Updated: May 21, 2015

Road To Hana

One of those things you hear about when you talk about a vacation to Maui is the "road to Hana". Some people talk about it like a dream, some talk about the Hana Highway like a nightmare. What is the road to Hana? What is it like? What should you expect on the Hana Highway? We will try to answer some of those questions in this guide about one of Maui's top tourist attractions.



Hana Highway Drive

The Road to Hana is one of the most famous scenic drive in all the Hawaiian islands - probably THE most famous. It traverses the northeast corner of Maui, crossing a lot of pristine tropical acreage on its way towards the quiet town of Hana, which is of course where the road gets its name. Along the way, there are promises of waterfalls, pools, and beaches for you to marvel at and enjoy. Hana is 52 miles from Kahului, the main city in Maui where the airport is. Most people start their trips from this area. The first 12 miles or so of the road are pretty uneventful -- the scenery is so-so, you can move along pretty quickly. In fact, you start to think to yourself - "people spend all day on this trip? I've gone 12 miles in 20 minutes - I'll be there in an hour and back by 2PM!". But the road quickly becomes much more windy and slow, bringing your average speed down to more like 15 MPH. You will face lots of one-lane bridges requiring you to slow or stop and wait to proceed, and lots of very tight corners -- if you have passengers prone to car sickness, we warned -- this is NOT the trip for them. In fact, in our experience, we have found the drive is not worthwhile if you are transporting kids under 10 -- there is too much complaining about the slow drive, the walking, etc. Consider very seriously before heading out with small children -- not recommended. The road is numbered by mileage markers, showing your distance from Kahului. While not always readily visible, you should still regularly run across mile markers like "19" or "27" as you make the journey to Hana. All the guide books (see below) and maps will refer to these mileage markers, so it is a good idea to keep your eye out and have some idea where you are at any given time. How long does it take to get to Hana? Plan on spending about 3 hours each way on your driving adventure.
Some people think the road to Hana is treacherous, and that a 4WD car is required -- NOT TRUE. The road is paved all the way, and the worst you will encounter is one lane bridges and corners, but the road is fine. Now way PAST Hana, the road does turn to gravel, but any standard passenger car can make it Hana with no problems. When should you go to Hana? Since the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, the Hana side of Maui gets the early morning sun and can be in shadows by late afternoon, so plan your adventure early in the AM if possible. Part of the fun of the drive is the drive, but the facts are than more than 1000 other people will be doing the same drive as you each morning, so be prepared to follow other drivers who are a little slow. Just past the 10 mile marker you will come across the Garden of Eden -- this is an arboretum, a lovely garden, but with a price of $10 per person to enter. We've been there once, and it was worth it. Anyways, the sources below have better information and pictures than we can provide -- check them out and enjoy your drive to Hana.

Road to Hana Books

As you drive the Hana Highway, one of the problems is that many scenic spots are just beyond the road somewhere, sometimes requiring you to walk for 1 minute or 10 minutes to get there. Without a guidebook, you can easily miss all the best sights along the road to Hana -- so we recommend investing a little money in a photo guidebook if you plan on investing all this time in the drive. If you do pull over to stop, be sure to remove all the valuables from your car. In fact, some locals recommend you leave your car unlocked to show thieves there is nothing of value inside -- otherwise, there are some ruffians here and on other parts of the island that will break a window without remorse to steal your belongings.. Back to the books..There are a number of popular books and ebooks that provide pretty thorough coverage of the road to Hana. One of the best books about Maui is "Maui Revealed", by Doughty (WizardPub.com). This is a very thorough guide that also utilizes the web to provide detailed information and photos on everything from hotels to beaches to restaurants, and YES, they also have a section on the Road to Hana. Pick up a copy at your local bookstore or Amazon.com if you are going to Maui for the first time - this book will more than pay for itself. Another good book is Hana Highway, Mile by Mile, by Derrick. The PDF ebook version sells for $15 from their website, HawaiianStyleMedia.com. They cover all the stops along the way, with plenty of reviews and recommendations (and what to avoid).