Hana Highway Overview For First Timers
Those who are unfamiliar with the Hana Highway aka the “Road to Hana” will look at their map and say, “Oh, it’s only 52 miles. We can make it to Hana in about an hour.” Well, not unless you’re flying… literally. Aptly dubbed “The Divorce Highway”, the Road to Hana has an exhausting, and many times harrowing, 617 hairpin curves and 59 unforgiving one-lane bridges, not to mention an incredible number of blind spots along the way. And, since the speed limit is 25 mph or less the entire way, that puts the drive time, (with few to no stops), averaging about 2.5 hours — and that’s without encountering any traffic or other diversions.
Oh, and there are more obstacles to making it there “on time”, like being mesmerized by all of the incredibly beautiful waterfalls, local handmade jewelry, fragrant flowers and leis, fresh pineapple, banana bread and a host of other Hawaiian culinary delights to be discovered at the roadside stands. You decide what you want to focus on and just let us take care of the rest.
Road to Hana Tour Map
Best Road To Hana Stops
Waterfalls are popping up all over the Hana Highway! When the weather cooperates, (meaning it rains enough, but not too much), there will be waterfalls a plenty on the Road to Hana. The first couple of waterfalls are a big draw for those who don’t know any better, and a traffic hazard to those who aren’t used to driving on a narrow road with numerous blind curves. Parking is impossible at these waterfall stops, which is why taking a tour makes the experience a breeze.
Our expert guides know the best waterfalls to go to (hint: they aren’t the first several you will see), and our extra large, elevated viewing windows allow you to snap a killer shot without even getting out of our custom designed comfort cruiser! Perfect for those times when a waterfall is going off and it’s raining a little too much to risk getting that new camera you just bought for the trip all wet.
Hana – The Easternmost Tip of Maui
The journey to Hana is not about getting to the cute plantation-era “Town of Hana” but to the greater region. The Town of Hana stretches from a little bit before Kahanu Gardens to just before Koki Beach although we still consider a larger area “Hana”.
In and around Hana is where most visitors making their journey on the scenic highway will stop to have lunch. Many people crowd into the local places or get takeout from the restaurant window. Our Maui tour comes prepared with a picnic so you can enjoy the sites longer.
Facts & Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Is The Road to Hana?
52 miles is what is most referenced but that is from Kahului. Add another 15-20+ miles from your hotel to Kahului. To do the round trip, expect to travel about 150 miles. Make sure your tank is at least 3/4 full!
How should I go to Hana, Fly, Tour or Drive?
Everyone has their own ideas about experiencing the road to Hana. We have done it each way and they all have their points.
Air: Getting in the air is always nice, the perspective can provide a greater appreciation of the land and waterfalls but you can’t hear and feel it. It’s over in 45 mins and you still haven’t really experienced it.
Drive: You pick where you want to go and how much time you want to spend. That normally works out to spending too much time at the wrong places and miss out on the really great stuff around Hana.
Tour: A guide handles everything for a fun, stress-free, entertaining and educational day. Relax and go with the flow, there is a lot to see over a very large area, most visitors don’t realize it.
Is The Road To Hana Good For Me? (Children, Seniors, Teenagers etc)
We have seen a lot of people on the road to Hana. It’s really a personal experience and you can enjoy it with the right preparation.
Babies (less than 6 months)
Normally they are the best for traveling and doing whatever. The road movement will keep the baby rocking to sleep all day long. Well timed stops to walk, take pictures, eat and use the restrooms will allow the day to fly by.
Infants (7 months to year)
Some of these children tend to be more fussy and need longer stops. If you child loves car rides and doesn’t get car sick then it can be a good day. It’s good to bring plenty of distractions as for parts there is a bit of time between stops.
These little ones are full of energy and want to be moving all around, all the time. At most stops there is no place for a toddler to safely explore, even with a parent, due to the slippery surfaces, the road proximity, sharp rocks and cliffs.
These children know enough but often forget the safety basics. Make sure they have some skills on slippery rocks, steep paths and getting wet. Pack band-aids, it will happen.
Older Children & Teenagers
This is a great age for the road to Hana, able to explore, swim, climb and be inspired. The beauty, richness of culture, food and things to do will them in school so they can pay for their own way back.
Make a local friend, go hiking, camp in Kipahulu and be respectful of people and their land. You will have experiences that will become great stories.
Everyone on the road is ohana (family). You go with a tour and they are your family for the day. Everyone can enjoy the road but know your limits. Can everyone handle 6-7 hours in the car over the day?
Romantic, no matter how you go. Best you let someone else drive. It’s not called the “Divorce Highway” for no reason. If you made a deal with your partner about no driving comments on vacation, this will definitely break that deal.
Seniors & Elderly
Most tours are catering to all groups. There is a lot to see in short walking distance. Many stops are also ADA compliant which is wonderful. The tour is filled with stories during the 40s and 50s which makes for a great connection.
What guidebook should I use for the road to Hana?
