If you’re planning a trip to Maui, spending a day or two driving the Road to Hana is likely at the top of your list. The Road to Hana, or Hana Highway, begins in Kahului in Central Maui and follows the northern coast for 52 miles. The drive can take as little as 3 hours, but you’ll want to give more time to stop and swim in hidden waterfall pools, hike in the rainforest, sample fresh fruit from roadside stands, take in epic island views, and photograph everything of course. The famous drive features 600 hairpin turns and 50 bridges (some one-lane) before arriving in the charming town of Hana. You’ll want to keep going beyond Hana to explore the Kipahulu section of Haleakala National Park and the Pools of Oheo, or Seven Sacred Pools.
The only things you need to decide are whether to drive the road yourself or go with a tour group, whether to spend the night in Hana to give yourself more time to explore the area, and whether to drive back the way you came or attempt the infamous back side of the Hana Highway (we recommend you do!).
Whatever you do, you’ll want to get a relatively early start to beat the crowds. Make sure you have a full tank of gas as there are no gas stations between Paia and Hana. Pack your swimsuit, towel, sunscreen, bug spray, hiking shoes, a camera, and cash for snacks. You’ll want to bring water, but don’t worry about snacks as there are ample opportunities to get great food along the way. There are numerous fruit stands along the road where you can buy fresh fruit on the honor system and there are several stops throughout the day where you can get banana bread or inexpensive lunch items.
There are many stops along the Hana Highway. If you’re planning to drive the road in a day or less, we recommend using our guide and other blogs to research the stops that are of most interest to you. In our opinion, on the Hana Highway, less is more. You won’t want to feel rushed and you will want to spend time at the best stops before getting back in the car. We’ve listed the stops we made and noted which deserve some time and which are quicker. Some of the blogs we found helpful in planning our day were Be My Travel Muse, Roamaholics, and Divergent Travelers.
Since we were staying in Haiku before the Road to Hana, we actually got on the road a few miles in. We missed the first couple of stops, but I mention them below in case they are on your route and are of interest. Also, note that we did the Road to Hana in July when many of the waterfalls were somewhat dried up. Some of the stops that revolve around waterfalls may be better during the rainier season and merit longer visits!
MM 2: Twin Falls. This is one of the first stops on the Road to Hana and has falls and pools where you can swim. There is a short hike described here which you can take to a swimming hole. There is also apparently a great snack stand with smoothies and homemade baked goods.
Cliff jumping at Dog Pond. Another stop that we weren’t able to take advantage of since we entered the road past this spot. It is a hidden local spot that many people skip. Roamaholics describes how to get there in her post.
MM 16.8 Ke’ane Peninsula. Stop for epic views of along the ocean cliffs made of black lava rock. Aunt Sandy’s snack stand is allegedly the best for banana bread and also sells shaved ice and smoothies. Unfortunately, it was closed on Sunday, the day we were driving the Road to Hana.
MM 17.3 Halfway to Hana stand. Just when I was getting bummed about missing Aunt Sandy’s famous banana bread, we spotted Halfway to Hana where we were able to pick up banana bread and coconut candy for our day.
MM between 18 and 19 Wailua Valley State Wayside. Stop here for a view of the volcanic craters. The lookout is easy to miss, so make sure your eyes are peeled after mile marker 18!
MM 19: Upper Waikani Falls/3 Bears Falls. Unfortunately the falls were dry when we traveled the Road to Hana, but during the wetter season, this is supposedly a great stop. The falls are visible from the road, but you can also park and take a short walk down to a swimming area. It’s not recommended to jump into this pool however, as it is quite rocky.
MM 25: Makapipi Falls. These falls are located below a bridge on the Road to Hana. Again, it was dry during our visit, but is evidently a popular stop during the wetter season because you can view the falls from directly above.
MM 26-27: Nahiku Marketplace. We skipped Nahiku Marketplace, but I mention it because it offers several meal options, as well as coffee and smoothies. The marketplace also has bathrooms, so I had this stop on my list in case we needed to use the facilities at this point in the drive.
MM 31: Hana Farms. If you didn’t stop for banana bread earlier in the drive, Hana Farms is another great place to pick up a loaf. They have your standard banana bread, as well as varieties with macadamia nut, chocolate chips, and pineapple. Hana Farms also offers lemonade, jams, sauce, and candy.
