The Hana Highway is a 64.4-mile-long stretch of Hawaii Routes 36 and 360 which connects Kahului to the town of Hana in east Maui. To the east of Kalepa Bridge, the highway continues to Kipahulu as Hawaii Route 31.
It can take more than two and a half hours to travel the 52 miles from Kahului to Hana, as you snake past steep sea cliffs lush with blooming mango trees, ideally stopping to buy banana bread from roadside stalls and take in the Jurassic vistas at every turn. In tiny Hana, a town on eastern Maui, a cinder cone shields a red-sand beach where nudists and endangered monk seals bake idly in the sun. Just beyond where the Road to Hana terminates, about 30 minutes further, are the must-visit Pools of Oheo, a gently cascading, seven-tiered gulch in Haleakala National Park. Length: 103.6 km
Constructed: 18 December 1926
Area: 62 ha
Added to NRHP: 15 June 2001
NRHP Reference Number: 01000615
East end: Route 31 in Haleakalā Nat’l Park
West end: Route 32 in Kahului
What is the Road to Hana?
The Road to Hana is a 64 mile stretch of road that starts in Kahului and ends at Kīpahulu. Along this road, there are 620 curves (who counted all of those?) and 59 bridges, 46 of which are one lane.
For most of the drive, a very narrow road winds through lush, green forests. There are no straight sections to this drive…the curves are constant.
Due to traffic, the narrow winding roads, and the one lane bridges, it can take almost 3 hours to drive from Kahului to Hana, without stops.
If you or someone in your group suffers from motion sickness, you might want to skip this drive.
The Hana Highway was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.
The Road to Hana Code of Conduct
There are rules and regulations that you need to be aware of before doing this drive.
The Road to Hana is not a tourist route…it is a road that locals live and work along. Visitors need to be respectful, stay on the roads, obey street and road signs, park in designated areas only, and more. There are rules, and below are few of it.
- Pull over for local traffic.
- Before entering east Maui, dust and decontaminate footwear, hiking gear, and vehicle to deter invasive species.
- If no welcoming signage is visible, consider the area private property and do not intrude.
- Do not remove or displace soil, rocks or sand from beaches, mountain, or roadsides.
- Contain all rubbish and waste brought into Hana with you, do not leave anything behind.
- Absolutely no stopping or stalling on bridges, under rock fall and landslide prone areas.
- No walking on Hana Highway.
In addition to these rules, there is also a $200 parking fine for stopping illegally on a state highway. To ease congestion on the roads, the HTA is urging visitors to travel with a tour company.
Road to Hana: Driving Routes
There are two different ways to drive the Road to Hana.
Out-and-Back on Hana Highway: The most common way to do this drive is out-and-back. Starting near Kahului, drive Hana Highway to Hana and continue to Kīpahulu (the location of ‘Oheo Gulch and the Pīpīwai Trail). To finish the drive, turn around and drive Hana Highway back to Kahului. This drive is 124 miles and takes 5.5 hours without stops.
As a Loop: Due to the rough, remote nature of Highway 31 on the south coast of Maui, many people avoid this stretch of road. But the advantage is that you never repeat any part of the drive and you get to see more of Maui. There are some gravel sections on Highway 31, which might violate rental car terms and conditions. This drive is 116 miles and takes about 5 hours without stops.
Driving the Road to Hana as a Loop
If you drive the Road to Hana as a loop, should you go clockwise or counter-clockwise?
If hiking the Pīpīwai Trail and visiting the Kīpahulu District of Haleakala National Park is at the top of your list, do this drive counter-clockwise so you can get here early, before it gets crowded. This district closes at 5 pm. If you do this drive in a clockwise direction, you risk getting here too late in the day to do this hike.
If you prefer to stop off at Aunty Sandy’s for banana bread or visit one or both of the arboretums, drive the Road to Hana loop in a clockwise direction. Both of these stops close in the mid-afternoon, so if you do the drive in the opposite direction, you risk these being closed when you get here. But you might not make it the Kīpahulu District to hike the Pīpīwai Trail before it closes at 5 pm.
We did the Road to Hana loop in the counter-clockwise direction because hiking the Pīpīwai Trail was the most important thing we wanted to do. This driving loop is written in a counter-clockwise direction.
