Maui’s Road to Hana, legendary with good reason, is celebrated on posters, T-shirts and travel lore. It’s one of the world’s classic road trips. Heart-stopping views appear at every bend; every known color of green drapes valleys. Waterfalls straight out of jungle movies punctuate ravines.
It’s just 54 miles from Pa‘ia to Hana, but you’ll traverse 56 one-way bridges and lean into 617 curves. If you take less than 2.5 hours to drive this stretch, you’re foolhardy. Less than four hours and you’ve missed some of the best Maui has to offer. The vehicle of choice? A convertible with the top down.
Sites mentioned here are located by mile marker, Maui’s effective location guide. But on this road, they’re puzzling. Hana Highway starts out as Hawai‘i (HI) 36, but after the junction with HI 365, becomes HI 360. Reset your odometer to 0 because the mile marker numbers start over. Then after Hana Town, when the road becomes HI 31, they change again. This time they’re counting down from 51.
Places of interest along Maui’s Road to Hana are listed in the Pa‘ia-to-Hana direction. You’ll probably want to save some for the return trip and skip others. Some of them are makai (toward the ocean), so heading in the Hana direction, you’d have to cross oncoming lanes.
First stop, Pa‘ia for picnic supplies and gas. Mana Foods is popular for healthy choices. Café Mambo and Paia Fish Market have terrific salads and sandwiches. For a splurge, reserve Mama’s Fish House (MM8), best done on the way home. Next pause is at Ho‘okipa Beach Park, (MM9) the world-famous spot for windsurfing and kiteboarding. Huelo Lookout (MM 4.5 after reset) offers terrific views, sugarcane juice and hot waffles. At Waikamoi Nature Trail (MM 9.5) stretch your legs on the trails where a sign reads, “Quiet. Trees Working.” Garden of Eden Arboretum (MM 10.5) makes an excellent place for your picnic lunch. Or take a detour to Ke‘anae (MM 16) and eat at the shore where waves crash wildly on lava rocks.
Between the two stops are state waysides, Kaumahina (MM12) and farther along, Pua‘a Ka‘a (MM22.5). Both have spacious parking lots and rest rooms, but one or the other is often closed.
A virtual oasis is Halfway to Hana (MM17) stand,where you can snap up banana bread or a lilikoi (passionfruit) sundae. People argue over Maui’s best banana bread, and this is a contender. Just beyond is Wailua Lookout (MM19) for a beautiful view of the village and taro patches.
Everyone has a favorite waterfall on Maui’s Road to Hana. Ching’s Pond, (just before MM 17), attracts locals. Waikani (MM 20.5) is one of the most easily seen. Its three cascades run at full power if it’s been raining. If you’re going past Hana Town, Wailua Falls (just past MM 45) is another stunner.
A note of caution: Climbing down or up to waterfalls is often muddy, slippery and very steep. Lots of chance to ruin a vacation. Mind the “No Trespassing” signs. And parking is hazardous on the narrow road.
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Nearing Hana, Nahiku Marketplace (MM28) is a must for some coconut candy, Thai food, coconut shrimp, coffee and Ti Gallery souvenirs. Don’t blink, or you’ll miss the turnoff for Ka‘eleku Cave or Hana Lava Tube (MM31). The black sand beach at Wai‘anapanapa State Park (MM 32) merits a long pause or an entire day. Some lucky people spend the night at Travaasa Hana in the famous hamlet at the end of the road. Others move on to Ohe‘o Gulch (MM 42) with its terraced pools. This Kipahulu section of Haleakala National Park has a visitor center, restrooms and picnic area. Beyond that, if you have time and energy left, is Palapala Ho‘omau church at Kipahulu (left at Maui Stables sign), where Charles Lindbergh is buried. It’s as magical a spot as any on earth.