How to Drive the Road to Hana, One of the World's Most Scenic Drives

·7-min read

Beautiful hikes, waterfalls, and beaches await, plus homemade banana bread.

<p>ehabaref/Getty Images</p>

ehabaref/Getty Images

Of all the great road trips in the U.S., Hawaii's coastal Road to Hana is among the most scenic. The 64-mile route on Maui connects the towns of Kahului and Hana. It only takes about three hours from point A to point B if you don't stop — but stop you must, as the sights along the way are part of the adventure. Dense rainforests, waterfalls, lava tubes, colorful tropical flowers, pristine beaches, and epic waves await along the Road to Hana. It's also where you will find some of the tastiest homemade banana bread in the world.

If, like most tourists on this drive, you do pause at multiple roadside attractions on your way, it's likely to take you up to nine hours to complete the out-and-back journey. We don't recommend trying to hit every single stop — you'd have to spend days on the road — but you can opt to stay for a night or two in Hana for some rest, relaxation, and good eats, before you make your way back toward Kahului.

Another practical consideration to keep in mind: This road is notoriously narrow and winding, with more than 600 curves and several dozen one-lane bridges. If that sounds intimidating, you can book a van tour instead, and leave the driving to someone else.

To help you plan your Road to Hana adventure, here's everything you need to know about this dramatic, scenic drive.

Related: The Best Hikes in Hawaii Through Rain Forests, Volcanoes, and Secret Beaches

Must-See Sights and Attractions

Twin Falls

One of the first stops on the Road to Hana, at Mile Marker 2, is a pair of picturesque waterfalls. You'll need to hike along a 1.8-mile, out-and-back trail to reach the falls. If the trek makes you hungry, there's a fruit and smoothie stand at the trailhead.

Ho'okipa Beach Park

<p>Peter Unger/Getty Images</p>

Peter Unger/Getty Images

Located at Mile Marker 9, this beach is a surfing and windsurfing paradise, especially during the winter when the waves are massive. While only highly experienced surfers should hit the water here, there's a lookout that gives you perfect views of all the action.

Waikamoi Ridge Trail

Just past Ho'okipa, at Mile Marker 9.5, is this oft-overlooked hiking trail. It's not a particularly strenuous hike — the 0.8-mile loop trail takes about 30 minutes, with the option to take an extension of similar length — but it's a wonderful walk through a lush old-growth forest. It can be muddy, so wear sturdy shoes.

Maui Garden of Eden Arboretum & Botanical Garden

Stop at this 26-acre garden at Mile Marker 10.5 to enjoy more than two miles of hiking trails through exquisite gardens. From one of the lookouts, you can spy Keopuka Rock, which is highlighted in the film "Jurassic Park" as the audience's first sight of the fictional Isla Nublar.

Hana Lava Tube

Right after Mile Marker 31 is a left-hand turn onto Ulaino Road — take that turn and you will soon approach the Hana Lava Tube, a cave that formed during a volcanic eruption. Make sure to bring a flashlight as you go on your self-guided tour.

Hana Town

Hana is part laid-back seaside town and part time capsule, having remained relatively unchanged for years. While some travelers stay overnight here, it's also a good place to just stretch your legs if you're doing the out-and-back Road to Hana trip all in one go. Take a quick tour of Hana Tropicals flower farm to see or buy colorful blooms, or head to the beach for some time in the sun.

Wailua Falls

<p>arkanto/Getty Images</p>

arkanto/Getty Images

These Instagram-worthy falls are easy to spot near Mile Marker 45 — you can even see them from the road. To truly take in their beauty though, snag a parking stop and walk up for a closer look.

Kipahulu District, Haleakala National Park

<p>pelicankate/Getty Images</p>

pelicankate/Getty Images

Most people think the Road to Hana ends at Hana, but it actually continues to Haleakala National Park. At the end of the road, you can explore the remote Kipahulu District of the park. One highlight here is the four-mile, out-and-back Pipiwai Trail, which leads to Ohe'o Gulch (also knowns as Seven Sacred Pools) and Waimoku Falls.

Top Food and Drink Stops

Paia Town, the Road to Hana's starting point, is a great place to explore. We recommend having a meal at hotspots like Mama’s Fish House, Cafe Des Amis, or Paia Fish Market. It's also not a bad idea to gather snacks to enjoy later, though there are places to eat along the route ahead of you.

On the road, be sure to stop for homemade banana bread. The title of "best banana bread" is hotly debated here; the Halfway to Hana Stand is among the most popular banana bread stops, and they sell sandwiches and shaved ice, too. Farther down the road, Nahiku Marketplace sells both gifts and food, including pork tacos. And when you get to Hana, be sure to visit Hasegawa General Store, a one-stop shop that's been open for more than 100 years.

<p>Peter Unger/Getty Images</p>

Peter Unger/Getty Images

Tips and Safety Considerations on the Road to Hana

  • Driving along the Road to Hana requires careful attention. The roads can be crowded with drivers who don't always know where they're going, and unexpected traffic backups around curves can lead to sudden stops and accidents. Keep your eyes on the road, proceed with caution, and make sure to park in designated parking areas, as illegal parking can cause traffic problems.

  • Before begin your drive, plan out your stops and the types of activities you'd like to enjoy. This will help dictate the gear you'll need to bring. If you plan on hiking, for example, bring appropriate footwear for the hilly, rocky, and sometimes muddy terrain. Bug spray is also a must for hikers.

  • Regardless of how long you're driving or how many stops you make, you'll be traveling for hours; bring food and water with you, as it may be some time before you pass the next food stand or restaurant. Consider packing a picnic for an outdoor lunch.

  • There are swimming opportunities along the Road to Hana, but even if you're not intending to take a dip, be prepared to get wet. It rains often here, so bring towels.

  • Cash is king on the Road to Hana, especially if you want to sample local banana bread, smoothies, or fruits. ATMs exist, but it's best to get cash before you start your journey.

Road to Hana Tour Options

Group van tours of the Road to Hana have become increasingly popular, as they allow travelers to see all the sights without having to drive the winding road themselves. These tours also help clear up some of the traffic, too —  think of it as the ultimate island carpool plan. Tour operators offer various itineraries, but most take a full day. Private family or group tours are also available, and this usually allows you to customize the length of your trip and where you stop.

<p>comosaydice/Getty Images</p>

comosaydice/Getty Images

Accommodations in Hana

Hana may be a small town, but there are a number of accommodations for travelers who would like to stay the night. Hana-Maui Resort, a Destination by Hyatt Hotel, is the most luxurious, while Hana Kai Maui offers oceanfront condos. For more intimate stays, try the The Bamboo Inn on Hana Bay, a three-room property with ocean views.

The Best Time to Drive the Road to Hana

Unsurprisingly, the Road to Hana is more crowded on weekends, so you can expect the roadways to be clearer between Monday morning and Thursday afternoon. Also note that rain can be an issue along this route; to decrease your odds of encountering a passing shower, visit between December and March.

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