How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (points of interest and the driving route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
Road to Hana Checklist
This short checklist is meant to be a quick guide for what to do and what to take on the drive. As we mentioned earlier, the drive has so many attractions it would be impossible to see them all in a single day. If you’re going to spend a night in Hana, which is advisable if you have enough time, we highly recommend you stay at Hana Kai Maui, one of our favorite stop in this area. This will allow you to visit the attractions before Hana town one day, and the sights beyond it the next.
Select a Rental Car or Guided Tour
After reading all of our Q&A above you should have a good feel for whether you want to make the drive yourself or take a guided tour. The latter is great for people who aren’t too keen on the curves or bridges, but honestly, we still prefer to make the drive ourselves. Don’t worry about getting a 4×4 or anything special, even if you plan to drive the road beyond the Oheo Gulch. Any regular car will do. Lot of folks love driving the highway in a convertible, and we think that’s great – but keep in mind that it can rain often along the drive in short bursts, so that could be a lot of work putting the top up and down on the car. Overall you’re going to want a car that has decent fuel economy and can make the drive without needing to refuel in Hana (where gas prices will make your jaw drop). On that note, fuel up in Paia town, which is located at the start of the drive, before continuing.
What to expect for the scenic drive
Knowing what to expect along the drive will help you avoid any unnecessary surprises. Here are a few things to expect:
- Frequent, but often quick, rain showers
- Impatient drivers – so pull over often to let them by
- People stopped at every bridge – don’t fall for this, stick to your plan
- Get out of the car on occasion, you can’t see everything from the car seat
- Some short to moderate hikes – but they are excellent
- Paid admission at the Garden of Eden – we think it’s worth it.
What to bring – and what not to bring
A sizable packed lunch is definitely advisable for the drive since it will take nearly a full day to complete. Bring a small backpack to carry things in, as you’ll be doing some walking to see some of the attractions. Don’t forget your camera(s), you’ll need it. Don’t bring anything that’s worth a lot of money if you plan to leave it in your car. While break-ins are more rare than they used to be, they do still happen on occasion, especially if any high-end goods are left visible in the car. This might include your phone, camera equipment, or any tablet or other electronic devices. While these electronics can be helpful when making the drive if you have an eBook, we’d advise you to try and keep those with you in that nifty backpack we suggested. You also won’t need a GPS – it would be pretty hard to get lost on this drive. Here are some other items to consider bringing with you:
- A cheap cooler with ice – this will keep your food and drinks cool.
- Water/Drinks – bring what you can, stock up with more at the general store in Hana town.
- Comfortable shoes – expect to do some walking or hiking like we mentioned. Don’t wear white shoes if you expect to keep them that way! Sandals are fine, as I’ve hiked in them for many miles, but they might not be right for everyone, so if you’ll be wearing sandals or slippahs (flip-flops), you may want to bring some tennis or hiking shoes.
- A collapsible hiking pole – good for some folks if making the Pipiwai Trail hike at the Oheo Gulch.
- Pocket ponchos – just in case one of those rain showers last longer than a few minutes.
- Bug Spray – bugs are hit and miss, but it’s worth being prepared in case the mosquitos are out and about.
- Cash – The Garden of Eden, in addition to the fruit and smoothie vendors, only take cash.
- Malama Pono – be a good steward of the Aina (land) and Kai (ocean) – respect for the land is very important on Maui.
- A watch – you’ll definitely want to keep track of time. Never try to drive the highway in the dark- trust us.
Get ahead of the crowds when you can
Yes… we know getting up early on your vacation isn’t ideal, but it’s worth being ahead of the crowds. If you can be at the junction of Hwy. 36 and Hwy. 360 (official start of the drive) by around 7 am, you’ll probably be ahead of the major crowds who arrive between 8-9:30 am. You can start earlier, but this can result in less-than-ideal photos since the sun isn’t high enough in the sky yet. Whatever you do, don’t get stuck in the lines of cars or this can greatly reduce the enjoyability of the drive. Staying ahead of the masses will be your best bet. So leave early.
