THE ROAD TO HANA
DON’T JUST SURVIVE THE ROAD TO HANA, DO IT IN STYLE!
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.
EXPERIENCE HEAVENLY HANA
- Coastline Overlooks
- Eucalyptus Trees
- Black Sand Beach
- Hana Bay
Hotel pickup and return is included!
SEE THE ROAD TO HANA ON THE BEST TOUR ABOARD A CUSTOM CRUISER!
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 aplenty 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.
MAUI’S BEAUTIFUL WATERFALLS
The Road to Hana reveals stunning waterfalls all along the way, enveloped by lush tropical rainforest with a surprising number of fantastic photo opportunities. Get your camera ready!
Learn how to photograph waterfalls before your adventure on the Hana highway with some must-have tips from our pro. He’s been shooting the many waterfalls on Maui for the past 20+ years. Not only does he want you to get the shot of a lifetime, but so does VIE. We love happy customers, and we’re not afraid to help you get the shot by taking photos of you and your party in front of any attraction. Just ask, and we’ll be more than happy to oblige.
The water levels of the falls can change rapidly because the watersheds for many of the waterfalls are very small. Fortunately, some of Maui’s waterfalls maintain a minimum flow because they are fed by multiple springs. Because much of the water on the island is diverted into the East Maui Irrigation Canals at several points along the highway (to assist in crop irrigation), the spring-fed waterfalls (if you know where to find them) will be flowing, even when it’s unusually dry.
RAINFOREST FLORA & FAUNA
Hana’s rain forest is very unique, even compared to all the other islands’ lush jungles. It has always been one of the richest throughout Hawaii’s islands regarding species variety and natural resources. Because of Hana’s exceptional beauty and floral diversity, it was as prized a place to live during ancient times, just as it is today.
It’s no wonder that Maui attracts visitors from all over the world. There so are many simply stunning, and often very rare, varieties of flowers and flowering trees on Maui that can be found thriving in Maui’s 17 climate zones (no, that’s not a typo!) it’s downright incredible. Bird of Paradise, Heliconia, Hibiscus & Protea is just a few favorites among hundreds of other exotic plant species found along the Road to Hana, creating an eclectic, visually thrilling palette of colors rarely seen elsewhere.
Centuries ago Hawaiians brought soil down, by hand, from the mountains to create the Keanae Peninsula. Their fantastic display of physical labor is a testament to how revered this land is in Hawaiian culture. It is no wonder so much history is found here!
In recent times, the peninsula is also home to some delicious banana bread that perfectly compliments the variety of tropical fruits found at stands along the Road to Hana.
WAI’ANAPANAPA STATE PARK
Waianapanapa State Park has a real Hawaiian treasure. Today, a black sand beach created by thousands of years of surf repeatedly pounding on a geologically fresh lava flow is a perfect spot for exploring and picture taking. Unique, and hot (don’t forget your shoes), sand makes for quick tanning (or burning), so be sure to slather on the reef-safe sunscreen before you catch some rays.
Included within this park is a blowhole, several sea arches, and pillars -plus caves filled with legends. Hear these ancient stories, and others, directly from our Maui tour guides as you head to this fantastic location.
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.
Around the corner from a more famous beach, this locals beach is a great place to take a stunning picture of ‘Ālau Island.
The centerpiece of the local community with its beach park, pier, hall, fishing hale, and little shops.
This store has everything a visitor or local could need including many of the local staple needs like lei making supplies.
BEST ROAD PAST HANA IF DRIVING ON YOUR OWN
For those looking to make a day trip to Hana, they need to plan their time very carefully. You can spend all your time enjoying the road to Hana, leaving little time to enjoy the road past Hana! Filled with even more natural beauty (if that was possible) with fewer people and worse roads.
SOUTH WAILUA WATERFALL
At almost 100 ft tall, this iconic waterfall is easily viewable right from the bridge where this and many other beautiful shots are taken.
HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK
Home to the Pools of Oheo and the Pipiwai Trail, this section of Haleakala National Park deserves a visit if your schedule allows. Entrance price gets you into the summit as well within 3 days.
CHARLES LINDBERGH GRAVESITE
Palapala Hoo’mau Church in Kipahulu is the final resting place for an American aviation icon. This area was the only place Charles Lindbergh found peace.
