circle Tour so you’re able to see more sights past Hana town.
What time should you start the Road to Hana?
Honestly, the earlier the better. When we do the Road to Hana, we aim to leave by 6:30 am to avoid the crowds and get a jumpstart on the day.
One of the first stops on the Road to Hana is Twin Falls. Their parking lot is the most crowded between 9 am and 2 pm (yes, they do get full and turn cars away). It takes 1 hour to 90 minutes to get to Twin Falls from most resort areas on the island, so it’s safe to say that most people set out on their excursion between 7:30 am and 8. You’ll want to get on the road before they do.
Should I drive the Road to Hana myself or take a tour?
The Road to Hana has become a very popular destination for travelers and it makes it to the top of many Hawaii bucket lists. It is spectacular. But this attention has brought a lot of road congestion and makes it challenging to find parking at a lot of the top sights.
After taking a guided tour on the Road to Hana, we really discovered just how nice it was to have someone else do all of the planning and worry about finding parking. Plus, having a local Hana guide added to our experience because we were able to hear stories that we wouldn’t have heard otherwise. If you’re torn between a guided tour and driving it yourself, we now wholeheartedly recommend taking a tour. Not only will you have a better experience, you’ll ease the pressure of overcrowding that locals are experiencing.
Check out our favorite Road to Hana guided tours and you can even see a video of our experience on a tour here:
Driving safety on the Road to Hana
Though the Road to Hana has a lot of twists and turns, it’s paved and generally safe. But there are some precautions you’ll want to take on your journey:
- Pay attention to the road, rather than the sights
- Pullover for faster vehicles (locals tend to drive faster on these roads)
- Pay attention to signs asking you to yield before bridges and honk before curves
- Check weather conditions for flash flood advisories
- Check water conditions before swimming — the ocean currents can be strong and rough
- Stay on trails and off of private land
- Adhere to no parking signs because you will get ticketed
Check out our full driving guide for the Road to Hana.
Should I do the Road to Hana in one day?
Most people visiting Maui don’t have unlimited time to enjoy and explore the island. If you can only spend one day on the Road to Hana, make the most of your time and do some planning before your trip. Our Road to Hana in one day helps lay out the stops and timing for your one day excursion.
If you have more time and you’re excited to explore more of East Maui, staying a night or two in Hana can be a good idea. That way you can take your time seeing things on the drive to Hana and spend the next morning exploring sights past Hana, like the Kipahulu District of Haleakala National Park. Just be prepared that East Maui is very quiet (which is what adds to it’s charm!) so don’t expect nightlife.
It can be difficult to find accommodations that allow you to book just for one night, but we give you some options in our Where to Stay in Hana for One Night guide.
What should you bring on the Road to Hana?
East Maui and Hana are remote, and you won’t find many amenities along the road. So it’s important to have prepared before you head out on your journey (or at least stop in Paia to pick up some last minute things).
Pack a day bag with:
- Light jacket
- Shoes for hiking (we love Tevas)
- Bathing suit
- Water and snacks
- Basic first aid kit (bandaids!)
- Change of clothes
- Cash for food stalls along the way
Check out our full list of recommended travel items for a trip to Maui.
There are sometimes car break-ins along the Road to Hana. Just like when you travel anywhere, you’ll want to make sure you don’t leave valuables in the car.
Road to Hana Planning Checklist
- Step 1: Do you drive the road yourself or take a guided tour? By now you probably know whether you want to head out on this journey yourself or have a local guide drive you. If you want to go with a guide, check out our favorite guided tours here (plus get a discount!) and you’re done with your planning! If you’re going to drive the road yourself, move onto step 2.
- Step 2: Decide whether you’re going to stay overnight or do your trip in one day. Most people make this journey in one day, but if you want to stay overnight, this is a good time to check out hotel or camping reservations.
- Step 3: Plan out your must-see stops, making sure to note the mile marker and order of the stops. Don’t try to fit in too many. Choose 3-4 must see stops and then take it easy for the rest of your dive.
- Step 4: Plan out your route. We lay out five options for driving the Road to Hana so choose the one that is most comfortable for you. If visiting Waianapanapa State Park is high on your list, make sure to get a reservation now.
- Step 5: Download an app for the drive. If you decide to forgo a guided tour, you’ll still want some audio to help you navigate the drive. While not as informative or entertaining as a guided tour, the Shaka Guide app has a few Road to Hana routes that gives some great information and alerts you to upcoming stops.
- Step 6: Pack the car. Use our packing list above and get ready the day before you plan to set out. You’ll have an early morning start, so it’s best to just get up and go!
- Step 7: Enjoy the ride. There’s a lot to see and sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves to see it all. Head out with a sense of aloha, take it easy, and if you need to deviate from your list because parking is full or the traffic is making you tense, go with the flow!
Want more Maui guides? You’ll want to read these before your trip:
- Our complete Maui Guide
- Maui trip planning (updated!)
- 33 things to do on Maui (+ things to skip)
- Where to stay on Maui: hotels and rentals for a range of budgets
- The 7 best snorkeling tours on Maui
- The best luaus on Maui (our honest review!)
Plan Your Dream Trip…Easily
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Wow, we are on a roll. Love the itinerary for Maui. We are just getting back from Hana today. My uncle complimented me on my ability to pack it all in.Paula M.
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