Check about the conditions beyond the Oheo Gulch
If you plan to continue the drive beyond the Oheo Gulch, check with the rangers to see if it’s rained recently or if any other conditions might create problems for that drive. Rockslides used to close that portion of the highway frequently, but rock netting has now been put in place to aid with this problem. While almost every car rental company will “prohibit” that section of road in their self-provided guides, the drive is more than worth it and becomes the highlight of the trip to many visitors. It has broken pavement and is narrow in a few sections, but once you get past Kaupo gap, conditions improve dramatically and you’ll be amazed at the contrast in the scenery as opposed to how things looked on the Hana side. Be prepared for the wind, though, if you get out of the car; it can get quite strong when nearing Upcountry Maui.
Rotate drivers when possible
You’ll want to allow everyone to enjoy the drive, so be sure to rotate drivers if possible. This will give everyone the chance to fully enjoy the scenery. Most of the complaints we hear about the drive come from the drivers, who can’t focus on the scenery because they have to watch the road. So be sure to share driving time if you can.
Start back early
As noted above, you’ll want to keep good track of time. Also, make sure you either begin your return along the northeast drive (if you’re going back that way) or continue beyond the Oheo Gulch to Upcountry Maui, no later than 3 pm. This should give you about three hours to make the trip back to where driving conditions are less stressful. Driving the Hana Highway in the dark is certainly an, um, “experience”, but we don’t recommend it.
Hana Highway-Explore all Points of Interest
We’ve split all the Hana Highway (Road to Hana) sights and stops off into their own area here on our website. It helps separate the Hana Highway stops and sights from the rest of the attractions on Maui.
Hana Highway – Mile by Mile Guidebook
Road to Hana – 8th Edition: 2023 Update
We highly encourage all visitors to consider a guidebook when driving the highway. It’s the best way to determine which stops are for you and which aren’t. A lot of folks simply let the clumps of cars along the road be their guide. This is a big mistake. There are a lot of great places along the Hana Highway, but there are also several stops you’d be wasting your time visiting. That said, we invite you to let us be your guide.
Road to Hana Highway Code of Conduct
- Visit State parks and County rest facilities.
- Enjoy the various farms, botanical gardens and fruit stands along the way.
- Avoid sites located on or beyond private properties, and areas that lack visitor welcoming signage.
- Park in designated parking stalls. Vehicles protruding onto the highway are subject to being towed.
- Do not enter streams on occasions of heavy rains and flash flooding conditions.
- Please respect the ‘Aina (land): place trash in a proper receptacle, stay on the paths, respect the wildlife and plants, and practice safe procedures.
Where is the drive located?
The scenic drive is located on the northeast coastline of Maui. Officially, the road is named the Hana Highway and on maps will be listed as Hwy. 36 and Hwy. 360. Many people, ourselves included, consider the Hana Highway to continue beyond Hana to the Oheo Gulch, or even beyond that to Upcountry Maui via Hwy. 31.
Where are the best places to stop along the way?
Unless you spend a night in Hana town, visiting every attraction along the drive is impossible. It could take two or three days to see everything, so we always advise most visitors to stick to the highlights. You can waste A LOT of time on the Hana Highway if you aren’t careful, so knowing which places to stop at in advance is very helpful and efficient.
What is the best time to start?
Start early; really early! We’ve dedicated an entire article to the topic of When to Start the Road to Hana? If you start later in the morning, expect a lot of traffic and a less pleasant experience on the highway due to congestion.
How long is the Road to Hana?
Honestly, the answer to this question depends on how far you drive along the Hana and Pi’ilani Highway, and it also depends on where you start counting. Generally, you hear the answer to this question regarding how far it is to Hana town from the beginning of the junction with Highway 36/360, in which case the Road to Hana is approximately 34 miles long. If you include the distance from Kahului, where Highway 36 begins (technically the ‘true start’ of the Hana Highway), the drive is roughly 52 miles long. If you’re starting from a location on the West Coast of Maui, like Ka’anapali, the total distance to Hana is roughly 76 miles long. But don’t let these distance estimates fool you; driving the famously curvy highway will feel a lot longer. It consists of undeveloped road, has nearly 60 one-lane bridges, and has approximately 617 curves (some are pretty tight). If you’re driving beyond Hana town, which is highly likely, and your destination is the Oheo Gulch, the total distance of the Road to Hana, from Kahului to the Kipahulu area where the Oheo Gulch is located is approximately 61 miles. If you’re not continuing around the ‘back road,’ your total driving distance will be twice that amount since you’ll have to drive back the way you came.