Kipahulu area includes most of the wetter regions past Hana. Wailua Falls, Haleakala, and Palapala are all within a short distance of each other.
Venturing further out brings you up and away from the ocean to the area below the Kaupo Gap. This is the windswept backside of Maui, is full of historical stories and raw beauty.
After a very bumpy road, followed by a very smooth one, brings you high up on the side of the Haleakala. This residential area has many little shops, attractions, and views to Lanaʻi and the other islands.
FACTS & FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Staying a night or more in Hana is pretty special. There is not too much going on unless you are friendly with some locals.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
WATERFALLS, WATERFALLS, WATERFALLS!
Knowing where to go for the best photos is also a big time saver and makes the whole experience so much more relaxed. Our expert guides are well trained in everything you can see and do on the Road to Hana and will make sure you get ample opportunities to get those amazing waterfall shots!
Guests have told us that they didn’t do the drive themselves because it was raining, which is smart from a safety standpoint (this road is known for landslides and rockslides). However, our guides know that just because it’s raining in Kahului, it doesn’t mean it’s raining in Hana. But, it does mean that certain waterfalls will be flowing, while others may not, depending on where it’s raining. One of the most picturesque waterfalls, is Wailua waterfalls and it is past Hana, many visitors miss this beauty.
Rest assured, our guides get the latest information about which waterfalls are flowing and which aren’t, before departure and during the trip. Unless there is a severe drought, you will see waterfalls, and we know all the best ones! So, we invite you to join us for your ‘best day on Maui’ with our Road to Hana Tour!
Our Custom Cruisers have been specially designed with observation and photography in mind. The problem when driving the Road to Hana in an ordinary rental car, or even a Jeep, is that you’re too low. The guardrails and barriers are strategically placed to keep people from going into the waterfall or off a cliff, unfortunately their position ruins most attempts to photograph them, unless you’re taking blind shots (which is just guessing by raising your arm as high as possible and clicking away, hoping you got something worthwhile), or you get out of the rental car. Our Custom Cruisers eliminate this issue and allow you to get the shot while remaining dry and air-conditioned, regardless of weather. No need to wreck that new camera you bought just for the trip, right?
Knowing where to go for the best photos is also a big time saver and makes the whole experience so much more relaxed. Our expert guides are well trained in everything you can see and do on the Road to Hana and will make sure you get ample opportunities to get those fantastic shots!
ROAD TO HANA GUIDE
Part of the charm to a Maui vacation is finally letting yourself slow down, relax a little and slip into “Maui time.” Our experienced Hana tour guides are personally trained during their 6+ week trial period by the owner of the company. They are educated on everything about the Road to Hana and beyond while making sure you have your “best day on Maui.” Our guides are unique because they’re also educated on every possible driving safety precaution and are incredibly knowledgeable and respectful of the local driving etiquette, (which makes the journey oh-so-much more safe and enjoyable for everyone).
ROAD TO HANA DEATHS
Almost every day, to our amazement, we see visitors behind the wheel who think they’re going slow enough to take pictures while driving, or just get caught up in the scenery and forget they’re supposed to be driving and either cause or nearly cause a severe accident. Sadly, there have been numerous deaths over the years on the road to Hana because of this sort of recklessness.
The Hana Highway is perhaps the most beautiful highway in the world, but it can be deadly. There are sheer cliffs with 100 ft + drops in some of the areas without guardrails! And, even if you did hit a guardrail, it’s no insurance policy that it will prevent you from injury. If you’re not familiar with this road, it’s best to take a tour.
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!
CARING, FUN GUIDES
Our guides are well trained to drive you while they entertain you with stories, describing the sites and pointing them out as you cruise to the next stop. Your driver is a local, who loves the island and wants to share it with everyone.
All our guides have friends, cousins, aunties and uncles living in Hana area. They treat the area with respect and try to help out this remote community when they can; like making the daily newspaper delivery from Kahului.
HANA CLASSIC PICNIC
Our tour guides have their favorite places to lay out a classic picnic for you. Some of our guides choose to stay in Waianapanapa to have lunch, while others will venture further into Hana or even to a local flower farm.
Many guests, even those who have spent the morning sampling the cuisine found at roadside stands find our classic Hana picnic very satisfying. Gluten-free and vegetarian options are also available, made fresh daily by a locally respected catering company.
