If you’re planning on visiting the island of Maui, you’re likely debating on doing the Road to Hana, or you’ve frantically researched Road to Hana Maui stops. I’m here to convince you that you 100% need to drive the Road to Hana yourself and I will outline the 10 best stops along the way. If driving yourself isn’t your thing, there are tours you can book, but just know your experience will likely be much different than what I outline in this blog. If you’re interested in other Maui blogs, check those out here. Before we get into the best stops, I want to prepare you for making the trek.
About the Road to Hana:
The Road to Hana refers to a 64 mile long stretch of scenic highway on the East side of Maui that takes you to the town of Hana. It is not the town of Hana that makes this adventure so special; however, it is the entire adventure of getting to Hana. This drive is known as being a bit dangerous and see nerve-wracking because there are 620 curves on the road and 59 bridges, 46 of them are one lane bridges. This alone deters a lot of people from making the trek. If you take it slow and are careful, this adventure may end up being the most memorable thing you do in Maui. While there are tours that will drive you, I highly encourage you to take a rental car. Having your own vehicle allows you do to things at your own pace, stopping when you want to stop, and prioritizing the things YOU want to see. You cannot do that on a tour bus. I’d argue you also get to see a lot more and will experience the best of the best stops doing it on your own.
Things to Know Before You Drive the Road to Hana:
If you’re going to drive the Road to Hana, you need to be prepared. This isn’t really one of those adventures you just wing. You need to be aware of a few things:
- Fill up your gas tank in Paia, this is the last gas station until you arrive in Hana and it will be a LONG time before you arrive in Hana.
- Prepare for this to be about a 12 hour day, if you end up doing most of these stops it’ll be an ALL day adventure.
- Bring cash, snacks, and water–A lot of the food trucks have closed due to COVID so do not rely on getting all your food along the route.
- The earlier you stop the better. Locals drive this road everyday to get to work and they know the road well, so they drive very fast. The earlier you go the more time you’ll have and the less traffic there will be. We left at 6:30am both times we went and we were glad we had.
- If you experience car sickness, be sure to bring some medication to help. Gas stations sell Hana Tonic and it helps prevent motion sickness.
- Always pull over for the locals. They know the route and drive it quickly, so it’ll be less stressful for everyone if you just let them pass.
- Purchase the GyPSy Guide Road to Hana tour for $6.00 in the App Store. It’s an audio tour that plays throughout the drive, even without service, and outlines a lot of the stops and the history of Maui. We found it very informative and it was entertaining to listen to. It’s your own personal tour guide.
- If at all possible, split this into two days. It’s impossible to get to all of my recommended stops in 1 day, so either split the drive up into two days or pick just a handful of the stops that appeal to you most.
Nearly everyone is going to tell you to not take the backside of the road to Hana, I’m here to tell you to take the back side on the way back into town. Some rental car companies prohibit drivers from taking the backside, so if your rental company is one of them, please comply. A lot of other people said you can only drive the backside in a high clearance vehicle–that is not true, we did it fine in a chevy charger. We drove the backside on our way back to our airbnb the second time we did the Road to Hana and we loved it! It was actually an easier drive and the landscape is so different, you get ocean views for quite a bit of it. I will say there is a few blind spots and a stretch of road that is not paved so it’s a bit bumpy, but it was not as bad as we were expecting. I enjoyed seeing the new scenery and the back side was quite a bit less curvy.
The typical out and back route is shown with the blue line, the backside route is the grey line. I recommend doing the blue route on the way to Hana and the grey line on the way home from Hana so you complete the whole circle.
10 Best Stops Along the Road to Hana in Maui Hawaii
1. Keanae Arboritum rainbow eucalpyus trees
The first stop I recommend making is just past mile marker 16, the Keane Arboretum. You only need about 10 minutes at this spot and it’s the perfect place to stretch your legs and walk a bit. The best part of this short walk is the rainbow eucalyptus trees. I had never seen anything like them and I couldn’t believe the sheer size of the trees. I’d argue the stops get progressively better as you continue the route, so if this stop doesn’t impress you, be patient–I promise it’ll get better.
2. Auntie Sandy’s Banana Bread
Yes, this is a must stop along the route! Plus you’ll likely be craving a snack at this time and what better snack is fresh banana bread. Auntie Sandy’s famous banana bread can be found by turning left after mile marker 16 onto Keanae Road. I recommend getting at least two loaves, one for the drive and one for the next day. I thought the day old banana bread tasted even better than the fresh one :). Even if you don’t like banana bread this is still a good stop because you get beautiful views of the coast. The Road to Hana doesn’t offer a ton of coastal views unless you take the backside back into town so I especially enjoyed this stop. If you’re lucky you may even find a coconut that’s been washed up. We were able to find one and crack one open on the rocks. Working for your coconut makes it all the more rewarding.
3. Upper Waikani Falls, “Three Bears Falls”
Upper Waikani falls is located past mile marker 19 and this was without a doubt my favorite waterfall along the whole route. You can spot this waterfall from the road, and when the rate of water flow is low, you can see three separate falls. For the best view, go over the bridge and find parking, then walk back towards the bridge.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, there’s a way to hike down. There’s a small space to climb down, likely closer to where you parked, on your right side if you’re facing towards the waterfall. I would only do this if you’re wearing good shoes and feel comfortable, you can still get a great view from the road. If it’s raining or rain is predicted, I’d avoid going down–flash floods are a huge danger in Maui.
