Nov 05

Road to Hana – Maui

Makahiku FallsThe road to Hana is a 68 mile stretch of Maui highway that connects Kahului to the town of Hana.  It goes through the rain soaked east side of Maui, so check the weather before departing.  The Hana highway is listed on the National Register of Historic Places so it is worth driving.  The Hana Highway is usually listed as a must do to all those that are visiting Maui and it seems to be the one thing that everbody who visits does at least once.  This might explain why everybody in our hotel, at one point or another, seemed to be wearing a t-shirt that said “I survived the road to Hana”.  But is it worth it?  That just depends on the traveler and how much time you have in Maui. 
Tropical FlowerKaren and I recommend anyone who is in Maui a week or more should take the Hana Highway.  It is a just a beautiful and scenic trip that you would not want to miss.  However, if I was only in Maui for a few days I would rather be on the beach and in the ocean than taking a winding road.  Being a person from the Great Plains I do not get a whole lot of beach days, so for me the road to Hana is not worth it.  You will just have to ask yourself- do I want to give up a whole day by the ocean to see beautiful waterfalls, lush tropical areas, and scenic beauty.  If you would regret not spending more time on the beach then this road is not for you.  All I can say is that Karen and I are glad that we did and would probably regret not going on our way home from Maui, but if we were ever to visit Maui again we would probably not take it a second time.
Road to HanaThe Hana Highway will take up an entire day, and to do it right we suggest you spend the night in Hana.  Although Hana is just over 50 miles away from Kahului the drive to Hana will take about two and half hours to get there and this is without stopping.  The highway has to be one of the curviest roads in America.  There are over 50 bridges, most of them are single lane, and it has roughly 600 curves.  The road was in excellent shape and the drive overall was not that bad, but Karen and I took several stops and let those who were behind us pass whenever we could pull over.  I am glad that we were in Maui in October because the road was not packed at all, which I think made the trip a lot more enjoyable.  I would probably not enjoy it as much if I was to take it during the busy season. 
OverlookThe road to Hana has several places to stop and explore along the way, so we suggest that you try to leave around six in the morning if you are staying on the west side or South Maui.  Also, pack a lunch so you can stop and eat at some of the lovely parks that are on the east side of Maui like at Wai’anapanapa State Park aka “Black Sand Beach” or at Ohe’o Gulch aka “Seven Sacred Pools.”  However, if you go too early a lot of the road side stands and some of the gardens that you can visit will not be open yet, Karen and I ran into that a little bit during our adventure on the Hana Highway. 
Black Sand BeachIf you decide to take this road we would recommend that you plan out in advance where you want to stop and what you want to see, because there is a lot to see.   The best way to do that is to purchase or borrow a book from your local library about Maui.  Karen and I used Maui Revealed by Andrew Doughty.   The road was not quite what I expected.  I figured there would be a few more turnout spots than there were, and Karen and I had underprepared and didn’t do the one thing we should have done, reset or odometer when we started the trip to Hana.  We missed a few spots we wanted to see and there are not that many places where you can turn around. 
Karen and WaterfallThe Hana Highway is a waterfall enthusiast’s heaven.  There are tons of them and most are just a little bit of a hike away.  Make sure you stop at Wai’anapanapa State Park,the black sand beach and other areas there were pretty amazing to look at.  It is also a great place to get out and stretch you legs for a bit.   We also highly recommend going to Ohe’o Gulch is a part of the Haleakala National Park so it will cost you a fee to get in, but it is worth it.

Tips for Driving the Road to Hana

  1. Plan it out in advance.  Make sure you either get the ride along CD, GPS Hana App, or a good guide book. 
  2. Check the weather before you go, try to find a day that is going to be sunny.  Since it is on the rainy side of the island you might have to pick which day to go after you get to Maui. Driving that curvy of a road on a cloudy rainy day might not be the best part of your vacation.
  3. Check for road closures on the Maui road closure website.  Spending a whole day driving out there to find a bridge closed might just ruin your trip. 
  4. Bring an extra pair of shoes if you can.  A lot of the hiking trails can be muddy or cause you to cross a stream or two.  So, if you have an extra pair of shoes you can put on for the drive it will give your feet a chance to dry out in between hikes.
  5. Bring bug repellent, it will cost you an arm and a leg to buy it in Maui so bring it with you.  Then make sure you keep it in your car because you will definitely want to use it on the east side of the island.
  6. Let the locals pass.  They probably drive this road everyday while this might be the only time you drive it in your lifetime.  So, pull over in a safe spot and let them go past you.  I probably got more friendly waves or shaka hand gestures from locals on this road then any other road on Maui.
  7. Leave early.  I would hate to be in a traffic jam on my way to Hana. Plus there are not that many spots when you can pull-over so if it is crowded you might miss something you really wanted to see.
  8. Get back before it gets dark.  First of all it is probably really hard to see the waterfalls in the dark.  Second, over 600 curves.  ENOUGH SAID!
  9. Enjoy the journey not the destinations.  The road is going to be slow and you might have to stop at every bridge to let somebody across.  Just enjoy the beauty that is around you and do not rush it. 
  10. Don’t trespass, just because it is in a guidebook does not mean you need to or have to do it.  Read the signs before you enter an area.  If it says do not trespass don’t do it.  You would probably not want somebody hanging out in your backyard so don’t do it somebody else’s yard. 

Three WaterfallsKaren and I drove in a clockwise fashion and after we made it to Haleakala National Park we went with the decision to keep driving all the way around and see the dry side of Haleakala.  To read more about our adventure on the Road to Hana and see just how bad the backside unpaved road is check out our part two of our road trip past Hana by clicking here.       

Pictures not watermarked via http://sheila0gh.wordpress.com/2011/09/30/driving-the-road-to-hana-maui-hawaii/
One Lane Bridges

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  1. Sarah LaClaire

    It looks like you have a great time there! I can assure you that, when we finally get to take a trip over to Hawaii, we will try out the road to Hana! I’ve lived in drier places of the United States my whole life, so I’ve never been able to see that much greenery in all my life!

    P.S. Those are some of the best road to hana photos that I’ve seen! You are so good!

    1. Kenny and Karen

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. The Road to Hana is a wonderful time if you can spare the entire day to do it and those are some really good pictures. Hope you make it to Hawaii sooner rather then later it is a magical place.

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