We have now driven Maui’s famous Road to Hana twice. It’s a long, winding, gorgeous road, full of waterfalls, bamboo forests, hiking trails, natural pools, beaches, lava tubes and humans holding guide books. It’s earth porn at its finest, and it’s something you definitely want to do when you come to Maui.
The Road to Hana: Maui’s Best Road Trip
The thing is, there’s no shortcut to get there, and there’s no shortcut to get back. The first time, we drove the 40ish miles to Hana and then turned immediately around and drove the same way out. 40 miles doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you’re going no more than 15mph the whole time and stopping every couple of miles to explore something new, this makes for a very long, very exhausting day of driving, but still a great experience. Plus it still got us home in time for a post-sunset dinner. The second time around, we stayed the night in Hana and drove around the back side of Haleakala the next day. I liked doing it this way, but it makes for two days of intense driving instead of one. Pick your poison.
Road to Hana Essentials:
- Water – ’cause dehydration ain’t fun for no one.
- Water shoes – ’cause you’re going to be walking through water, and they make shoes for that.
- Snacks – ’cause you don’t want to be the grumpy gus who forgot their kettle chips.
- Cash – ’cause there are lots of yummy fruit and ice cream stands and not enough credit card swipers.
- Flip Flops – ’cause you don’t want to spend the whole time in those unfortunate looking water shoes.
- Bug Spray – ’cause mosquitoes are assholes and love waterfalls too.
- Camera – ’cause there’s some pretty awesome stuff you’re going to want to capture.
- Backpack – ’cause where are you going to keep all that crap?
- Patience – ’cause it’s going to be a very long day in the car.
Best Road to Hana Stops:
Four Falls of Na’ili’ili-Haele (1/2 Mile Past Mile Marker #6)
This is a hike, but a fairly easy one. It’s around 15-20 minutes each way, and you do have to cross a couple of streams and climb up a short rock wall with a rope, but it’s not too hard at all. My mom did it just fine. Just wear your adventure pants and you’ll be alright.
Lower Puohokamoa Falls & Haipua’ena Falls (Between Mile Marker #10 and #11; 1/2 Mile Past Mile Marker #11)
Short, easy to reach spots with beautiful waterfalls.
Punalau Falls (1/4 Mile Past Mile Marker #13)
Umm, hello one billion fruit flies and no water flow. Not sure I’d go back here since it’s a slippery hike through rocks that takes around 15-20 minutes, but if you’re looking for some protein, it’s a great place to accidentally eat bugs. Mmm.
Ching’s Pond (8/10 Mile Past Mile Marker #16)
Apparently this is a really great place to watch the local cliff divers, but we didn’t get lucky enough to see it in person. We did, however, see flowers where (I can only assume) someone died from cliff diving, though. Leave the stunts to the locals and take the path down here to enjoy the view from the water. It’s crystal clear, ice cold and beautiful.
Halfway to Hana (Just Past Mile Marker #17)
You’ve made it this far. Pat yourself on the back and get some damn banana bread.
Wailua Valley State Wayside (Just Before Mile Marker #19)
A great spot to enjoy the view of the taro fields in Wailua and the clouds rolling over the mountains.
Upper Waikani Falls – “Three Bears Falls” (1/2 Mile Past Mile Marker #19)
A total must. Get over the doozy of the first step and hike down to get up close and personal to your very own Big Daddy, Mama and Baby waterfalls. Beautiful!
Nahiku Road (Just After Mile Marker #25 by Makapipi Falls)
Take the 3 mile road down through the charming and lovely town of Nahiku, where you’ll find your next dream home location. Stop and watch the waves crash into the cliffs.
Coconut Glen’s (Past Mile Marker #27)
At this point, you’re going to want some ice cream. And no worries, you lactose-intolerant peeps. This is non-dairy ice cream made from coconuts (don’t ask me how), and it’s awesome. Try the Lilikoi.
Wai’anapanapa State Park (Past Mile Marker #32)
Take a walk on the black sand beach, explore a lava tube, watch the waves crash on the sea arches and go swim in cave. You pretty much can’t lose if you stop here.
O’heo Gulch – “Seven Sacred Pools” (Past Mile Marker #42)
Holy shit! You’re past Hana. Congrats. Don’t celebrate too hard and miss these pools. Pay the $10 and use it to get up to the summit of Haleakala in the next 2 days. And be aware that the drive up to Haleakala is way more terrifying, in my opinion.
Charles Lindbergh’s Grave (Mile Marker #41)
Follow the signs to the Palapala Ho’omau Church and you’ll find the spot. Take a walk to the park behind the grave and enjoy the view of the cliffs down below.
If you plan on driving around the backside, you’re officially here. And mostly on your own. 10 miles of intensely bumpy, partially unpaved road and a couple hour drive through the polar opposite of the rainforest you’ve been driving through most of the way here, you’ll find yourself once again in civilization.
And that’s the Road to Hana, my friends. I also recommend the Red Sand Beach and Hamoa Beach in Hana if you’ve got time to stop and relax, but for the most part, I think we’ve covered our favorite stops. Enjoy your adventure, and don’t get too caught up on the destination.
We’ve also driven the Road to Hana twice. The first time all I could think of was WTF. This is a lot of work and borders on insane. The second time this past May was a lot more fun. Knowing what to expect made it easier. We took a picnic lunch and ate it in the park at Hana harbor. We hiked the Pipawei Trail up to the falls. We made it Lindburg’s grave, which was something I really wanted to see. If you’re going to Maui, the Road to Hana is a must see.
Totally agree, Mike. It can be thrilling and exhausting or too much work and frustrating depending on what you’re up for that day. I want to do that trail next time, I heard it’s pretty amazing. Thanks for sharing!
I went on this day trip a few years back and loved it. Your pictures are fantastic and they brought back some great memories!
Definitely, Jen! Such a fun drive. It’s like another world!
These places are gorgeous. Love your post, not only has fantastic pictures but also with useful tips. Are you interested in posting such expertise on a location based mobile app? If yes, we would like to invite you as a beta tester to try out our new iphone/ipod app, while it is still in the development stage.
This is a quick demo of the app.