Choosing the Top Road to Hana Stops
The Road to Hana is a scenic stretch of highway along the east coast of Maui. While driving it is one of the top things to do in Maui, deciding on the best Road to Hana stops can be difficult and confusing. There are a lot of apps and self-guided tours, but they all say different things so it can be a little overwhelming to try and plan out. That’s why I curated my top tips for making the most of this must-do Maui activity.
Road to Hana Stops
Mainland USA was my only previous experience with road trips. I was picturing Route-66 style roadside attractions with billboards, parking areas, and maybe even “Turn back, you missed it!” signage. What I found was so much better, despite being much more difficult to find. The majority of the stops are unmarked and difficult to spot because of the winding, jungly road. On top of that, most parking is just a slightly wider shoulder on the road (that fills up quickly!)
The “main” Road to Hana begins in Paia and ends in Hana. I found it useful to make a mini bucket list of Road to Hana stops. This took the pressure off finding the exact spots and made my drive more flexible and fun. In fact, I completed my bucket list just by being vigilant on the road and google mapping a few specific stops. Plan at least a full day if you want to make the most of exploring the route. Here is my Road to Hana bucket list that was easily achievable without any apps.
- Shop at an “honor stand”
- Find a black sand beach
- Find the red sand beach (Google Map)
- Eat banana bread
- Find 3 different waterfalls
- See a bamboo forest
- Explore a lava tube
- Eat shave ice
- Hike Pīpīwai Trail (Google Map)
**Pro Tip: If you are driving from Paia to Hana and back (the most common route) then use the drive back to your advantage. There were a few stops that intrigued me but I completely missed the pullout on my way to Hana. However, on the drive back I was much more familiar with the road and easily found them on the return to Paia.
Driving the Reverse Road to Hana
The Road to Hana can also be driven “in reverse” from Pukalani to Hana. Beware that this route has unpaved roads, major potholes, and hairpin turns around sheer cliffs. There are fewer “stops” on this route but the geography is much more diverse with both vast lava fields and tropical muddy roads. I took an additional day to drive this way and ended up completing the full circle back to Paia to get in a few more stops. I found the drive exhilarating and rewarding, but would not recommend it at night, in inclement weather, or without an SUV. While driving a Jeep is a dead giveaway that you are a tourist, I would not have felt comfortable driving in a compact vehicle, especially on the southeastern stretch of the drive. I was so pleased with my jeep rental from Avis if you are still deciding on a rental!
Read Next: The Ultimate Maui Bucket List
Road to Hana Waterfalls
Finding a waterfall is one thing that should be on every Road to Hana bucket list. There are different sizes of waterfalls and different difficulty levels for reaching them. One of the most stunning waterfalls I’ve ever seen in my life was the one at the end of Pipiwai Trail. To get there you hike past the 7 Sacred Pools and through a bamboo forest. The full hike will add another 2-3 hours to your time on the Road to Hana.
Read Next: Snorkeling Molokini Crater
What to Pack for the Road to Hana
I drove with the Jeep top-down and I feel like it really enhanced the drive. The rain didn’t bother me because it is warm, passed quickly, and I couldn’t feel it as much when the Jeep was in motion. With that in mind, I recommend packing light so you don’t have to leave much in the car at each stop.
- Hat: The sun comes in and out so a hat definitely prevented sunburn.
- Bandana: I needed some way to keep my hair out of my face with all the wind since the top was down. I tied this around my wrist when I wasn’t using it.
- Towels: Plural! I used towels for the beach, as a seat cover, and as a rain protector.
- Sunscreen: Make sure it is reef safe.
- Swimsuit: I felt the most comfortable wearing a swimsuit the whole drive. That way the rain didn’t bother me and I didn’t have to change every time I found a beach access point.
- Waterproof bag: I never left anything in the car when I got out at a stop. A large waterproof tote was the perfect solution.
- Hiking boots: If you do go on a more substantial hike, like Pipiwai Trail, you will want hiking boots. However, if I wasn’t planning on hiking, flipflops would have been sufficient for the whole drive.
- Water: There is an abundance of places to stop and get snacks and meals, but not all Road to Hana stops offer water. I especially needed this on the reverse drive where stops were more sparse.
Before You Go
Before you start your road trip, there are a few things to keep in mind. The first is being a respectful and responsible visitor. On such a small island it’s not surprising that there are some areas that are restricted to tourists. Sadly, I saw too many vehicles parked right next to No Trespassing signs that the passengers had obviously ignored. Even if you have seen pictures or guides to sites that are now restricted, it does not make it okay to disrespect the local’s land. Keep in mind that not all apps or blogs are up to date so just because it is a suggested stop, doesn’t make it legal. Locals and officials have the right to change access to their land at any time, so always respect posted signage. And a friendly reminder that just because you see other tourists do it, doesn’t mean you should.
Another thing to keep in mind is being a respectful driver. That means following the speed limits, slowing around blind turns, communicating and being cautious in single-lane stretches, not blocking the road or other vehicles when parking, and pulling aside to allow locals to pass.
That sums up my Road to Hana tips. If any of these have inspired your trip or if you have any questions, I’d love to know in the comments below!