There is no real good one we can recommend. Too often the guidebooks tell you about places you should not visit. Those places end up being on private land or you need to cross private land to get to. For that reason, those are reserved for the members of the community. Your best bet is to get a local guide, stay in Hana with a local or take a tour.
Where is Red Sand Beach & Should I Visit?
Please don’t. It’s a beautiful place, look at the pictures but avoid it. The path is treacherous. The scene of too many rescues and deaths each year. Respect the local wishes to keep their tax money to beautification projects instead of rescues.
What Should We Bring With Us?
On our tour bring;
- A towel and a change of clothes if you plan to swim.
- A good pair of shoes to explore with.
- Medicine for preventing car-sickness.
- Cash for fresh fruit & treats at roadside stands.
- A good camera or fully charged phone.
- A light jacket.
- Reef-safe sunscreen and/or a hat.
There will be lots of places that your guide can stop to pick up treats and other things to accompany the drinks, picnic lunch and breakfast provided on tour.
If you are driving, include everything above plus;
- Plenty of fuel.
- Cold drinks.
- A picnic or extra money for lunch.
- A map or guide to locations.
- List of desired stops.
- Entrance fee for National Park.
- Knowledge of safe locations for that day.
- Information on road conditions.
- Experience driving in a variety of conditions, on steep roads, one lanes and more.
Are There Many Places To Eat Lunch?
Yes. There are many places to eat and the quality varies from so-so to awesome. Pick your locations, wisely and hopefully you don’t spend too much of your day waiting for it.
What will the weather be like?
Expect to be rained on at one point in the day. The wind will blow, the sun will disappear for periods of time but overall it should be a pleasant day.
Should we stay a night in Hana?
Staying a night or more in Hana is pretty special. There is not too much going on unless you are friendly with some locals.
Can I go all the way around?
Going all the way around means going thru areas that are a lot more dangerous than the road to Hana. Single lane gravel, uphill on cliffs with vehicles coming the other way. You don’t want to have to back up. The road deteriorates quickly in the many storms so rental car companies don’t want you damaging their cars over there.
Is this a dangerous highway?
It is dangerous for over-confident, impatient drivers who like to go fast. The same is true for those who distract easily, are not good drivers and tend to be accident prone.
Do we need a Jeep?
A jeep is not really ideal for the road unless you know specific places you want to travel to. It won’t help in flash-floods and landslides which are the most often reasons for road issues. The small jeep windows makes it hard for pictures and putting on the roof, in the many rains you encounter gets frustrating after a while.
What is the Reverse Route?
The reverse route is for those who plan to go all the way around Haleakala starting in Upcountry Maui and coming back to Kahului on the Hana Highway. Like everything there are pros and cons. The issue for most is that by the end of the day, the incredible road to Hana has lost it’s appeal, as everyone is tired and want to simply cruise.
Should we take a guided tour over driving ourselves?
Asking the question or seeking answers to the question means you probably should seriously consider it. It’s amazing how much you can get out of a day with a local guide. Take a tour early in your vacation and benefit from all the knowledge they have. You will be trying things, enjoying places and talking story like no other visitor around!
How long will the drive take?
It really depends on how many stops you plan to take. Your mission of the day might be to Hana Bay. Plan from your hotel about 7.5 hour round trip with only a few stops to take pictures and the usual traffic.
Road To Hana Tour
It would take any normal traveler several visits to figure out what they should spend time seeing and doing on the Hana Highway, and beyond. Having an expert guide helps you to narrow down your bucket list so you can focus on what you really want to do and have your ‘ultimate Road to Hana experience’ the first time you go. Indeed, “It’s not the destination, but the journey…” and a great guide will make your adventure on Valley Isle Excursions’ Road to Hana tour so wonderful you’ll want to go again, on your next visit to Maui!
Driving The Hana Highway
Many people visit Maui and wish they could live the island lifestyle. However, as with anything it’s not always sand and mai tai drinks all day. The cost of living is high. Traffic can be difficult because of narrow roads. Most people living here have 2 to 3 jobs. But everyone who lives on Maui knows that the best way to recharge and regain a solid appreciation for why they are here is to go out to the “Hana Side”. In Hawaiʻi we call these getaways “Holo Holo”.
The meaning of Hana in the Hawaiian language is “work”. The people who live in Hana area work very hard to make a living in this remote paradise. Whether farming taro, fishing out in the rough east shore ocean, hammering nails in the blazing heat or working cattle in the steep mountainside rainforest, it is a hot and sticky place to make a living. This road also sees over 400,000 visitors a year, most of whom have never seen or traveled a road like this before. That’s why we who live here have learned the rules of the road and how to spread the Aloha to all and respect the residents and culture of this amazing part of Maui because… living in such beauty is worth it!
I would have to say there are many ways to go “Holo Holo” to Hana but here are my favorites:
I have driven to Hana twice before, but leaving the tour to Valley Isle allowed me to actually see the trip for the first time and relax. Fantastic! Finally, I saw the farthest side of the island for the first time. Beautiful.