Road to Hana Maui Guide
The Road to Hana is a right of passage for all first time visitors to Maui. Its legends of hidden waterfalls for swimming, stunning coastal views, black sand beaches and roadside fruit stands have drawn tourists for decades. Ideally, you would even spend a night under the stars in a small boutique hotel in Hana. However, Dan and I completed the Road to Hana in a single day and I'm happy to share all my tips for a successful day trip.
Jump To: Best Tips | When To Go | Where to Stop | Where to Eat
When To Go
EARLY. I cannot stress this enough. Depending on how many stops you choose to make, the trip will be about 10-12 hours round trip. We left around 6:30 AM from our hotel in Wailea. We had little traffic all the way up to our first stop at Waiʻanapanapa State Park. By the time we left the park, there were tour buses pulling up and several families piling onto the black sand beach.
Best Stops on the Road to Hana
Everyone I talked to insisted that the Seven Sacred Pools (aka Oheo Gulch) should not be missed. However, since it is another thirty minutes past Hana, most people run out of time and have to skip it. So instead, we decided to drive straight there.
Our first stop was at the black sand beaches of Waiʻanapanapa State Park, about ten minutes from Hana. On a calmer day, you can actually swim here. When we arrived, the weather was overcast and seriously windy, with strong waves crashing into the cliffs. We walked the trail along the beach up onto the rocky cliffs for a better view. I was wearing sandals and almost made it back to the beach before they broke, so you may want to consider better shoes.
Next, we drove through Hana on to the Seven Sacred Pools at Oheo. It was a short walk from the parking lot to the falls viewpoint. As you can tell, the waterfalls were really overflowing with strong currents from the recent rainfall. Supposedly, you can actually swim in the pools when the flow is calmer. Sigh, next time I guess.
If you have time, the Pipiwai Trail is a great 4 mile (2 hours) round trip hike that starts from Oheo. It features a large banyan tree, a bamboo forest, and, yes, more incredible waterfalls.
Feeling accomplished so far, we started our return trip toward Paia. Our last stops included a few roadside waterfalls (there are so many!) along Hana Highway, the Garden of Eden Arboretum, and the bamboo forest between exit 7 and 8.
The Garden of Eden Arboretum is a family owned estate which hosts beautiful trails that you can walk or drive. When we arrived, we were greeted by four beautiful peacocks roaming the grounds and flashing their colorful feathers. We also found stunning views of a waterfall and the coastline, a mango tree over 100 years old, and several rainbow eucalyptus trees among many other species of tropical foilage.
Where To Eat
We ended our road trip in Paia at Mama's Fish House, a famous restaurant that is recommended by just about everyone. It is pricey, but it was basically our first meal of the day other than a few snacks we had packed in the car.
I would highly recommend making a reservation at Mama's Fish House whether you go for lunch or dinner. We arrived around 5:30 PM and got so lucky they were able to fit us in because we heard them turn away the couple behind us.
There are plenty of other options along Hana Highway, as well. You can find several roadside stands serving fresh fruit, banana bread, and many other hot dishes early in the drive up until about the Halfway to Hana point. Later in Hana you can find several restaurants right along the road serving Thai, Barbecue, or standard American food.
Best Tips for Driving the Road to Hana
- Start driving as early as possible!
- Drive straight to Hana to beat the crowds and avoid traffic, then take your time stopping at whatever interests you on the way back.
- Fill up on gas before you leave! The drive is only about 100 miles round trip so you should not need to fill up again.
- Pack snacks in a styrofoam cooler filled with ice in the car.
- Plan your stops ahead of time. You won't have time to see everything on a day trip, so make sure you prioritize what you do want to see.
- There are so many waterfalls literally right along the road, so don't feel like you need to stop at every waterfall trail. We skipped all of the early waterfalls (Twin Falls, etc) and I don't feel like I missed anything.
- Decide who is the better navigator and who is the better driver. The roads can be treacherous with narrow turns, steep drop-offs, one-way bridges, and waterfalls literally spilling onto the road.
- Rain or Shine! We had really overcast weather, but I was honestly happy that we spent our sunny days at the beaches in Wailea instead of on the road.
- There were clean restrooms at both Waiʻanapanapa State Park and The Seven Sacred Pools at Oheo.
- Take the convertible! We booked through Budget Fastbreak and it was comparable to an economy vehicle. We rented a Jeep Wrangler on another island and I'm personally really glad I did not have to drive it on this highway. The convertible has better gas mileage and a bigger engine for navigating the steep inclines and hairpin turns.