My family and I went to Maui for Thanksgiving, 2015. Our vacation was going well, the sun was shining and let’s face it, Maui is amazing. We’ve been before and heard the #1 thing to do on the island was “The Road to Hana”. We missed it on our last trip so we decided we would go this time.
The Road to Hana is a top tourist attraction on Maui because it offers numerous lookouts and hiking trails to see epic waterfalls, beaches, gardens, and the rainforest – all of which are great. But, in order to get to the trailheads and lookouts, you have to drive through an extremely windy and narrow (often one-lane) road (named “Hana Highway“) filled with blind turns and constant traffic. The road itself has approximately 600 curves and 54 bridges. That’s a lot of curve and a lot of bridge! The majority of it sits in a rainforest so it’s typically wet, which isn’t exactly the road conditions you want when you’re on top of a cliff that has some pretty insane drop offs. At the end of the road, it became one of those nice-to-check-off-the-bucket-list things, but, in my opinion not a must do thing. The views are incredible, but you can certainly find the “pretty” all around Maui without having to do this. That is, unless you’re into sitting in a car for most of the day, experiencing numerous panic attacks and nausea and surrounding yourself with lots of tourists! I’m exaggerating, maybe 🙂
Maui is known as the “Valley Isle” with plenty of breathtaking beaches (with 120 miles of coastline and over a 30 mile stretch of beaches), so I would actually recommend spending your time relaxing on the beach instead of taking on this crazy drive. That being said, if you’re on Maui with extra vacation time on your hands then you should probably go. And not just because it pops up on the top of most Google searches for things to do on the island. It is actually an amazing journey, but only if you are well prepared. So if you wanna go on Hana, YOU NEED TO BE READY! Find tips below on How to Best Prepare for the Road to Hana.
Before anything else, preparation is the key to success. Alexander Graham Bell
- Plan the drive – In advance, plot out exactly what you want to see and do. You will not be able to do it all so look at which stops appeal to you and enjoy more time outside. According to RoadtoHana.com, “Most visitors tend to zip to and from Hana with a checklist of sights to photograph. This is the wrong way to do it. Do your due diligence beforehand, decide on a few locations that look the most intriguing, and take your time at each location.”
- It’s the journey, not the destination – Hana is a sleepy town filled with….well not much! My family felt obligated to make it all the way but looking back we would have been fine going only part of the way to make it a half day trip.
- Tourists – When you get out of your car, you let out a huge sigh of relief that you made it to that stop alive. And then you’re happy you’re outside! There’s guaranteed to be a ton of tourists at each mile stopper, unless you intend on hiking out to a more remote area.
- Pack appropriately – There aren’t a ton of beaches along the way where you can swim but you can bring a swimsuit if you want. Definitely wear hiking gear and tennis shoes because there are plenty of trails to explore. Bring Dramamine if you’re prone to motion sickness, bring plenty of water, road trip snacks, phone/camera chargers, and bug spray! Also, fill your gas tank in the town of Paia before you go as there aren’t any gas stations along the route.
- Get the R2H CD Guide – We heard a lot about this CD guide but didn’t have time to pick it up before our trip. Order in advance so you have it ready, my family wishes we would have!
- The Driver – You don’t have to drive, you can organize a tour via a bus company. However, if you rented a car and are the driver then you will have to deal with the obnoxious windy road and many distracting views that you won’t be able to easily pull over to fully take in. Many encourage that you switch off drivers along the way because it is a lot to handle.
- The Passenger – You may expect to be thrown from side to side in the back of a van, not knowing if you’ll ever get to the next stop. You’ll also hold your breath most of the way. Know and trust your driver!
- Maps & Cell Signal – There isn’t great cell reception out here. There is one road, stay on it.
- Timing – If you can plot out the adventure over one night and two days, you will be much better off. Many recommend that you wake up early, get the day started right away, and then spend the night in Hana and make the trip back the next day. Also, do not drive at night!
- The Beaches – I was most excited for the beaches along The Road to Hana but I didn’t realize that some would require a fairly steep and dangerous hike to get to. The red sand beach named Kaihalulu Beach was too strenuous for my family – we started making our way down and unfortunately didn’t have the proper footwear to go all the way. I would highly recommend if you want to see the famous beaches on the route or just past Hana, that you bring proper footwear in order to check them out. We did see this EPIC black sand beach that was very easy to get to and also hung out at Hana Beach Park (which had a ton of little crabs running around!) that has easy parking adjacent to it.
Overall, I think the Road to Hana is a great experience if you are prepared. My family made the most of it but wanted to share these tips with you in case you go. If you don’t get car sick and don’t mind windy roads, this is an experience you may want to add to your list. I took a million photos, but below are a few from the trip that shows some views along the route.
Have you been on the Road to Hana? What was your experience? What were your favorite mile marker stops? Feel free to add your comments.
My Favorite Road to Hana Mile Markers (MM) and Photo Gallery
At the halfway point, you can try some tasty banana bread! And there are a couple rest stops along the way. But don’t expect to see a McDonald’s!!
As you say, this is a bucket list thing. I am glad we did it, but it does take a very full day. Maybe we should have gone to Mama’s for dinner on the way back to the hotel, that was a great place.
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haha exactly! Mama’s was delicious 🙂
I like the idea of switching out drivers – – now you tell me!!