MM 32.2 – Wainapanapa State Park. Now you’ve reached the best part of the Road to Hana (in my opinion). We recommend brief stops at basically everything up to this point because you’ll want to spend plenty of time at the state park. It is said that the 120-acre park gets very crowded later in the day, which is another reason to arrive early for a more peaceful experience. When you get into the park, you can hike on a few short trails, explore two freshwater caves (or lava tubes), hang out on the black sand beach, and see a natural lava arch and a blowhole. The tide was too low for us to see water bursting from the blowhole, but you might get lucky!
Shortly after the state park as you enter Hana town, you can stop for lunch at the Surfin Burro Food Truck. They have burritos, quesadillas, and tacos. We recommend the fish tacos and spicy pulled pork quesadilla. There’s a Thai food truck in the same area if you prefer.
MM 34: Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach. One of our favorite stops of the day was the hidden red sand beach in Hana. Follow the directions on Roamaholic and cross the grassy field on the side of the Hana Community Center where you’ll see a path entering the woods. Be careful – the trail can be a bit slippery. It’s totally worth the short hike to find this hidden sand beach where you can swim in an ocean pool and jump off rocks. It’s not completely unknown, so you’ll see other people there, but it’s is definitely more off the beaten path!
MM 48.1 – Venus Pool. This is another somewhat hidden spot that locals love. You’ll park near the Hana Ranch and enter a fenced area. You’ll probably see other people going in so just follow someone if you’re not sure where to go. If you take the path to the right, you’ll find Waioka Pond or Venus Pool, where you can do some cliff jumping and swimming. If you take the path to the left, you’ll reach the Hidden Black Sand Beach. According to Roamaholic, there’s actually a way to climb down to the beach that requires a steep descent by rope. We skipped that, content with some photos from above.
MM 45: Wailua Falls. At this point, the mile markers start descending again. Wailua Falls is a beautiful 80 foot waterfall visible from the road. In theory, you could just take a picture out your window but it might be worth parking and walking to stretch your legs. If you’re more daring, you can take a short walk down to the pool for a dip. The falls were basically dry when we arrived, but it’s worth a stop during the wetter season!
MM 42: Haleakala National Park. Another can’t miss stop on the Road to Hana, the Kipahulu portion of Haleakala National Park is not to be confused with the summit area where you may go to view a sunrise. This portion of the park definitely deserves a separate visit and you’ll want to make sure you reserve a couple of hours to explore the national park. You’ll pay a $25 park entrance fee which you can use for 3 days and also covers your entrance for the Summit area. Of course annual or lifetime national park passes are valid as well.
You’ll want to take both trails at Haleakala. The first, Kuloa Point Trail, is a short half-mile hike to the head of the Pools of Ohe’o, or the Seven Sacred Pools. Unfortunately, the pools are closed indefinitely due to safety concerns, but they are still beautiful to look at.
Next, take the four-mile Pipiwai Trail past the Makahiku Overlook and through the bamboo forest to Waimoku Falls. Unfortunately, we didn’t leave quite enough time to make it to Waimoku Falls and turned around partway through the bamboo forest, but it was still an awesome hike. For what it’s worth, the Makahiku Falls were dry, so we weren’t sure whether there would be much to see of the Waimoku Falls. It was very hot and the bamboo forest was full of mosquitoes, so be prepared. I’ve included a few photos of what you’ll see on the trail. For more, Unreal Hawaii has some incredible photos!
MM 41 Laulima Farms. After you finish the day, you might be in need of another snack. Laulima Farm has a farm stand open 7 days a week from 9 am to 5 pm that offers fresh produce, coffee, and $5 coconut water. They will crack the coconut right in front of you! Unfortunately, they no longer have the bike powered smoothie blender seen here, but the fresh coconut water made up for that!
At this point, there aren’t any other stops, so you can choose to turn around and drive the way you came, or drive the back way around the island for a different view. There are tons of warnings about driving the back way, but we found it to be mostly manageable. There were only a few areas where the road was in very poor condition. We recommend driving the back way for a more remote experience. You may not see another car for miles! The terrain is a lot more rugged and barren than the lush jungle landscape of the more popular part of the Road to Hana. It’s completely worth the drive and you can more accurately say you’ve seen the whole island!
And with that, we’ve completed our recap of last summer’s travels to California and Hawaii. It was an epic vacation filled with unforgettable adventures. I can’t wait to go back to Hawaii to explore more of the spectacular islands. Thanks for reading!