The Road to Hana is a world-class adventure to be included in your Maui itinerary, offering breathtaking stops and eventful tours. Stretching from Kahului to the remote town of Hana in East Maui, this renowned route winds through over 600 curves and numerous one-lane bridges, passing through a diverse range of microclimates.
Our guide streamlines your trip planning by highlighting the 1 best stops to visit and recommending trustworthy tour options to consider in your itinerary. With secret waterfalls to culinary gems like homemade banana bread, our recommendations are rooted in local expertise to ensure your Road to Hana vacation trip is not only safe but also worthwhile.
What is the Road to Hana?
The Road to Hana, officially known as Hana Highway or Route 360, is a 64.4-mile stretch of highway connecting Kahului to the town of Hana in east Maui. With its narrow roads, one-lane bridges, and countless turns, the drive itself is an experience like no other. Along the way, you'll pass beautiful lush bamboo forests to serene waterfalls such as Wailua Falls and Waimoku Falls. The highway is a treasure trove of raw beauty waiting to be explored.
Is the Road to Hana Worth It?
The Road to Hana is absolutely worth experiencing! This scenic drive is a mystical journey through one of Maui's most breathtaking landscapes. You'll pass through the mesmerizing Keanae Peninsula, see the powerful waves crash at Ho'okipa Beach Park, and possibly even lose track of time at Waianapanapa State Park's iconic Black Sand Beach. For the culinary adventurers, don't forget to try some warm, homemade banana bread from a local food truck, or delicacies such as Kalua pork dishes and Lilikoi coconut ice cream along the way.
If history fascinates you, you'll find depth in the ancient stories tied to specific locations along the Road to Hana. For example, Wailua Falls has a connection with the Mo'o, mythical lizard-like creatures, and other waterfalls or pools have tales of Hawaiian deities and water spirits. You might also hear tales of the Night Marchers, ancient Hawaiian warriors said to roam certain areas. Some of these places are even considered kapu, or sacred, according to native Hawaiian beliefs.
Road to Hana – 14 Stops (In Order) For Your Itinerary
The Road to Hana generally begins in Kahului and ends in Hana Town, spanning the diverse and lush landscapes of East Maui. Here are fifteen must-visit stops to include in your Road to Hana itinerary. These stops are listed in the order you would encounter them, starting your journey from Kihei:
Ho'okipa Beach Park: Located near the beginning of your journey not far from Paia, Ho'okipa Beach Park is renowned for its strong wind and waves, making it a hotspot for surfing and windsurfing. Even if you're not into these sports, it's a fantastic location for watching the experts in action and enjoying the lively atmosphere.
Twin Falls: Twin Falls marks the beginning of your Road to Hana experience, so make sure to arrive early to secure a convenient parking spot. Located shortly after you pass the town of Paia, it's an excellent and safe spot for a quick, refreshing swim. After your swim, take a walk along the surrounding trails that offer more secluded spots and smaller falls, perfect for some quiet contemplation amidst nature.
Garden of Eden Arboretum: After passing Twin Falls but before reaching the Keanae Peninsula, you'll encounter the Garden of Eden Arboretum. This privately owned botanical garden spans 26 acres and offers visitors the chance to explore a wide variety of tropical plants and trees, including some that are rare or endangered. There are several walking trails, a beautiful waterfall, and even some peacocks strutting about. One of the standout features here is the panoramic view of the coastline, which includes a viewpoint overlooking the famous "Jurassic Rock," featured in the opening sequence of the film "Jurassic Park."
Keanae Peninsula: Located about halfway to Hana, the Keanae Peninsula offers a panoramic view of the coastline and ocean. This scenic spot is perfect for photography enthusiasts or anyone wanting to soak in the majestic scenery.
Nahiku Marketplace: Located a little after Keanae Peninsula and before you reach Waianapanapa State Park. This is a lovely place to stop for food, local crafts, and souvenirs. For a mid-trip break, grab some delicious coconut shrimp or fresh tropical smoothies. You'll also find a variety of vendors selling locally made crafts and goods that make for great souvenirs.
Waianapanapa State Park: Situated closer to the end of your route near Hana, Waianapanapa State Park is home to the iconic Black Sand Beach. In addition to its stunning shoreline, the park offers beautiful hiking trails. Explore the sea caves, marvel at the natural stone arch, and spot some green sea turtles basking in the sun.
Hana Lava Tube (Ka'eleku Caverns): Situated off the Hāna Highway and only a few miles before you reach the heart of Hana Town, the Hana Lava Tube (also known as Ka'eleku Caverns) is an underground marvel that takes you deep into Maui's geological past. The tube was formed almost a thousand years ago during a volcanic eruption and extends for several miles, though a half-mile section is open for public exploration. A self-guided tour leads you through a well-lit, easily navigable pathway, revealing fascinating stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstone formations. An admission fee is required, and sturdy, closed-toe shoes are advisable.
