Driving the Road to Hana is arguably* one of the number one things to do in Maui, Hawaii. This scenic highway (Hana Highway) takes you to the small town of Hana in east Maui, and there are many different sights and stops along the way.
On our Maui trip, Mike and I knew we wanted to take the Road to Hana, and did moderate research before hopping in our rental vehicle and taking off. If you’re planning to drive the Road to Hana, which, I would say anyone who visits Maui should try at least once, I hope the summary of our experience below, including tips you should Know Before You Go, help ensure your Road to Hana is lots of fun. I’ve also put together a video blog of our drive, which you can watch below as well!
*Driving the Road to Hana though is also, arguably, one of the worst things to do in Maui if for instance, you’re prone to motion sickness lol.
Know Before You Go: Tips for Taking The Road to Hana
Watch my Video Blog: Tips for taking the Road to Hana!
What is the Road to Hana?
The Road to Hana is exactly that—a highway that brings you to Hana, Maui. It’s the main road that connects the north/west side of the island to the east side of the island. The road takes you into the Hana rainforest which is gorgeous and lush. There’s greenery everywhere. Trees and flowers you’ve never seen before. Ocean views from steep cliffs and waterfalls all along the way. Birds chirping. The Road to Hana gives you spectacular views of tropical rainforest in east Maui but it can also be a long and exhausting trip. As a Maui attraction or ‘thing to do,’ most people dedicate their entire day (if not multiple days) to making the drive and exploring the stops along the way, in and beyond Hana Town. The drive itself, for us from west Maui (Kāʻanapali/Lahaina area), took about 3 hours one way.
The Road to Hana is also said to be one of the most dangerous roads in the world as as it features over 600 narrow turns and 50 one-lane bridges. You need to be alert and attentive when driving the Road to Hana—or else. Okay, that sounded dramatic, lol, but almost every driver we passed along the Road to Hana had both hands gripping the wheel intensely. And those one-lane bridges can be scary because most have signs that ask both directions to yield to each other and most of the time, the vehicles driving to Hana are not interested in yielding for some unclear, unsafe reason, lol.
There is a lot you can do on the Road to Hana and it can be overwhelming if you don’t properly plan. If the Road to Hana is on your bucket list, or just your Maui to-do list, make sure you do your research. Everyone’s Road to Hana is going to be different, depending on what you’re interested in seeing and doing and how much time you’re devoting, but if you have a plan before you go, you’ll make the most out of this tropical, island adventure.
Tips for Taking The Road To Hana
Tip 1: Go early to avoid car crowds and consider driving to Hana first
The Road to Hana is such a popular drive, we kept reading and hearing from others who had gone that you might end up stuck behind a bunch of vehicles going very slowly (for safety) along the way. So we made the decision to wake up early (is it that early? You decide: we left our hotel on west Maui just before 7 a.m.) Starting early should help you beat the traffic. We think it did for us, while it was still pretty busy when we went, we maybe stopped behind another vehicle a handful of times, and we never had a start and stop experience due to vehicle congestion, so we would recommend starting your day early! You might also consider driving straight to Hana Town first (instead of making stops along the way) because then your timing for return will be different than others, and that should also hopefully help you avoid car crowds.
Warning: if you go early and arrive too early, almost nothing is open. This happened to us, lol. So you either need to spend more time stopping on the side of the road (or go past Hana) to check out more of the rainforest and waterfalls to give food stands and restaurants time to open, or depending on how you’ve planned your day, be okay with most things not being open at least during the first leg of your trip. Tip within a tip: bring snacks for the drive so places not being open doesn’t affect you drastically.
Tip 2: Take nausea medicine. It gets loopy
The Road to Hana is not a friend to those who are prone to motion sickness. I’m not even really prone to motion sickness and neither is Mike, but we both felt fairly queasy on this drive, I ended up closing my eyes and laying back a few times to help combat this. I have a friend who took medicine before going on the Road to Hana and her group still had to turn back because she got so sick. Getting motion sickness is pretty common along this fairly wind-y road so if you can prepare in advance, that will help immensely.
