A First Timer’s Guide to The Road to Hana
If I had to describe Maui’s Road to Hana in one word, it would be “all-encompassing”. Imagine a winding road filled with tropical flora, cascading waterfalls, black sand beaches, and bamboo forests: the untouched beauty is truly unparalleled. The drive exudes character with its one-lane bridges and local stands selling fresh fruit and warm banana bread (I’ll give you the deets later). Take my advice, you’ll want to make The Road to Hana a top priority when visiting Maui. In this blog post, I will be outlining everything you need to know about driving the Road to Hana!
Road to Hana Map
I’ve marked all the must-see stops on the map below. Feel free to save this map for your trip to Maui!
What to Know Before Driving The Road to Hana
- For most of the road, you will not have service. Download a google map prior to your trip.
- What is the best app for the Road to Hana?
- DOWNLOAD THE GYPSY GUIDE. I can’t stress this enough – it’s only $7 on the app store and provides the entire ride with commentary about the stops you should stop at, why you should stop there, and even a back history of the Hawaiian islands and royalty. It works offline so you don’t have to worry about not having service (so you can actually skip the above step). Charlie and I learned SO much from this app and the drive would not have been the same without it. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
- There are not many options when it comes to food so bring food and snacks to munch on. Keep in mind, if you leave Paia at 7 am like we did, most of the stands open at 8:30 am and close from 3-4 pm.
Driving Tips + Etiquette
- There are 59 one-lane bridges and over 600 hairpin turns on this 64-mile drive. You’ll want to drive with an experienced and safe driver. Maybe even consider hiring one if you want to sit back, relax, and take in all that this drive has to offer!
- The Road to Hana will take you anywhere from 10 to 12 hours to complete. With that being said, you need to start this adventure EARLY. We left Paia at 7 am, stopped at almost all of the places below, and made it to the bamboo forest by 2:30 pm. You want to see every inch of this drive in the daylight – it’s just not as enjoyable in the dark.
- Make sure your gas tank is full at the start of the drive. I only saw one gas station the entire drive. You absolutely don’t want to be at the end of The Road to Hana on EMPTY!
- The proper road etiquette when driving across the one-lane bridges is one car per side. Wait your turn and be respectful of the locals. So many people take this road to commute on a daily basis (LUCKY) so be respectful of their time and let them pass you if you are taking your sweet time enjoying the views.
- Don’t rush, take your time, and enjoy the journey!
Best Stops on The Road to Hana
Mile Marker 0
The colorful town of Paia is a small north-shore community filled with artists, natural foods, and the infamous Paia Fish Market and Mama’s Fish House restaurants. Since Paia is mile marker zero you can either start the drive here or end the drive here. If you want to get an early start to the day, I would recommend ending the trip here or coming back on an entirely different day.
Mile Marker 2
The first main stop along the Road to Hana is Twin Falls. The parking and hike down to the falls are easily accessible. It’s only a short 10-minute hike down to Twin Falls. In addition, there is an above viewing area that is prime for pictures. Finally, there is a smoothie stand and restrooms here too (porter potties).
Insider Tip: If you have time for more of an adventure, you can hike to the caveman waterfall. A little ways past the Twin Falls trail there is a sign that reads “experienced hikers only”. If you are experienced and have the proper gear then it’s only a half-mile to reach caveman falls. Not many people know about this so you’ll most likely have the place to yourself!
Mile Marker 16
An Arboretum and botanical garden with a .6-mile trail and free entry. This spot is notoriously known for the Rainbow Eucalypts trees you see above. Have you ever seen a more unique tree in your life? Miraculous!
TIP: When parking for the Ke‘anae Arboretum you’ll need to pass the entrance on your right and about 100 yards the lot will be on the left-hand side.
Between Mile Marker 16-17
One of our favorite stops along the drive was Ke‘anae Peninsula. This part of the drive had such a peaceful sentiment. On our way down, we stumbled upon Aunt Sandy’s and had the most delicious, freshly baked banana bread. Believe me, you don’t want to pass this place up! We then took our breakfast down to the water and watched the waves crash against the coolest looking lava rock you ever did see.
Unfortunately, there is a tragic history to the Ke‘anae Peninsula. In 1948 due to an earthquake in Alaska, a massive tsunami hit the Ke‘anae peninsula, and because it occurred on April 1st, a lot of the residents didn’t take the warning signs and believed it to be an April Fools Joke. Unfortunately, a lot was lost that day except for one thing, the church pictured above.