Wailua Falls: Located near Hana, Wailua Falls is easily accessible from the road and offers a perfect photo opportunity without requiring a lengthy hike. Arrive early in the morning to catch the falls bathed in soft sunlight, or if you're adventurous, find the path that leads you to the top for an even more spectacular view. Wailua Falls is one of the last waterfalls you'll encounter before reaching Hana.
Hana Town: Hana Town allows you to experience the spirit of old Hawaii. It's a great place to take a break from driving, enjoy some homemade banana bread, or indulge in local cuisine. Visit the Hasegawa General Store to get a sense of local life and perhaps pick up some souvenirs or snacks for the road back.
10. A 15-20-minute drive from Hana Town, the Seven Sacred Pools at 'Ohe'o is located within Haleakalā National Park. This series of beautiful cascading waterfalls and plunge pools is a marvel to witness. Take a hike along the Kuloa Point Trail to access the pools. This stop could serve as an alternative to Wailua Falls for those particularly interested in natural swimming formations.
11. Hamoa Beach: Also located near Hana Town, Hamoa Beach is consistently rated as one of Maui's most beautiful beaches. It's an ideal place for sunbathing, swimming, or simply appreciating the natural beauty around you. Bring a snorkeling set, as the clear waters offer a good chance to see a variety of exotic fish and maybe even sea turtles.
12. Koki Beach: Just a short drive from Hana Town, Koki Beach is generally less crowded than Hamoa and equally stunning, offering another excellent option for beachgoers. If you're a surfer, bring your board—Koki Beach offers some great waves that are less crowded, giving you more space to catch the perfect ride.
13. Kahanu Garden: Also situated near Hana, this botanical garden provides a tranquil environment to learn about native Hawaiian plants as well as exotic plant species from around the world. Make sure to visit the Pi'ilanihale Heiau, a historically significant Hawaiian temple located within the garden, to immerse yourself in the culture and history.
14. Pipiwai Trail: Situated in Haleakala National Park near Hana, the Pipiwai Trail leads you through mesmerizing bamboo forests and culminates at the breathtaking Waimoku Falls. Take some time in the bamboo forest; stop for a while and listen to the sound of the wind rustling through the bamboo. It's a surreal experience unique to the hike to Waimoku Falls.
If the idea of winding through 64.4 miles of narrow, serpentine roads gives you pause, don't worry—you can still experience the magic of the Hana Highway without ever touching the steering wheel. That's where Road to Hana tours come in as an excellent option for those who prefer a less hands-on approach to exploring this iconic route.
Many tour operators in Upcountry Maui offer full-day trips with the option of a return trip or an extended overnight stay in Hana Town. These tours are often led by local experts who can provide not only safe driving through the single-lane bridges and occasional gravel road but also rich narrative that delves into the history, traditions, and folklore of the region. They often follow the Hana Highway code of conduct, ensuring you have a responsible and respectful tour. Here are some of the best Road to Hana tour operators:
Valley Isle Excursions: A luxury tour that includes breakfast and lunch, as well as multiple stops for sightseeing, including the Black Sand Beach and Wailua Falls. Their small group settings make it ideal for those looking for a more intimate experience.
Hana Tours of Maui: This is a more traditional tour, usually in a 15-passenger van, with a focus on history and local traditions. If you're more interested in the culture and history of the area than luxurious amenities, this is a great option.
Temptation Tours: A "Luxury Hana Tour" that features a custom limo-van and offers an optional helicopter ride back, giving you aerial views of the area, you just explored by road. If you're looking for a touch of luxury and an aerial experience, this tour is a great choice.
The R2H (Road to Hana) Audio Guide This is a different kind of tour—an app that guides you along the Road to Hana with narration and directions for self-drivers. If you're keen on driving yourself but still want some guidance and historical context, the audio guide could be your best companion.
The Road to Hana is approximately 64.4 miles long from Kahului to Hana in East Maui. With a speed limit that often dips as low as 15-25 mph, coupled with frequent stops for photo opportunities at spots like Wailua Falls, Waianapanapa State Park, and Keanae Peninsula, you're looking at a full-day's journey.
Without stops, the drive itself can take anywhere from 2.5 to 4 hours one-way depending on traffic and road conditions. However, to fully enjoy the scenic drive and make the most of the beautiful waterfalls, hiking trails, and food stands along the way, it's advisable to allocate a full day, roughly 10-12 hours, for a round-trip adventure. Some travelers even choose to break the journey over two days to explore the Hana Town area and the Haleakala National Park region more thoroughly.
