Driving the Road to Hana is one of the most popular things to do on Maui and a great activity for families with children with many stops to get out and swim. It’s also perfect for those on a budget as it is virtually free. But what is the Road to Hana and where should you stop along the way?
See also: The Perfect 5-Day Maui Itinerary
What is the Road to Hana?
What is referred to as the Road to Hana is actually Highway 360 also known as Hana Highway which stretches along the southeastern coast of Maui. If you follow the itinerary below, you’ll realize that the Road to Hana actually goes quite a ways past Hana, all the way to the Kīpahulu District of Haleakalā National Park.
NEED SOME HELP NAVIGATING?If you don’t want to drive the road to hana or don’t feel capable, you can hire a tour guide. many companies offer suburban tours along the famous maui highway. if you do decide to drive yourself but would like commentary, consider purchasing The shaka guide for audio description of the most famous stops as you drive along.
When to do it?
The best time to drive the Road to Hana is on a weekend; we did it on a Sunday and saw very little traffic. It is important to remember that the Road to Hana is a road used by the locals who live and work in the area, so always make sure to pull over and let them pass when possible. Hiring a tour guide is a great way to help reduce traffic along Hana Highway.
We drove the Road to Hana on a Sunday, starting around 6:15am, which helped us tremendously to avoid traffic. It was raining pretty hard as we began to make our way down the back road to Hana, and we only saw 2 other vehicles between Wailuku and the Kīpahulu District! Make sure to start no later than 7am if you want to avoid traffic.
How long does it take?
Driving the Road to Hana takes all day if you stop often – as you should. We were able to complete the Road to Hana in about 12 hours and never got stuck in traffic, even in the afternoon as more visitors were heading back from Hana. We made it back for dinner and stopped at the Food Truck Park near the Kahului airport on our way back to Wailuku. Click here to read more about the Food Truck Park and all the delicious Hawaiian foods you shouldn’t miss!
Should you drive the loop or to Hana and back?
If you’ve done any research on the drive to Hana, then you must know there are two ways to get to Hana: out and back or do the loop. Driving the loop is usually not allowed by most rental car contracts. The unpaved and unmaintained roads on the backside of Hana can cause damage to the vehicle.
After doing much research, we opted to drive the back road to Hana for multiple reasons: 1) it guaranteed us plenty of time to do what we wanted to do most and 2) it helped us avoid traffic. I knew the roads would be very rough, but a friend had done it a few months before and reassured me that it was nothing we hadn’t seen in rural Oklahoma before.
As I’ve mentioned before, Garrett is a great driver, and we live down a dirt road, so we are very much used to unmaintained and/ or unpaved roadways. We also made sure to get a car with high clearance to avoid any damage. If you are not used to driving down rough roads, I highly recommend you reconsider driving the back road to Hana. It’s also important to note that this road is mostly used by locals, so you must always let them pass.
Driving to Hana and back is by far the most popular option and the one I recommend if you do not drive on unpaved roads often. For this reason, I have sorted the 10 best stops on the Road to Hana in the order in which you will visit them if you drive to Hana and back.
IMPORTANTYou will have virtually no service as you drive along the road to hana, so make sure to download maps ahead of time or keep screenshots of this list, so you know which mile marker to look out for. You should know that mile markers on the road to hana can be quite tricky: they jump to #51 after hana town before going backwards.
1. Haipua’ena Falls
Mile marker #11
Before you reach this waterfall, you’ll drive past Twin Falls where different products and farm stands are available. It was quite crowded when we arrived, and there is a $10 parking fee per vehicle, so we decided to skip it and move on. Several miles down the road, near mile marker 11, you’ll find Haipua’ena Falls, a tiny, somewhat secret waterfall. It’s the perfect place to dip your toes in the water and swing off the rope into its emerald blue water.
2. Ke’anae Arboretum
Mile marker #16
One of the things I was lookg forward to seeing the most on the Road to Hana were the rainbow eucalypti. After stopping to enjoy numerous waterfalls, we parked the car in the space provided across the street and walked a few hundred yards into the Ke’anae Arboretum to admire the colorful trees. I got all giddy when the colorful trees started peeking out in the distance, but my excitement quickly turned into an appalling disappointment when I realized that nearly every single tree was carved up. I was so saddened to see such natural beauty destroyed by idiotic human beings. This area is still worth exploring, but this is something I had not read about online, so be prepared when you visit.
Though you may read about other rainbow eucalyptus trees located along the Road to Hana, these are the only ones you can stop and photograph, so don’t miss out!
Hungry? Don’t miss the Halfway to Hana banana bread stand. Locals swear it is the best banana bread on the island – perfect for breakfast!
3. Upper Waikani Falls
Mile marker #19
These falls are probably some of the most beautiful you’ll see on the Road to Hana. I saw tons of pictures online and expected to find a pullout nearby when we drove, but that is not the case. If you want to photograph the beautiful Upper Waikani Falls, you’ll have to park at the nearest pullout and walk to the falls, but you will do so at your own risk.
4. Hanawi Falls
Mile marker #24
Because we had no service, and I hadn’t downloaded the maps prior to departure, we were virtually driving blind. Thankfully, there is only one road to follow, and I had a list of all the places I wanted to visit. Though most waterfalls aren’t marked with a sign, we were able to ask other locals and tourists for their name. We essentially stopped when we saw cars parked on the roadside pullouts. Hanawi Falls was one of these stops – a gorgeous little oasis, perfect to stop and enjoy a refreshing swim.
