Road to Hana: Drive Yourself or Take a Tour?
Experiencing the Road to Hana hits just about every “Top things to do on Maui” list out there, so you definitely must work it into your Maui vacation itinerary. The question is will you dare to drive the famous road yourself or treat yourself to a Road to Hana guided tour?
Our recommendation to Maui visitors is to take a tour over driving yourself. Although it’s hard to believe our opinion on the subject could be unbiased, being that we are a tour operator, read on to learn our genuine reasons why we encourage Maui guests to please heavily consider booking a tour to experience this world-famous drive. There are many factors that tend to go unconsidered when weighing the two options.
CONNECT – Embarking on an all-day excursion through a tour presents the perfect opportunity for you to connect and ‘talk story’ with a local and hear first hand his or her perspective on what Maui is all about. At Valley Isle, our guides are friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about sharing insights on Hawaii’s unique environment and culture with you. Allow a local guide to facilitate a stronger connection within you to the land, wildlife, culture and beautiful sights you will encounter along the Road to Hana.
Experiences on Maui should be meaningful and memorable. Getting the perfect photo for your next IG post is great, but we hope that visitors will also seek a deeper understanding and appreciation for the environment, people and culture they are visiting.
REDUCE TRAFFIC – We appreciate visitors who choose to take a tour vs drive themselves because they help us out with the issue of overcrowding and traffic congestion on the Road to Hana and at the various stops along the way.
There is no denying that Hawaii tourism stats trend up year by year. Aunty Yoli, owner of Valley Isle Excursions, is a retired Hana tour guide who began doing tours back in the 1980’s. She says if Maui visitors were visiting Hana back then, it was primarily by way of a tour company. Very few people dared to make the journey on their own. They would only go with a local who knew the road.
In the last 10 to 15 years, Aunty Yoli has seen that completely change. More and more, Maui visitors are venturing out and exploring the island by their own means. Without doing research on this changing trend, it’s safe to assume it has a lot to do with advancements in technology and the rapid rise of things like the smartphone, Wi-Fi, and social media. It’s never been easier for people to share and access information on any topic, including blogs and tips on exploring paradise.
Not that there is any bad intention with sharing tips on traveling the Road to Hana. In fact, the intention is to help folks be safer and have a smoother, more enjoyable experience. But the result of that is, well, there are a ton more people now making the journey on their own. If there is anything one reads about the Road to Hana, it’s that it has over 600+ hairpin turns and 50+ single lane bridges. With those conditions, one can understand that it does not take much to cause traffic congestion on this road!
Various groups in tourism management and county and state authorities continue to explore ways to mitigate over tourism on the Road to Hana. Until effective measures are implemented, one thing that will help is something you see encouraged in every state to reduce traffic on the road… Carpooling! Technically, taking a tour with us is merely carpooling to Hana and back with new found friends from around the world!
AVOID THE STRESS – If you’re going to vacation on Maui, then vacation on Maui. Treat yourself to the Road to Hana experience. Your intention is to soak in the many magnificent sights along the way and let nature inspire your soul! I’m not sure how much of nature’s beauty you expect to enjoy if you need to drive, or even co-pilot, along an extremely narrow road that has several blind turns and is etched in very steep cliff sides. The task screams STRESS!
One of the top tips for driving the Road to Hana is to be sure to let locals pass. Most of the residents you encounter on the Road to Hana are simply needing to get to work, or get home to their families, and they only have one road by which to do that. Imagine you’re driving along and for every car that catches up behind you, you need to check to determine if it is a local resident or not. If it is, now you need to find a suitable area to pull over a bit and let them pass. The attentiveness it takes to be a safe and respectful driver as well as a sightseer along the Road to Hana is more work than it is worth. Pay to have a professional, local driver and guide do what they do best, and gift yourself the ability to sit back, relax, and enjoy.
SEE MORE – It is true that when joining a group tour your guide may not be able to cater the time at each stop and overall tour schedule according to your individual preference. Even then, it is still very likely that you will see a lot more along the Road by touring with a professional verses exploring on your own. A guide will make sure you experience all the significant sights and stops at a nice pace and educate on what you’re seeing all along the way.
BE SAFE – Thousands drive the Road to Hana every day but there are indeed dangers along Hana highway that every person must consider whether resident or visitor, whether taking a tour or driving themselves. Some of those include: rock slides or landslides, flash floods, high surf, sharp, blind turns, unexpected cliffs or drop offs, and rocky terrain. When exploring with a tour guide, they’ll help you stay safe.
SPARE COMMUNITY RESOURCES – Hana is a small town with approximately 1500 residents. The area is limited in emergency response personnel as well as medical facilities. The increase in tourism to Hana and a higher number of tourists getting hurt or in dangerous situations in Hana leaves residents concerned with the issue of strained emergency resources. Going to Hana on a tour reduces the chances of being in need of help or rescue. Your guide will be able to direct you where and when it is safe or permissible to walk, hike, or swim and provide regular safety reminders throughout the trip.
CONTRIBUTE TO SUSTAINABLE TOURISM – Businesses across the industry are one by one signing on to boost sustainability efforts. Some aspects of sustainable tourism include being more culturally-minded and community-focused, helping to educate visitors on safety issues, taking care of the land and sea, heeding local laws, supporting small, local businesses and more. Hawaii and its residents suffer significantly from the effects of over-tourism. We must all do our part to preserve Hawaii’s natural beauty and quality of life for local residents. Taking a Road to Hana tour is one way to embrace and support efforts to help manage tourism in one of Maui’s most popular destinations.
Of course, not everyone will be able to book a tour and we understand that just because someone opts to drive themself it does not imply that they wish to be unsupportive of Hawaii’s sustainability goals. If you do choose to drive over take a tour, please do some research and planning beforehand. The Road to Hana Highway Regulation provides a great resource on proper Road to Hana etiquette.
If you decide to book a tour, consider Valley Isle Excursions! We have been providing Hana tours for over 2 decades and have excellent customer reviews. Book directly with us for instant savings on the tour price and receive a discount code for 20% off our Haleakala Sunrise tour! We also offer a no hassle 48-hour cancellation policy. That means if your travel plans change, or you change your mind about going on our tour altogether you can cancel up to 48 hours in advance of your tour date and receive a full refund!