The world-famous road to Hana is one of the must-do experiences when visiting Maui. It can be overwhelming planning what to see when you have limited time. So we’ve rounded up all the road to Hana stops that we did on Maui’s epic coastal drive. You don’t have to see everything (unless you have the time) so we are here to help you choose what are the top stops that you must make.
The Road to Hana, aka The Hana Highway, takes you from the surf town of Paia to the peaceful town of Hana. Most people take all day to drive from Paia to Hana stopping along the way, but we drove in the opposite direction and it was the best decision we made.
- Note: Some attractions and stops on the road to Hana may be affected by COVID-19. While Hawaii is opening up for tourism, it is very important to check restrictions before you go. You can check the news releases from the department of health.
Driving The Road To Hana
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The Hana Highway is one of the most popular day trips on Maui, so it can get very busy fast. We recommend leaving early and driving directly to the Pools at O’he’o Gulch part of Haleakala National Park which is about 30 minutes beyond Hana. Getting there early beats the crowds and you can hike the Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls in relative peace and quiet and then, you can then spend the day slowly making your way back to Paia.
There are only a few hotels in Hana if you decide to stay the night which is a great idea to allow more time to explore. The accommodation on this side of Maui as it is more of the rugged and remote, but you can check VRBO for vacation rentals in the area like this lovely stay in Hana.
Get your Maui self guided tour to explore the top sites on Maui and check with CarRentals.com to compare car rental rates. And see our recommendations for places to stay in Maui at Where to Stay in Maui – The Best Hotels
Traffic on the road to Hana from Paia to Hana is plugged and stopped later in the day. Seeing the sights in reverse order, lets you enjoy the viewpoints and waterfalls at your own pace. Plus, we found the views on the way back, way better than on the way out as we were on the right side of the road with unobstructed views!
About The Hana Highway
Maui’s Hana Highway is considered one of the world’s great coastal drives and the most beautiful drive in Hawaii. starting in Paia and ending just past the town of Hana. It is only 45 miles (72 km) to Hana from Paia, but the drive can take an entire day when you stop at all the beautiful sights along the way. Read more: The Most Amazing Facts About Hawaii
The twisting road to Hana is filled with 600 hairpin turns crossing 59 bridges. The narrow road clings to the side of high sea cliffs and you often come face to face with oncoming traffic.
It is not recommended for someone who is not used to driving, so if you don’t have a lot of experience behind the wheel, we suggest taking a tour of the Hana Highway instead of driving it yourself. But if you like to drive, get yourself a cool car rental and hop on this road for a beautiful day in Maui.
We suggest leaving early to beat the traffic. The Road to Hana can become overcrowded quickly. If you have two days, we recommend taking the full two days as there are plenty of sites to see! There are a few hotels in Hana, we suggest the Hana Maui Resort: Check rates and availability
To get to Hana from Paia you will actually take highways 36 and 360. But the Hana Highway sounds so much cooler. We hopped on Highway 36 towards Hana and then after 9.5 miles, we turned onto highway 360 to Hana.
The Best Tip for Driving the Hana Highway
The best tip for driving the road to Hana is to b-line it to Hana and then drive back slowly in the opposite direction. We drove directly to O’he’o Gulch at Haleakala National Park first thing in the morning. It is just past the town of Hana which we put on our list to stop at on the way back. After exploring the trails and waterfalls, we then made our way slowly back towards Paia for the rest of the day.
It was a great choice as we didn’t have to sit in traffic. Plus we had the Pipiwai Trail to the waterfalls and through the bamboo forest all to ourselves. We were grateful for our choice and felt pretty proud of our decision when we saw the long lines of cars on the other side of the road as we drove in the opposite direction of all the traffic.
Stops On The Road To Hana
1. Paia Town
Paia isn’t just a stop on the Hana Highway, it is a destination unto itself. Located on the North Shore of Maui, there are plenty of things to do in Paia to keep you occupied. We suggest spending a couple of nights enjoying this surfers town. Ho’okipa Beach Park is a great place to watch the world class surfers and wind surfers and Baldwin Beach is a beautiful long sandy beach that is a must visit.
Making our base in Paia we stayed at the hip boutique hotel, the Paia Inn, where we woke early to make our way to Hana. After picking up a coffee at Paia Bay Coffee Bar and ordering a boxed lunch at CJ’s diner we were on our way.
