The Road to Hana: A Must-Do Hawaiian Excursion

Ke'anae Peninsula
Ke’anae Peninsula

The Road to Hana is a must-do for all vacationers to the Hawaiian island of Maui. The legendary route spans from Kahului to the opposite side of the island, the final destination being the small coastal town of Hana. But as they say, it’s about the journey not the destination. The entire coastal adventure is spectacular and there are several not-to-be-missed stops along the way.

In Maui, the typical vacation hot spots are mostly in the surrounding cities of Kahului, the western portion of the island. Making the coastal trek to the east is well worth it, as it opens your eyes to a whole new experience of the widely undeveloped tropics. Starting in Kahului, I’ll do a brief run through of some of the remarkable stops that I stopped at along the Hana Highway. As a side note, it is important to plan ahead and have some maps with you, as some of the key attractions are completely unmarked. Most drivers keep track of the upcoming stops by knowing the certain “mile markers” that each attraction is located at. I will note the mile markers (mm) when I am discussing the stops.

1. Pa’ia

Shortly after Kahului, there is a small surf town called Pa’ia. This is a great place to stop in one of the small cafes and pick up your morning Kona coffee. A few minutes down the road from Pa’ia is the first stop, Ho’okipa Beach Park (mm 8). This beach is world famous for surfing and there is a great lookout spot to watch the local surfers catch some massive waves.

2. Garden of Eden

Next, there is the “Garden of Eden” Botanical Garden Arboretum (mm 10.5). This major attraction is comprised of acres upon acres of nature trails alive with beautiful plants, flowers, and trees. There are also great lookout points over the ocean and above waterfalls. You may chose to simply drive to the lookout points and then carry on or spend some time in the gardens and take a walk through the trails.

The Garden of Eden Botanical Garden Arboretum
The Garden of Eden Botanical Garden Arboretum

3. The Honomanu Bay Lookout

The Honomanu Bay Lookout (mm 14) is worth a quick stop and makes for a great scenic photo. Simply pull over to the side of the road and take it all in.

4. Ke’anae Peninsula

Next, the Ke’anae Peninsula (mm 17), a small village located right on the rugged coastline. This is an ideal spot to see some massive waves crashing on to the shoreline rocks and snap some great photos. Also, you MUST stop at the small banana bread stand in the village (can’t miss it – there will surely be a line-up), delicious homemade banana bread fresh out of the oven.

5. Waikani Falls

Waikani Falls (mm 21) is a beautiful drive-up triple waterfall. You may chose to pull over or just keep an eye out and drive slowly past, as there isn’t a lot of room to pull off the highway if there are multiple cars there.

6. Wai’anapanapa State Park

Wai’anapanapa State Park (mm 32) is up next. An amazing stop featuring black sand beaches, a coastal trail, caves, and blowholes.

Wai’anapanapa State Park Black Sand Beach
Wai’anapanapa State Park Black Sand Beach

7. Wailua Falls

Wailua Falls (mm 45) is a majestic 80-foot waterfall, definitely worth peaking at.

8. Hamoa Bay

Hamoa Bay (mm 51), one of Maui’s most exceptional white sand beaches.

9. Hana

Not long after you’ll hit the small town of Hana. There is not much to do here but I would suggest stopping at one of the many welcoming restaurants for a traditional Hawaiian lunch.

10. Ohe’o Gulch (The Seven Sacred Pools)

The last major attraction is slightly past Hana, the “Ohe’o Gulch” or more commonly known as “The Seven Sacred Pools” (mm 42). This location was one of my favourites. After walking along a half-mile trail you’ll hit the pools, all interconnected, flowing into each other and eventually down into the ocean. If luck is on your side the pools may be open to swim in (unfortunately for us the water levels were too high). You may also choose to walk along the Pipiwai Trail, about a 4-mile walk including waterfalls, lookouts, and a bamboo forest.

Keep in mind that there are undoubtedly more great stops along the way, but you have to pick and chose your places if you’re wanting to be home by dark. Feel free to research some more! However, I would certainly recommend all of the above.

This is definitely a day trip excursion. If one was to drive straight from Kahului to Hana without stopping it would only take two hours or so, but with all the must-see stops along the way it can easily take at least 4-6 hours. As one may imagine a coastal drive to be, it is anything but straight and smooth. The one-lane Hana Highway is exceptionally narrow and curvy. If you’re not comfortable driving in these sometimes nerve-racking conditions there are many tour companies that provide guided tours. However, I would suggest driving yourself, as it leaves much more flexibility in terms of where you want to stop and how much time you’d like to spend there. Also, all tour buses turn around at Hana and drive back the same way. If you’re on your own, you may continue the ride along the highway (a portion being unpaved – hence why buses don’t continue) and make a full circle trip back to Kahului. Once you are past the uneasiness of the unpaved portion after Hana, it is nothing but a smooth ride along the Maui countryside. There is ocean to your left and vast open hills of yellow grass to your right. This part of the ride is beautiful and it would be a shame to miss.

This adventure along the Road to Hana should be done at least once in your lifetime. Take a day off from relaxing at the beach at your resort or condo and experience the whole island; it has a lot more to offer than you’d think!

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