Driving Road to Hana on the east coast of Maui was one of the best thing we could do. Curvy coastal road connecting Kahului and Hana offers endless views of the rugged coast, beaches, waterfalls and hiking trails in the rainforest. Buy fresh fruit from the road stand, swim in the waterfalls and drive through the rainforest to the next surprise that awaits after each curve on the road.
We’ve visited Maui during the busiest time, in winter. With so many activities and places to see on Maui, we felt overwhelmed. Trying to see the best during our time on Maui, we asked locals what they would recommend. The most repeated answer was driving Road to Hana.
North America is famous for its scenic drives and Road to Hana on Maui was our first scenic drive in United States. It was also the main reason we rent a car on Maui.
Road to Hana stretches from Kahului, largest town on Maui with international airport, to the little quite town of Hana, the easternmost point on Maui. It’s 84 km (52 miles) long and can take anywhere from 2 hours (with no stops) to 2 days to explore.
From Kahului, take highway 36, passing town of Pa’ia until it becomes highway 360. This is the only paved road leading to Hana. You will notice “0 mile” sign marking the start and will finish at mark “34 miles” in Hana (guidebooks refer to this signage).
Although it is well paved, the road is winding through the lush rainforest and passes over 59 bridges. There are around 620 curves in total on the Road to Hana. They become easier to cope with as you will want to stop very often – either for the view, fresh mango calling out to you from the roads stand or a quick dip in the falls.
Hana is still unspoiled by mass tourism. Probably because it is very hard to get to and most people visiting Maui stick to the west part of the island, which offers most activities. You can hang out at Red Sand Beach, buy unique souvenirs from local artisans and refresh in the farmer’s market.
Beyond Hana, you can continue another 16 km (10 miles) and find the popular Pools of O’heo, where three cascading waterfalls create pools are leading to the sea. During our visit, too many people were swimming in the pools so we opted for waterfalls along the way. It is also the start of one of the most popular hikes – Pipiwai Trail to the 120 metres Waimoku Falls.
Pools of O’heo are part of the Haleakala national park. There is a booth to purchase the park pass, which is valid for three days. Enough to make a visit to Haleakala national park from the north side of the island.
Tips for driving Road to Hana:
- Have a look at the guidebook or flyer about Road to Hana if you would like to drive to Hana and back in one day. With a tight schedule, you would want to decide where to stop beforehand. I recommend buying a Maui chapter from Lonely Planet book.
- Consider having the window all the way down and have a slow driver if you are prone to carsickness.
- For the best experience (and without rushing) I would recommend 2 days for driving Road to Hana so you can make as many stops as you’d like.
- Make sure you have enough gas – gas station is in Pa’ia and then in Hana.
- Don’t worry about water or food – many road stands offer fresh banana bread, waffles, coconuts and smoothies
- Bring swimming suit for a swim in the waterfalls and running/hiking shoes for trails in the rainforest.
- Get an early start to avoid crowds and tours.
- As locals call it – drive with aloha – if you drive slow to enjoy the view and cars are lining up behind you, pull over and let them pass (otherwise you might encounter some unwelcoming locals).
- Speaking from personal experience, avoid driving in dark. Rather stay overnight in a camp in Wai’anapanapa State Park or in Hana and continue the next day. The entire road is unlit and the cliffs are on your right side as you are driving back – not ideal driving conditions.
We caught up with some unlucky cars, but apparently nobody was willing to drive into the dark first, we ended up being the first car leading the way to Pa’ia. It was the first time my leg was sore the next day, from switching break and gas pedal so many times (but I enjoyed it with my racer blood).
Writing about each view, waterfall or hike is almost impossible. There is literally beauty after every turn you make. All of our favourite places are pictured above.
Want to see more about Maui? Check out the post 10 reasons you should visit Maui.
Have you been to Maui before? What scenic drive you like the most? Let us know in the comments.
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