Maui’s “road to Hana” is a curvy coastal road with views of cliffs, beaches, waterfalls, and miles and miles of lush rainforest. It’s a well paved road, but you do need to keep your wits about you when you drive it because of the many sharp curves and one-lane bridges.
Despite how the name “road to Hana” implies that it’s simply a road that gets you to the little town of Hana — it’s so much more.The objective of this scenic drive is not just to get to the small town of Hana. It’s more about the journey itself and enjoying the beauty along the way.
To many people’s surprise, the adventure that is called “the road to Hana” doesn’t finish in the town of Hana. The beauty doesn’t just stop there as there’s plenty more to see beyond Hana! We’ll explain that more as you progress through this guide to the road to Hana.
What’s the route for the road to Hana?
We’re going to define the road to Hana the way we believe it ought to be defined. It’s to Hana and beyond and back.
The road to Hana begins as Highway 36 at Kahului, continues through Paia where it eventually turns into Highway 360. The drive continues on Highway 360 road to the town of Hana, but, the joy of this drive doesn’t stop there. Just past the little town of Hana, the road becomes Highway 31. Continue on Highway 31 until you get to the Kipahulu area of Haleakala National Park. At this point, we recommend you drive back to your accommodation the same way you drove in as the road beyond Kipahulu is prohibited by the rental car companies.
In addition to driving highways 36, 360 and 31, there will be some scenic diversions off these highways, too. We’ll identify those in further down in this article.
Note that the Kipahulu area past Hana is part of Haleakala National Park, though it is separated from the summit of Haleakala by many miles and thousands of feet of elevation. At first glance, visitors may assume that the summit of Haleakala and the Kipahula area of Haleakala are near each other. Some assume that sunrise on Haleakala and the road to Hana can be easily enjoyed on the same day, but we do not advise you attempt both in the same day.
Consider whether you want to drive the road to Hana independently or take a tour.
While the road to Hana offers many beautiful scenes, it’s quite a challenging drive. Highway 360 alone has 620 curves and 59 bridges and quite a few single-lane sections! On top of that, it can be difficult finding some of the scenic stops to enjoy the beauty.
Driving the road independently allows you to move at your own pace and stop where you want to stop. With all that comes some stress, too.
Taking a guided tour let’s you and all those in your group sit back and enjoy the scenery. You don’t have to navigate to find the best stops. The guides know where to go, plus they provide lots of interesting commentary about the area and history, too.
We’ve driven the road ourselves several times and we’ve also taken a couple of guided tours. Both were very enjoyable. For more thoughts on these options, see our article detailing the advantages and disadvantages of each method — Touring the Road to Hana Independently vs. Guided Tour.
Planning ahead to enjoy the road to Hana
Now, if you’ve chosen to drive the road to Hana independently, let’s now review some very helpful and practical tips for enjoying your drive. Let’s start with what to plan and consider well in advance of your day driving the road to Hana.
- If you are prone to carsickness, then this drive may not be for you as it literally includes hundreds of curves. If you get motion sickness either consider whether you want to take this drive at all or what options you might have to prevent getting sick — such as medication, supplement and/or acupuncture remedies.
- Take a little virtual drive on the road to Hana via Google Maps to get familiar with the territory. We randomly selected a section of the Hana Highway on the streetview of Google Maps at this link that you can explore.
- If you are unsure if the road to Hana is for you or if you have enough time, check out our mini-guide to the road to Hana with three scenic stops.
- NEW starting February 2021 – a new reservation system has been implemented for visitors wanting to see the black sand beach at Wai’anapanapa State Park. At the time of implementation, reservations can be made up to two weeks in advance. See our article covering this new reservation system along with our suggestions. Also note that a further entrance fee became effective April 2021.
- Plan to make a whole day of the drive there and back.There is so much to see and do that you can’t see it all in one day. We’ve driven the road to Hana about six times now and still haven’t had the opportunity to do everything listed in guidebooks. Ideally, an overnight or longer stay in the town of Hana allows you to see and do more in the area.