Tip 3: Plan your stops in advance but also pull in to what looks, sounds or feels interesting
There are lots of fun sights, food stands and restaurants along the Road to Hana, you won’t be able to do it all (especially if you’re just going for a day trip) so plan what you’d really like to see, and where you’d really like to stop, so there’s a bit of structure in your drive, but I’d also advise leaving some buffer time for pulling into a food stand or spot that just looks, sounds or feels interesting (or maybe you’re more compelled to pull in at a particular time because you’re hungry, or you have to pee lol). I wish we had stopped at more of the stands on the road but I also had a pretty specific end-restaurant in mind back in Paia, Maui, so if we wanted to make that, and then also make dinner with my parents l later that day, I knew we didn’t have time to do much except for the drive so for us, our Road to Hana was mostly because we wanted to actually take The Road to Hana, not necessarily because we had multiple stops planned along the way (I’m thinking in hindsight, it would have been more fun if we had planned more stops in advance).
In Hana, we visited Hana Bay and Beach, a beach front and swimming area right in town. It’s also home to black sand which was formed by lava erosion but we didn’t think the black sand was overly black (or plentiful lol). It is there though! Which was cool to see/step in. If black sand is of interest, you should make sure to check out the black sand at Waianapanapa State Park (also along the Road to Hana). At Hana Bay though there’s a small bakery and cafe called Barefoot Bakery & Cafe which features local Hawaiian dishes. We arrived in between their breakfast and lunch opening so we. did not get to try it, LOL. But if you’re visiting Hana Bay, it makes a lot of sense to grab some food at the Barefoot Bakery & Cafe to because it’s right there! Both of these stops were a result of us just exploring the area (casual Road to Hana!)
One stop I did plan for was Twin Falls, which I thought would have been a waterfall and little pool area that we could swim and take some photos in (normally it is!) but at the time we went, the rapids were so intense and the water so brown/dirty, that it was not an option at all. Time of the year is certainly something to consider for your drive and what attractions along the way you might want to check out as well. April is not the best for waterfall levels, rapid speed and clearness.
Another unplanned stop which I was super happy about was the Hana Farms stand and marketplace. This is a tropical farm and marketplace located just before you enter Hana Town. They sell a bunch of local products like hot sauces, candies, preserves, and also have award-winning banana bread (we ordered the variety pack, to try the regular, pineapple, macadamia nut and chocolate chip banana breads!) They also have a food truck/restaurant on site Wi-Fi!
The Town of Makawao is located in upcountry Maui. It’s a charming little town with a big focus on the arts. The town is famous for their Hawaiian cowboys. There’s a primate sanctuary nearby, and there’s also a very popular bakery called the T. Komoda Store. The bakery is closed on Wednesdays and Sundays so if you’re planning your Road to Hana trip and want to stop in Makawao, make sure it’s not on a Wednesday or Sunday so you can experience the bakery!
- Road to Hana Sights
- Top 15 Places to Stop on the Road to Hana
- The Best Places to Stop on the Road to Hana
- 19 Incredible Road to Hana Stops
Tip 4: Drive defensively and respect local drivers
A few other tips for taking the Road to Maui:
- Bring a change of clothes if you plan on hopping into water along the way. Also probably bring a change of shoes (or shoes you’re comfortable getting potentially muddy/dirty)
- Bring snacks! Just in case. You should try the food stands and restaurants along the way but have some back-up food just in case—the ride is long, and could be even longer depending on traffic!
- Bring a positive attitude! Motion sickness might lead to some grumpiness. Holding your breath every few minutes with each turn or one-lane bridge can get stressful. In fact, the Road to Hana has even been nicknamed ‘Divorce Highway’ because of arguments couples may have on the long drive!