- Note: The coffee shops and restaurants don’t open until 7 am, so if you want to pick up supplies for the day, we suggest doing it the night before and making a coffee from your hotel.
Check out our post Where to Stay in Maui – The Best Hotels
2. Haleakala National Park
The maps and guides will have O’he’o Gulch as your last stop on the road to Hana, but we like to be different, so this is the first stop of our day. Located 30 minutes beyond Hana this branch of Haleakala National Park is gorgeous. Once you arrive, you’ll walk the Pipiwai Trail to some of the most scenic attractions on Maui. This beautiful portion of the national park houses a bamboo forest, the 400-foot high Waimoku Falls, the Seven Sacred Pools and the Haleakala volcano.
Haleakala National Park was most definitely the highlight of our road to Hana trip and where we spent the majority of our morning.
It costs $30 per vehicle to enter Haleakala National Park . This gives you access to the national park for 3 Days which includes the Haleakala Summit. So you could spend the day here one day and then catch sunrise at the Haleakala Summit the following day.
3. Pipiwai Trail
The Pipiwai Trail is an easy trail filled with scenic views.
The 4-mile hiking trail is a beautiful scenic walk that takes you through huge Banyan trees and an enormous bamboo forest before you reach your final destination at the beautiful and very high Waimoku Falls.
4. Bamboo Forest
The bamboo forest was a highlight of the Pipiwai Trail. We have never seen such a pristine bamboo forest outside of Asia. The bamboo was brought to Maui by Asian migrants working on pineapple farms to use as scaffolding. There is a boardwalk that cuts through the forest and walking trails putting you in the center of this stunning scene. Make sure to spend a bit of time here, it’s gorgeous and very rare to see.
5. Waimoku Falls
The end of the Pipiwai trail comes to the 400-foot high Waimoku Falls. It’s postcard-perfect for photographs. We recommend having a good pair of water shoes or Tevas as you’ll be crossing streams. By arriving early, we shared the waterfall views with only one other person. It was truly spectacular.
Note: And obey the signs not to get too close to the falls. We saw other people ignoring it, but have heard that there have been deaths at these falls due to falling rock. It feels safe enough to look at, but it is dangerous.
6. Seven Sacred Pools
The Seven Sacred Pools (Also known as the Pools of ‘Ohe’o) are one of the top attractions to see on Maui and they are also located in the National Park. They can get very crowded, so it is worth getting there early. It is a lovely cascading steps waterfall. It is a short loop trail only 1km.
Be aware, the Seven Sacred Pools Trail is are often closed due to flooding and there have been deaths at the Seven Sacred Pools. So obey signs and follow the rules.
Once you have finished up in the National Park it is time to make your way back to Paia. We recommend stopping as much as possible at any scenic lookout that you can.
We stopped at many of the waterfalls and scenic lookouts on the way back and really enjoyed driving in this direction. For one, we were now on the right side of the road to have the cliff views and two, we weren’t sitting in traffic until the evening.
7. Wailua Falls
Wailua Falls is considered Maui’s most photographed waterfall and you can stop here for some photo opportunities. It’s the most accessible falls on the road to Hana and it is a lovely cascade of 80 feet over a rocky jungle setting.
8. Koki Beach
Koki Beach is a nice photo stop since it is a mixture of red, black and white sand. It is not a suitable swimming area due to the strong currents, but it is a good photo stop.
9. Hamoa Beach
Hamoa Beach is that perfect crescent-shaped sandy beach that everyone is looking for. There is a parking lot here, that fills up fast and you have to walk down a set of stairs to get to the beach. The beach is owned by Hana Maui Resort, so you will be sharing it with guests who have access to all the amenities. But there are restrooms open to the general public. If you stay the night in Hana, this is a good beach to spend some time at.
10. Hana Town
By the time we got to Hana Town, it was time for some food. Hana is considered traditional Maui feeling like a sleepy town you’d expect on the Hawaiian Islands. I imagine this is what Paia was like a couple of decades ago.
If you decide to spend the night in or around Hana, it’s a great place to relax for the day. You can check out the cultural center, relax on the beach or enjoy some down time at the spa.
We grabbed snacks at the general store instead of opting for a sit down lunch. There was too much to see and we didn’t want to waste time eating. So with our car stocked again with food, we were on our way. Whenever we are on a road trip, we need food on hand.