- Get a good Maui guidebook that will detail what to see along the way. Find one that provides references by mile markers. (We’ve used Maui Revealed in the past and found it was a good reference. Just make sure you never trespass or do any hiking or swimming that are beyond your skills. If it looks dangerous, it probably is! When in doubt, don’t go out!)
- As you are planning your Maui itinerary, you may want to plan to drive the road to Hana within three days of when you plan to see sunrise from the summit of Haleakala, but not the same day. The reason being is that your entrance fee is valid for both the summit and the coastal, Kipahulu area. Check the park’s website for current fees and policies.
- Make a list of all the spots you definitely want to see off the road to Hana. Make a note of their location by mile markers. The location of most spots and diversions will be identified as between such and such mile markers. That will be about the only landmarks that will guide you to the stops. Note that mile markers change depending on what road you are on. Though it may seem like the same road, you’ll actually be driving on three separate highways – 36, 360, and 31 and they each have their own mile markers and it can get kind of confusing. From Paia, the mile markers for highways 36 and 360 count up. Then, just past Hana, the road becomes Highway 31 with the mile markers counting down from 50. If you don’t have the time or interest in researching all there is to do on and off the road to Hana, just check out our guide to the best stops, which we’ve listed further in this article.
- Plan to share the driving time with your travel companions, if possible. The drive can be stressful for one person. Consider whether you should add an additional driver onto your rental car contract as most contracts only allow one driver as a standard. Additional drivers can be usually be added for a fee, though with some deals it can be free. If you know the specific day you’ll be driving the road to Hana, most rental car companies allow you to add the additional driver for that specific days only and thereby limit the cost.
What to bring and wear for your road to Hana adventure
You’ll definitely want to be prepared for the activities you want to enjoy on the road to Hana.
- If you think you might do any swimming, then wear a swimsuit and bring beach towels.
- If you have quick drying clothes, wear those and/or bring a breathable waterproof jacket as it wouldn’t be unusual to find yourself in a brief shower as you’ll be in a rainforest.
- Wear a comfortable walking shoe that’s good for walking on muddy or uneven terrain. This type of shoe is great for the short treks and waterfall hunting on the road to Hana.
- Wear and bring sunscreen and mosquito repellent.
- Wear a visor or hat for additional sunscreen protection.
- Bring water.
- Consider bringing snacks if you like, but you will find roadside fruit stands. Some of them are open for pay by the honor system. So, bring cash to pay at the roadside stands.
- Don’t forget your camera with lots of film/memory and fully charged batteries.
- Once again, if you are prone to carsickness, bring any medicines and other remedies that you know help you to avoid getting sick.
- Don’t forget your list of the places you researched that you want to see.
- It’s helpful to bring a small backpack to store and carry items with you.
Tips for the day you drive the road to Hana
- Make sure you have a full tank of gas before you start the drive. Gas stations are few and far between!
- Check for road closures on the Maui County road closure notification website. Though road closures along the Road to Hana is not an everyday occurrence, it’s not too uncommon for a section of the road to be closed for a rock/mud slide.
- Try to get an early start. It makes a huge difference. You’ll avoid traffic with an early start. Ideally plan on leaving the South or West Maui resorts areas at or near sunrise. Most of the places to stop along the road to Hana only have room for one or two cars, so the earlier you get going, the more likely you’ll be able to find a place to pull off to look at the waterfalls and views.
- Roll down your window for fresh air and to hear the birds and waterfalls when the car is in motion. Just make sure you roll them up when you park the car and/or leave it unattended — even if just for a few minutes as you don’t want mosquitos hitching a ride with you.
- As you plan which day you are going to drive the road to Hana, carefully consider the weather forecast for Hana and the windward Haleakala area. (See this link for the current forecast.) I’ve driven the road on a beautiful sunny day and on a mostly cloudy and partly rainy day. Of course everyone would prefer the sunny day, right? Well, of course, we all do, but since I’ve had the opportunity to see the contrast, I can tell you that on the road to Hana, the weather makes a huge difference. The colors of the scenery are much more vibrant with the sun. Unfortunately, with the new reservation system for visiting Wai’anapanapa State Park, you may not have much of a choice.