5. Waia’napanapa State Park
Mile Marker #32
Waia’napanapa State Park is a must see on the road to Hana! Reservations are required and available up to 30 days in advance here. Parking is free for Hawaii residents and costs $10 for everyone else. Visitors must select a time slot at the time of booking. If you drive to Hana from Paia and make the few stops mentioned above, I would recommend getting the 10:00AM-12:30PM time slot. If you drive the loop like we did, I recommend the 12:30PM-3:00PM time slot unless you plan on spending a significant amount of time at the locations below.
A state park employee will verify your QR code at the entrance and those without reservations will be turned away at the gate. Make sure to respect the time slots you have alloted yourself at the risk of missing out on this beautiful park. I recommend arriving as early as your slot allows to get the best views. The black sand beach is much less crowded then as previous visitors just left at the end of their time slots and the new ones aren’t all there yet.
You may worry about not having enough time, but I found that 21/2 hours was enough to explore the park and enjoy the beach. I recommend hiking the trails to the right and left of the main beach for gorgeous views of the islets and sea caves and of course lounging on the black sand to relax.
6. Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach
Mile marker #35
The red sand beach on the road to Hana was one of my favorite stops! You should have service to reach this gem as it is located near Hana town. Legal roadside parking is limited, so you may have to wait for a spot if you don’t want a ticket. The trail is not easy to find, and I originally worried that it was located on private property, but there weren’t any “no trespassing” or “kapu” signs indicating the area was off limit. I believe locals leave this area accessible to tourists, but it is our responsibility to leave no trace of our passage. We saw lots of other tourists heading toward the shore, so we decided to walk the 15 minutes to the beach and back but did not linger long as we did not want to disrupt the local community. The water at Kaihalulu Beach is very treacherous anyway and absolutely not suitable for swimming!
ATTENTIONThe trail to the viewpoint and down to the beach is not easy and located right next to the water with sheer cliffs on one side. this trail is for experienced hikers without a fear of height only. You must be surefooted as a fall from the trail could be deadly and the rocks that lay along the path are quite sharp.
7. Huli Huli Chicken
Mile Marker #51
You are probably hungry by now; I know we were! Your next stop will take you to Huli Huli Chicken in Koki Beach State Park. As you get there, you might notice a sudden jump in mile markers. They’ll decrease again as you head toward Kipahulu.
The food at Huli Huli chicken was delicious, and the portions huge! Garrett and I shared one portion of Huli Huli chicken served with potato salad and mixed greens. Though we enjoyed our meal very much, the best part might have been the view. Lounge chairs facing the ocean are provided to customers, making it the most perfect lunch spot on the road to Hana!
If you want to swim, don’t miss Hamoa Beach located right next to Koki State Park at mile marker #50.
Related: Hawaiian Food Bucket List
8. Wailua Falls
Mile Marker #45
You will come across tons of waterfalls as you make your way on Hana Highway, but Wailua Falls might be my favorite. There is a pullout accross the street, and many tourists cross the road to the edge of the bridge to admire the falls. As you drive on the Road to Hana always make sure to stop only in designated pullouts to avoid causing traffic jams and endangering the lives of others.
9. ‘Ohe’o Gulch
Mile marker #42
You have now reached the end of the Road to Hana and the Kīpahulu District of Haleakalā National Park. To enter the park, you will need to pay a $35 fee valid for 3 days or purchase a park pass. If you plan on visiting 3 or more national parks within the next 12 months, I highly recommend getting the America the Beautiful pass for $80. We visited 7 national parks and 2 national historic sites with our pass, saving tons of money! If you plan on visiting the Big Island, consider purchasing a Hawai’i Tri-Park Annual pass for $55. This pass grants you entry into Haleakalā and Hawai’i Volcanoes National Parks as well as Pu’uhonua ‘O Hōnaunau National Historical Park.
As you begin hiking in the Kīpahulu District, you’ll notice a native Hawaiian structure located next to the signs indicating where the trail splits into the Kuloa Point Trail and Pipiwai Trail. We chose to hike the Kuloa Point Trail to ‘Ohe’o Gulch first. It is easy and takes about 15 minutes to complete. At the end, you’ll have breathtaking views of the ocean on one side and the pools on the other.
10. Pipiwai Trail
Mile marker #42
Hiking the Pipiwai Trail is the #1 reason why we decided to drive the loop. We wanted to make sure we could complete the trail before it closed at 5pm, and that seemed unlikely if we drove to Hana and back in the same day. It was raining lightly as we made our way through the jungle, but we were well protected by the thick foliage of the forest. The Pipiwai Trail (3.8 mi/ 6.1 km) trail features a majestic banyan tree, gorgeous views of the Palikea Stream, a one-mile hike through a bamboo forest, and the towering Waimoku Falls at the end. I am so glad we got up early and didn’t miss out on this amazing hike! It remains one of my favorite trails ever for its diversity, and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting the Kīpahulu District of Haleakalā National Park.
Want more stops?
- Twin Falls (mile marker #2 – $10 per vehicle)
- Ke’anae Lookout (off mile marker #16)
- Halfway to Hana banana bread stand (mile marker #17)
- Pua’a Ka’a Falls (mile marker #22)
- Hana Lava Tube (mile marker #31 – $15 per person)
- Hamoa Beach (mile marker #50)
- Waioka Ponds (mile marker #48)
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