Is the drive to Hana (and beyond) safe?
It’s very safe for drivers who can keep their eyes on the road; trust us, they’ll be tempted to look around. The highway is fully paved and even though it has many curves and one-lane bridges, the drive is very safe. For more information about driving the highway.
How many waterfalls are there on the drive?
That depends, but there are a lot of them. It depends because if it’s rained recently then waterfalls burst forth from almost every curve on the highway. But if it has been dry, some falls may dry up and not be flowing. EMI, a company that diverts stream water for the hungry cane fields in central Maui, also can cause certain falls to cease flowing – again, usually when it’s dry. In our opinion, the best waterfalls are actually beyond Hana town, with Wailua Falls being the crown jewel. If you’re up for a little hiking, however, you can even get a good view of 400 ft. Waimoku Falls at the end of the Pipiwai Trail. The latter is located inside Haleakala National Park at the Oheo Gulch (also known as the Seven Sacred Pools). For more information on all the major falls along the drive, see our Road to Hana Waterfalls entry.
eBook/Guidebook, CD, GPS unit, or smartphone app – who should I trust to guide me?
A Not to toot our own horn- well OK, maybe a little bit- but we have written an exclusive Hana Highway – Mile by Mile Guidebook that details the drive’s major attractions, and we think it’s a great resource to visitors. We started writing the book years ago, and after dozens of adventures along the highway, I think it’s fair to say we’ve done our homework and research. We’ve guided thousands of visitors along the drive, and we’ve had an incredible amount of positive feedback from our recommendations and rating system in the book. Alternatively, if you’re looking for an audio CD, then we feel the R2H CD is the best buy, as of this writing. We wouldn’t advise visitors to use any smartphone apps requiring a cellular signal for the drive, as a cell phone signal is hard to come by on the trip. Additionally, some GPS tours can be problematic in our opinion, so we’re not especially a fan of those either – sorry GPS folks, just being honest.
Also, a quick word of caution about some guidebooks: many will tell you about places that are on private property or that can be dangerous to visit. If it sounds like the book is revealing anything too exclusive, it probably is – so avoid those locations. Our guidebook states explicitly which places are on private property and which should be considered kapu or off-limits.
Is the drive really worth it?
Unless you don’t like scenic drives with beautiful sights, waterfalls, and lush green surroundings – yes, the drive is worth it. Still, some people don’t care much for the drive, and that prompted us to write an article about that topic: Is the Hana Highway Really Worth it? If you have any reservations about the drive, that article should clear up several essential factors for you and help you decide if the drive is right for you and your family.
How to Drive the Road to Hana, One of the World’s Most Scenic Drives
Of all the great road trips in the U.S., Hawaii’s coastal Road to Hana is among the most scenic. The 64-mile route on Maui connects the towns of Kahului and Hana. It only takes about three hours from point A to point B if you don’t stop — but stop you must, as the sights along the way are part of the adventure. Dense rainforests, waterfalls, lava tubes, colorful tropical flowers, pristine beaches, and epic waves await along the Road to Hana. It’s also where you will find some of the tastiest homemade banana bread in the world. If, like most tourists on this drive, you do pause at multiple roadside attractions on your way, it’s likely to take you up to nine hours to complete the out-and-back journey. We don’t recommend trying to hit every single stop — you’d have to spend days on the road — but you can opt to stay for a night or two in Hana for some rest, relaxation, and good eats, before you make your way back toward Kahului.
Another practical consideration to keep in mind: This road is notoriously narrow and winding, with more than 600 curves and several dozen one-lane bridges. If that sounds intimidating, you can book a van tour instead, and leave the driving to someone else.
Must-See Sights and Attractions
One of the first stops on the Road to Hana, at Mile Marker 2, is a pair of picturesque waterfalls. You’ll need to hike along a 1.8-mile, out-and-back trail to reach the falls. If the trek makes you hungry, there’s a fruit and smoothie stand at the trailhead.
Ho’okipa Beach Park
Located at Mile Marker 9, this beach is a surfing and windsurfing paradise, especially during the winter when the waves are massive. While only highly experienced surfers should hit the water here, there’s a lookout that gives you perfect views of all the action.
