The Road to Hana is arguably one of the most beautiful drives you can ever experience and a must when visiting Maui. Lush greenery and waterfalls of every stature await at every bend as you twist and turn the coastal roads and deep tropics. Set aside an entire day to fully enjoy these Road to Hana stops, as there is a lot to see and admire. Remember, the Road to Hana is not about the destination, but rather the journey itself. In fact, unless you are spending the night in Hana you probably won’t spend much time there at all, so don’t feel any urgency to hurry up and get there. Take your time and enjoy the unique and natural beauty of every stop.
The Hana Highway itself is 64.4 miles but with all the stopping and sight-seeing it will take you a good 5-6 hours before reaching Hana town. The Hana Highway is made up of two lanes with many one-lane bridges. It is long and windy, but not entirely difficult to drive and any rental car can handle the drive. The earlier you leave the better to beat the crowds and have more time enjoying the secluded paradise. My recommendation is to be at the mile marker 0 no later than 8:00AM. Be sure to pack a swimsuit and towel as there are many places to cool off with a swim. You may also want to pack some snacks or a lunch to stop and have a picnic, but there are several fruit stands (some of them are on an honor system) along the way if you find yourself getting hungry. There are easily over 50 stops on the Road to Hana. My guide will show you the best and the beautiful, but also the stops that are most easily accessible by anyone and everyone. Sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride through paradise.
Just past mile marker 2 is the first set of waterfalls on the Hana Highway, Twin Falls. If you are eager to see some waterfalls right away, then make this your first stop but don’t spend too much time here as there are many greater falls to be seen. It also requires a longer walk to get to, so if you can hold out, my recommendation is to skip it.
If you are into plants and flowers, a beautiful arboretum and botanical garden can be found just around the mile 10 marker called Garden of Eden. It is $15 per person to enter and you can either walk or drive through it. It is also a nice place to stop and have a picnic breakfast if you haven’t eaten already.
One and a half miles past the 10 mile marker is the first waterfall worth stopping at, Haipua’ena Falls. It is located on a small turnout on the far side of the bridge. A 30 second trail will lead you to this humble yet beautiful fall and pool.
Just over 1/2 mile past the 14 mile marker there are three pullouts and the middle one provides a beautiful lookout spot over the Honomanu Bay and Valley.
As you continue down the Hana Highway past the YMCA, you will find the road into Ke’anae Peninsula. The coastal road leads to a dead-end where the tide breaks on jagged lava boulders and makes for a beautiful photo opportunity. This was one of my favorite stops. This is where the cover photo of this post was taken.
Back on the Hana Highway just before the 17 mile marker is a pullout on the right and a bridge with a path about 75 feet to the left that leads down to spectacular pool for swimming and cliff jumping. This pool is locally known as Chiang’s Pond. If you’re hungry, 1/3 mile past the 17 mile marker is a delicious banana bread stand called Aunty Sandy’s.
Between the 19 and 20 mile markers there is a very beautiful and popular waterfall called Upper Waikani Falls, also known as Three Bears Falls. To get to these falls, at the far side of the bridge on the mountainside is a short and easy path after you get past the initial big first step. These magnificent falls are good for swimming, photographing, or simply admiring.
Shortly past the 25 mile marker you will find yourself directly above Makapipi Falls. Pull over on the far side of the bridge to enjoy a waterfall from a new perspective, this time below you as you watch the waterfall beneath you and stream out all the way to the ocean.
Next to the falls, take Nahiku Road two and a half miles through the quaint community of Nahiku. Once you hit the church at the dead-end, park your car and walk the bridge that leads to the bottom of Nahiku. This walk is truly one of a kind with so much greenery and beautiful little waterfall and pond. The path will lead you all the way down to the shoreline, where you will find yourself surrounded with even more beauty. During wet season, you will find another stream leading to a big pool with a small waterfall about 150 feet uphill from the shoreline guard rail.
Back on the Hana Highway around the 27 mile marker in upper Nahiku is Coconut Glen’s. Definitely stop here for the world’s best dairy-free coconut ice cream!
Just past the 32 mile marker is the road to Wai’anapanapa Park where you will find the volcanic black sand beach (Pa’iloa Beach.) Here you will also find some spring-ged freshwater caves. Black sand is definitely a sight to see if you never have before.
Without even really realizing it, you will see that you have found yourself in Hana. The journey does not end here, as there are many more sights to see. If you are staying the night in Hana, wake up to witness sunrise at Venus Pool (Waioka). It is located at the 48 mile marker (as you leave Hana, the mile markers are now counting down) and a 15-minute hike from your car. Here you can cliff jump, swim, or just sit and enjoy the beauty. You may even be able to spot some whales during whale watching season. If you are not staying the night in Hana, continue your ride to the Red Sand Beach* (Kaihalulu). The Red Sand Beach is a little difficult to get to and not a traditional beach to hang out or swim at, but it’s worth a stop for its unique beauty. If you’re staying in Hana and want to visit a more typical beach, Hamoa Beach is perfect.
*Update! Edit: A reader wrote in with the following note: “We are trying to reduce the visitations to this beach as it has numerous safety issues…This is a beautiful spot that needs to be kept quiet. Too many visitors are coming unprepared…” There are other red sand beaches in Maui that are safer and more accessible. I can no longer recommend visiting the Red Sand Beach in Hana. Visit at your own risk.
Your journey to and through Hana will culminate rather climatically if you visit ‘Ohe’o Gulch AKA Seven Sacred Pools. Pools upon falls upon pools can be found here inside Haleakala National Park, as well as a beautiful bamboo forest hike. The entrance to the park is $20 per car and it is also a popular place to camp overnight. Haleakala is also one of the most beautiful places to watch the sunrise, so if you plan to return your entry ticket will let you into the Haleakala Summit.
Now that you have experienced all the beauty and wonder of the Road to Hana, it is time to make the journey home. Many people turn around and go back the way they came, but my recommendation is to keep driving through southeast Maui and through Upcountry to see a side of Maui that is so different from the rest, but beautiful in its own right. If you have any energy left, a stop at the Haleakala Crater may be worth checking out.
There are very few drives in the world that could compare to the beauty of the Road to Hana. Chapman’s Peak in South Africa or the Pacific Coast Highway in California barely come close to the beauty that is the Road to Hana. Driving through Costa Rica was reminiscent as both tropical forests and the shoreline hugged the roads, yet still the unique beauty of the Road to Hana in Maui is forever engrained in my memory where no other place can compare.
If you’ve driven the Road to Hana I want to know what your favorite stops were. If you’re planning a trip and have questions, feel free to leave me a comment or send me an e-mail.