Until we experienced it ourselves, we had no idea what all the hype was about. Let me tell you, it is quite the adventure. To sum it up in one statement, the Road to Hana is the perfect combination of Hawaiian adventure and relaxation all bundled up into a 64 mile stretch of daring roads.
The Road to Hana is named after the Hana Highways that connect Kahului on the West side of the island to Hana on the East side of the island. The highway, that opened in 1926, is the epitome of narrow and winding roads. In fact, winding may be an understatement as there are around 620 curves along the way! That’s enough to make anyone dizzy. Without any stops, it would take two and a half hours to drive it one-way. Sounds pretty arduous. However, the waterfalls, banana bread, and diverse beaches make the oh-so-long day an overall satisfying experience.
This beyond amazing Road to Hana scenic drive can be done two ways: by car or by tour bus. We opted for renting a car so we could go at our own pace and have more of a “just the two of us” romantic experience out on the open roads of Hawaii. Luckily, Zach is basically a race car driver (at heart) so he made the drive look easy while Steph did the filming. We recommend driving it on your own because being part of a big group may limit how long you can enjoy each stop and how many stops you even make it to.
When you’re ready to go, all you’ve gotta do is rent a car for the day (with a GPS). Then we’ve got your back with the travel itinerary. Print out the info below and you’re ready to experience Maui’s finest. Need a ride to the rental car place? Uber there!
There are over twenty potential stops along the way which is impossible to hit in one day. Therefore, our itinerary covers the eight most popular stops along the way. Keep in mind, you could also rent the car for two days and stay the night in Hana to split the trip into two days.
Wherever you are staying, you want to start around Kahului (where the airport is) or Paia and drive clockwise. Make it an early start around 6-7am to allow for more daylight time to explore the sites and to avoid driving home in the dark. Grab a quick breakfast at your hotel or on the way. You’ll be heading East on Highway 36. When it changes to Highway 360, reset the odometer to zero. You will use the mile markers (mm) to find the sites listed below. Let’s get started!
The first stop for most people is usually Twin Falls. Since it’s the first waterfall, it gets pretty crowded. But it’s a beautiful area and has farm stands out front if you need breakfast. When you arrive here you first see the small, lower twin waterfalls. If you hike 3/4mi farther up the gravel road you will get to a larger waterfall called Caveman Falls. This one has a large pool to swim in.
When you’ve had your fix of swimming, hop back in the car and head to a spot your tummy will thank you for: Aunt Sandy’s. Here you can get homemade banana bread that is to-die-for. There’s not many places to sit, so just have some while you drive to the next stop.
Next is the Wailua State Park's lookout. Stop here for a few minutes to take in the spectacular views.
Next up is a fun one: the waterfall at Pua’a Ka’a State Park. This park has a close and small waterfall that doesn’t require a hike. It does require an adventurous spirit though to jump in the freezing water and swim under the falls. There’s also five miles to hike among the park if you desire. PS- use the restrooms here as they’re hard to find elsewhere!
After all that adventure, it’s time for lunch. Stop at the Nahiku Marketplace where several vendors are open with different types of food and picnic tables to relax at. There’s seafood, tacos, coffee, baked goods, and some shopping. We ate at Island Chef and the coconut shrimp was yummy!
Now onto our favorite part of the trip, hands down: the Pa’iloa Black Sand Beach at Waianapanapa State Park. Parking here is tough to find, but once you do you’ll want to walk down to the beach. It is fascinating. The word Waianapanapa stands for “glistening water” but really, it’s the beach that takes the cake. The black sand and pebbles glisten under the sun making it look like the beach has been splashed with glitter.
Even better? Lay down on the black sand and pebbles: it’s like getting a hot stone massage. The warmth of the sand feels so relaxing that you’ll probably be put into a deep sleep like we were. Enjoy your time here- there’s no other beach like it!
Next up is the Red Sand Beach. You’ve probably gotten your fix of laying out at the Black Sand Beach, so just admire the beauty of the beaches and cliffs here. It’s not as popular of a spot to layout at as the black sand beach was.
The last stop is the Haleakala National Park where there are seven sacred pools. It’s just a 2 mile hike to the falls which are incredibly beautiful. Cautious: check the status of the park before going because based on conditions, they sometimes close parts of it. There is also an entrance fee around $25/car. Enjoy the sites if you wish and then hike back to your car. This is where we recommend you turn around and head back home. Many rental car companies don’t want you going farther anyways because the roads aren’t paved "Beyond the Road to Hana".
Twin Falls (mm2)
Aunt Sandy’s for banana bread (mm14)
Wailua State Park lookout (mm19)
Pua’a Ka’a State Park waterfall (mm23)
Nahiku Marketplace for lunch (mm29)
Waianapanapa State Park for the Black Sand Beach (mm32)
Red Sand Beach (mm34)
Seven Sacred Pools (mm43)
Food and Snacks
Waters and possibly Energy drinks (for the driver)
Cash (many of the local stands accept cash only)
Towels for the beach
A change of clothes so you can drive back at night in dry clothes
Hiking shoes or tennis shoes (if you plan to hike any of the trails)
Avoid bringing valuables that you wouldn’t want stolen out of your car
As two kids visiting Hawaii for the first time, we can agree that the Road to Hana drive was a highlight on our trip to Maui. We compiled some of our favorite moments from Maui in a video below (Road to Hana starts at 2:20).
We hope you can make it to Maui someday, and if you do, don’t miss out on this epic drive.
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