- If you notice a local driving behind you or a long line of cars, please be considerate and pull over to allow cars to pass as soon as you find a safe spot to do so. (See more tips about driving with aloha.) Another important point I should highlight is that you should probably be prepared that you could encounter some unwelcoming locals. We’ve mostly had pleasant experiences on the road to Hana, but once we encountered a local bully. I hope your experience is a good one.
- Avoid driving a long distance on the road to Hana at night. Check ahead to know the sunset time for Hana.
- Always lock your car if you are going to be leaving it even for a minute or two. Never leave valuables in your car.
The best stops on and off the road to Hana
We’ll list some of the best stops in the order that you’ll encounter them as you drive the road to Hana. With each stop, we link to an article with more details about the stop and getting there. We provide detailed tips for visiting each spot along with the mile markers, so be sure to click each link to learn more.
- Keanae Point is a gorgeous diversion off the road to Hana that gives you beautiful views of the East Maui coast. See our post on Keanae Point for more details. Note our recommendation for a banana bread stop that’s here. The turn off for it is located between mile markers 16 and 17 of Highway 360.
- Waikani Falls is a pretty waterfall that’s right beside the road. It’s between mile markers 19 and 20 of Highway 360.
- At Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside Park, there are two small waterfalls that are easy to view. It’s located between mile markers 22 and 23.
- Waianapanapa State Park is one of Hawaii’s the most beautiful black sand beaches. As previously mentioned, make sure you have a reservation to visit this black sand beach. The turn off to go to this park is between mile markers 32 and 33.
- Take a stroll in the town of Hana, if you want. It’s a very small town, but there are food trucks, restaurants, a gas station, hotel and a general store.
- Just past the town of Hana, the road changes to Highway 31 and note that the mile mark sequence changes as well. Note also that instead of counting up, the mile markers will be counting down. Look for and turn off at Haneoo Road on the left, towards the ocean. This short road that connects back to Highway 31 had some delightful beauty to behold! Note that the thick sand has a red color. This is not the famous red sand beach of Hana, but it’s much easier and safer to see. Haneoo Road takes you to views of Alau Island and the red sand along the shore line. If you continue on Haneoo Road, beautiful Hamoa Beach will be below a cliff on the left. Look for cars parked along the road and then take the path down to the beach or simply admire it from above. Haneoo Road is u-shaped and will connect back to the highway for you to continue onwards.
- Wailua Falls is another beautiful waterfall located just off the road. It’s between mile markers 45 and 44.
- The Kipahula area of Haleakala National Park visitor center is located right around mile marker 42. See the Oheo Gulch (also known as the Seven Sacred Pools) with the cascading pools. Some people enjoy taking a swim in one of the cascading pools, if it is open. Always check in at the visitor center for swimming advice. Spend a bit of time walking around this area. If you have the time (between 2 to 2.5 hours), a hike on the Pipiwai Trail through a bamboo forest up to the towering (approximately 400 feet) Waimoku Waterfall is well worth doing. Note that this area is part of Haleakala National Park. So, when you purchase entry into the park, it is valid for both entry points for 3 days from purchase. See more about visiting the Kipahulu area.
- Another popular point of interest just beyond the Kipahulu area of Haleakala National Park is the gravesite of Charles Lindbergh at the beautiful, little Palapala Ho’omau Church. It’s tricky to find Look for the a paved, one-lane road on the ocean side of Highway 31 just after mile marker 41.(There’s also might be a private property sign, but that refers to the property itself, not the road.) This is a great place to turn around and enjoy the views of the road to Hana from the other direction. Also, if you happened to miss a spot earlier in the day, you may be able to catch it on the way back.
- If you have daylight time remaining, on your way back to your hotel or condo, don’t miss watching the windsurfers at Hookipa Beach.
Looking for other great things to see and do on Maui? See our Seven-Day Maui Vacation Itinerary.