11. Wai’anapanapa State Park
In a nutshell, Waianapanapa state park is where you get that classic photo of the Hana Highway. With beautiful scenic viewpoints and a black sand beach, it is a must-stop for at least a photograph. There’s some hiking trails, caves and a blowhole to explore here.
12. Hana Lava Tube
This is your chance to go inside a lava tube if you’ve never been. The Hana Lava Tube was formed by lava flowing to the sea for a two year period. As the outer layer cooled, the lava continued to flow inside creating a tube. Give yourself an hour to see it.
- The entrance fee is $11.95 per person for a self guided tour.
13. Hanawi Falls and Upper Waikani Falls
If you want to stop at waterfalls, there are 18 along the Hana Highway. Two of the stops on the way back that are located before halfway to Hana are the Hanawi Falls and Upper Waikani Falls. You can hike to see them but just make sure to find a safe parking spot that doesn’t block traffic.
14. Halfway to Hana
The road to Hana is short. If you leave early in the morning and drive directly, you can be through it in 90 minutes. But if you take your time, you might be ready for a short snack by the time you get to mile marker 17. This little shop is known for its banana bread made from local bananas. They also sell Maui favorite “shave ice,” ice cream and other snack bar favorites.
15. Ke’anae Arboretum
What is good about this stop on the Hana Highway is that it is free. The main attraction at the Ke’anae Arboretum are the rainbow eucalyptus trees. We thought the Eurcaplytus trees of Maui were the coolest thing. They are an invasive species imported from Asia, but you can’t help but stop to take photos. They are eye catching. It’s a short trail so it won’t take up too much time on the Hana Highway to see them.
16. Honomanu Bay
If you want to see another black sand beach it can be done at Honomanu Bay. This isn’t a popular stop on the Hana Highway, so you will find less people here if you are looking for a place without crowds.
17. Garden of Eden Arboretum
When driving the Hana Highway, it’s easy to find the stops on the road as there are mile markers all along the road. The Maui Garden of Eden is located on Mile Marker 10. There are 2 1/2 miles of maintained walking trails and you can see the Puohokamoa waterfalls from the Garden of Eden.
- There is a charge of $15 to get in, so make sure you have the time to really explore the gardens.
18. Twin Falls
Twin falls is another waterfall stop on the road to Hana . There are the lower falls and the upper falls and it is a short one-mile hike. It’s a great place for a dip in one of the pools. We didn’t go for a swim but can you swim. There is also a farm stand where you can buy snacks and smoothies.
19. Ho’Okipa Lookout
We mentioned Ho’Okipa Lookout as one of the things to do in Paia. But when driving the road to Hana, this is a great stop for sunset on the way back. Located just outside of Paia on the Hana Highway is Ho’okipa Beach Park. It is one of the best spots on the island for sunset and a great place to watch the pros at work.
You can’t miss it because you’ll see all the windsurfers shooting through the water as you approach. The waves are huge here thanks to the perfect waves that break on its north shore. If you are going to learn how to Kite surf or windsurf do not go here. This is for professionals only. Do what we did and go to Kahului Beach instead.
20. Paia Fish Market
It’s been a long day. (at least if you are nuts like us) and time for dinner. One of the best places to eat in Paia is the Paia Fish Market. Grab a plate of Mahi Mahi at this local favourite and reminisce about the amazing things you saw today on the Hana Highway.
Quick Tips For Driving The Hana Highway
- Make sure to pick up The Road to Hana CD at any souvenir shop on Maui. Turn it on in Paia and follow their recommendations as you go. It plays some local music and it’s quite entertaining to boot.
- Stop in Paia to pick up a box lunch at CJ’s Diner
- Leave early, the roads are totally free and clear of traffic in the morning and you’ll have the highway all to yourself.
- Pack extra water
- Make sure to have sturdy water shoes with a good grip for the waterfall trails.
- We suggest taking 2 days to really explore the Hana Highway, one isn’t enough to see everything. There are accommodations in Hana.
- Drive directly to Hana stopping only for a few of the waterfall and scenic ocean views so that you can get to the park before the crowds.
- Allow at least 2 to 3 hours in the park to explore the hiking trails and to make it out to the waterfalls.
- Once you are finished in the park, make your way slowly back along the highway stopping at all the spots you missed on the way out.
- Stop at the black sand beaches on your way back to Hana from the park to see the locals picnicking and surfing.
- We found the highway to be a more scenic drive on the way back to Paia so enjoy your afternoon.
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