You can visit Maui without doing the road to Hana, but you will probably regret it. This day trip, along the curvy west coast of the island, was easily one of the best day trips I’ve ever taken.
It’s not that Hana itself is that great- it’s a small remote town with few attractions. Like so many great trips, this one is about the journey, not the destination. And the journey is a long and interesting one, full of hairpin turns, oceanside cliffs, and crazy gorgeous scenery. I was initially going to do a post on WHY you should take the road to Hana, but really, I think the pictures speak for themselves:
Inspired to visit yet? Here are more photos to inspire your next Maui vacation!
Here Are the Top 7 Tips for Surviving the Road to Hana
I had done a little research on how to make the most of this drive, but I ended up learning some important things along the way that I thought I would share for the next lucky voyagers.
Do It Yourself
You CAN take an organized bus tour along the route but I strongly recommend renting your own car and exploring yourself. The tour groups only stop as pre-set highlights along the way, and part of the fun of the trip is being able to pull over at any interesting view (or ice cream stand). You don’t want to be limited- and you really don’t want to be stuck in a huge group of people when it’s time to take pictures.
Give Yourself All the Time You Can
As a straight shot, it takes 3 hours to get to Hana, but you won’t be going straight, you’ll be stopping, gawking, hiking, maybe even doing a little swimming. You’ll probably drive past Hana to Haleakala National Park (more on this below). Your entire day can be eaten up quite quickly, considering you really want to be back in Paia before sunset (you really don’t want to be navigating the curvy one lane highway in the dark).
We set out at around 9 am and felt really rushed by the time the sun started to set. If I did the journey again I would start much earlier, maybe 6 am or better yet, reserve a hotel room in Hana and do the entire journey over two days so I could really relax and take my time.
Don’t Rent the 2 Door Jeep
Jeeps are incredibly popular car rentals on Maui- and for good reason. They look freaking cool. You may be tempted to “upgrade” to the 2-door model with the canvas roof that can be removed. Maybe you picture yourself cruising down the road, the sun on your skin, wind in your hair.
We certainly did.
Don’t do it. Not only do these jeeps leak when it rains and whistle if you go over 40 mph, we learned the hard way that those canvas roofs are nearly impossible to reattach once they’ve been removed. It took 3 guys at the rental place to put it back on, and one guy lamented to me that they wish the company would just stop carrying them.
Trust me, go for the less glamorous 4 door jeep with the hard top instead. They’re safer, less vulnerable to theft and way more convenient.
Fill Up, But Don’t Freak Out
Before we left for the day we filled our gas tank and stocked up on lunch, water and snacks. This is a good idea as you will be on the road all day, but I was under the impression from the guides I read that once we left Paia there would be no opportunities to get any of these things all day. This is not at all true. There are several roadside supply shops, lunch spots and even a gas station in Hana.
That said, prices are definitely going to be higher the farther you get from civilization. I would recommend filling your tank and buying supplies before you even get to Paia, maybe in Kahului. If you forget something though, don’t freak out.
Plus here are the best places we ate in Maui including Paia and Kahului!
Bring a Virtual Guide
Before we left for the day Mike downloaded the Road to Hana GPS Driving Tour* for his iPhone. This app, which costs $4.99 greatly enhanced our driving experience and I highly recommend it. Although phone service won’t work on this side of the island, the app uses GPS to give you a real time, narrated tour of the trip, complete with suggestions on where to stop and look around. The narration changes based on where you go and stops when you stop, so it’s almost like having a personal guide on the tour with you. We managed to catch some interesting sights that we would never have otherwise noticed. On the way back it gave us a fascinating primer on Hawaiian history.
Do note that the program drains your phone battery fast, so bring along a car charger.
*I wasn’t offered this app or compensated in any way, I just really think it’s great.
Push Past Hana
Listen to this one carefully: most people drive to Hana, then turn around and drive back to Paia. Technically it is possible to continue on and drive all the way around the island, but the roads deteriorate and most car rental agreements don’t cover that part of the island.
I’m not suggesting you do that. What I am suggesting you do is continue just ten more miles to Haleakala National Park, which is totally covered by most car companies (ask to be sure). The road does get a little narrower and less maintained out here, but the park itself is really neat. You can take a short .5 mile hike to the ‘Ohe’o pools or a longer 4-mile hike on Pīpīwai Trail to the bamboo forests (unfortunately we didn’t leave enough time to do this- see point #2).
Prepare for Motion Sickness
I really can’t understate how curvy and winding the highway to Hana is. There is also a lot of slowing down and speeding up because of traffic and conditions. If you are at all prone to motion sickness be prepared. My easy tips:
- Take Dramamine. Duh.
- If you forget to take Dramamine (like I did) chewing gum is also supposed to help reduce nausea.
- The person who is most prone to motion sickness (Mike in our case) should drive. The driver almost never sick because they are in control.
Drive Slowly, and Smartly
Mike is a great driver and I felt very safe with him at the wheel, but some of the other drivers on the road made me VERY nervous. Some were locals who drive the route every day (and were understandably annoyed with the tourists clogging their commute), but some were other day-trippers. They drove way too fast, tailgated slower vehicles and generally seemed oblivious to the fact that there were other people on the road.
Be conscientious, for your safety and others. Go slowly, don’t tailgate, pay attention, and you will be fine.
Make Sure Your Camera is Charged
A big obvious, but nothing puts a damper on a trip like this like a flashing battery notification. From the strange rainbow eucalyptus trees to the near-perfect beaches to the crystal pools and tropical hikes, there is so much on this road to Hana to see, capture, and enjoy.
And don’t forget to book someplace amazing for your trip! Here are a few ideas…
The Tiki Beach Hostel in Lahaina is the spot for the traveler that wants to be by the beach but doesn’t want to blow all their money on accommodation. This small hostel only has 5 dorm rooms though so you better book early!
Looking to stay in Hana? Check out the Heavenly Hana Paradise which is only a 10-minute walk to the beach and will draw you in with its lush environment and respite from driving the road to Hana. Relax, you’ve made it.
Want to stay just 2.5 miles from Iao Valley State Park? Then you have to check out The Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono. Not only are you close to the lush mountains but this inn also offers a cozy tropical retreat for you.
Disclosure: Visit Maui provided me with a rental car for our time in Maui. We paid extra to upgrade to the crappy Jeep. All opinions are mine.
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which means that if you click and purchase something through these links, Steph and I make a commission at no extra cost to you.