There is magic around every corner on the road to Hana, from rainbow eucalyptus trees to stunning sea cliffs. And even though the name implies Hana is the destination, it is the journey getting there that is the experience. Take the time, stop and get the local banana bread, have a picnic. Take in the scent of tropical flowers and the earthy rainforest. Reset your vision to hues of the deep green tree canopies and undergrowth dotted with bright tropical flowers. Gaze over aqua seas, vibrant blue skies, ebony lava, bronze earth and sand in shades from gold to black. Hana leaves its indelible mark in our minds and soul. Here is our best local advice to make the most of your own experience.
Starting the Road to Hana. The scenic drive is located on the northeast coastline of Maui. From Kahului, head to Paia, then just keep going! Officially, the road is named the Hana Highway and on maps will be listed as Hwy. 36 and Hwy. 360. You can travel beyond Hana town to the Pools of Oheo, or around the southeast tip of the island, ending Upcountry on Hwy. 31.
Tip: Depart from Paia around 6am for this popular adventure to allow the most time and avoid crowds. It takes about 3 hours to reach Hana without stopping, but since stopping and maybe even doing a little hiking or swimming is the point, it will take much longer. You`ll also want to drive past Hana to the east entrance of Haleakala National Park.
What to see. The number of waterfalls will vary depending on recent rains, but you are guaranteed to see beautiful vistas. There are many great stops along the way. However, unless you are staying in Hana Town, you likely won`t see them all.
Tip: We recommend downloading a Road to Hana app like the Shaka Guide to help decide which points of interest to see or trails to explore. This narrated tour not only tells you the best places to stop, it is filled with history and cultural information, is humorous and has some cool Hawaiian music. Download the affordable Shaka Guide app on Wi-Fi before leaving your accommodations, then activate it on your phone and connect it to your car`s Bluetooth before heading out. The app runs on GPS, so will continue to work on your tour even when cell service drops out, but needs to be set up in advance.
Here are our recommended stops:
Garden of Eden (MM 10)
Garden of Eden is a paid admission arboretum, but is less crowded than other stops. In addition to beautiful gardens, there are panoramic overlooks of the Pacific and a view of both Lower and Upper Puohokamoa Falls. There is also a gallery and ice cream stand.
Kaumahina State Wayside Park (MM 12) The best potty stop, with flush toilets.
Honomanu Bay Lookout (MM 14)
This is a quick stop for a photo opportunity, where you can actually see the winding highway along the cliffside. Go 4/10th of a mile past MM 14 and use the wide pull-out on the mountain side.
Keanae Peninsula (MM 17)
A short side trip down to this peninsula is worth it if you have the time or want to stretch your legs. The pastoral village is surrounded on three sides by coastline, and Ke`anae Congregational Church, built in 1860 from local rocks and coral, sits in the middle.
Puaa Kaa State Wayside Park (MM 22) Another great potty or snack stop. Get out and stretch your legs!
Waianapanapa State Park (MM 32)
You could spend all day at this wonderful park, which also includes a campground. If you are making a short stop, walk down to the black sand beach and check out the cave. Both provide great photo ops. Note the trail is steep, so not for everyone.
Note: Paid entry and parking reservations are now required at Waianapanapa State Park (reservations are free for locals with HI ID). For reservations go www.gowaianapanapa.com.
Tip: Waianapanapa reservations are in 2.5 or 3 hour time blocks. Set a Google Map destination for the park before starting the road to Hana, preferably on a separate phone from your Shaka Guide app. As you get closer, the map will update with how long it will take to get there, and how much time you have to stop along the way, and still make your reservation.
Hana is pretty quiet, but you may want to drive down to Hana bay, and buy a shave ice.
Beyond Hana, you will be on Piilani Highway 31. The mile markers start counting down.
Hamoa Beach (MM 51)
Hamoa is a pretty beach, but parking can be a challenge in the afternoon.
Wailua Falls (MM 45)
This easily accessible waterfall is worth quick stop for photos.
Some used to call this park Seven Sacred Pools, but that was a marketing name made up in the 60s. They are beautiful however. This is an ideal spot if you are staying overnight in Hana and can get there early, otherwise it starts to get crowded after 9am. Across the street is the start of the Pipiwai Trail, which you can read about on our hiking page.
Safety. The road is safe as long as drivers keep their eyes on the road and are patient in traffic. Don`t attempt to pass a vehicle on a curve, pull over for local traffic behind you, and don`t park in no-parking areas along the road. This is a rain forest- don`t drive this road before, during or right after a severe storm as road blockages are common. It is also not advisable to hike when it is raining, as dangerous flash floods can happen rapidly.
If you drive past Hana around to Upcountry, you will pass a long desolate stretch with no towns, houses or cell service, so make sure you are in a well-maintained vehicle.
Is the drive really worth it? In a word, yes. There is a lot to see in a short amount of time and the scenery alone makes the drive is worth it. If someone in your party is prone to car sickness, they may want to take a motion sickness remedy ahead of time, sit in the front seat, or make more frequent stops. If you can`t make the entire road to Hana, visit Twin Falls at the beginning of the route for an easy hike and waterfall viewing.
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