When you visit, remember those lost and bring aloha. Take a moment and remember those lost on that tragic day and always remember to not take anything for granted, especially the little moments.
Upper Waikani Falls (Three Bears Falls)
Mile Marker 19
Three Bears Falls was my favorite waterfall on the Road to Hana. It gets its nickname because there are three sizes to the three streams coming off the falls. You can either stop here quickly and snap a photo or park at the small lot a little ways past the bridge on the left-hand side.
TIP: When these falls are at a safe flow rate you can take a small trail down from the road and swim in them. We visited in January and the falls were ROARING, so we opted for the photo op instead.
Wai??napanapa State Park (Black Sand Beach)
Mile Marker 32
Visiting a black sand beach for the first time was quite the experience. You’d expect the sand to feel harsh since it’s moody looking but it was some of the softest sand I have ever felt. I would highly recommend heading down the path to the beach, putting your feet in the sand, and enjoying the pristine coastline.
TIP: It’s free to enter Wai??napanapa State Park, they have public restrooms, and it’s the perfect place to stop and eat those packed lunches!
Kaihalulu Beach (Red Sand Beach) + Koki Beach Park, Hana
The trail to Kaihalulu Beach is steep and not that easily accessible. When we arrived it was raining so we skipped out on the hike to Kaihalulu Beach and opted for Koki Beach instead. Although Koki Beach is technically not a red sand beach, the glowing red cliffs make it feel as though it is. Not to mention, you can easily drive up to this beach, take pictures, and be on your way.
Even though this drive is literally called “The Road to Hana” many of our favorite spots on the trek we’re actually 45 minutes past Hana. So don’t stop here fam, keep going all the way to Haleakal? National Park.
Mile Marker 45
This 80-foot waterfall is the main attraction on the Road to Hana. You can’t miss Wailua Falls. Most of the time, you wouldn’t be able to catch this place empty but luckily for us, we had the place to ourselves for a whole 5 minutes and it was pretty magical!
TIP: There is a good size parking lot on the left immediately past the falls, which makes this spot easily accessible.
Haleakala National Park
Mile Marker 41
The entrance to Haleakala National Park is located 45 minutes past Hana. There are two entrances to get into Haleakala National Park. The first entrance is for the sunrise mission at the top of the crater. The second entrance is 30 minutes past Hana and includes the most epic part of this entire trip, the bamboo forest.
TIP: It’s important to note that there is no way to get to the second entrance from the sunrise mission (I researched the heck out of that one). The only way to access the Pipiwai Trail and Waimoku Falls is through the second entrance of the park (which is 45 minutes past Hana).
Cost: $30 to enter and the pass is valid for 3 days. We were able to get our use out of the pass twice since our sunrise mission and the road to Hana excursion were only two days apart.
Pools of ‘Ohe’o (aka Seven Sacred Pools)
Fun fact: the Seven Sacred Pools of ‘Ohe’o are not at all sacred. It was given that name as a marketing ploy to attract visitors on the road to Hana. However, it doesn’t mean that this place isn’t special! In fact- ‘Ohe’o actually translates to “something special” so you don’t want to miss this stop!
The Pools of ‘Ohe’o is located within the Haleakala National Park. It’s a short and very scenic .5-mile loop from the parking lot to the Seven Sacred Pools viewing. At the time we visited, the pools were closed for swimming but are normally open during the summer months.
Pipiwai Trail (Bamboo Forest) + Waimoku Falls
When you first enter the Bamboo Forest after venturing on the trail for some time, you instantly feel as though you’ve been transported to another world! The Bamboo Forest was the highlight of our entire trip and the raw beauty actually brought tears to my eyes. Being able to experience such a stunning part of this island is something I will never forget.
The full hike is 4 miles (2 miles each way) so you’ll want to conserve your energy for this because it is not to be missed! It takes 30 minutes from the start of the Pipiwai Trail to the first entrance into the Bamboo Forest. Once you get to the Bamboo Forest it’s another 30-40 minutes to Waimoku Falls.
Thank you for reading my “A First Timer’s Guide to The Road to Hana”. I hope you’ve found some useful information for your journey and don’t forget to check out more of my Hawaii Guides including “The Complete Guide to Visiting Maui” and “What to Pack for Hawaii“.
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Thank you for your post. It was so very helpful. The best was your strong recommendation to download the Gypsy app!! We loved our trip.
You’re so welcome! I love hearing that Danielle. Maui is a beautiful place and gypsy guide is the best!