My name is Talia Grace and in this article I will be sharing my experiences on the Road to Hana – truly one of the world’s greatest and most beautiful drives. I had the good fortune of spending two weeks in Maui and I pretty much explored the entire island, including much of the Hana Highway.
Before I cover everything you need to know about the Road to Hana, let me tell you a little bit about myself. In 2018, I graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Washington with a double-major in Finance and Economics. Since then, I have lived out of a suitcase, traveling the world.
Today, I’m a full-time nomad, a social impact entrepreneur, a professional photographer/videographer, and a Strategy Consultant at Deloitte Consulting, specializing in healthcare AI. Camera in hand, I let work dictate where I go and ensure I take time to capture the adventures along the way.
Hawaii is somewhere that always intrigued me but somewhere I never thought I could live due to the island location (not a convenient weekly flight to the client site). However, working remote during Covid, I realized it was the perfect opportunity to live in Hawaii. Living here, I get to enjoy a 5am – 2pm workday, which leaves plenty of time for adventures.
Two Awesome Weeks in Maui
I spent two weeks in Maui and explored the entire island. The first week I stayed at the Banana Bungalow, a legendary party hostel in Central Maui complete with hammocks, hot tubs, an amazing staff and cheery decor.
Hostels are such an amazing way to meet fun, adventurous people and stay in a new place affordably. The hostel offered free day trips every single day which was awesome! We visited Haleakala National Park and hiked 12 miles through the volcanic summit (our hostel guide did this in flip flops)!
We also took a trip out to the Kaanapali area, where we explored the resorts (I’m a fan of exploring different resorts, especially on Maui where the resorts are next level), and snorkeled at Kaanapali Beach. We watched many tourists jump off Black Rock and then enjoyed a fiery sunset.
On another day, we did the Road to Hana which was a full, jam-packed day that I will get into below. The second week in Maui, I stayed at a resort in the Wailea resort area, working from the hotel early in the day (either from the balcony or the hot tub) and then adventuring around in the evenings.
One night, I traveled to the Kula area for goat yoga. It was quite the experience! The owner was fantastic. You could tell how much she loved all of her goats and I learned that she even had a goat mentor, which was something I had never considered before. They were very well-behaved and it may have been the most memorable yoga class I have ever done.
Another day, we watched the NBA Finals game while bar-hopping from resort to resort right along the Wailea coast. Once the game was over (and my Bucks won), we ran, hyped up on Pina Coladas, and jumped into the ocean to watch the sunset. That was a pretty special day indeed!
We also had a local friend of a friend in Maui who picked us up in his truck one afternoon and took us to his favorite snorkeling spot in West Maui near Honolua Bay. After some awesome snorkeling with tons of fish and even a turtle spotting, we headed to the infamous Star Noodle, known for their family-style shared plates, sake cocktails and airy atmosphere.
My Experience on the Road to Hana
Prior to visiting Hawaii, I had never heard of the Road to Hana. Whenever I go to a new place, I do research to see what the best adventures are. As soon as I started googling Maui, the Road to Hana became a must-do!
I planned the rest of the itinerary around it to make sure we were able to see it – even though I was nervous after reading about it as one of the most dangerous roads in the world. We did a tour with Maui Tour: Road to Hana, which was epic. The guide was a local who lived on the Road to Hana.
Not only did she feel really comfortable driving on the road but many of the locals smiled and waved at us along the way, which was actually very nice given that some locals are not excited about all the tourism in Hana.
Along some of the longer, wooded stretches where there wasn’t a lot to see, our guide discussed the politics. She described the council meetings, which she was active at, where they had debates around tourism policies.
Apparently, many locals want to implement policies to reduce tourism on the Road to Hana but others, like our tour guide, realize how important tourism is to their economy and advocate for tourism-friendly policies.
She also described growing up on the road. It was cool to see places and have them come alive as she shared memories from her past. We stopped at a fruit stand with someone who looked like he could have been a local. Although, our tour guide let us know that he had just popped up last week.
He wasn’t from Hana and it turned out the pineapples he was selling were from Costco (he even left the sticker on)! The pineapple was still enjoyable, even though we did get a chuckle when we realized our “authentic” pineapple was nothing more than a Dole plantation product.
Sadly, there had also been a deadly car accident the night before our tour. Our tour guide knew the local who had died (a drunk-driving accident) and told us stories about his past. She also filled us in on the celebration that would occur that night at the spot along the road where he had driven off.
While tragic, it was very interesting to hear about the car accident from her perspective and to learn their way of coping with what was a not uncommon occurrence in Maui (a type of roadside celebration of life).
I was thankful that we had a guide so we could go to all the best spots and stay on time for our black sand beach stop (which you have to schedule in) without having to worry about traffic and logistics (we didn’t have reliable cell reception). The tour cost $260 pp and since we didn’t have a car, renting one would have been close in cost with a lot more stress for us.
Lush Scenery Along the Way
We started our tour on the north side of Maui, driving past the town of Paia and Ho’okipa Beach Park before the real “Hana” tour began. As we started, the tour bus was a little dismayed because the weather was quite gloomy and misty. However, our knowledgeable guide explained that the northern part of the Road to Hana was always pretty wet and oftentimes overcast.
As you would expect with this weather, this was where there was lush vegetation and waterfalls around every corner. It felt like a rainforest. As you progress, the rain and mist subsides and by the time you reach the end of the road, the sun is shining and the lush vegetation has given way to a dry climate with horse stables, farm animals and miles of golden grass.
