During our recent Maui family vacation, driving the iconic Road to Hana was at the top of our must do list, and now I understand why it's so highly recommended. Starting in the town of Paia, this popular stretch of highway heads east for 64 miles towards the small town of Hana, and showcases much of the natural beauty of Maui. Along the way you will find numerous waterfalls, a spectacular black sand beach and plenty of scenic vistas. The road is rather narrow in spots, with over 54 bridges, many which only allow for a single lane of traffic to pass, as well as over 600 curves with a minimal shoulder in many spots. You can choose to leave the driving to someone else as part of a tour, but I think it’s best viewed on your own time. Read on for 6 tips to help make the most of your drive, along with a short list of our favorite stops along the spectacular Road to Hana.
1. Leave Early and Plan to Spend the Entire Day. We had great intentions to leave by 7 a.m., but didn’t end up leaving Kihei until around 7:45. While we never really noticed a bottleneck with the actual traffic (we went on a Thursday), the first few stops were already crowded with people by the time we rolled through. Since we had already spent the afternoon in Paia and at Ho’opika Beach Park, we decided to skip the first few popular stops to get ahead of the crowds. At the end of the day, we arrived back at our condo in Kihei around 8 p.m. You can spend the night in the Hana area, but know that accommodations are limited and are booked well in advance.
2. Download an App or Bring a Guide. This is invaluable advice! Our condo office had free copies of a Road to Hana CD that we intended to borrow, but since we failed to pay attention to the office hours sign, we weren’t able to pick up the CD the morning we left. I had bookmarked several blog posts with some of the stops I was interested in, but as soon as we passed Paia, our cell phone service became spotty. Luckily, the friendly folks at Jaws Country Store, recommended using their Wifi to download the GyPSy Guide. I can’t imagine having done the drive without it. It was like having a private tour guide, who knew all the great places to stop. Definitely the best $4.99 we have ever spent on a trip! The tour works offline, using only your GPS. in addition to all the great advice on the way to Hana, my husband really enjoyed the ride back, listening to our tour guide tell stories about some of the history of the area and the Hawaiian people. Here’s a few screenshots from the app.
3. Brings Cash. Everything I read ahead of time suggested that cash is important, especially for the the food trucks along the route, so we did come somewhat prepared. What I didn’t fully understand was the high cost of the food. Along the way we stopped for banana bread ($5 for a small loaf), along with some amazing coconut shrimp ($15 a plate which we shared) from Island Chef, and roasted coconut ($5 a bag) at the Nahiku Marketplace near Hana. The shrimp was definitely worth it, with 6 large shrimp freshly fried in a yummy coconut breading. So if you are planning to eat along the way, bring a decent amount of cash for the day.
4. Pack food, drinks & lots of water. If you need supplies, the Kuau Store in Paia is a good place to stop on your way to or from Hana. The coffee bar is perfect for an early morning departure, and they have an assortment of sandwiches and drinks for the road if you are looking for something to grab and go. Plus it’s fun to take a picture by the surfboard fence! Jaws Country Store, mentioned above, is the last convenience store you will see until you reach Hana. Regarding water, we found it easier to purchase gallon jugs of water from the grocery store, then fill several large,refillable water bottles each day before we headed out. A full tank of gas is also important, and once you leave Paia, there are no gas stations until you reach Hana!
5. Wear Durable Water Shoes & a Bathing Suit. This goes without saying in Maui. No matter where we traveled, we often found ourselves stopping at a beach and jumping in the water. On the Road to Hana, there are plenty of opportunities to take a swim, and sturdy water shoes/hiking sandals are essential. Often, we found ourselves scrambling down rocks for the perfect photo opp, or to get to the base of a waterfall. Sunscreen is also essential!
6. Enjoy the ride. The most important thing to know is relax and enjoy the ride. It’s not about the destination, but rather the journey along the way. We decided to enjoy a few special places for a longer period of time, rather than stop at every opportunity along the way. Our only disappointment was arriving at the gate of Haleakala National Park only to find that the Pools of ‘Ohe’o are closed indefinitely for safety reasons. Chalk that one up to not doing all my homework ahead of time!
Here are a few of our favorite stops on the Road to Hana:
*Paia and Ho’opika Beach Park: Before we drove the Road to Hana, we spent an afternoon shopping and eating in Paia, and then we visited Ho’opika Beach Park where we found sea turtles resting on the beach. I would suggest doing this on a separate day, as you can easily spend a few hours in the area.
*Garden of Eden Arboretum (mile marker 10.5): there is an admission fee but we felt it was worth the money; the views are breathtaking.
*Keanae Peninsula (the road veers left just after mile marker 16): This stop offers incredible photo opportunities of the rocky coastline. It’s just a beautiful place to see the wild ocean.
*Nahiku Marketplace (mile marker 29): Fun place to stop and sample some local cuisine and browse the work of local artisans; this is where having cash comes in handy.
*Waianapanapa State Wayside Park (around mile marker 32): This was the place where we spent the most time. It’s a short hike down to the black sand beach (where the water shoes really come in handy as much of the beach consists of large pebbles). Bring a towel for swimming, and when you are done, explore the sea cave and other parts of the park.
We also stopped at a number of waterfalls, some which offered easy access down to the water. It's easy to get hung up in trying to see everything, but make the decision that is best for you and your family. You really can’t go wrong no matter where you stop along the magical Road to Hana.
There were so many spectacular spots on the Road to Hana, but these were some of our favorites!
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