Waikamoi Ridge Trail
Just past Ho’okipa, at Mile Marker 9.5, is this oft-overlooked hiking trail. It’s not a particularly strenuous hike — the 0.8-mile loop trail takes about 30 minutes, with the option to take an extension of similar length — but it’s a wonderful walk through a lush old-growth forest. It can be muddy, so wear sturdy shoes.
Maui Garden of Eden Arboretum & Botanical Garden
Stop at this 26-acre garden at Mile Marker 10.5 to enjoy more than two miles of hiking trails through exquisite gardens. From one of the lookouts, you can spy Keopuka Rock, which is highlighted in the film “Jurassic Park” as the audience’s first sight of the fictional Isla Nublar.
Hana Lava Tube
Right after Mile Marker 31 is a left-hand turn onto Ulaino Road — take that turn and you will soon approach the Hana Lava Tube, a cave that formed during a volcanic eruption. Make sure to bring a flashlight as you go on your self-guided tour.
Hana is part laid-back seaside town and part time capsule, having remained relatively unchanged for years. While some travelers stay overnight here, it’s also a good place to just stretch your legs if you’re doing the out-and-back Road to Hana trip all in one go. Take a quick tour of Hana Tropicals flower farm to see or buy colorful blooms, or head to the beach for some time in the sun.
These Instagram-worthy falls are easy to spot near Mile Marker 45 — you can even see them from the road. To truly take in their beauty though, snag a parking stop and walk up for a closer look.
Kipahulu District, Haleakala National Park
Most people think the Road to Hana ends at Hana, but it actually continues to Haleakala National Park. At the end of the road, you can explore the remote Kipahulu District of the park. One highlight here is the four-mile, out-and-back Pipiwai Trail, which leads to Ohe’o Gulch (also knowns as Seven Sacred Pools) and Waimoku Falls.
Top Food and Drink Stops
Paia Town, the Road to Hana’s starting point, is a great place to explore. We recommend having a meal at hotspots like Mama’s Fish House, Cafe Des Amis, or Paia Fish Market. It’s also not a bad idea to gather snacks to enjoy later, though there are places to eat along the route ahead of you.
On the road, be sure to stop for homemade banana bread. The title of “best banana bread” is hotly debated here; the Halfway to Hana Stand is among the most popular banana bread stops, and they sell sandwiches and shaved ice, too. Farther down the road, Nahiku Marketplace sells both gifts and food, including pork tacos. And when you get to Hana, be sure to visit Hasegawa General Store, a one-stop shop that’s been open for more than 100 years.
Tips and Safety Considerations on the Road to Hana
- Driving along the Road to Hana requires careful attention. The roads can be crowded with drivers who don’t always know where they’re going, and unexpected traffic backups around curves can lead to sudden stops and accidents. Keep your eyes on the road, proceed with caution, and make sure to park in designated parking areas, as illegal parking can cause traffic problems.
- Before begin your drive, plan out your stops and the types of activities you’d like to enjoy. This will help dictate the gear you’ll need to bring. If you plan on hiking, for example, bring appropriate footwear for the hilly, rocky, and sometimes muddy terrain. Bug spray is also a must for hikers.
- Regardless of how long you’re driving or how many stops you make, you’ll be traveling for hours; bring food and water with you, as it may be some time before you pass the next food stand or restaurant. Consider packing a picnic for an outdoor lunch.
- There are swimming opportunities along the Road to Hana, but even if you’re not intending to take a dip, be prepared to get wet. It rains often here, so bring towels.
- Cash is king on the Road to Hana, especially if you want to sample local banana bread, smoothies, or fruits. ATMs exist, but it’s best to get cash before you start your journey.
Road to Hana Tour Options
Group van tours of the Road to Hana have become increasingly popular, as they allow travelers to see all the sights without having to drive the winding road themselves. These tours also help clear up some of the traffic, too — think of it as the ultimate island carpool plan. Tour operators offer various itineraries, but most take a full day. Private family or group tours are also available, and this usually allows you to customize the length of your trip and where you stop.
Accommodations in Hana
Hana may be a small town, but there are a number of accommodations for travelers who would like to stay the night. Hana-Maui Resort, a Destination by Hyatt Hotel, is the most luxurious, while Hana Kai Maui offers oceanfront condos. For more intimate stays, try the The Bamboo Inn on Hana Bay, a three-room property with ocean views.