Hawaii’s Forbidden Roads

End of Road to Hana
A Forbidden Stretch of the “Back Side” of the Road to Hana

Did you know that there are stretches of roads in Hawaii that you shouldn’t drive with a rental car? The rental car companies have identified these roads as dangerous and if you drive on them, you can be in violation of your rental car agreement. The risk of violating your rental car agreement is that if you wreck, breakdown, or drive off a cliff, you are financially responsible for the repairs.

At first glance the forbidden roads may look benign. For the most part, they’re paved and look to be in good shape. Hidden dangers do indeed lurk on these roads, so I understand why the rental car companies don’t allow just anybody to drive them. What sort of dangers, you ask? Well, there’s:

    • potential for rock slides
    • exceptionally winding and narrow roads that make passing oncoming traffic very challenging
    • lack of guard rails
    • sections of unpaved road
    • uneven pavement and rough roads with many potholes
    • livestock in the roads – even the invisible cow has been known to lurk on these forbidden roads

Most guide books and other online guides don’t warn readers about the dangers of these roads and some even encourage visitors to drive these roads. I want you to be informed so that you can consider the risks before you decide to drive on these forbidden roads.

    There aren’t any signs on the forbidden roads warning rental car drivers that they should turn around. So, how do you know which sections of roads are forbidden by contract? The rental car companies will provide an island drive guide that looks like it’s a magazine. The drive guides include maps that indicate the forbidden sections. In the meantime, luckily, we can access the important sections of the island drive guides online. Click on the following link for each island to see online maps indicating the forbidden sections:

  • Oahu – Note that currently only the unpaved roads at Kaena Point, the western most tip of Oahu, are forbidden.
  • Maui – The most tempting sections of forbidden roads are the “back side” of the road to Hana and the northern end of West Maui.
  • Big Island – South Point Road and the exceptionally rough and steep road down to Waipio Valley are the biggest no-no’s on Hawaii’s Big Island. Saddle Road was previously prohibited by the rental car companies, but was approved in 2011.
  • Kauai – Polihale State Park.

I’d like to end this semi-public service announcement post, but saying, that these forbidden roads represent a very small fraction of all of Hawaii’s exceptional scenic highways. You will not find a lack of beautiful drives are A-Okay with the rental car agencies.

  1. Great points. I’d have to say the “no guard rails” and narrow roads personally freak me out the most. Still love to try them in a Jeep though, someday.

    1. Kris – it’s so nice to see a comment from you again. Seems like you’ve been extra busy lately.

      Yeah, the narrow roads right up next to a sheer cliff give me the heebie jeebies — especially when you see bits of rock that have fallen into the road. Eeek!

  2. Hey Sheila,

    I drove my convertible Dodge 600 rental around there back in 86. It was great! I just went slow and enjoyed. Back then you ended up in the high country once you made it to the south side above Makena bch?
    In 91 I rode a bike around the island camping. That was a great area. Only saw 2 cars all day. Dropped down through cane fields to Makena beach. Had a mt bike. There was a small country store out there at that time not too far south of 7 pools area.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like