MAUI CUSTOM CRUISERS
Our air conditioned comfort cruisers are customized with extra large captain’s seats and special viewing windows to make sure you stay dry and don’t miss a thing! You can choose to experience on Valley Isle Excursions Road to Hana tour:
- pineapple fields
- spectacular cliffs
- bamboo jungles
- local wares (jewelry, baskets, trinkets)
- natural lava formations (e.g. arches and blowholes)
- tropical streams and pools
- colorful and fragrant island flowers
- handmade leis
- rainforest vegetation
- all you can drink (non-alcoholic)
For almost 20 years Valley Isle Excursions has been providing a tour that includes the Hana Highway. We have seen it all from washed out bridges, being stuck overnight out there, caught in flash floods to the most magical days you could ever believe, where everything went perfectly.
We have taken all those experiences and designed the most perfect, action packed, day for everyone from children to seniors. It’s a long day of exploring so be prepared for that. The only thing you need to do is to meet your guide at your hotel / condo at the time and place stated on your confirmation. Some of these resorts are huge so make sure you are at the right entrance.
DRIVING THE HANA HIGHWAY
FOLLOW THE ROAD SIGNS
PULL OVER FOR THE LOCAL DRIVERS
PARK OFF THE ROAD
DON'T STOP ON BRIDGES
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 substantial 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 the 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 fantastic part of Maui because… living in such beauty is worth it!
I always drove myself out to Hana to photograph until I was hired by a tour company to shoot brochure images. Having someone to drive and answer questions about what I’m seeing was a significant advancement not only in knowledge but also in my ability to get shots from a vantage point of being higher up off the road and the huge windows enabled me to see over railings and vegetation.
Some of the best scenic views are on the narrow one lane parts of the road where it’s impossible to stop and get a good photo. This changed my perspective about driving myself, and I found that it was way less stressful and I was not as tired at the end of the day. I felt we made more stops than I would have in a rental car and getting back in a coolly air-conditioned van was an excellent relief from the tropical heat and humidity. If I only have one day to photograph Hana, I always go out on a tour van.
There are only a couple spots to camp in East Maui unless you know some landowners who would let you pitch a tent in their yard. Two of the most well known places along the Road to Hana are Wai’anapanapa State Park where Hana’s black sand beach is located and the Pools of Oheo in Haleakala National Park.
Though both places are busy during the day but by around 5pm they all head back to the other side of the island and you have the place to yourself. Camping at Wai’anapanapa consists of a large grassy area next to the bathrooms or rustic cabins you can rent from the parks service. The cabins are usually something you have to reserve months in advance.
The Pools at Oheo are quite different. This National Park’s camping spots along the shore have incredible ocean views! It is a real treat to wake up early and have the pools all to yourself, very romantic! Since the sun rises off the ocean on this side it makes for some stunning lighting for photography. The bamboo forest trail up the mountain is nearby and once again, you will have it all to yourself in the morning hours.
Recently acquired by Travaasa International, Hotel Hana is one of the most beautiful and quiet resorts on the island. It is expensive, but with outstanding gourmet meals and spa included it can be one of most enjoyable getaways in the entire state. Many celebrities stay here because of it’s luxury and exceptional privacy. It is possible to fly into tiny Hana airport as a package deal from Kahului or even Oʻahu.
Since this resort is located right in Hana town there is plenty to do and see. Again, it’s hard to beat waking up for stunning sunrises and heading out to explore after a gourmet breakfast. The spa treatments are world renown. Definitely worth a few hours of your time. Watsu messages (floating water message in a saltwater pool) and the Noni Mai Tais will change your life!
VRBO & B&B STAYS
There are quite a few rental properties available in Hana including condos, houses and cottages. There are plenty of listings at airbnb, vrbo or check out the tripadvisor reviews. Most are near or in Hana town with several sprinkled throughout the area. We stayed in one on the bay once and got some outstanding sunrise photos of the bay and beach. We also hiked from Hana all the way to Waianapanapa State park which is about 5 or 6 miles along the coastline. That was an epic hike and one of my all time favorite adventures in Hana.
Well there you have it. Whichever way you do it, just make sure to see Hana however you can. Hana (East Maui) is the crown jewel of Maui and a definite must do!