Tips for Driving the Road to Hana in Hawaii

by Isabel
road to hana maui hawaii

Maui’s famous Road to Hana lives up to the legends. The well paved country style road clings off Maui’s North East coast, taking you on the ride of a lifetime as you wind under one of the world’s most enchanting tropical rain forests, complete with suspended single lane bridges backdroped by cascading waterfalls and vines thick enough to go tarzaning around on. And with a pleasant island style rhythm if snakes along at a pace that leaves you with space to breath the fresh rainforest floor air, take in the occasional panoramic view, and enjoy the cruise.

But as is well reported, it is not the easiest road to tackle. It is narrow, windy, and if you’re going from Maui’s not so interesting cement centre of Kahului all to way to Hana, it’s a one way trip of over 60 miles. And from there, you still have to make it back. Yikes!

So the road has a lot of naysayers. My own family said they tried, but hated it and turned around. They joked about renaming it the “Road to Hell” and told us we were crazy to even want to try. But we weren’t discouraged, and you shouldn’t be either. The road can be enjoyable. Magical, even! It was easily the highlight of our trip to Maui. And as long as you aren’t over-confident, impatient or easily distracted, you should be fine. Everything is clearly marked. And if you think logically about it, some lucky locals are doing this twice a day as their daily commute, so how hard can it really be?

Bottom line. The road is not scary. However, this is a lot of driving for one day, and long drives are exhausting. Partially for this reason we recommend breaking up the drive by spending a night in Hana, or if you’re feeling adventurous, spend it in a tent at the State Campground at Black Sand beach.

We did the drive the long way around in a single day with plenty of stops, and although it was manageable, we were exhausted and regretted not having had time to visit the Haleakala National Park. We hope these tips to visit the Road to Hana in Maui can help you have an amazing time during this long but interesting journey:

– Try to spend the night in Hana or at the campground at Black Sand beach

– Consider going straight through Hana and continuing along the coast to make a loop around the volcano. The road gets sketchier for a bit, but is still manageable, and the scenery past the National Park is completely different then the North Side, and the last stretch of the road is an absolute pleasure to drive. If you can time this last stretch for sunset, all the better!

– Research about the road and pick your stops before.

–  A convertible Jeep is not necessary, but it will increase the fun factor. The open roof is perfect for enjoying the roads panoramic Pacific Ocean views and staring up in awe at the undergrowth of one of natures most enchanting tropical rainforests. And the big tires allow you to confidently move around on and park on the side of the country roads, if needed for a photo or a stretch.

– Check the weather and road conditions in advance.

Fill your gas tank to the top before passing Paia. The only gas station past Paia is in Hana Town, 70 KM’s away.

Leave early and take your time.

Drive slow and pay attention.

Watch for yield signs on the one lane sections and take your turn.

Expect rain and weather changes.

Grab lunch, supplies, and water.

Do not stop on bridges, hold up too much traffic, or park in no-parking zones.

Do not stop for everything.

– Pay attention to how you’re doing for time. You won’t want to be on these roads after dark.

The area is unserviced, so it is important to pack appropriately. Here’s a rundown of some things that we recommend:

1. Road to Hana guide or map.
2. Shoes for the trails, sandals for the beaches
3. Towel and swimwear.
4. Cash for water, snacks, and treats.
5. Camera with free memory and full batteries.
6. USB cable to charge phone and batteries, and play tropical jams you’ve wisely pre-downloaded for when the radio cuts out after Paia.
7. A light jacket.
8. Lots of water.
9. A picnic lunch.
10. Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat.
11. Bug spray.

If you’ve already tackled the Road to Hana, be sure to share your tips and favourite stops in the comments below.

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