The whole way you are driving along the coast but your access varies. At certain parts, you stand at the edge and look down at blue water. On other parts, such as Black Sand Beach, you can access the water from the beach.
Highlight of the Road to Hana: Pineapples!
My favorite area of the road – and this may sound kind of funny considering there are so many awesome attractions on the Road to Hana – is what I will call the pineapple stretch where we got to see yellow, red and white pineapples. I loved this section because I learned something new.
Prior to the tour, I only knew about the yellow dole pineapples. Having our guide tell us about all the different pineapples was cool. Our whole van got excited about the pineapples and we stopped at each of the different pineapple patches to take pictures and hear about the differences in flavor.
Of course, like I mentioned, we also made our own little pineapple stop to get one that was cut out. But as I noted, despite the fact that they grew in many places along the road, it turned out to be a Dole one from Costco!
5 Places to Visit on the Road to Hana
There are so many stops along the road (we probably made 15-20 stops) so narrowing them down is definitely a hard task. This is especially true because it’s all the little and unexpected stops added together that make the road so epic and legendary. That being said, my top 5 places include:
1. Wai’anapanapa State Park (Black Sand Beach)
You need to make a reservation for Wai’anapanapa State Park ahead of time. Then you will get assigned a specific time to come and enjoy the area (totally worth it). We had lunch here, enjoying delicious sandwiches on the black sand beach and watching people jump around in the waves.
On the right side of the beach, there is a cave you can enter to watch the water crash in and recede, again and again. It’s pretty relaxing and also a powerful reminder of the force of nature on offer in the Hawaiian Islands.
There is also a blowhole that is fun to watch. According to our guide, a rescue team had to come and save some people who had jumped into the blowhole because they “thought it would blow them back out” (according to her, they were all okay). Regardless of whether her anecdote is true, it was crazy imagining people jumping into the hole!
At Wai’anapanapa State Park, you can also find a fun, short hiking trail along the black cliff bluffs which we hiked. The wind rushes through your hair and on your face, and you will discover some scenic and private spots.
2. Ke’anae Peninsula
Located at mile marker 16, the Ke’anae Peninsula is a beautiful area with icy blue waves continuously crashing upon black rocks. I had a ton of fun watching the waves roll-in and guessing whether or not it would be a huge wave with a mist that would reach me where I stood on the shore.
3. Pua’a Ka’a Falls
Situated near mile marker 22, these falls are very close to the road but offer a great area to dip in. They are not too deep and the water is a gorgeous color. Since the weather was a bit rainy and I didn’t feel like being cold and wet the rest of the trip, I held back from jumping in but those in the water looked like they were having a great time. This is a very family-friendly area.
4. Halfway to Hana Road Stand
At Halfway to Hana (around the 17 mile mark) there is an amazing roadside stand aptly named “Halfway to Hana”. Here you can enjoy some delicious treats like banana bread varieties and many different snowcone flavors.
They also have ice cream, sandwiches, a kalua pork plate, hot dogs, chips, soda, water and more. It was hard to choose a snowcone flavor but eventually we settled on cherry and pineapple. The scenery on the Road to Hana definitely tasted better as I let shaved ice melt on my tongue.
5. Wailua Falls
You can see Wailua Falls from the road, which offers views of the 80-foot waterfall and plunge pool. This waterfall is the most photographed waterfall on Maui (of course, I had to take my own photo or ten). Though we didn’t stop for a swim, you can venture on a short but slippery hike down to the base, where there is a great upwards-looking view.
It was here that I saw the most traffic and stressed tourists. In fact, our guide had to play “traffic guide” for 10 minutes to help with congestion, a lot of honking cars and many frustrated tourists in rentals. Our group watched comfortably from our van while munching banana bread.
What Else to Check Out on the Road to Hana
We heard the Pools of ‘Ohe’o (Seven Sacred Pools) were amazing, and our guide confirmed it was one of her favorite spots, but unfortunately due to the hiking involved we skipped it. You can access the pools via Pipiwai Trail – a 1.8 mile route that winds along a string of pools and waterfalls.
Make sure to check out the rainbow eucalyptus trees. They are located along the Road to Hana in various places, but especially near the start of the road. The trees have these nice shades – a rainbow of earthy colors.
Do the Road to Hana with a Local Guide
The Road to Hana is a “highway” that has over 600 turns (almost all blind), 56 one-lane bridges and 52 miles of road. If you go slow, it’s not too bad. The road was not something I personally would have wanted to drive because it was windy, long and requires slow, steady concentration. However, if you are a confident driver with a relaxed but vigilant mindset, it’s not too bad.
Going with a local who had driven the road hundreds of times was awesome because she knew when to speed up and slow down. She was also an expert at manoeuvring in one-way areas, backing up and finding parking spots for our stops. The road itself was a ton of fun! Driving along and hearing her stories was one of my favorite parts, on par with the stops.
Need to Know Before you Go
- Recognize that the weather changes along the route. If you do the entire road, be prepared for rain and shine, as you might get both.
- Bring a swimsuit. There are so many waterfalls and scenic coastal beaches to enjoy by hopping into the water.
- Book a reservation for Wai’anapanapa State Park. If you are with a tour, check to make sure it’s included on the tour. If you go independently, make sure to create a reservation ahead of time and time your trip so you enjoy the black sand beach, which is such a cool stop.
- Be patient. Slow and steady is the name of the driving game.
- Be kind and respectful to locals. We learned about the locals’ attitude towards tourists from our local guide who had spent the majority of her life living in Hana. Many of the locals are not fans of the tourists and may sometimes be rude. However, remember that you are in their neighborhood and treat them kindly regardless of their attitude to you.