4. Hanawi Falls
Located just near marker 24 is another incredible waterfall worth visiting. I am not 100% confident that the photos I am posting here are actually Hanawi falls, but I’ve done quite a bit of research and I am almost positive they are. This is another great swimming hole and there was a collection of waterfalls in this area. This waterfall was even easier to access than the one above. You will likely see the waterfalls on your right as your driving near the mile marker, these are another set of waterfalls you can see from the car.
5. Black Sand Beach–Waianapanapa State Park
The 5th stop I highly recommend visiting on the Road to Hana is the infamous black sand beach. The black sand beach is located inside Waianapanapa State Park, at mile marker 32. At this point you’re about 3 miles away from the town of Hana.
Please note, when we visited in April you needed a reservation to enter. You will need to purchase both Entrance and Parking reservations, which will require you to reserve a time window. They are very strict at reinforcing your scheduled window, so be sure you’re entering and leaving within your reserved window. You’re only able to make the reservation about two weeks in advance and time slots do sell out, so plan accordingly. To purchase your pass, click here. This will cost around $20.00, depending on how many people are riding in the vehicle. I thought this place was stunning, even in rain and gloom it was such a unique spot. The black sand is comprised of black rock and sand that was caused from water erosion and hot lava flow. It’s a bit rough on your feet, so I recommend bringing water shoes here if you packed some. You really only need about an hour at this stop, but you can easily see the beach in 30 minutes if you’re pressed on time.
6. Red Sand Beach–Hana
The red sand beach in Hana was probably one of the more memorable stops we made in Hana. The landscape at this location blew me away and it truly is something you need to experience. There is a very distinct cove with jagged ropes that separate the ocean from the cove. The water on the other side of the cove was some of the bluest water I had ever seen. I still look at the photos of this place in complete awe, it really is such an incredible spot. This is another location I wish I had brought water shoes, the sand is rough. There was quite a few people snorkeling in the cove, so bring your snorkels too 🙂
The Red Sand beach takes a bit more work to get too, there’s a bit of a hike in and I do not recommend doing it in flip flips. It’s not too steep, but the gravel is loose and you’re walking near a cliff, so I recommend at least bringing some sneakers for this spot. This beach is known as being a nude beach, so don’t be too surprised if you experience that. Follow these instructions to access the beach.
- Park on the side of the road outside the Travasa Hotel parking lot. The road is a small dead end.
- You will walk down the road by the school, turning left onto the lawn of the school. There are no signs indicating a trail.
- The trail is hard to spot, but it begins just to the right of the first light post. You’ll hike along a dirt bath for about 5 minutes then you’ll be greeted with the stunning views.
7. Homoa Beach–Beach in Hana
My recommended 7th stop is Homoa beach located in Hana off Haneoo Road. This is definitely one of the better beaches we went to on the island. It was a great spot to swim, body surf and boogie board. You likely won’t experience this spot without the crowds, it’s a hot commodity, but rightfully so. It’s a crescent shaped beach with lush greenery on both sides,
8. venus pools (Waioka pond)
If you love swimming holes or cliff jumping, this is the spot for you and you will absolutely love this spot–it’s a big hit with the locals too. Venus Pools is located after Hana just past mike marker 48, before the bridge, on the ocean side. To start the short walk, swing your legs over the small concrete section. You will walk a bit and then need to cross through an open fence. “Fence” isn’t exactly the right term to describe this spot, but you’ll know exactly what I mean when you see it. The path takes you through sugar cane and lush greenery and eventually the pool will be on the right.
There’s tall rocks you can jump off of for you adventure seeking souls, or there’s about 5-10 foot high ones you can jump off from from the lower level. We stopped at this spot twice during our stay and you can tell by the photos when the light hits the water it’s a beautiful greenish blue color.
9. Wailua Falls
The 9th stop I recommend on the Road to Hana is Wailua Falls, located just past mile marker 45. This is another very accessible waterfall that can be seen from the car, or you can take a short walk and swim beneath the fall. Expect this waterfall to be very crowded, it’s a very popular spot on the Road to Hana. I didn’t find this waterfall to be as memorable as the previous ones I’ve discussed, but this is a classic Road to Hana stop. We didn’t end up swimming here, just snapped a quick video and continued on the path.
I unfortunately didn’t get a photo here because it was just a bit too crowded, but that just means ya have to stop to see it yourself 🙂
10. Pipiwai Trail
The last and final stop I recommend on Road to Hana is the Pipiwai hiking trail located in Haleakala National Park, near mile marker 42. If you’re driving the typical Road to Hana route, this stop is actually after Wailua falls, the mile markers start to go backwards after Hana.
This hike was incredible, it was fairly short and easy, but the views did not disappoint. In total the trail is about 3 miles long, but there’s not too much elevation gain so this is a great trail for families. The sun beats down pretty intensely on this trail so I recommend doing it in the early morning before it gets too hot. The infamous bamboo forest can be found along the route and I was pleasantly surprised how far the bamboo forest stretched on. If you’re just wanting to see the bamboo forest, it’s only about a mile or so into the trail; but I recommend completing the trail at the 400 foot tall Waimoku falls. The trail actually ends before you officially reach the waterfall, but you can keep walking and reach the fall.
That’s a Wrap:
That concludes my 10 recommended stops on the Road to Hana. Remember, you will not be able to get to all of these stops in one day. If at all possible, I recommend splitting the Road to Hana into two days by staying in the town in Hana. If that’s not feasible, try picking your 4/5 must have stops. The earlier you leave the more time you have. Always remember to check the weather before heading out, you should not do this drive if there’s any signs of severe weather conditions like flash flooding. If you’re interested in more of my Maui recommendations, check out this blog I did for Magnificent World :). If you’re wanting food recommendations for Maui, check out my post here.
Respect the land and always leave no trace. Happy adventurin’.