Where to Start the Road to Hana from Kihei?
Starting the Road to Hana from Kihei is a straightforward process, but one that requires a bit of planning. Kihei is about a 20-30 minute drive from Kahului, where you'll connect to the Hana Highway (also known as Route 360 or Highway 31) to commence your journey.
Route to Kahului from Kihei: To get to Kahului from Kihei, you'll usually take the South Kihei Road to the Piilani Highway (State Route 31), then proceed to the Honoapiilani Highway (State Route 36), which takes you directly into Kahului. Once you're in Kahului, look for signs directing you to the Hana Highway, and you're on your way.
Where is the banana bread on the Road to Hana?
One of the most popular spots to grab mouth-watering banana bread on the Road to Hana is at Aunt Sandy's, located near Keanae Peninsula. Another option is the Halfway to Hana stand, which is, as the name suggests, roughly halfway to Hana. Both spots offer freshly baked banana bread that’s a hit with travelers.
Yes, the Road to Hana can and does experience closures, often due to weather conditions, landslides, or ongoing maintenance work. It's crucial to check for real-time road conditions and alerts before you start your journey. The Hawaii Department of Transportation provides updates on road conditions and closures. If you're on a guided tour, the tour operators usually have the most current information and can modify the route as needed for safety.
What's the Best Time of the Day to Start the Road to Hana?
Ideally, aim to hit the road by 7 a.m. or earlier. Starting early can't be emphasized enough. You're looking at a day-long adventure that you don't want to rush. The Road to Hana is notoriously crowded, especially during the high tourist seasons. An early start allows you to beat the crowds, secure the best parking spots at popular stops like Twin Falls and Waimoku Falls, and fully enjoy the natural beauty of East Maui.
What's the Best Time of Year to Experience the Road to Hana?
The best time to drive the Road to Hana largely depends on your preferences. However, many consider the dry season, which runs from April to October, to be ideal as you're less likely to encounter rain. If you prefer a less crowded experience and don't mind a bit of wet weather, the rainy season from November to March could be a good option. Just note that during the wet season, the trails might be muddier, and some areas may be less accessible due to the rain.
What should I pack for the Road to Hana?
Snacks and Drinks: Food stops are limited, so pack some snacks and water for the journey.
Clothing: Comfortable, breathable clothing is advisable. Bring a swimsuit if you plan to swim, and a light rain jacket just in case.
Footwear: Comfortable shoes for walking are a must. If you plan to hike, sturdy hiking boots are recommended.
Cash: Not all places accept cards along the route, so it’s good to have some cash on hand.
Maps and Guides: Since cell service can be unreliable, consider bringing a physical map or downloading a Road to Hana app for offline use.
Are There Gas Stations on the Road to Hana?
Gas stations along the Road to Hana are few and far between. If driving yourself, make sure to fuel up before the drive. Here are the few places to fuel up on the Road to Hana:
Paia Town: This is the last major town before you officially start the Road to Hana journey. It's strongly recommended to fill up your gas tank here as the next available gas station is quite far.
Hana Town: There is usually a gas station here, but it's near the end of the road. Prices are also typically higher than in more populated areas.
Keanae Peninsula: Occasionally, there might be a temporary pop-up fueling station here, but it's not reliable and should not be counted on.
What's the Weather Like on the Road to Hana?
Keep an eye on the weather before you head out; flash flooding conditions can make an already challenging drive even more so, requiring even more time for a safe journey. In the wet season (November to March), be particularly cautious as the roads can become slippery, and visibility may be reduced. Always pack rain gear and extra food and water just in case you get delayed by heavy rain.
Can I use Rental Cars for the Road to Hana?
Rental car companies in Kahului and Kihei often provide vehicles that are specifically designed for the unique terrain of the Road to Hana. This might include SUVs or other high-clearance vehicles, and sometimes they'll have extra amenities like built-in GPS to help you find all those hidden waterfalls and scenic vistas.
Road to Hana Itinerary Planning is a Journey Itself
Planning a vacation itinerary for the Road to Hana allows you to fully immerse yourself in the early-morning serenity of Twin Falls to the evocative history of Kahanu Garden. Tailor your journey to match your interests, be they photography, history, botany, or adventure. Whatever your passion, the Road to Hana is an experience that offers a fulfilling journey through the very heart and soul of East Maui. Walking the hidden trails of Waianapanapa State Park or savoring the tastes of local cuisine in Hana Town, serves as a chapter in your adventure discovering Maui's unmatched beauty and enduring spirit.
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