7 Tips for Driving the Road to Hana

September 30, 2012

in beach, exploring, Hawaii, hiking, Maui, Nature

It’s awesome when you finally get the chance to have an experience you’ve always heard about.

The Road to Hana almost took the form of a mythical journey in my mind, and I was even more excited to read about Ayngelina’s account of her drive there when she was in Maui a few months before me. Our very last day in Hawaii, Brendan and I decided to make the trip, which despite not being that long in miles — a little over 70 from where we were staying in Lahaina –, takes a full day with all the twists and turns and stop-offs.

Thanks to the help of my friend Cristin, who’s lived on Maui for the last three years, and a detailed guidebook, we got some insider tricks so we wouldn’t fall prey to tourist traps and could see some hidden gems.

1. Spend less time stopping off in the early part

This is pure opinion, but the real gems on the Road to Hana are in the middle and end of the drive. You’ll be tempted to spend a lot of time in the first waterfall or two, but trust me when I say there are better ones along the track.

2. Wear sneakers

Walking to the red-sand beach, Hana, Maui

Walking to the red-sand beach, Hana.

I wore flip-flops (thongs), which meant I was reluctant to walk over slippery rocks and climb up waterfalls which a lot of other visitors could do better in sneakers. My flip-flops were also slimy and covered in mud by the time I came back from the red-sand beach and its rocky, treacherous track.

3. Bring lunch to go

There are really only street stalls to get food from on the Road to Hana once you get past Paia. We bought food at Anthony’s Coffee Co. there, which actually lets you rent a cooler with your lunch for free as long as you bring it back before they close. It’s easier to just eat as you drive or have a picnic in one of the stop-offs.

4. Stop in Keanae

The Keanae Peninsula is about halfway to Hana. Its main attractions are the jagged, black lava rock formations pounded by the waves along the coast and the views of the peninsula. There’s a spot where you turn onto the peninsula where you can climb a ladder down into the sea. I recommend avoiding going for a swim here, as the water can suddenly get rough and throw you against the rocks, which happened to me and Brendan (we emerged unharmed, thankfully). Keanae is also reputed to be the best place on the Road to Hana to get banana bread.

The black lava rocks of Keanae Peninsula

The black lava rocks of Keanae Peninsula.

5. Drive slow and stay alert

Obvious tips, but there are more than a dozen one-way swatches of road on the winding Road to Hana, and they are usually in a blind spot or a curve. Locals drive fast and will whiz around the corner — if you’re not prepared to stop and don’t have your reflexes primed, you will definitely risk a major accident.

6. Take a detour to the Blue Angel Falls in Nahiku

Remember how I said to avoid stopping too much in the beginning of the Road to Hana? These falls in the old, lush village of Nahiku, just miles from Hana Town, are one of the reasons why. This stop will take you several miles off the main road, but it is worthwhile if you want a more private experience in a distinctive setting.

To be fair, Blue Angel Falls is more of a “baby” waterfall — the worthwhile part is that it spills into a pool overlooking the ocean (it’s the one I mentioned wading in here). The spot is snug and you have to walk down a rocky path to get to it. Spray mosquito repellent before you go, as the critters will nibble at your exposed skin.

7. Get to Hana in daylight

There’s quite a bit to see in actual Hana, including a Japanese cemetery, black-sand beach and red-sand beach — you’ll need daylight to see these spots. We got to Hana around 4:30 during daylight savings time, so we were fine. This also gave us enough time to take in the sunset over the ocean on our drive back.

Sunset along the drive back from Hana

Have you been on the Road to Hana? What are some tips you would add for getting the most out of your trip?

7 Comments - Add Yours!

  1. Ayngelina

    Good tip on not stopping too early, we made that mistake and realized it was taking forever.

    I hope you drove around the South side as well, I wrote about that because I actually loved the views even more and there was no one on the road.

    1. Lauren Post author

      Cheers Ayngelina — I unfortunately did not make it to the south side as we were so limited on time. I think Maui will be my future though, and the other parts of Hawaii I didn’t see. It deserves more than a week.

    1. Lauren Post author

      Wow, that must have been amazing! The drive itself is beautiful, even if you don’t stop off — the views of the ocean and all the lushness are enough.

    1. Lauren Post author

      Yay! You will love it Heather — it’s gorgeous and reminded me of Oz! Just go a little further west when you’re done your trip so I can see you back in Sydney 🙂

  2. Maui Guide

    @Ayngelina – You are right, the road beyond Kipahulu changes dramatically and the views are huge. The dry windswept land beyond Kaupo was once like the northshore. It really helps when going down the road to Hana to know a bit about the history and why it’s like it is.

    @Caroline – We have seen many people take convertibles down the road to Hana. And those who are not quite sure how to put them up is quite amusing to watch too. To all those traveling the road, it’s a “rain forest”, so getting through the trip without going through a downpour is quite rare.


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